Wednesday 1 May 2013

Pantsing versus Plotting?

It’s May 1st which means we are officially one month away from JuNoWriMo! For those of you who don’t know, JuNoWriMo (June Novel Writing Month)… is pretty self-explanatory when you spell it out like that.
A group of people (any group of people) sit down for thirty days from June 1st-30th) and write 50k words of a novel. Any novel will do. There are no rules except write.
As part of the nail biting preparation for us plotters (I don’t pants my stories because of what happens when I let my mind run away. Exhibit A) I’m putting together  a month full of activities to help develop and plot characters, scenes and settings as well as different methods to organizing scenes and plot ideas.
Where did I get all this fantastical knowledge you ask?

Well it all came from this little book.

90 Days to Your Novel by Sara Domet. It’s literally a day to day guide of planning, developing, writing and a little bit of editing your novel in 90 Days. I’ve taken 16 that I’ll be laying out over the course of the month to get you on your way to novel writing stardom.
The idea isn’t to write best-selling breakaway novels ; the idea is to always write no matter what.

Never stop writing.

Today’s lesson is all about different methods of organizing a scene.

Find what works best for you.

1.      The Structure-Plus Outline: This is the very traditional method of taking out a piece of paper and writing down the setting, characters, and purpose of the scene (ever scene has purpose; if you can’t find it, it probably isn’t important). Provide as much detail as possible. This is for the planners (like myself) who don’t like leaving things to chance. When you use this method, the story is clearly laid out from beginning to end. Of course that doesn’t leave a lot of room for change.

2.       The Signpost Outline: This one is a similar to the structure-plus method except it’s a lot less detailed. You take your piece of paper and writer down the type of scene (Action, Dialogue, Internal etc.), the setting, characters and plot but just use the very basics. No need for a lot of detail. Just enough to show you where you’re headed. And the opposite can be said in that, it leaves a lot of room for dead end plots and too much freedom.

3.       The Note-Card Technique: Ditch your piece of paper in favor of some cue cards with the setting, characters, plot and goal of the same (similar to the purpose; what do you hope to accomplish with this scene?). It breaks this giant plot into smaller, more manageable pieces and this is really good for writers who like to write by scene rather than word count. Then again, it can get rather bulky and disorganized so you’d have to be on your toes with this one.

4.       Finally, The Spreadsheet Approach: It’s basically the electronic version of the note-card method except instead of cards you use Excel to create columns and sections for scene number, setting, characters, plot and scene goal. This is only for the electronic dependent, I think. It takes a lot of playing around with this one to find the visually appealing format you like.
These are just four of many different forms of organizing your plot but they cover a lot of the basics. So I’ve got to ask: which method do you use? Or are you a pantser?


  1. Interesting. I've never heard the variations laid out like this. I'm more of a sign post type, myself.

  2. I don't know that I have ever planned a story...I am more a got an idea for a scene, write around it, plot and characters develop as I write. Does that make me shallow, or my writing not cohesive?

  3. I've never had a problem with your stories before :-)

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