Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Pantser Tries a Plotting Shoe on for Size

Pantser: Writes by the seat of her pants, without any thought to such mundane issues as plot. Character development, story arcs, GMC (and that's not referring to vehicles made by General Motors, either)---who needs that? Just plop your butt in the chair, place hands on keyboard and give take dictation from the Muse. Right?

Plotter: Defies description---these sorts scare me. Charts, graphs, whiteboards, flow charts are involved and everything is planned down to the nth degree. I tried that once. I finished all the plotting and planning and the Muse dusted her hands and said, "Terrific. We're done. What's next?"

My Muse is a fickle creature. She likes surprises. Part of the fun of writing, for me, is watching it unfold as I go. I don't need to know what's around that corner up there 3 pages up the line...I'll find out when I get there. Sometimes, I'll even get a good giggle out of it, because there will be a beautifully wrapped, beribboned gift waiting for me. Sometimes a lightbulb. That ephemeral fickle Muse of mine delights in that.

So, every now and again, it occurs to me I should try planning something. Just a wee bit. Not much. Don't want to give too much away. Yet my current WIP is the first of 3 novels, I hope, maybe more, depending on how the first one turns out, how the second one turns out, if I can interest an agent...You know, all sorts of considerations. But, having just read a Very Popular Series (which I'll decline to name specifically other than to say it's NOT the In Death Series) where there were continuity issues between the books---minor ones, maybe even ones that wouldn't be noticed if you didn't read the series back to back to back as I did, I thought to myself..."Self. You need to keep track of Important Things. You cannot change details, even little ones, from book to book. There must be continuity and consistency. You must come up with a way to track these sorts of important things. Decorations matter."

To that end, last month, I bought a 7 pocket expanding file and matching folders at Walmart. They were on sale, $1 each. Cute design, happy colors---yanno...not very office-like. They've sat here, the folders still in their clear plastic protective coating. I won't say they've been mocking me, but they haven't been quiescent either.

Today I decided was The Day. I was going to put the important deets on paper and print them out, put them in the cute folders and in the expandable folder. I would feel the thrill of accomplishment, flush with the pleasure that I'd done something that might be accused of being something a professional would do. I'd feel more serious about my writing. Oh yes. I would Have Something to Show for it All.

Now, being allergic to whiteboards and other organizational type items, I couldn't call what I was creating a "spreadsheet." Nope. That would reek of plotterism and would make my Muse unhappy enough to leave me for another extended vacation in the Bahamas. (I'm 99.999% certain that's where she goes when she's not here, perched on my shoulder and whispering in my ear.) What I did need was something that kept track of my main characters---a NotASpreadSheet. Rather than explain it, I'm just going to put up the form I made for myself.

Centered at the top in bold: WORKING TITLE--NotASpreadSheet.


Heroine/Hero: (In bold and underlined,Her/His full name)
Family: (All names in bold and underlined, whether they'll actually be in the story or not, to make it easier to find them, plus basic descriptions, age and relationship to the heroine/hero. I also included deets like the hero's parents are divorced and married multiple times and to whom they've been married)
Odds and Ends: (This is the spot where I put, for example, that my heroine has a poodle, and pertinent deets about that---essentially, anything you need to keep track of that doesn't really fit in any of the above categories. I may even go back and add deets about their fashion sense and cars.)

This is just the first page, I did one of those for the hero and heroine. Then, I centered and put in bold: The Series. Beneath that Book 1, Book 2, Book 3--- and a very general, non-specific blurb of what would be in each book. Book 2 has more substance than Book 3 for example, mainly because I'm not even THINKING about Book 3 as yet, other than it's going to wind up everything I've set in motion in the first 2 books. Makes a little sense. To me, anyway.

I'm not finished with the NotASpreadSheet, but other things I will include are a page that will note the details of the hero and heroine's offices and homes---from location to the color of paint on the walls and fabric on the furnishings. If the dining room table is made of cherry, then by golly, it's going to be cherry through all the books, not a table that morphs into an oak table or a mahogany table because I couldn't be bothered to note it down somewhere for future reference. These I may very well just copy/paste from the WIP.

I'm pretty sure what I've come up with isn't anything new under the sun, but I think it's non-threatening enough for pantsers who'd rather run screaming from the room than pick a dry erase marker and write with it on a whiteboard. (I'm pretty sure the only reason dry erase markers exist is so we can get high on the fumes, which seems counterproductive to me.) I think the copy/paste idea is one of the best organizationalish ideas I've come up with yet. Hardly any effort.

Being a pantser isn't permission to be sloppy about the details. They do matter. Very much so. I guess if I have to resort to something organizational-y to see that my heroine's eyes don't change color in every chapter, I can deal with that.


1 comment:

Talli Roland said...

Sounds like you've found something that works for you! Good luck!