Wednesday 7 September 2011

Finding the Plot

One of the classic questions in any interview with an author is - Are you a plotter or a pantser?  i.e. do you plan your writing or simply fly by the seat of your pants. A more elegant expression for that is writing into the mist.

Well, I would have said that I'm in the second category, but I'm currently doing my first ever edits/re-writes - for Never Coming Home  - and the questions my editors are asking have sent me back to my original working papers for the book. And what did I find? Far more plotting than I ever remembered doing. I have time lines for the characters, charts of how old they all are at any given point, diagrams of where in the world everyone is at crucial moments. (I remember that one - it was when I woke up in the middle of the night convinced I had my murderer in two places at once. I hadn't, but I worked it all out, just to make sure.) There are lists of character's motivation, timetables for fight scenes and family trees.

I think I'd forgotten how much work I did as it was not all done at once, but gradually, as I needed it. Once I'd worked it out and written the scene, what was written took over and the stuff on the back of the envelope faded into the background. But it's there, like a skeleton or a scaffolding, holding the whole thing up.

Nice to know I'm a lot more organised than I thought.


  1. I'm really in awe of anyone who could just 'go with the flow' and do the pants thing.

    I like to do mini-outlines of each chapter - okay, they're not set in stone, but it helps me to plot where various scenes need to go and where I need to be, story-wise.

    I'm told this is supposed to help with doing the synopsis too, but I'm not convinced...

  2. Hi Margaret

    I think the answer is to do whatever suits you best. It can take a while to find out what you are comfortable with. As I said in this post, I did not realise how much I plot on paper. I know I get stressed when I read that a writer I admire does something that I don't. I always think I must be doing it wrong!