A Plotter Needtabe

A Plotter Needtabe

So yeah, here’s how my brain works. I have to be able to wrap my mind around an idea, a concept, a plotline, and in most cases in order to do that, I have to be able to “see” it in totality. I’m here to tell you that if your brain doesn’t work this way, it can be very limiting. Metaphorically speaking, even standing on top of the tallest building in an area of the world that is predominantly flat, you can only see so far. Same holds true for seeing story. Now, hold that thought for a moment.

In the Write or Consequences world I’ve entered, my first ice bucket dunking taught me one very valuable lesson – I need to set realistic goals based on my writing process. This, I think I did for round two, and I have every expectation, at this point, of succeeding with my second goal. That being said, is everything moving swimmingly along? That would be a big Nope. So what lesson is emerging as I methodically build my story in round two of our challenge group?

I’m a plotter need-ta-be. Picking up from the first paragraph, knowing how my brain works, I should fundamentally understand that for me to attain the best results in my writing, I need to see the whole picture. That means I need to plot. But plotting? Really? Eeewww. So boring. So left brain. So not fun. So I skip it. Hell, plenty of writers out there simply wing it and they manage to do a bang up job. Why not me?

Is there anything out there more perplexing that she who will not see? Or perhaps I should have said, she who stubbornly refuses to see? So, I’m wandering aimlessly through my story, hitting plot points willy-nilly, and ultimately wasting time and word count. Thank goodness for critique group, but lordy, I do make them earn their zero dollars and zero cents for reading my meandering stuff.

And so, to assist myself (and you, if you find the tool useful), I’m attaching a spreadsheet that lays out your story chapter by chapter, depending on your targeted total word count and by the approximate number of pages in your typical chapter. There are notations for major plot points as well as additional cells for adding notes for your particular story. What this spreadsheet does is help you get an overall view of your story. What it does not do is take away the joy of discovering your story as you go.

Plotting by Chapter – Blank

Lorinda Peake

Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.

Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.

Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.

9 thoughts on “A Plotter Needtabe

  1. I’m a pantser. Doesn’t mean I’m any good at being a pantser, but that’s my reality. When I plot out a book, it takes away the ‘need’ to write the book – I already know how its going to end. I let my characters lead me willy-nilly through the story and hope they know what they are doing and where they are going. Usually that works. However, that said – I also waste a lot of time discovering the story by writing a full first draft that is always full of crap. Second draft is often almost a full rewrite. Third draft starts to resemble an actual story. I’m thinking your spreadsheet might actually be a useful tool to help me get through that first draft a little faster. Think I’ll give it a try! Thanks! Terri

    1. As much as I struggle with pre-writing, I find that the more of it I do, the less I waste time and words. I’ve also found that using this spreadsheet does not diminish the joy of discovering story. It just makes the road of discovery a little less winding. Hope it does the same for you.

  2. Well, Lorinda, you already know I’m a plotter, so your spreadsheet makes me a happy camper. So happy, in fact, that I’ve started sticking the “turning point” labels on the scene synopses of my second short story, just to remind myself that, yes, even in a short story, there must be turning points!

    That’s been a great exercise for me today as I’ve worked up “synopsis lite.” Now I look forward to taking a couple of days off to let the story percolate a bit before diving back into hammering out the pages.

    Thanks for the new tool!

  3. And you see, I’m a full-fledge pantser! Such a wonderfully diverse group we are!

    I love having a germ of an idea and just letting the first two or three chapters fly, but once I have a few details on page to bind me and my story to our new reality, I need to have some clue about what comes next before I start to write!

    So for me, I could just cut loose on my first 60 or so pages, and then once I have my “cast in stone” parameters, I can whip out your handy-dandy spreadsheet and figure out the dreaded “stuff happens” parts.

    My favorite part of us as a group is that we are so different in key ways. It’s what makes our friendships work and it’s what brings such productivity to our critique sessions.

    We rock!

  4. To be a successful writer I would think requires that you enjoy your craft. So, does the organizing, plotting, planning, analyzing, etc. tend to take away that joy? How do you strike a happy balance and is any writer amazed, at the end of the day, to discover that the ending turns out to be a wonderful surprise.

  5. I suppose writing is like any job – you may love it overall, but there are just some parts that you don’t. You may recall from my childhood that I’m essentially lazy, and all this pre-writing is just no fun. Paradoxically, I do enjoy the benefits of pre-writing, just not the doing of it.

    And yes indeed, there are always those days when you are tip-tapping away at the keyboard, and, all of a sudden, the characters take over and something you’d have never foreseen just happens. Sometimes other tidbits find their way into a story, like a color that keep reappearing or some other prop, like a toy or a bird. And as you go, those mysterious objects suddenly take on significant emotional impact. THAT’s the fun part of writing – the joy of surprise and discovery. Thanks for the comments!

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