I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. If there's something in my personal life that needs to change, why wait? Why should my writing life be any different?
In September 2012, I resolved to evolve from pantser to plotter. For those of you unfamiliar with the terms:
A pantser sits down in front of their laptop and starts typing, with only a few rough ideas for either characters or story floating around in their head.
A plotter uses an outline and finds their rhythm by organizing their thoughts prior to any actual writing.
Usually, a writer falls naturally into one category. Trying to do the opposite of what comes natural is like writing left-handed when you normally use your right. Early on, I tried both methods, but plotting frustrated me so much that I considered inflicting serious damage to my laptop.
But as I celebrated with writer friends over their multi-book contracts, I knew that I'd never be able to accomplish this if I couldn't learn to plot. A key component of the proposal is the synopsis. No synopsis=No proposal.
I started my transition by writing two proposals encompassing five books total, which meant writing books from a synopsis instead of the reverse. I’m thrilled to report that my first book is complete, and the second, roughly thirty percent. Woo-hoo!
Want to know how I transitioned from pantser to plotter? I'll share my secrets. :-)
Characters. I'm a visual person. I need pictures, so I started by finding my hero/heroine online and getting to know them. Then, I asked my character (whichever one you connect with first) these questions.
What do you want? (Goal)
Why do you want it? (Motivation)
Why can't you have it? (Conflict)
Develop the story idea/premise. What terrible thing happened in my character's past to make them how they are today? Keep asking "what if?" until you come up with a story idea.
Write a few pages. Writing backstory helped me flesh out the characters more, so that I could go back and fill in some of the blanks. Just write a bit and let words flow. It's OK. You’ll delete them. The goal is for the story to reveal itself. You may need to tweak the premise after doing this.
Picture the story sequence in your head. Do what it takes to find your zone. Close your eyes. Throw in a CD. Let your dog walk you around the park. Record the chapter number, the date, point-of-view, and what you expect to happen in that chapter/scene. If you know how you want the book to end, you can skip down and work backward.
Implement a schedule. You must map out a timeline for the completion of your books. I’ll share more on this next week.
It’s your turn.
If you're a pantser, how do you write proposals?
Do you ever see yourself evolving into a plotter? Why or why not?