Plotting–All You Need is the Tip of the Iceberg

Last week it was my turn to write a post for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pen. http://sisterhoodofthetravelingpen.wordpress.com/  Plotting your book was my topic.

Now, the way I plot is to have a scene or character in my head, sit in front of a computer and let that scene play out on the monitor.  I become the character and follow where they lead.  Very soon after starting a new book, usually within the first draft of the first chapter, I have a general idea of where the story is going.  This sometimes veers slightly as a character refuses my direction and goes off on her own, but within a few thousand words, the general plot is visible to me.  After that, I start each chapter with a clear objective in mind and then follow the character.

As I write, the plot becomes more and more clear.

I think of the story as ice that forms slowly in my subconscious until one day it breaks off and floats into my conscious.  I see only the tip, but the entire story is there.  All I do is allow myself to see below the surface in order to get the tale on paper.

 Of course, I go back and tighten the plot thread in the second draft.  Tighten it again in the third draft.  But all I have when I sit down and type that first word on the computer is a scene, an idea for a character, a vague image of a storyline.  

It has come as somewhat of a surprise to me that this is NOT the way most author’s write.

Evidently, many people have actual plot boards and outlines and bar graphs.

To illustrate how differently we all write and to give you some guidance if you’re a writer who does actually plot a book before you write it, check out this post that was in my email this morning. http://frametale.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/ends-beginnings-and-a-grateful-business/

Look at the first sentence in the second paragraph of that post.  “I begin my novel by making my spreadsheet.”

A what?

Here’s what I want you to take away from this post:

Each of us has a different writing process.  Find yours.  Try everything until you stumble on what works for you.  Then write.  Write everyday, even if all you have time for is to scribble a story idea on the back of a Walmart receipt.  No writing is wasted.  Everything you create will stay with you and, if it doesn’t fit in what you’re currently writing, it will find you again when you need it for the next book.  Stop trying to get it perfect before you touch fingers to keyboard.  You are a writer.

Write.

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About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
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11 Responses to Plotting–All You Need is the Tip of the Iceberg

  1. Kate says:

    I love the iceberg analogy! It fits my writing process perfectly :D.

  2. Pam, I dunno about that iceberg metaphor. Somehow I see it drifting into the path of the Titanic and ripping the ship open and Leo Caprio singing My Country Tis of Thee.

  3. CJ Clark says:

    Love the iceberg analogy. I too am a pantser. No outlines, story boards, etc. for me. I have an idea and let my characters take over. I’m slow enough at finishing a book without using an outline. If I did, I’d probably be working on the outline for 2 years!

  4. LOL, it’s not until I began my editing process that I noticed there was a LOT more to the iceberg than what I’d originally thought. For the next novel, I’m going to see about exploring that underside a little more at the start and see which process works better for me.

  5. Denton Gay says:

    According to Ned, Molly Giles says there are only two plots: a stranger comes to town or a person takes a trip. (I’m paraphrasing-very indirect quote) Oddly enough, when you think about most stories they do fit one of those two basic plots. Good post, Pam.

  6. Jan Morrill says:

    I ditto many of your other comments — excellent iceberg analogy. I also agree with what you said about “then, write. Write everyday.” I said I like it, but unfortunately, I don’t always follow it. I find when I do, my creativity flows much more smoothly, and therein lies the best plotting method of all.

  7. Good post! There are hundreds of ways to write a novel and I think I’ve tried them all. What works for me is outlining. I made myself a plotting board once, but I couldn’t use it. I donated it as a door prize at a conference. 🙂 I do better with a chapter by chapter outline. I start with an idea or a scene or a character and I go from there. I’ve written several novels by just sitting down to write but those books have always had many problems and need alot of revision. Some, I walked away from because of the problems. I have learned that different books/different ideas call for different types of writing. We all need to just do what works for us. I’m so glad there aren’t any hard and fast rules to follow when it comes to getting my stories down. Aren’t you? 🙂

    BTW, I always have a problem posting on WordPress blogs. Even though it says Walking Around Sense… (thanks to my dh’s defunct blog) it will take you to my own blog, Praise, Prayers and Observations. Hope you’ll visit. It’s good to be a new member of OWFI.

  8. Greg Camp says:

    I don’t enjoy rewriting. I can do it with other writers’ work, but the idea of tearing down my own story and rebuilding it makes me want to take up drinking instead of writing. That being the case, I make an outline for any long work. It’s always loose and subject to change, but it gives me an idea of where I’m going.

    One of these days, I ought to try your approach, just to see what happens.

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