RTW: Plotser

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: Do you like to make a detailed plan before you start a project? Or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants and make it up as you go along?

The last few Road Trip Wednesdays, I've been posting fairly late in the day--I guess that would be pantsing. But today I made a special effort to get up early and type up my post before class (although I won't be able to tour everyone's posts until later)--plotting.

I don't see the topic until it's posted on YA Highway (didn't they used to post a "next week" headsup in the RTW posts?), however, so I have no idea what topic will be on the table, making it a pantser task. Or a hybrid plotser task. Hmm, that's pretty much how I've written things too, with a little bit of both methods sprinkled in. Not surprising since I'm a Gemini, is it?

In my first novel, I started out with a detailed outline and synopsis. It didn't necessarily include every single event and scene in the story, but there were specific scenes that were already very strong in my mind, down to snippets of dialogue and description.

This worked fairly well for the first 50 pages or so, but then my characters became developed enough to voice ideas of their own about where the story was going. Yes, I know how crazy that sounds, but since mostly other writers read this blog, I know you all get it!

I fought the new plot twists for a while, and then just went with it. I explored tangents, got to know new characters, indulged some research and description. And ended up with a 120,000 word monster of a book. So a lot of those tangents, research, subplots, and characters had to go, which ended up feeling like a lot of wasted effort.

By the time I started my second book, I had a few more conferences under my belt, over a year with a YA crit group, and found some strong betas, all adding to the experience I gained from writing that first book.

From the get-go, I felt like my second book was going to be so much more streamlined. I mulled subplots or scenes before I even sat down to type anything, discarding some and refining others. It was like learning music and improving your ear--I am better at "hearing" what is working.

And then an opportunity to practice my pitch and get a feel for how this story idea would be received came up on Pitch University. It felt like it was much earlier in the stage of the book writing than I would have chosen to pitch it, but I went ahead and wrestled with it and was actually fairly pleased with the results (you can see it up on my novels page above).

It helped me zero in even more on the characters and their relationships, the big conflicts, what the stakes are, etc. Pitch U has an opportunity for romance writers and YA authors to pitch later this month, so I would highly recommend that you take advantage of it!

What about you? Do you plot obsessively (in your book life, not your supervillain life if you have one) or fly by the seat of your pants?


Unknown said...

I'm a gemini, too, so I definitely know what you're saying! And I also think you really nailed it with the description of "hearing" what's working when writing the second novel.

It's amazing to see the difference between the first and second attempts, isn't it? At least that makes me feel like I am absolutely improving, and can (hopefully!) continue to with each book!

Tracey Neithercott said...

The way you describe writing your second book is exactly how I feel when writing. So glad you got so much out of Pitch University. I've never done it, but thanks for the link!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Angela, thanks for the share about Press University. I don't write YA, but I liked the site and have signed up for the newsletter, since I have a couple of books I eventually will be pitching, and that's something that terrifies me! :-)

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Nice to come home to some comments that reinforce that writing-community feeling!

Sarah and Tracey--It is such a difference with the process for the second book. The other thing that's changed is that I wrote the entire first book by hand and then typed it in the computer.

My brain just needed the slower pace to be able to keep all the plot points , the story arc, and the characters in play. But with Crow's Rest, I've sat right down and started typing. I'm still doing a lot of the work in my head first, but I feel like I'm skipping steps and mistakes.

And Elizabeth--even if you're not to the pitching stage yet, there is so much good information on the Pitch U site!

Miss Cole said...

Your blog is so pretty!

I follow my characters. They drive the plot so I just do as they tell me... I'm not quite sure if that's the right way to do this whole writing thing, but it's working for me :D

Rachel Bateman said...

I've tried obsessively plotting and I've tried completely pantsing,and in the end found that a nice mixture is the best way for me to go.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Miss Cole--thanks for the compliment on my blog design! I had been thinking of doing a redesign but got too many protests.

Rachel--it's funny how we have to try the different extremes before we settle into what's right for us!

Rebecca B said...

I completely agree that method for first versus second book was very different, and much more organized for me! I am a mostly-plotter but I modify my outlines as I write.

Lora Palmer said...

Plot twists are fun! So is the point in the story where the characters start to take over and become developed enough to tell you where to go next.

I'm both plotser and pantser, and think this experience of writing my first novel has been a great learning experience. Next time, there will be a lot more I take into account while outlining.

Alison Miller said...

Thanks for the link! I just bookmarked it. I'm not RWAing it, but it's mice to know it's there.

And I feel you. I'm the same way with my stories.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

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