Last week’s unusually short blog post was entitled Closed for Maintenance: Me. Between my busy freelance schedule and other commitments, I didn’t have time for myself, much less for the blog (which is, after all, an unpaid avocation).
Today’s post is about getting back on track with a work-in-progress, also known as a WIP. Now, this assumes one’s WIP has gotten off track, and I can indeed confirm I’ve been known to suffer from this common writer’s problem.
Planning, Plotting, or…?
Unlike my freelance projects, which have to be rigorously scheduled and completed on deadline, my novels are a free-for-all. I’ve read much about the difference between a “plotter” and a so-called “pantser,” and determined that I am a hybrid—a plantser, if you will.
Naturally , the concept of a plotter is easy to understand. One carefully plots out an entire book in advance, then follows the plan to the letter.
I’m guessing, of course. I’ve never tried that, and I know I’d feel too hemmed in by a rigid plot or plan.
Conversely, I’ve also never tried to fly by the seat of my pants writing an entire novel. That seems like it would be nuts!
So What The Heck Is a Plantser?
While I couldn’t maintain my enthusiasm about a project enough to see it through if I planned to the last detail, I also have to plan something at some point. That’s where my hybrid plantser tag comes into play.
Here’s how my process works: I start out doing whatever it is I do: first draft for 20, 30, even 50 pages. As I’m working through it, I go back and edit…and edit…and edit some more.
I’m well aware not every writer does this. I don’t want to have a debate in the comments section. Suffice to say, I’m not recommending my process, merely saying it works for me.
At some point, I recognize I’ve run out of gas. In other words, I’m no longer able to function as a pantser, because the story will need a more definite shape.
Six Possible Plot Types
According to computer programming, there are only six basic plots:
- Rags to riches (an arc following a rise in happiness)
- Tragedy or riches to rags (an arc following a fall in happiness)
- Man in a hole (fall-rise)
- Icarus (rise-fall)
- Cinderella (rise-fall-rise)
- Oedipus (fall-rise-fall)
I can live with it if there are others, but I must admit I really don’t care. Plot is always, always, always secondary to character in my novels. The mechanics don’t trouble me.
Once I reach that point of no return, I have to at least sketch out a rough outline of what scenes I expect will need to happen, and a general, or possibly even specific idea of how the novel will end.
The upside to this method? By the time I start plotting, I’ve already got a good start on the characters, story, and even parts of a draft that will require little to no revision.
The downsides are probably obvious, but I’ll mention them anyway. I’ve almost never known where a story is going until it’s well underway; planning based on existing text can be challenging; and, while exciting, it can also be frustrating.
Still, it works, and believe me, I’ve tried other ways. My current WIP got some TLC this past weekend. I added some dialogue, revised some narrative, and expanded my notes. I’ve even written the ending in advance, a rarity for me.
What about you? How’s your WIP going, if you have one? I’d love to hear other writers’ experiences in the comments.