Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Converting from Pantser to Plotter + a Birthday Shout Out!

Recently I received an email from a relatively large publishing company regarding the full manuscript I sent in March. The basic verdict?  The novel is too long and needs some fine-tuning.  But the good thing is that the editor, who is SUPER nice--seriously, I couldn't wish a better person in the industry on any author, and that's the truth--kindly pointed out the exact areas I need to work on, while professing that she really liked the story and characters.  She also offered for me to send the manuscript directly to her, once I've cut about 40,000 words and tightened a few of the historical aspects.

So, yes, I am very pleased with these results, all things considered.

However, it really got me to thinking: I didn't exactly plot out this book one iota. And, no, I'm not a Plotter. A proud Pantser, thank you very much, which means when I show up at the keyboard, there's no knowing what'll happen. Sure, I have a basic idea of where the story's headed (usually), but for the most part the characters tell me what they want, where they wanna go, what they wanna say, etc. etc.

J.K. Rowling working on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

And so I figured, for this YA Historical (which, by the way, remains nameless) I should try to actually plot a little. Figure out beforehand where I'm going, and what I intend to do once I arrive there. Problem is, I haven't the first clue how Plotters do their thing.

That's when I Googled "converting from Pantser to Plotter"--by the way, a Pantser is one who literally writes by the seat of their pants, while a Plotter outlines, storyboards, family trees, etc., before they actually start writing--but I was lucky enough to stumble upon paranormal romance author Kait Nolan's website/blog. There, I found the beginning of an incredible series of blog posts: From Pantser to Plotter: Why the Pantsers Fear Plotting. She's even got nifty links to the next blog post in the upper right hand corner, just above the current post.

Action-Packed Paranormal Romance Author Kait Nolan

Needless to say, this may have very well changed my life, the way I write, the fashion in which I prepare for the commitment it takes to write a novel. Yes, folks, it is a commitment. A marriage. You're either in for the long run, or you may play for a while then decide to go another route. Start another project. And I suppose that's fine in some instances (not in a marriage, of course--please take that seriously, all right?), but when a writer starts a project, he or she needs to make certain 1) there's a genuine story to be told and 2) she or he is in it for the long haul.

Easier said than done, I know. Believe me, I've started three or so projects, made it to the middle, and said, "Bleh. This isn't going very well." And so I put it aside and start yet another manuscript.

But since I didn't want to do that this time, not with this new approach into the Young Adult category, and especially since I'm tampering with not only historical but also science fiction/time travel, I decided the best route to take would be to plot (not with all the madness of a true Plotter, mind, but still...) at least 3-4 chapters ahead, create a notebook with timelines, family trees, and pictures, and hope for the best.

So, tell me: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter? What fits into your style of writing? Do you write in the morning hours, like me, or are you more of a night owl? When you show up to the keyboard, do you have a game plan? Or do you just type and pray it comes out brilliant?

Oh! The birthday wish! Happy, Happy Birthday to Queen Victoria! Alexandrina Victoria was born on May 24, 1819 and ruled the great country of England for 63 years and 7 months (the longest reign in British history as well as for any female monarch!), before she passed away on January 22, 1901. Her reign, also known as the Victorian Era, was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the UK. She and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, had 9 children and 42 grandchildren. When he died at the young age of 42, Victoria went into a deep morning and, of course, never remarried.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Windsor 1841-45

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,



BREA said...

OH! I will have to check out her blog! I have been a plotter for the last few WIPs. I make a rough outline for the book then break that down into chapters. Things often change but I always have a good idea where the book is going and what is going to happen and can usually spot right away when I have gotten off course.

Lynda R Young said...

wow, congrats on an amazing response from the editor :)
I'm a plotter. I used to be a pantser but didn't enjoy the extra work involved by having to rebuild my structure lol.

Alyssia said...

@BREA You will not be disappointed in Kait's webpage. She features some great online FREE tools for plotting out your novel.

@Lynda Thank you! That's exactly where I am right now with pantsing. It worked for Enraptured (the adult historical), but still... I probably wouldn't be having the issues with publishing it right now had I plotted beforehand. So, I'm pretty excited about making the conversion! :)

Lela said...

I'm a total pantser! BUT, having been in school, you can't really write an academic paper without planning, so it's had me thinking about plotting out my fiction, as well. I don't think I could be a die-hard plotter but some aspects of it would be useful, I think! I just think it would help make the characters deeper. I'm looking forward to it! :)

Alyssia said...

I think that's especially smart with the type of fiction you write, Lee. Fantasy world-building, it seems, would require careful planning and plotting to make it believable. Glad you're implementing some of the old Plotter techniques into your Pantser repertoire!

Bluebell Books said...

lovely blog, thanks for sharing....


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