Plotting

In “On Writing” Stephen King likens a story to a fossil buried in the earth and writers something like archaeologists endeavoring to uncover the artifact. We have our tools to reveal the fossil and extract it from the earth and we endeavor to get as much out as we can. Inevitably we can’t get the entire fossil out or it breaks etc but our job is to try.

Our “tools” are various things like grammar, elements of style, creativity, etc. Plotting is also a tool but he says it’s more like a jackhammer and should be avoided at all costs because what use is a jackhammer when digging out something small and fragile? We needs brushes and tiny picks (like dental picks I guess), etc for the delicate care needed.

I imagined the beginning of Jurassic Park when the paleontologists are uncovering a fossil and are using small brushes to dust the dirt away. Makes me want to watch that movie again.

So, according to him, he never plots his stories. He thinks of a situation then sees how his character(s) get out of it.

I’m not sure if I agree with this or not. I mean, if you don’t do at least a little plotting your idea might fizzle up before you’ve gone anywhere with it. If what King’s saying is true (and he says he doesn’t always speak the truth when questioned about his writing), then I can’t argue with him on it because that’s what works best for him.

Maybe I’m not 100% understanding him.

I plot. But I don’t create outlines or plot details. For example, right now I’m plotting the sequel to my MS, Night’s Treasure. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’ll use letters and numbers instead.

Sophy starts in A. 1/2/3 will visit while she’s there (character/background building and such). Stuff happens. She’ll probably meet 4. Then she’ll move to B to be with 1/2. Stuff happens. She’s called upon to go to C where more stuff happens (preferably a Spoiler) and ends with a Spoiler. Then she’s taken to D by 5 (whom she met during her time in C) to stay for an indefinite period of time. She’ll meet 6, perhaps 7. 8 will pop up eventually to help her out. She may end up with 4 as 4 or not. Haven’t gotten that far. Throughout the whole story she’ll have a struggle with Z.

Really detailed, yeah? That’s how most of my plotting goes though I do have a few more details that I obviously wouldn’t mention here. “Stuff happens” comes up a lot in my plotting though. Those details are usually the ones that come out while I’m in the process of writing. But without that plotting over the general details, I’d never be able to get to the specific details because I’d be sitting there wondering where I was going with the whole mess.

If you’re the kind of person to likes to plot every little detail out, here’s something for you:

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Do you plot and outline etc, do you freestyle it, or do you do something in between?

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About Katie St. John-Shin

I believe in living life and not letting it pass you by. I mean, come on, if you really want to do something but don't have the courage to do it so you let the opportunity disappear, you may regret it for the rest of your life. How can you know what you're capable of unless you go for it? Like every writer, I naturally plan on becoming a world-famous writer. I love reading, writing, fitness, coffee, watching my favorite movies/shows, listening to music, and trying new things even if they're sometimes terrifying. I'm a stay-at-home mom, a writer, and a POP Pilates instructor. I didn't think I'd succeed at that last one but I did it! I confronted my fears, dealt with things I didn't want to deal with, and completed the training! POP Pilates classes are coming soon to mid-Nebraska!
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6 Responses to Plotting

  1. YoursTruly says:

    Ah, the perpetual battle between plotting and pantzing. (As in, writing by the seat of your pants.) This spring, I got really fed up with trying to plot my way out of my writer’s block on my next novella and decided to try writing 100% for fun. Figured it was a good time to try to write something with zero idea what was going to happen, so I jumped into a new story without anything. No details. No plot. Just a general, overall concept of what was going on (protag is in high school heading toward discovering she’s something special, and she’ll fall in love with a bad-news boy…go!). It was a whole lot of fun. Scary, ’cause I had no idea where I was going, but kind of exhilarating for the same reason. I got about 25-30k in, though, and crashed and burned. The ideas stopped coming. The plot just didn’t happen. (Then again, this could have to do with too much stress…so my results might be skewed.)

    Ordinarily, I know 3 – 5 scenes when I start – the beginning, middle, end, and a couple fun in-betweeners. But I also usually get stuck around the 1/3rd mark (like I did above) and have Angst about where to go and what to do. That’s also my Black Moment as a writer, when I start doubting every word I’ve ever written. The beginning is fun, the end is a huge rush, but that middle third or so makes me want to never write again.

    Which…totally helps me out right now! I’d forgotten this stage is part of my process. Apparently even plotting everything out to a tee doesn’t help, because the problem is my brain, not my book. 🙂

    Anyway, on the general subject of plotting, one of our old FLOWE friends plotted enough that he could name all of his chapters before he’d written a word. That would kill me. It takes all of the fun out of writing and being surprised. No adventurous wilderness treks when your map shows you exactly where you’re going. But that’s me. I’ve heard of professionals who outline the entire novel, in detail, before they start…and I think, on the whole, those people tend to write faster. CE Murphy (who I’ve been following for 11 years and something like 20 books now – craziness) says that she loves not knowing, but the more books she writes, the more she’s realized that a general outline is helpful. Though she readily admits that it becomes somewhat useless by the halfway point. 🙂

    • Yeah, I’ve heard of people who plot every little detail. That would drive me stir crazy too. But when. I write with no real idea of what’s going to happen and where it’s going, I tend to fizzle and pop.

      By the way, I just about bust a gut holding back my laughter when you wrote “pantzing.” I’m in the library (giving hubby some down time at home) so I can’t be all loud. I totally did not think of writing by the seat of my pants and was all ” =O wth??” LOL

      • YoursTruly says:

        Heh heh heh. The husband complains every time I say “pantzing” for the same reason. 😀

        Just wanted to mention – I know you don’t need the push or challenge or anything, but CampNaNoWriMo.org is running in July. I’m only entering because their sponsors offer deep discounts or free products to winners, and I’d love to get Scrivener half off. Just thought you might want to take a look at the offers, and if you’re going to write in July at all, it might be worth entering. 🙂

      • I doubt I’ll be writing in July. I’m still deep in the researching stage and I’ll be in CO for a couple weeks visiting family. Poor hubby can’t make it but at least this way his tomatoes won’t die from no watering. 😉 I’ve heard nanowrimo gives a discount for those who hit the word count. Program looked pretty cool too.

        Good luck!

  2. Oh god, that’s why I am not a writer. My creativity is close to zero; and I honestly have no clue how you, guys, come up with such great plots all the time

    • Hehehe I’m the same way. How did they come up with that fix to their problem?? Oh wow! Especially with mysteries. I must be an obtuse reader because I can never predict what will happen or who the bad guy is etc while other people always say how predictable something is. Hehe

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