10 September 2007

To Plot or Not to Plot

Here's a post from Christine. Go ahead and talk about your process! -- Carrie

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?

By Chritine Koehler


Erastes said...

Plan? *looks panicked* We were supposed to plan?

I'm the world's worst when it comes to organising my writing, I have to be hit with an idea and then .. well... I just write it.

I know people who plan every chapter, so they know exactly what's going to happen in each chapter and where they are going to be by the end of such of such...

Not so for me - although it might be better if I did! I just let the characters tell the story. I know where I'm going to start and I write the end pretty early on (I stole this idea from JKRowling and it's worked OK for me so far) so I know where I'm going to end up but all the bits in the middle are a delightful mystery and are completely character led.

This often leads to things not happening the way I envisaged them, for example in my first novel, a character was specifically written to be similar in build and colouring as the main character - he was then supposed to DIE in a mistaken murder. But he just blew a delightful raspberry at me, refused UTTERLY to snuff it, and dominated the entire 2nd half of the book with me being completely unable to stop him. I love that - that feeling of losing control of the writing - that - for me - is when it comes a joy and not thumping words out in a line.

I'm pretty slow - as I'm the world's best procrastinator - I could bash out 2 books a year, I'm sure - if I wasn't attracted by the Shiny.

Michelle Styles said...

Let's see. I have a written with a partner before (The Lady Soldier was coauthored with Kate Allan) and in my view, it is very hard to have it work for a long time. I am far happier writing on my own.

Generally from start to finish for me -- it is about 3 months (or less). I write 4 books per year for HM&B or at least that is the current plan. It is about 2k per day or there abouts but writing is my job (after my family, animals and garden)
I do have a vague plan when I begin, and I do tweak the plan when I get stuck. Genreally if it is working, I don't worry.
I will start out with an ending in mind, but many times, the needs of the story change.
It is always what works for you.

Frances Hunter said...


I also write with a partner, and our process is similar to yours. Spend untold hours kicking the story around. We split up the research and then fill each other in. We spend time developing the characters and an outline, and then divide up the chapters and edit each other's work.

It works well, because you always have some inspiration and someone waiting on you to do your part.

We successfully completed one book so far. The first draft took six months; the second draft took a couple of months; the actual publication process took three years.

I look forward to a second project collaborating with her.

Liz Clare
co-author, To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis and Clark
Silver Medalist, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards
website: http://frances-hunter.com
book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLNf3nalkbA

Christine Koehler said...

Frances Hunter said... The first draft took six months; the second draft took a couple of months; the actual publication process took three years.


OK, breathing deeply. Really, it's the 3 years that got me. I'm GenX, and we like instant gratification. THREE YEARS isn't instant for anyone.

On the plotting note, I have to agree with what erastes said about a character dominating the story. I really love when that happens, too. Frustrated, but lovin' it. Makes me think that this whole writing thing isn't a fluke.