Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Organizing, Cleaning, Plotting, and other Strange Habits

Summer is here!

For many parents that means kids will be running around the house crazy and asking every five seconds, "I'm bored. What can I do?"

Welcome to our house all year round.

We home school, and despite the "loud" and "busy", it's a joy. So, how do we deal with the chaos?

We get organized. Yesterday we sat down as a family and put together a list of weekly chores, and of course, our new chore wheel. Yay!

That's great you say, but what does that have to do with PLOTTING?

By default, I'm a pantster. The idea of plotting used to make me laugh. Why did I need that? My stories were completely character driven, and when characters hijacked the story, I ran along side cheering and panting. It's not until I completed my first 140k word middle grade novel that the need for plotting really sank in. As an author I needed to know which scenes were absolutely paramount--so I could chop that 140 to its eventual 90k. Whew! Each scene had to build character or the story arc/tension to make the final cut. It would have been so much easier if I'd started with an outline of important scenes before typing a single word.

See my outline of responsibilities on the fridge? Less chaos, less trauma. =)

Pardon. Cheese break. Mmm...Jarlsburg...

So, how do we plot?

Recently I stumbled across a video series I'll recommend to anyone who struggles with plotting.

Even after years of practice I don't sit down (on novel #6 now) and map out every fine detail of who, what, where, when and why. There has to be some wiggle room. It's just like our chore assignments--structure is supplied, but every hour of every day isn't set in stone.

So, how do you write? By the seat of your pants, or plotting? Somewhere in between? Do YOU think plotting is necessary?


  1. Wow - homeschooling and writing!! YIKES! I'm a public school teacher and a mom and a writer and have a hard time packing it all in! And luckily, as a public-school teacher, I have the summer off but my kids, as public-school students, have summer school enrichment activities! YAY!!

  2. I've been a pantser, mostly, but for novel # 3 I plan to plot it out first. There's some research I have to do before getting started. I'm crossing my fingers it won't squash the creative idea that formed in my mind!!! Christy

  3. Odd, lots of folks have been asking this question recently. Clearly a hot topic.

    I'm glad you added the "somewhere in between" option, 'cos that's where I am. I need some high level structure for the characters to play in.

    Mmmm...love Jarlsberg!

  4. This really had me laughing because I had - seriously - exactly the same experience you did with my first novel. Total pantser turned semi-plotter. I wrote an 180,000 word YA Romantic Suspense. It's now (nearly two years later) happily residing at just about 98,000 words. This time around, I'm saving myself the trouble. I like the idea of the characters leading the way too. Fine, they can, but we've got to have an idea of what they're doing before we let each scene run wild. It might be that, in the end, it's not moving the plot forward. Great thoughts, and I'm glad to have found your blog.

  5. I think I'm somewhere in between. But maybe the fact that I've never put much thought into which one I am suggests I am more a pantser.

  6. I am a firm believer that some form of plotting is necessary. Whether your outline is your first draft, or you outline BEFORE the first draft, there is a structure that must be followed. I've gone from a pure pantser to a part plotter, just because I've discovered it's EASIER! If I can plan out some of the big things ahead of time, the story works a lot better with a lot fewer drafts.

    Thanks for sharing this. I think your comparison to a chore chart, where things are structured but every minute isn't dictated, is just how I feel about things. :)


Hit me with your cheese!