Writing a cohesive, well-crafted story is a difficult, time consuming task. When we have an idea, we want to run with it and get the words down. But every writer needs to discover how they best plan their story. Does planning your story eliminate a lot of the messy first draft, does it sort out plot holes before you even start to write? Is it better to hear the story unfold as you write it? Some writers are plotters and some are pantsers. A plotter is someone who outlines their story before they begin writing. They tend to know who their characters are and where the story is going before writing the first chapter. A pantser discovers the story as they write it. In this week’s column, I have put together a collection of articles and podcasts that discuss both of these methods.
This short yet excellent article breaks down the pros and cons of plotting v pantsing.
So you want to write blog advises using a hybrid method. To pick and choose parts of both plotting and pantsing to find what works for you as a writer. It guides you through 4 phases and breaks down each phase into steps. (5 if you’re planning a sequel to your story.)
Here they discuss the pros and cons, and gives you a link to the three-act structure. It breaks down the three-act structure using Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games as an example. So, if you are familiar with the novel then this is a great way to understand how it works.
It explains how planning your story can help with the consistency in it. The plotter knows what will happen and when, before any major writing is done. So, even if something unexpected happens, for example, a character going awry, a well-crafted plan can get you back on track. But it’s not fool proof.
In this great blog, Savannah introduces the method laid out in the book Save the Cat. She breaks down the acts in to 15 beats and explains each beat simply so that you can relate it to your story or apply it to a story idea you have.
This YouTube video by Diane Callahan is very interesting. She encourages the writer to think of plotting and pantsing as tools at your disposal rather than inherent traits or writing styles. Talking about how published author’s approach their writing, she peppers the listener with plenty of examples. She asks questions of you, the writer, so that you can see what method works for you. Diane believes that the most successful stories combine structure with creativity and exploration.
Listen to what published writers do. You can learn so much no matter what genre they write. Other writer’s can help you to refine your own process. The Facebook Writing.ie series with authors is a treasure trove of information from published writers.
Similarly, this penguin podcast talks to authors about their literary lives.
This short podcast clearly explains simple story structure. Explaining its flexibility and describing it as a skeleton that you get to decide how to dress. It believes that by having some clarity and direction you will complete a cleaner and faster first draft.
The most important thing as a writer is to keep writing, whether you are a plotter or a pantser, just keep putting pen to paper, fingers on the keyboard and get your story finished. The way you get there is up to you. All of the above links are great guidance and tips for us writers but, at the end of the day, you might want to take snippets from each and find a process that works for you. There is no right or wrong way. The only right way is to keep writing. Good luck with it. I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there is any particular writing topic you want me to cover, please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan