Are you a plotter? One who fills up twenty or thirty pages, sometimes more, with scenes, settings, motivation, goals, conflict and character profiles before you can sit down and write the first chapter?
Or are you a pantser? Someone who gets an idea, makes a short list of ideas on one page and then sits down and starts to write, letting the story tell itself and unfold before your very eyes?
Some of you already know you’re a plotter and you follow a strict routine that helps you write pages and pages without too much trouble. While a synopsis is great for getting an editor or publisher to gain interest in your story, it can also be a great tool as a guide for your manuscript. It’s much shorter than the thirty to fifty pages of story plotting but with less detail. Some writers need more and some less, but whatever method you use, it has to be right for you or you’ll never finish any story. You’ll try many different methods before finding a style of writing that’s a perfect fit and will carry you through many manuscripts. I tried many many plotting methods in my search for a writing system that fit me.
A pantser, like some writers I know, still has some idea of the beginning, middle, and the end of the story to be able to tell it. I think most writer’s fall into one of these categories but many don’t. I fall somewhere in between where my plotting is kept to a minimum of one to two pages. I also write my synopsis as I go, working out some of the characters’ external conflicts as my characters interact.
Writers are creative, unique individuals who will find what works for them and employ whatever means they need to make it happen. A muse is all and good and well, but a beginning writer has no idea what that is. Or even which genre their writing style falls into. So we read everything we can in many genres. For example, we read dozens of books on craft, we attend multitudes of workshops and online classes, sometimes so many that we lose count, and we fill small notebooks with our notes. Only to find that where we fit isn’t such a great mystery.
So we write, and we write, and we keep on writing. Because with every page we pen, every character we bring to life on the page, every heart we tug on, our writing becomes stronger, better. All of this is done with the purpose of finishing a novel someone will read and enjoy, and maybe even recommend.
A novel that will be critiqued and revised many times over. A novel that will change with every revision, every re-write, and every idea that pops into your head. A novel that will eventually make it to an editor or publisher’s desk and then most likely go through more revisions and re-writes, regardless of whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.
That’s not to say your story isn’t good, only that it can be better. Just like a good critique partner can help your story in it’s beginning stages, a good editor can help you polish your manuscript before it’s ready for publication. As long as people change, their tastes in books change. That means the industry is constantly changing. Editors and publishing needs will change to keep up with current trends and the only way for an author to survive against the millions of books competing with theirs, is to write the best book they can – straight from the heart. So whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, whether you’re new to the world of writing or have written thirty books or more, you’ll never stop learning. Because when it comes down to it, we all want our romance book to take the reader on an emotional trip through our characters. To feel the rush of falling in love all over again.
So plot to your hearts content, or pants the story of your heart, because in this complicated time our world is in, everyone wants and needs some spiritual uplifting and lots of happily ever afters.
Elizabeth Scott OCC/RWA V.P. Programs Facilities Coord.