Somehow it’s February. I’m not sure how that happened. Although apparently it is commonplace for it to follow January. But much of the past month has spun by in a whirl of my own deviousness, for I have been plotting. It’s not as sinister as it sounds and, whilst it is tempting to take a shot at world domination -seriously, how much worse could I be than what we’re currently dealing with??? – I have, for now, restricted myself to the world of books.
My favourite question to ask of an author is, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you spend many tortuous hours, intricately plotting what shoes your character will wear on page 126, or do you wing it, simply writing and allowing your pen to take you where it will? Doesn’t the latter option sound like so much more fun? Free-spirited, moving wherever your imagination takes you.
Yeah, I’m not a pantser.
I would love to be easy going. To flow with the tide. But if I was easy going, who would fill in my spreadsheets? It will come as little surprise to those who have listened to my ramblings on Twitter that I am a plotter. I spend weeks, working through the intricacies of the stories I want to tell, then finding the best way to weave them together. For the past month, I have been working my way through the storyline of book 5, figuring out exactly what happens to each of its characters, then figuring out how I can best tell those stories.
I often think of writing as both an art and a craft. The flow of it, the way in which you turn a phrase to create exactly the right image in your reader’s mind – that’s an art. But the construction of a book, the pacing, making sure that your reader is kept gripped but not exhausted, ensuring that your characters develop and move throughout the story – that’s a craft.
Sometimes new writers worry that plotting will stifle your characters ability to grow. I have two answers for that. Firstly, you absolutely have to remain flexible. Often, a character will reveal something about themselves to you that will change how the story needs to flow. Then you adapt, you allow your plotting to rearrange itself around what you now know. Secondly, I find that it is during this plotting stage that I begin to really get to know my characters. I may not be writing, but as I envision an event and develop an understanding of how my characters would react to such a thing, I get to know them better as people which, in turn helps me figure out the next steps they would take.
I’ve tried simply writing. It looks so deliciously bohemian. But it never really works for me. I find myself wandering into little story telling cul-de-sacs and then spend hours figuring out how to get myself back out again.
I’ll never be one of the cool kids.
Nonetheless, here I am, and I know how my book will go. Now, all that’s left to do is write.