A couple weeks ago, I alluded to crossroads and major decisions. One of them was to join up with the team at Seriously Write.
Another was resolving to evolve from pantser to plotter. For those of you unfamiliar with the terms:
A pantser sits down in front of their laptop and starts typing, with only a few rough ideas for either characters or story floating around in their head. A pantser allows their characters the freedom of writing their own story.
A plotter uses a “roadmap” or outline and finds their rhythm by organizing their thoughts prior to any actual writing. A plotter logs hours in their hero/heroine’s heads with fully developed character charts. They write a detailed, chapter-by-chapter synopsis before starting the book, so they know where the book is going, and how it will end.
If you’d like more detail on plotters and pantsers, check out my earlier post here.
Usually, a writer falls naturally into one category. Trying to do the opposite of what comes natural is like writing left-handed when you normally use your right. Early on, I tried both methods, but plotting frustrated me so much that I considered inflicting serious damage to my laptop.
As I celebrated with writer friends over their multi-book contracts, I knew that I’d never be able to accomplish this if I couldn’t learn to plot. A key component of the proposal is the synopsis, the summary of your book. No synopsis=No proposal.
There’s nothing wrong with writing a book, submitting it, and settling in to wait for a contract. But, I want to grow as a writer, to expand my comfort zone. This pantser is determined to evolve into a plotter. I just finished synopses for two unwritten books, and I’m working on a proposal for three more.
Want to know how? I’ll share my secrets. 🙂
Characters. I’m a visual person. I need pictures, so I started by finding my hero/heroine online and getting to know them. Then, I asked my character (whichever one you connect with first) these questions.
What do you want? (Goal)
Why do you want it? (Motivation)
Why can’t you have it? (Conflict)
Develop the story idea/premise. What terrible thing happened in my character’s past to make them how they are today? Keep asking “what if?” until you come up with a story idea.
Write the first few pages, expecting to delete them. Writing the backstory helped me flesh out the characters more, so that I could go back and fill in some of the blanks. Just write a bit and let words flow. It’s OK. You can, and probably will, delete them. The goal is for the story to reveal itself. You may need to tweak the premise after doing this.
Picture the story sequence in your head. This helped me tremendously, probably more than anything else. Do what it takes for you to find your zone. Close your eyes. Throw in a CD. Let your dog walk you around the park. Record the chapter number, the date, point-of-view, and what you expect to happen in that chapter/scene. If you know how you want the book to end, you can skip down and work backward.
So far, this process is working for me, but the true test will be if I can actually write the book. I’ll keep you posted.
What about you? If you’re a pantser, how do you write proposals?
Do you ever see yourself evolving into a plotter?