I did a radio show on my plot process and at the end I asked listeners to come over to RT and talk about how they plot so here’s the page for it.
Plotting for me is a series of events. I start with Chapter One & work my way through all the chapters I need to tell my story. Sometimes that’s 10, sometimes 8. All depends on what I figure out when I am brainstorming
I generally come in with the characters and which story I’m telling and then try to set up the circumstances and work through how they get from beginning to end. After I have the plot kind of laid out, I go through and figure out how to chop it up into logical chunks.
I start with either a question and work from that (much like you did tonight), or have a scene in mind (usually the climax of a story) that I’m intrigued by and work my way out. The only variant really is when I get a world building idea instead of a story idea. If there’s major world building as part of the story (like say Harry living int the US) I do the world building first to determine how their system of government works, what things look like, how magic is managed, etc.
I usually figure out the end, and then the beginning, and then work my way through the major plot points between them. My final plotting on paper tends to be more like an abstract where I summarize the plot and have a list of major plot points that need to happen.
One area I’m weak is getting the plot points in order. I know about the ones that are clearly dependent on each other, but the rest i often wind up reordering when I’m writing.
Somewhere in my plot process there’s often time spent talking to other writers… it really helps my creative process to brainstorm together. I have to be careful about who I do this with because I have people get too pushy with their ideas and kill my interest in my own story.
I usually flesh out the character stuff a little while plotting, and then revisit the characters for detail focus after I finish.
I moved from pantsing to plotting a few years ago and I’d say the one thing I have to be careful of is over-plotting. If my plotting gets too detailed, I’ll feel like I’ve already written the story and lose interest.
I’m still working on estimating word count. I’m usually over my estimate (by as much as 25-30% or more), but do sometimes come in under.
And, yes, I’m willing to join you on the show 😉
Clearly I can’t be succinct to save my life!
I haven’t gotten to the point of overplotting, but I understand where you are coming from Jilly. My plots are very minimal, mostly the feelings I want to invoke on my scenes. Sometimes the major events I want to hit in each chapter…
As so research, yeah, that happens. Sometimes I have to pause when I write to look something up, but I try to actually get all of that before I start. Best to not knock me out of the writers trance…
P.S. I would be good with doing the show too
In an effort to learn to plot better, I plotted myself out of two stories. Just, oh, I’m done with that.
I always make a list of what I think needs research to put in the plot doc before I start writing. I’m always wrong. I always forget research stuff. It’s so vexing. The small stuff doesn’t matter like checking how far apart things are, but when I miss the big stuff it really annoys me, because I can get yanked out of the zone to have to go research for a few hours. Blergh.
I have an event that I want to happen so I write that down. Then I make a list of all the characters I want involved on the side with the correct spellings of their name.
Then I start a to do list in One Note of all the events that lead to main event, and check them off as I write them out them out in my drafts.
My weakest point is in how to begin my stories. I never know how to introduce my readers to what is going on.
After I have decided on the premise for the story, I start at the end. I always need to know what my final scene is going to be in order to write towards it, if you get what I mean. Then if I am world building I do the same as Jilly and write out the major differences with the new world and work on how that affects the characters. Finally I plot their journey through the story in order to get them to my denouement.
During this process I have usually found my first line popping into my head…I always write that down because it has a habit of disappearing as my brain is filled with the complexities of the plot. Having the first line always makes beginning the fic on the first day of the challenge really easy for me.
I try to have 10 sections to my plotting, but it doesn’t always equate to actual chapters. I just split down the word count to the sections to give me a rough guide to where I should be by when. Middle sections are always the most nebulous for me and I have to make sure I don’t fudge them too much, otherwise I find that I lose faith in the plot and the writing stalls. This is what has happened the times I haven’t finished a story.
My biggest challenge is the story idea. I come up with at least 5 or 6 but then realise that either they won’t work, our that they are too much like some one else’s fic. I know there are themes we are all using, but there are times when I feel I am just regurgitating something that someone else has done better. I try to jot down everything though in case I can use bits of one idea with another in the future.
The LBD challenge is always the hardest…finding 3 story ideas and keeping the word count down is so hard for me, which is why I try to take part.
My plotting starts a bit like yours, there is the question of ”what if this happens” which is usually where the story starts. Next thing I usually figure out is how the story ends. And then I’m left to wonder what happens between those two points so that I get from the beginning to the end. Sometimes it’s easy, and the story starts spreading from the start point both to forwards and backwards, so that I’m creating the history to the characters and doing the worldbuilding at the same time as the story itself forms.
If there is something unusual in the story, like magic, I have to know how it works before I even can start creating the story between the beginning and end points. Or like the sentinel sga story I started in RT, one of the first things I wrote down for that story was how the sentinel genetics work – I’m actually a bit OCD about these kind of details, even if they are not central to the story. I have to know how something happens and where it came from or I start hitting my head to the table in frustration.
When I plot between start and end points, it’s initially a very rough skeleton draft, like: first happens thing A, next happens B followed by C and then it ends to D – at this point the story may still sound a bit boring to me, as it is missing all the hows and whys.
Next I start fleshing out specific ideas like,”this happens to character A, how do we get there? How does it fit to the story?”; “Character F does this, why?”; and sometimes this happens: “hello, I’m character X that you didn’t previously even know existed, but I’m here and I need to be put right THERE.”. At the same time the history of the story and the world unfolds, and from there I realize I have to add certain bits and pieces to the actual story or to revise it some to make it work.
The whole process is very much like assembling a puzzle where at first you only have the edge pieces together and the center needs to be compiled so that it fits the border. In the end, I have both the starting and ending points mostly as I initially planned, but the path between them might be quite different than what the original story skeleton was.
One of the hardest things for me is figuring out at what point to start the writing. Do I start before the story begins to unfold, so that I can give the reader the background setting? Do I start at the exact point where the story begins, hopping straight in? Or do I start after the beginning of the story, and give the reader information about it as I go? Another thing I struggle with is how much information should I give to the readers about the initial setup – it should be enough to make them intrigued and give them some idea about the setting, but not so much it’s a terrible information dump, because at least I myself am alienated by those.
Before I start actual writing I have a draft of what scenes there will be, what happens in them and why, and from whose POV those scenes are told . The only murky things are the beginning scenes (because I still probably don’t know where to exactly start) and sometimes the wrap-up scenes after the major plot point has happened.
If there is something unusual in the story, like magic, I have to know how it works before I even can start creating the story between the beginning and end points. Or like the sentinel sga story I started in RT, one of the first things I wrote down for that story was how the sentinel genetics work – I’m actually a bit OCD about these kind of details, even if they are not central to the story I have to know how something happens and where it came from or I start hitting my head to the table in frustration.
Next I start fleshing out specific ideas like,”this happens to character A, how do we get there – How does it fit to the story…”; “Character F does this, why…”; and sometimes this happens: “hello, I’m character X that you didn’t previously even know existed, but I’m here and I need to be put right THERE.”. At the same time the history of the story and the world unfolds, and from there I realize I have to add certain bits and pieces to the actual story or to revise it some to make it work.
One of the hardest things for me is figuring out at what point to start the writing. Do I start before the story begins to unfold, so that I can give the reader the background setting – or do I start at the exact point where the story begins, hopping straight in – or do I start after the beginning of the story, and give the reader information about it as I go… Another thing I struggle with is how much information should I give to the readers about the initial setup – it should be enough to make them intrigued and give them some idea about the setting, but not so much it’s a terrible information dump, because at least I myself am alienated by those.
Before I start actual writing I have a draft of what scenes there will be, what happens in them and why, and from whose POV those scenes are told . The only murky things are the beginning scenes (because I still probably don’t know where to exactly start) and sometimes the end scenes after the major plot point has happened.
Note: reposted this without the question marks 🙂
My plotting usually starts as a single scene or plot point that I would like to see happen. I then need to work out how these characters reached that point. Sometimes it is a matter of plotting backward from that point.
There has to be a logical progression from the beginning to the final scene. I usually end up writing scenes out in a spiral notebook and having notes in the margins before I commit anything to a story file.
I have a real problem with how I end stories though. I don’t want to meander around too much after the climatic scene, but I also don’t want to be to abrupt. I try to find a happy middle but i tend to do several rewrites or additions before I’m happy.
My plot process usually starts in my drafting notebook. I write out what I’m plotting for and then start with the broadest theme for the story. From there I do a trickle down and sometimes put a list of questions in that I answer as I go. If I need to I contact Jilly and have her poke holes in my plot to figure that shit out before I start writing. Then I end up doing an actual outline. There are times where I tend to add in a scene here or there while I plot too in case I get something I have to include in the actual story. I usually only do a basic outline so that I don’t over work it and get bored with the story before I actually start writing too.
I would totally be down for drifting. The fandoms I’d be cool with doing are Inception, Avengers, Teen Wolf, Harry Potter, Generation kill, NCIS or Hawaii Five-0.
I’ve only been writing for 10 months or so, so still haven’t been successful in fully plotting out everything at the start of a project. I do seem to be able to have the premise in my mind enough to actually write a short summary at the start, which usually ends in a question that I have to answer in the piece. I plan how long I want the story to be, how long my chapters will be, generally the number of scenes per chapter, and how many chapters there will be at the start. Most of the time I have a general idea for the ending or if not, the details of the end tend to hit me in the middle of the piece and I write them down in my plot document.
Then I work on character backgrounds as best I can and figure out as much of the details as possible out before hand. This usually leaves the middle details a bit blank, since they usually don’t come to me until I’m in the midst of writing and thinking about the story. So my plot evolves, gets added to, and moves throughout the process.
I create my plot outline usually using the 3 act structure and note where I need to have the beginning, inciting event, point of no return, crisis, climax, falling action, and resolution (even if I don’t know what they’ll be yet). I plot as much of the details as I do have and add to it as I write.
I’ve been able to reach my word count goals for the most part, either being right on target or just under or over by a few thousand words. When the story has crime procedural elements or in the case of 00Q perhaps missions to be done, I do work most of that out at the start. That’s the easy part for me. The emotional view point and evolution of the relationship is the difficult part, but with a case outline I’m able to weave that into the narrative as I go. The one story that was a straight up romance was quite difficult for me to plot out before hand. I basically had the first two chapters sorted and the rest waiting for me to fill in the blanks.
I’m going to try my hand at some word building and original character development this summer for a Stargate Atlantis epic I’d like to write. I know I’ll have to have those details sorted before I even attempt to plot and write. Otherwise, the story will be so full of plot holes it’ll look like swiss cheese!
My process is a bit nerve wracking and hopefully one day I’ll be able to plot fully before I start to write. I guess I’m a plotter/pantser combination writer (at least currently).
I would be happy to give drifting a go. I haven’t had an opportunity yet to really brainstorm with another author, so I think it would be helpful.
Current fandoms are Criminal Minds, Sherlock, James Bond, and soon-to-give a try Stargate Atlantis.
Best, The Nut.
I plot like several authors have already mentioned. I start with a scene, usually a conversation that I hear in my head or a mental image or maybe even the response to a song. Then, I build up the world to make that thing that caught my attention happen. Finally, I follow the paths my world building established to the logical conclusion.
With longer projects this becomes the source of plotting documents -physical and in Word, PowerPoint presentations, and the occasional paint doodles. I have been known to plot myself out of writing a story. It’s annoying.
I would love to give drifting a go. My preferred fandoms would be SG:A, Harry Potter, NCIS, Kingsman or even Teen Wolf.
Oh! Almost Human! I would love to drift Almost Human with you. Or Star Trek: AOS, or CM though I’m only up to season 8
I’m a pantser, if I’m understanding the usage correctly. I have always found both plotting and outlining very difficult.
what I do is I look for a hook to hang my story hat on. this is usually a scene fragment I write down, just a quick flash. I poke at that for a while and figure out at least my first line, maybe couple paragraphs, just to make sure it’s a good one.
then I start world-building/plotting, as best I can. I usually know the beginning, and have at least a vague idea for an ending (though those often end up jossed as the story goes on). if little scene fragments or specific conversations pop into my head they get jotted down too. I tend not to use all of this, but the process of thinking and writing it down helps the story to jell in my head.
then I start my opening scene, and go on from there. plotting is definitely mostly made up as I go along. but this can leave me with big plot holes and to fix those I reread and edit obsessively till I’m satisfied for now. I hope the longer I’m here and the more challenges I take part in, the more I will learn. Pantsing works okay for me usually, but I would love to do the kind of plotting I see others here do.
The most important thing is that hook to hang my story hat on.
I start with a single scene. Then I let it percolate until I have a starting point and an end goal/climax of the story. Then I write pages and pages of google docs on history of the world, abilities inherent to people ( I tend towards scifi or fantasy ), social mores, and then build a cast list. The cast list has biographical details, ability details, personality details, and casting photos.
Once I have all of that, I start the outline. I start with a base of ten chapters divided into two scenes and five arcs and add more scenes and chapters if needed. I try to ONLY list 4-5 points per scene. Otherwise I can spend days outlining a single scene in minute detail… so much detail I should actually be writing it instead.
My plotting skills are a work in progress as I am a reforming pantser that would run out of ideas halfway through.
It’s very interesting to see how many things we have in common. Plotting and writing tend to be very personal, but there’s a commonality to the methods we use. Whenever I talk to another writer about craft, “I know, right?” is one of the most common things said.
I’m a pantser and a plotter, but one of my defining characteristic is as a worldbuilder. I get an idea, a line, a scene in my head, and a I turn it over and over until it fleshes out. Sometimes I just write it out immediately — my folders and notebooks are full of orphaned scenes. Then I build from there: what happened before, after, etc. And that’s when the world building hits.
<if I want this to happen, then why? oh, because a, b, and c are things that have happened in this world, which would cause society to do this which would affect this character thusly…> and then I spend twenty hours building an entire world around a handful of scenes or character.
When I start writing, I plot ahead somewhat, but I tend to plot out individual scenes, which I reorder depending on how what I’m writing at the time turns out. I usually have the next three scenes plotted, plus several random ones I’d like to use but haven’t fit into the story line yet.
Shit, no wonder it takes me forever to get anything done.
Good luck plotting for November!
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