The Importance of Plotting

I belong to two writing groups. My social, write and talk group serves a much needed purpose. 1) to let me see friends and work and 2) failing that anyone but me shows up I get some work done and get out of the house. It started in 2002 to get me, and newly singled lady, out of my grandparents house. We talk, write and every once in a while share what we’re doing. It’s great. Members have come and gone but we welcome anyone who wants to write and chat.

Group number two started in December 2008. It’s a critique group. I’ve belonged to others with various success rates. This is the first that has a core of good writers and commitment. Yeah! We need a few more members but it’s working either way. Two of us are outliners and two of the members are seat of the pantsers. I feel no need to preach this to them, they know, but I wanted to write about it, again.

We got on this subject yesterday. Seat of the Pantsers will tell you that they don’t outline because it robs them of creativity, that they want to know where their characters will take them and that they can’t justify doing something that they will just have to change later. Outlines will tell you that this keeps them on track, that they know where they are going, that creative still happens when the actual writing takes place and that you just change the outline as needed. The point that O’s and SP’s contend on is that brick wall of changing the outline.

One of the SP’s is currently suffering from what she calls 3/4itis. That is that most of her projects get 3/4’s of the way done and she loses interest. The reason she sited was plot or lack there of. Been there, and it sucks. That is why I turned to outlining. I need a plan.

Being me, when I turned to outlining way long ago, I did research on it. Outlines, in my academic and grammar school experience had letters and numbers and must be followed exactly. This is what people hear when they hear outline. I’m telling you that in creative writing, especially fiction, this is wrong.

The best outlining method I’ve found is just a collection of scene descriptions and some character sheets. If the scene changes as I write it I just update the scene blurb and make notes on which scenes this affects. That’s it. Done and Done. It’s a fluid piece and helps me write the query letter, and synopsis later. I don’t have 3/4itis if I have a finished outline. I just don’t.

Plotting in fiction is the act in which you put the plot together. For me outlining is my plot plan.

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.Rich Cook







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