10 February 2007

To Plot or Not to Plot

Unlike everyone else on this list (I think), I write with a partner, Marisa. She lives about 2 hours north of me, and we manage to get together once every other month or so. Mostly we rack up long distance phone bills (ok, we have a total phone package deal but it doesn’t sound the same) and email each other like a pair of stalkers.

Usually, we outline a story, get the first few chapters finished together, then divide the rest of it up. Once our latest section is sent off to the other, we tweak that part then I add it into the story as a whole. Depending on things, and if we like the way we’re actually progressing, a story will take us about 5-6 months. But then we both have full-time jobs and outside interests that suck up our time. Plus we tend to go back and self-edit quite a bit. Our goal for this year is to cut that time in half.

So my for everyone out there: Forgetting for a moment Work, Family, Non-Writing-Commitments, and most importantly Life (and how it has that annoying little habit of getting in the way of writing) how do you plan a story out and, assuming all goes well, about how long does it take you to finish it?


jennifer said...

plan? who plans? i just write and see where it takes me. as for how long it depends on the story, i have one that took about 13 years but I don't aim for a certain length I write until the story is told whether that's 2,000 words or 120,000. No real help huh??

Vicki Gaia said...

I tend to write a few chapters of my book with the main plot in mind, then go back and sketch out the chapters later. It might be a strange way of doing things, but I'm strange, so it works :) I have a word count in mind and usually write anywhere from 65,000 to 95,000 word novels. I haven't attempted novellas but would like to at some time. It's the sagging middle where I slow down and have to plot out the story, to see where I can add some excitement and what's missing in the storyline. I'm really not very organized about it.

Tess said...

I'm a total plotter - it's just my way. I have an outline in mind, then I plan scenes. BUT when I actually write them, I don't worry if they end up different than I expected. But I need that initial framework.

Bonnie Vanak said...

I plot as if I'm doing mapquest on Yahoo, but then end up driving all over the place. I write out of sequence, too. No wonder I'm always lost!

Anne Whitfield - author said...

I don't plot. When a story idea comes to me I'll jot down a very rough outline, a page at the most, with basic details of setting and year and heroine's name, etc.

As I write the chapters I have a A4 note book next to me and I write down character traits, body descriptions, any new characters that appear, the months, seasons, a plot thread, etc.

Eliza said...

With my current work, The Upstairs Girl, I started by freewriting about 20 pages (in my Moleskine, not a "big" notebook) about my main character, and exploring her backstory. Her mother and deceased father are important to the story, so I wrote about them some, too. Then I wrote a little about some of the other characters.

From there, I plucked up sixteen notecards--one for each major turn-- and wrote a single line about what would happen in that section of the story.

And then I just started to write.

When my rough is done, I'll go back and fill in all the blanks.

It's taken me about a month of steady work to get at 50,000 words, and I'm shooting for 85,000-95,000 -- it's a YA historical, so I can play with the length some. That's compared to Atrocity Gods, which took me 6 years (and I've got another round of revisions ahead of me!).

Zoe Archer said...

I'm a plotter all the way. Usually, an idea is there, and I spend about a month thinking about it, discussing and fine-tuning the plot with my husband (who is a writer, also, and a *genius*, especially about story and character--I know, I'm really, really lucky), and writing down ideas in a notebook. This is also when I do my research, which can influence the plot considerable, so I have a huge stack of library books on my floor, and am often pawing through them for background, inspiration, and specifics. Once I feel I have a solid, linear plot, I write an outline that's usually nine to twelve pages, then give it to my husband, who makes his notes and I do some revising.

After I feel the outline is solid enough, then I start writing pages. I will deviate from the outline a bit, finesse certain points. The outline is pretty general, so it's up to me to come up with the more "writerly" aspects, such as how or where a scene starts, whose POV I'm using, &c. And sometimes a certain bit of information comes out later or sooner, or I mix up some of the sequences, but, by in large, I adhere to the outline. I usually give my hasband blocks of three chapters, get his notes, revise them, then move forward again. After the first draft is done, then I give it to my husband once more and get his great notes (didn't I say he was amazing?) before my final pass on the manuscript. I do have a day job, so working in time to write and how productive I am varies. Right now, my WIP is six months old, and I'm about 3/5 through it.

I'm in awe of people who can write complete works without knowing where they are going, letting the story take them where it wants. Plot is somewhat challenging for me, so without a clear destination in mind, I'd just sit and stare at my monitor all day and pull at my hair.

It's taken a few years to learn my process, but now that I've found it, I'm very happy with it. Process is so individual--it's quite incredible that we're so different but can all produce.

DDB said...

I have a skeleton of a story, but mostly I'm a pantser. This wasn't always the case. I did the charts, graphs, collages, you name it I did it. By the time I got to the actual writing I was sick of the story.

Right now, I'm helping my parents. My dad has stage 4 lung cancer, a spot on his liver and a brain tumor. My mom has cognitive problems. They are both in their 70's.

I write when I can. As for time from start to finish, it depends on how crazy my life is at that moment.