Monday, July 28, 2008

GUEST MONDAY: Serious Plotter--Barbra Novac

Are you a ‘plotter or a panster’?

I find that on the whole I’m a little from column A and a little from Column B.
However, in the high pressure world of full time work, and trying to fit in the demands of creative writing, I have found that sticking to the discipline of plotting can cut hours and hours off the construction of your first draft, as well as improve the quality of it.

It’s hard though. And I haven’t mastered it yet.

I find an ‘inner urge’ to resist this type of work, but that tells me that I need it more than ever. If I don’t want to do this deep, background stuff when I start, when am I going to want to do it? Probably never. So I try to hold myself to it and get the detail down.

I start with an idea, and then I move into construction of the:

1.Begining (how does the story open? How are we to feel about the protagonists at the start? What symbols do I want to use, and what physical objects can I use to ground that symbolism?)

2.Middle (What actions are the characters taking in the middle and what is happening? How can I ensure my story doesn’t sag in the middle?)

3.End (How does this story end? What twists can I apply to the dilemma for my characters so that they have to work hard right to the end to get themselves out of their mess? What symbols have lasted? How is the symbolism working into the climax?)

However, before I even write any detail about this, I do a bit of charting, so that the creative self doesn’t feel too taken over by the restrictions of ‘discipline.’ I have a large white board, and I draw a line to show the story journey. The line starts at the beginning, ends at the end and the middle is – you guessed it – in the middle. Then I add the climax moment. Then I add some of the detail that belongs to the scenes already established. Then I fill it in with some ideas and where they will fit on the stories journey.

Once I have a very full white board, I tend to write fast and furiously to bring it all together in a sort of synopsis. Write anything and everything that comes into your brain about the story.

When that’s done, read it, and then write it all out again. Do this over and over till you have a fairly coherent structure, and your getting into that deeper level of engaging with the plot.

This is just the start of this process. There is also character sketches and breaking the time line up into chapters.

But this is a pretty good start – isn’t it?

Barbra Novac lives in Australia, in a small town called Leura in the Blue Mountains about 2 horus drive out of Sydney. She writes from home in a small office, next to her partners office who also is a writer. They have two children together and spend as much time walking through the beautiful parklands of the mountains together as they can.

Barbra has just published her first novel with Loose Id and is hard at work on two more requests by the end of the year. She also has submissions sitting with an editor at one other publishing house.


veinglory said...

I am a plantser ;)

I very rarely write a damn thing other than the story and actually think that is a time saver, at least for novellas. But I do have it planned at least 70%, but in my head. I figure if the idea is good, I'll remember it.

kirsten saell said...

I have two creative modes--writing, and thinking about it. Every once in a while, someone at work will ask me what the sly little smile is for, and I just tell them I'm mapping a scene in my head. By the time I sit down to write that scene, I know what's going to happen in it.

As far as the entire story arc goes, I always know where it's heading to: "And they lived happily ever after." Getting there from "Once upon a time" is largely a matter of winging it.

Mysti Holiday said...

I start with an idea or characters. I do like to do character interviews because they help give me great ideas for scenes and conflicts.

I also try to plan some possible scene ideas, and I adore writing prompts or challenges, so will set some up ahead of time (odd words to use, strange situation, a line of dialogue, etc.) for those times that I am stuck.

But plot? Outline? Oh, no.

Anonymous said...

I think once you have a good method you stick to it.
It's hard in this industry because demand for books is so high, they need to come out fast. A writer hones their craft and works on what they do best.
Writers write. That's the most important thing! :)