Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Write Your Stupid Book: Tip 3

Plot if you have to but only if you have to.

Many authors I know are extreme plotters. They will plot the living daylights out of their stories before writing the first chapter.

They’ll have flow charts and colorful graphs and, yes, even point-by-point lists of what comes after what. Some even plot for 50 or more pages before writing a single word in their book.

It works for them and they’ve proven it because, yup, they’re published.

Me? I’d rather light my hair on fire. Still, maybe it’ll work for you and you’ll join their crazy-assed club.

Or maybe you’re a pantser like me and some other cool authors. (Pantsers = Write by the seat of your pants.)

Truth is, there’s no wrong way. Plot or pants. Just do it! (Sorry, I had to channel a little Nike there.)

When I start a book I have a few vague ideas about my protagonist. I also have a solid nugget about the premise. After that, all bets are off.

I write scene to scene and character to character. This means that I write the scene that I believe will logically come next and I write it as it comes to me with very little questioning. If it’s the next step for my character to take, they take it. If they’re standing on the edge of the cliff, sometimes they turn around, sometimes they jump, but often I have someone else push them.

When I’m writing a mystery I don’t know whodunit until I’m about two-thirds through the book. If you read The Remains of the Dead you’ll remember there was a bit of a surprise ending there. When I realized that outcome during my first draft, I had to take a week off to recoup.

I was like, “Holy crap! I can’t believe it!” Seriously.

As secondary characters come up, I uncover their personalities as they interact with the protagonist, particularly during dialogue. I keep a separate Word document for my characters and I write out their descriptions as I make ‘em up. This helps me keep all the players straight and prevents me from creating four redheads in one book (which I actually did once).

This may sound easy and simplistic. It is and it isn’t. I guess if I’ve confused you my work here is done ;)

Just trust your instincts and trust your muse will provide the words. Don’t over think it.

Personally, I get in the most trouble when I don’t go with my gut. Right now my gut is telling me I need coffee. It’s also saying I need to go write MY stupid book.


Wendy Norris Roberts said...

Well so far your flow chart and your tips seem to be working! I have read all of your books (unless you have something other than the four I know about!) and loved them all!

Wendy Roberts said...

Thanks for the support, Wendy! If all Wendy's in the world were like you I'd be a rock star ha ha!

B.E. Sanderson said...

That's it exactly. Except I don't like the term 'pantser', so I call myself a plansterer. Dare to be different, doncha know. I tried to plot once... :shudder: It wasn't pretty. Now I just let everything flow and hope for I took the right road. (Or that I can fix it in revisions later.)

Wendy Roberts said...

B.E. sounds like you're trusting your instincts. LOL at plansterer!

Carri said...

I've got to hand it to you writers. I'm bored by the end of my own blog post. I couldn't imagine actually writing a story!

wend said...

Well I lost the plot years ago and if I were the pants type it would be a thong (NB: in England, pants are underwear, not trousers!) - flimsy and hardly there..