Plotting to Death

Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,I’m often torn between Plotting and Pantsing. I think my best work has come from when I pants a story (writing by the seat of my pants.) However, pantsing has also led to a lot of writing that ends up in the proverbial back-of-the-drawer-never-to-see-the-light-of-day.

Plotting sometimes works better, but I’m confronted with too many issues when I need to flesh out a scene in order to understand where it should go. I’m also in danger of plotting to death, where I have so many complications that the story becomes overburdened with plot bunnies.

Yet, plotting can also untangle these complications. It’s work, but sometimes it needs to be done. Like now…I’m struggling with the story even though it’s already in my head. But it’s too real in my head. There are too many bits that happen, yet have nothing to do with the plot. I need to leave those out. Sometimes one character starts taking over the story, while it’s supposed to be an ensemble cast.

I’m doing work now. The kind of writing that, instead of feeling like what I want and need to do, feels like a job. My writing goals this past week have been in the toilet. I didn’t do any on the weekend. I look at it as a needed break; sometimes that’s what’s needed. But now I’m buckling down and getting the story out, even if it’s a mess.

That’s what revisions are for.

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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14 Responses to Plotting to Death

  1. nagrij says:

    I know many writers have luck with plotting everything out. But I can’t really do that. For me, a good story always grows organically from a single character or moment. It gets complex later, but that is how I do it most of the time.

    • It’s one of those things that is different for every writer. I love it when a story grows organically, but I usually end up doing at least some plotting as my brain’s planning is working faster than my fingers can coherently type.

  2. Beth Camp says:

    I’m a pantser most of the time as well and have a deliciously convoluted plot to work on now that the first draft is somewhat ‘done’. I knew a writer who used 3×5 cards to plot the entire story, reorganized the 3×5 cards and just typed the story out as if she were copying. That just doesn’t fit . . . but I sympathize with those plot holes, plot bunnies, and characters that want to take over. Interestingly, the picture you posted today shows a cast of hundreds . . .Plot twists abound! I liked what you said that “plotting . . . can untangle these complications.” Yes, I agree. But sometimes, too, drafting helps. May you have a good week ahead.

    • I think I’m going to use some cards… or rather, post-it notes. I have several different timelines intertwining. Some events mirror each other, but not all. I need to get each character’s timeline of post-its organized so I can decide how they should be presented in the book.

  3. My biggest problem has been that characters keep showing up in my novel who want their story told. I’ll add their story to my plot line and then realize, that, no, they need to go, which breaks my heart! I probably would work better as a plotter, but I’m afraid I would end up changing it so many times that my efforts would not have been worth it.

    • This is both a blessing and a curse! I’ve been out with a bad cold for a few days, but it did give me time for the story to just sit in the back of my brain. That was a really good thing… I’m going to cut a couple of characters, and I think the story will be much better for it.

      But they’re not gone forever! I might write their story another time, or I might take bits of their stories and use them in other plots.

  4. Pamela Morse says:

    I like the word Pantsing…some use it for getting wiped out in the stock market..having been pantsed

  5. Cindy says:

    It’s hard to know what works best for me, as I am still trying to figure that out myself.

    Take heart, some days are going to be rough. Keep plugging along and best of luck this week. You can do this!! I believe in you!!

  6. shanjeniah says:

    I was a pantser for decades. I loved the point where the characters took over.

    The last year or two, I’ve been using Rock Your Plot, which allows me to freely explore the story before I begin writing, going deeper and wider until I end up with an open-ended plot. It works as a sketchy road map to the story.

    The characters still take over, but it seems to be in a more focused way, because I had a direction to travel in, and spent time delving.

    For me, it’s a good balance of orchestration and chaos. =)

    I so agree, though, that we all have our own ways of doing things, and it’s best when we each find what works for us.

    I’ve had almost two weeks away from most of my writing. We were vacationing, and that was what was the most important. As I return, I know it will be with a fresh perspective and a great deal of new material.

    May you find that your break made you more fertile for the work you need to do to get where you want to go. =)

    • I think the break of being sick did indeed help me re-focus this story!

      In April, we’re taking the family to Disney World. Hubby’s made me promise to spend time with the family and not hide away to write. I agree…but it’s not easy. It’s not the kind of job we run away from as soon as we get a vacation; it’s the kind of job we eagerly run back to as soon as we get a chance.

      • shanjeniah says:

        ” It’s not the kind of job we run away from as soon as we get a vacation; it’s the kind of job we eagerly run back to as soon as we get a chance.”

        I don’t even see it as a job! It’s my deepest passion, my joy, my life…

        I might be just a wee bit obsessed…

        We were very busy during our vacation, and yet I still wove in some editing. I wanted to do more.

        Maybe remembering that the family time will feed the writing will help?

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