Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Quote of the Day


"I have writer friends who plot out their books from the first word to the last, and that works very well for them. Me, if I do that, I feel as if the story is already written, so on to the next book."

(Beverly Jenkins, interviewed by Eileen Putnam in the March 2011 Romance Writers Report.)

I've struggled with this issue a lot in my own writing.  Finding out that an author of 30 published novels in historical, contemporary, and young adult genres has the same problem is comforting to me!

I originally tried to outline extensively, but found I lost enthusiasm for the story when I did that (it felt "already written," as Beverly Jenkins says).

Then I tried the opposite approach, simply writing anything that came to mind with no pre-determined direction.  That didn't work for me either.  Secondary characters went off on tangents, the mystery subplot got lost, and the main characters wandered from one event to the next with no purpose.

So now I'm trying something in the middle.  In my last book a contemporary romance, I had a fairly complex mystery subplot.  So I worked out the mystery step by step, figuring what the hero (a cop) would learn at each stage of the story that would lead him to the solution.  Then I let the relationship between the characters grow organically within that framework.  The problem eventually became clear--the mystery overshadowed the romance in the story.

So now I'm revising, doing the same thing with the romance I did with the mystery--outlining its progression through the course of the story, and then filling it in as I go through each scene.

We'll see how it goes.

So how have you dealt with this issue?  Are you a plotter or a "pantser"?  Do you prefer to know exactly where your story is going before you sit down to write, or are you more comfortable letting the story flow?

3 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

Barb, I think most writers struggle with this issue, at least for a while. It takes trial-and-error and time to figure out what works for us. I'm plotter-dominant,but I don't do a detailed outline. I write from major turning point to major turning point. I'm still figuring out the details of my process.

Paty Jager said...

Barb, see previous post to Deb. LOL

As Sarah said every writer has to use a trial an error method to discover what works for them. You'll know when you hit the right method for you.

Genene Valleau said...

Hey, Barb!

Though I feel I fall solidly in the plotter camp because I do a lot of detailed plotting, I'm also flexible enough to follow interesting surprises that come up when writing--as long as I get to that happily-ever-after destination.

So guess I'm a combination plotter/let-it-flow writer.

I like how you expressed this: to let the characters (or plot) "grow organically within that framework."

Plotting helps keep me on track. However, since I also know the purpose of each scene, I don't get to the end of the book and realize I've missed my destination entirely.

If an incredibly fantastic plot twist or character development comes up, I'll step back and adjust the plotting to incorporate this surprise. This usually results in a deeper, stronger story.