Becoming a Plotser

Saturday ramblings and rumblings
February 18, 2017
The Keepers of the Wellsprings Series
March 3, 2017

A lengthy email from my marketing person detailing what we needed to do with the series got me thinking and reacting. A lot of what was suggested can’t and won’t happen immediately  or even in the near future. Most likely not until 2018 at the earliest. When I shared what was said with a friend of mine who has been on my writing journey with me for the last 15 years, he said:

You have come up with a fresh combination of genres. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Probably a good thing. Okay, maybe a bit harder to market. But a good thing…. Did people think the Harry Potter series was about a guy who makes clay pots with a potter’s wheel? I don’t think so. Nothing about Harry Potter says witchcraft or mythology. But the marketing made it clear that Harry Potter is about those things.

I’m writing a series that combines horses, music, science fiction, shape changers, and psychic abilities. Not exactly something easily found in Book Formulas 101. And that’s okay. People are getting tired of formulas and sequels, so new twists are always welcome. Some work, some don’t. Others, like my friend said, need more marketing.

Getting Stars of Heros accepted (with the missing “e” that isn’t missing, but still drives everyone nuts) hasn’t been easy. It doesn’t help that I’ve made a few mistakes along the way. Like trying to do much myself and approaching a marketing the same way I approach writing, as a pantser.

Marketing definitely needs to prioritize plotting, but it also needs adaptability. Just like my writing.

Pantser vs Plotter

A plotter plans everything ahead. A panster flies by the seat of their pants.  I’ve always preferred the second method because I want to be free when I write. Feel the feelings and react to the situation as my character in the moment. Yet, when I look back at my writing and all the editing I’ve gone through, I’m starting to think I’m more of a plotter than I realize.  Why else would I do as much telling as I did?

My biggest fear about a full commitment to plotting is the rigidity that it implies. I already have to deal with that when computer programming. If I don’t follow structure or convention there, then the web server will through a temper tantrum. With my writing, I just want my ideas to flow unhindered. Run free in the meadow or amble along grazing. My choice.

This mentality kept the books  sequential as they came in when I should have looked at the whole picture and plotted them in the right order. It’s also led to lengthy sessions of writer’s block and my current problem with A Dream to Share, a feeling of unbelievably that I can’t seem to shake in certain sections.

Then there is the book I need to write before ADTS. One that will both inform and entertain as it explains the definition of Heros, so the missing e is no longer a problem. Right now, I’m not sure how to incorporate it in the series. I keep wondering about duplicating content that might potentially already exist. Thing is, without having a complete plot of every other book I don’t know if it does. The summaries I have just aren’t going to cut it any more. I need to be able to pull up each book and go “Aha, so that’s where I’m going.”

Slowly changing attitude

I’ve been thinking about plotting for a while now it seems.  It started with investing in Scrivener when I needed a general idea of everything I had in my series.  Spirit‘s publisher requesting series plans made me contemplate organizing myself a little more. I found that writing stuff down did help me to remember it better. I was also grateful that I hadn’t lost much information.  Becoming part of the indie community and reading up on effective writing, I learned that writers found that they were more efficient when they outlined.

Still I rebelled because I didn’t want to be committed to anything closely resembling an outline.  The flexibility that I craved didn’t seem to exist within that framework.

Infinite editing lead to five draft plan. The minute I really used it for the first time and saved myself, it proved its value. Now I’m wondering why I didn’t do it sooner.

Last night’s discussion with my friend about plotting versus pantsing both challenged and dismissed my fear of being a plotter. The specific moment it happened was when he said:

You just can’t think of every detail in an outline. At least, I don’t see how, unless it’s a short book. I could never function as a true plotter, I guess. The mind has to be given time–days, months, etc.–to come up with good ideas. How do you sit down and brainstorm every detail of a book? You have to allow for Eureka! moments…

My friend went onto say that I have to have a pretty solid outline so that I guarantee cohesion and a progressive overall plot. I totally agree with that.

It’s Plotser, not Plotter

Instead of being a rigid plotter, I’m going inject a little pantsing into my methodology. Call me a plotser. Someone who works within the structure of their outline, but still let’s the ideas flow when need be. I’ve probably been this all along, just never truly admitted to myself.

Well, now I am.

For the next several weeks, maybe even months, I’m going to be outlining, but in my own way. Rigid points that will become ideas later, or ideas that transform into points. Either way, I’m building my road map, so I can take Stars of Heros (and the other creative endeavors I’m working on) to the next level.

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