I know. I'll give you a few moments. Anyone who has been with me for the long term knows the vast majority of my plot lines are developed on the fly. My characters tell me the story and I go with it. They yelled so loud at points that I practically needed ear plugs to shut off the storylines.
Which was awesome. It was. But then when writer's block came knocking, I wasn't prepared for it. I could start. No problem. Because there's something exciting and inspiring for me about a blank page no matter what my brain is going through. But when I'd get to that first beat where stuff would need to go wrong...all that inspiration and character driven story line was just gone.
Call it writer's block, or just a general muting of the HEA's in my mind because of the way the world is, whatever caused it, I was completely unable to finish a story. As in...there are at least 3 manuscripts over 50k on my computer right now that need an end. I had to put them aside.
Last month I decided I needed to get myself excited about something again. So I looked back and tried to remember the last time (sales or not) I had fun. It was when I worked on my April Fools For Love collection. (All the books are still available if you need a smile too.)
We wrote books that were funny, and had all kinds of pranks and misdirection surrounding April Fools Day. Every damn book I read by the talented people I worked with made me smile. So we're doing it again. (Look for an expanded collection in 2020, folks. *shameless plug*)
But all of that happy brings me back around to my very real fear of not being able to get to the end of a book. So I decided I'd give myself a month to plot out a novella-length story. My due date was yesterday, so of course I was still working on it yesterday. That's exactly why I need deadlines.
I had some basic notes and a premise for the story, but I didn't have a big moment or an ending. Which...are kind of important.
This pantser then got on her ice-dancing Bambi baby legs, and skated around the internet to figure out what plotting meant to her. Her is me, by the way. I need to stop talking in third person. It's weird. But this moment was so epic for me that the drama kind of called for it.
So right now you're probably saying, "Get to it, Roxy. How did you plot?"
Alright, alright. Geez. I needed to set the scene, okay?
I made an excel spreadsheet. Because spreadsheets are awesome. I made 7 columns, after a little fiddling and adding some when I found I needed them. And I filled out the form.
The 7 pieces of information I gathered were...
1. Scene Number.
This is just your basic 1,2,3...etc to show me the order, and when I need to be at the halfway point word count wise.
Who is in each scene? And if I have a few characters that come into play later, I altered earlier scenes so they didn't pop up out of nowhere. This also let me tally how many players I was putting in this thing. With a novella, I need to keep the team slim.
3. Main Event.
This was a one sentence fragment description of what the scene was really about. Each scene has something important that happens, and this way, I'd know what the end goal was.
Where is everyone for this scene? What place will they be interacting inside of? Just like the characters, I wanted to keep the settings to as few places as possible. That way I have familiarity and I don't have to spend as many words placing people in the world.
5. POV (Point of View).
This was one of the columns that got added in, and became important when I was looking at how the story was progressing. I didn't want to spend five scenes with my hero and then bump over to my heroine for a single scene before bopping back to my hero again. So I put the name of whose point of view the scene would take place in.
Because the book I was plotting had a specific holiday it needed to take place around, the timeline was extra important, and I put the specific date (MM/DD) in for each scene. It let me figure out where the bulk of the action needed to take place, and gave me some scope of how long ago important events happened.
7. Why it Matters.
This was one of the first things I wrote down along with the Main Event column. Because there is no point in having a scene if it doesn't add something to the story. If the Main Event is filler, or just gets a character from point A to point B, it's not worth writing down. I know I need this book to be a novella, and extraneous scenes have to get the ax. If I can see that something isn't worth having in, it gets cut.
So even before I had everything down in note form, I started filling in what I did have into my handy dandy spreadsheet. And the end practically wrote itself. You could have knocked this pantser over with a feather.
My other worry about plotting was that I'd never want to write the story if I already knew what happened. But I was more excited than ever to get started, and had to force my feet to carry me away to get the chores done I'd been putting off all morning. And I think that was all because I didn't do what everyone else told me to. I didn't have an epic ten page synopsis detailing every scene. I didn't have a beats page lined up that broke each section down into the standardized beats of a story. Nope. I had my little old spreadsheet.
And while I thought it might be interesting for some people to see how I broke my story down, I'm not at all saying you should totally do this my way. I'm saying explore what's out there, and explore how other people work. Try some things out. If they don't work, it's not because you failed, it's because you haven't found the right fit yet.
I think I found my plotting glass slipper, and I'm about to rock that bitch on a killer night out.
Or I'm heading into work and already thinking about the next book on my list to plug into my new template.
Either way, I hope you find something that works well for you. Or just ride the pantser wave. I'll be writing this story, and another, since they are both novellas during NaNoWriMo this year. So make sure you add me as a buddy. I'm over there as Roxy Mews. Just look for the purple hair. Let's see together what happens in November when a pantser plots.