Plotting for a natural pantser is like broccoli (or pick another veggie you don’t really care for) or exercise. You know that it’s good for you. You should use (eat/do) it, and sometimes when you’re feeling virtuous you do, at which point you give yourself a pat on the back. If you manage to do it a few days in a row you actually start to see or feel benefits. You feel better. Yet you still fall off the wagon, be it those chocolate fudge brownies in the freezer or lack of sleep or just plain “I don’t wanna!” As human beings most of us are just not that great at doing what we don’t want to do for any period of time. I, for example, love food. Diets simply do not work for me in the long run. So if I am ever to lose weight and get in shape, I have to rely on exercise to do it. That doesn’t stop me from having tried almost every diet on the planet (I’m a fan of the Sonoma Diet, if anybody is interested).
Well, I’m beginning to feel the same way about plotting. I have tried so many different ways of plotting, trying so hard to find one that clicks, that I don’t mind doing, so that I can sit down and work out the details (beyond the big overall plot) of how the story is going to go. There is no question that this would be a smart thing to do. It would save me a lot of tangents and wasted words. I would have a better grasp of where I was going before I got there; I’d know how and why the hero and heroine fall in love with each other (and how the reader should fall in love with them, but that’s a topic for another post) so that I can set up situations to showcase all those reasons; I’d avoid those days when figuring out what comes next is like pulling teeth from a chicken–because I would already know what comes next.
So why don’t I consistently plot?
I’ve been giving this some thought lately, between all the thoughts that I really ought to get back and figure out the rest of my plot for A Home For The Holidays and Til Death. All I can really come up with is that I don’t find plotting fun. No matter how useful a tool I know it to be, I still feel like it takes time away from the writing (which is the fun part for me). This may seem counterintuitive, so let me try to explain. I have a limited amount of time in a day. Sadly our days are only 24 hours rather than 36 (and wouldn’t that be wonderful?). As do many many aspiring writers, I write in snatches throughout the day, emailing my work in progress file back and forth to myself about four times every day (start first thing, email it to myself at work, add some snippets, email it back to me at home for lunch, add some more, email it back to myself at work, add a little more, email it back home). If I am lucky, I wind up with my 1000 words at the end of the day by the time I’m ready to start dinner. This actually causes its own set of problems.
Because I write in these little snatches throughout the day–yay for multi-tasking, right?–I often find it extremely difficult to get into character, which makes those 4 or 5 pages I wrote during the day fall short of whatever I was trying to accomplish with them. I know it. Pot knows it. Anybody else would likely know it if they were to read it. So I then turn to things like yesterday, where I go back through and try to flesh things out better. And that helps. But it’s still not quite there. Pot mentioned yesterday that she feels as if I am struggling to find my voice and that once I find it, this will be much easier for me. And she’s absolutely right. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have anything I had to do but write and I could sink into these self-created worlds and just go. But since that’s totally an alternate reality that I don’t presently have access to (mores the pity), I have to figure out other means. Haven’t found them yet. All I know to do is to keep on writing. I will get better so long as I keep learning from the mistakes I make in my work. Maybe not as fast as I would like. I’m trying to keep reminding myself that Nora has had 25 years to get this good. I’ve read her early early stuff. It’s no where near her current caliber. And that’s comforting. And a good way to light a fire under my butt to keep striving for improvement. And to keep trying to eat my broccoli…