Every time Camp NaNo or NaNoWriMo rolls around I hear the pantser vs. plotter debate. I’m mostly a plotter. I’d never finish a novel without a plot. So, maybe I’m a full blown plotter. Most of my friends are pantsers. I’ve watched how others plot their books and they start right from chapter one. I’m more middle of the road than that, but I couldn’t live without some sort of a plot to work from.
Usually, I’ve bounced the story around my brain for quite some time before I ever sit down to write. I’ve zoned out while doing chores around the house or stayed awake playing and replaying scenes in my head tweaking small parts. Then it’s time to sit down and write. At this point I’ll know my main characters and their major conflict. I’ll also know the ending. Then I just need to fill in the gaps.
To start this process I write the first few chapters of the book. This helps me get a grip on my characters and how their personalities will change my ideas. I know some people say we control our characters and others say they lead themselves. Once again, I’m middle of the road. I find that if I start by letting the words flow and the characters just do their own thing in the first few chapters the rest of the book is easier.
After I get to a point where I feel comfortable with them and what the story should be I plot. This point can vary drastically. Sometimes it’s at chapter 4 and sometimes it’s at chapter 12. As a general rule it happens after the true-mates meet in person and respond. I usually know exactly how my guys meet up before I ever write a word of the story.
Now with all of that said I do recommend plotting in one form or another to anyone struggling with writing. It’s a road map. Sometimes knowing what happens takes the stress out of writing. Recently, a very creative and ambitious aspiring writer friend of mine told me having a plot stresses her out, because she feels stuck to it. But not having a plot makes it hard to write too. Yes, she was having one of those days we all know so well.
Yesterday, I killed two characters off. Their deaths weren’t plotted. I was writing a battle scene for the 6th book of my Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga . It changed some other things for the book. Today, I decided not to kill them. Yes, I resurrected them, because I might need one of them for a future book. Other changes stuck, albeit, brought about in other ways now. I still have the draft where they died. I learned a long time ago when a huge unplanned thing happened to save two copies. One for prosperity and one for working on. Later, once my caffeine kicks, I need to rewrite the last third of my plot. I’m okay with that. The changes make the story more exciting and suspenseful.
For me a plot is a roadmap with coffee spilled on it. There’s plenty of room for detours and the stain creates new little interesting places to visit. I haven’t written a single book where I haven’t tweaked my plot at some point. So, the moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid of plots. Unlike characters you’re fully in control of them. If it needs changed – change it!