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How a Pantser Learned to Plot

I used to be a pantser.  Time was writing by the seat of my pants was the only way I could imagine getting any writing done. This particular approach to the writing process worked for me for a very long time. That changed, though, when a medical condition which seems to have affected the way my brain works, left me unable to focus or effortlessly string my ideas together.

I very quickly learned that to keep being a writer, I needed to change my whole approach to the art of writing stories. I needed a system.

At first, I was at a loss. For years, I had balked at the notion of planning and plotting my stories. Now my wherewithal to write them depended on my willingness and ability to do just that.

I searched online for clues. How did plotters approach the writing process? I needed to know. Right away, I realized that going to great lengths to meticulously plot my stories was never going to be my thing. Still, I needed to do something.

Luckily, I was able to arrive at a happy medium between pantsing and what I interpreted as the extremes of plotting. I developed a sort of hybrid approach to the story-planning process.

It took some time but I eventually ended up using the following form to plan my short stories:

Title:
Subject:
Genre:

Main Characters:
Themes:
Tone/Mood:
Summary:

Point of View:
Setting:
Hook:

Opening Scene:
Inciting Incident:
Plot Point:

Rising Action:
Climax:
Falling Action:

Epilogue:

The plot is merely something I start with and more often than not, my stories deviate from the plan but it’s still good to be able to refer back to my original idea and decide whether or not I want to keep or chuck the changes to the story.

With novels and novellas, things were a bit tricky at first but then realized that there was no need to go overboard. Using the same form that I utilize to plot my short stories as a guide, I create a synopsis. Then I split the synopsis up into segments (chapters). As I write each chapter, I flesh out separate scenes as needed.

The great thing about my current approach to plotting stories is that I’m now more inclined to stay on task, plus, I still have the flexibility to change things up as I go along.

I’m still a pantser at heart but I have that safety net for those times when I lose focus or have trouble stringing those ideas into a coherent whole.

Have you had a similar experience, found that you needed to change your approach to writing for one reason or another? How did you end up working it out? Is your solution still working for you?

Published inWriting

2 Comments

  1. Hi Tonya! Per your earlier permission, I scheduled this article to be featured as a guest post on http://www.ryanlanz.com on April 7th. As usual, it has your credit/bio/link. Thanks!

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