Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bullets, Plots or Pants

Many novelists are adamant they must have an outline of plot and characters before they begin writing their novel. Other writers start with just a plot idea and start typing, no preplanning at all. Both of these methods have pros and cons and are used by writers of all levels. Did you know there's a third method? Let's take a look at each method/writer

The Detailed Plotter 

This writer uses a detailed outline that involves complete planning of each scene or chapter of the book.Each chapter is broken down into scenes. Then script your characters involved, time frame, setting. The next is optional  reasons for this time, setting, relationships of the characters to each other at that scenes point in the story.
Plotters are able to add scene ideas or possible dialog notes that they  would like for this section of the novel. 
In this outline will also want to list the characters complications or obstacles that will lead to the next chapter or scene. Planning the novel each step from beginning to the end. 
Pros for this method are having a complete story view. A writer knows the pace of the novel and can work out most of the inconsistencies of the plot. 
Knowing a novel so intimately can be a wonderful thing. But the world of fiction can take on a life of its own sometimes.The con is finding during your writing that the story has different ideas than the writer planned on. 
Getting into the nook and crook of the plot the plotter may come across a twist or simple detail that will throw off the entire outline. That once clear picture from beginning to end, is now foggy. 
Sometimes the outline can be adjusted to make room for those sudden changes and the novelist get back on the planned route. Other times this twist gives the story just what it needs but there’s no way to get back on the outline’s track without a complete revamping.. This can be very frustrating when a writer had a clear picture in mind but now it has to be rethought.

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

This method is for those who like total creativity on the run.The author has a novel idea, maybe even beginning, middle and end in mind.  Some only start with a character before sitting at the desk, fingers hitting the keys and creating a world directly from the mind. Not much advance planning, maybe a couple of notes to go by.Pro,the freedom to change with the flow of the novel. 
There was no detailed plan of this is going to happen at this time, so surprises may not knock the writer off track.. It is a big pro to give your novel room to adapt and change. Though plot surprises can still be frustrating when ones mind is on a certain plot angle. 
The con is that it is easy to get lost or ‘blocked’ with out a full view. Writing into a corner or plot inconsistencies can occur more often but can still be worked out in 2nd draft or by backing up to a previous scene and taking the characters down another path.  

The 3rd Option: Biting the Bullet

A full outline can be very intimidating, especially for new writers. Writing by the seat of your pants can be the same. But there is a choice for those who want some structure but the freedom of just writing it out. 
The bullet point outline is simple to create and can be changed on a whim. Write out 30 to 60 points or bullets you want to include in your novel. Then begin writing from the top of the list. Bullets can go by scene, chapter, setting. What ever you are more comfortable with. 
This is my personal outline choice. I usually start out with around 40 bullets then add to it as I go or think of something new for the story. My bullets are a mix of settings, scenes, when a new character comes into play. I will make a bullet for a bit of dialog I want to remember to include in a scene. 
Bullets can also be very rewarding for all levels of writers. When you are deep into a story there comes a time you feel like it will never end. You've taken a wrong turn somewhere, how can you be 20,000 words in and not have made any progress. 
By taking your bullets and using it as sort of a novel check list you can see your progress. It’s encouraging to see how much you have covered. I take it a step further. 
On my desk is a bulletin board. I have it covered with novling notes, photos, special memorabilia. But I keep one side of the board lined with sixty pins for my bullets. I print out my bullets and cut them into strips to pin in order on the board. After writing one of the points I pull it off the board. 
This keeps my outline always visual or on hand. And it lets me see that I’m making progress and the story is moving. This can be a huge motivator during a writing contest like NaNoWriMo where your writing 50,000 words in 30 days. 
A bullet point outline gives the novelist both structure and flexibility. A good mix of  Outlining and Writing by the Seat of Your Pants. What are you using for your novel?  


Bullish said...

Bullet points, definitely!! Must have my structure AND room to explore between the lines!! Terrific post - thank you!! :)

moondustwriter said...

It's always interesting to read how others plot out their work.
For fiction I literally imagine the entire book
Non-fiction necessitates a well written structure
~ here's to inspiration