Plotter All The Way

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I sometimes let my writing carry me into unplanned territory because that’s where my creative side is taking me.

But that’s when writer’s block hits me. I’ll go with the flow and then end up in a spot where I say: Now what?

David Farland says the main cause of writer’s block is when a writer doesn’t know the scene in their mind well enough to put it on paper. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I wholeheartedly agree. When I know all the intimate details of a scene in my mind, I can rattle off a couple thousand words without batting an eye. Stick me in a scene I hadn’t planned on and I might not write for weeks.

Now part of that is me needing to write through it. But I also need to sit down and go through the scene in my mind – look at it from different angles and the perspectives of different characters. I work best when I jot notes and then put the scene on paper with those notes in mind. The more information I give myself, the better I’m able to build the scene and put myself into the heart of it.

With book two of the Godslayer series, I attempted to do a bit more discovery writing.

Not working for the reasons I stated above.

So, down I sat with my outline. It had major plot points, but lacked scenes. And the scenes lacked any type of notes. Fixing that made a world of difference. This may not work for everyone, but it was like a weight came off my shoulders. I need to do pre-writing before I write. Otherwise I agonize about plot holes and end up muddling my way to nowhere. Productivity for me is about organization. Sitting down with a goal in mind (finish x amount of a scene or scenes) keeps me focused and ends up accomplishing more than I set out to do.

Sitting down with no plan ends up with me staring at the laptop for an hour.

Now the cool part is that I give myself freedom to go into uncharted territory. And I might even revise the outline if something cooler strikes me. But I need that skeleton. Heck, I need some skin on the skeleton. The more information I go into a scene with, the better I write.

So, how about you? Does planning kill your muse? Or do you need a bit (or a lot) of structure like me?

About Will Ramirez

Will Ramirez grew up with a love for God's Word and fantastical worlds. The first passion led him to pastor Calvary Chapel Lighthouse for the the last 17 years. The second led him to create the world of Adme, the setting for his coming debut novel, an epic fantasy titled Soul Yearning. He lives in Central Florida with his bride of seventeen years and their four children. Since 2010, he's been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on the leadership team of Word Weavers of Orlando. He is currently working on the second book of the Godslayer series as well as The Unspoken, book one of a dark fantasy trilogy. In the land of Adme, powerful beings rule as deities and compete with one another for followers. But when a young priest is revealed as the prophesied godslayer, the pantheon unites to destroy him.

5 comments on “Plotter All The Way

  1. I usually do not like outlining because when I do it, I feel a bit restricted and as if the creative part was taken away. Now while this isn’t really true, as there is still plenty of creativity going on, I have yet to get past this.
    So I usually write without outlines. However that seems to have its downsides as now I’m rewriting a book I didn’t outline with the original draft acting much like an outline. I may try it anyway again, we’ll see. I do know that I usually think out the next several scenes in my head before I write them, often while at work. I still have had to toss out scenes though.

    • Me too! I get most of my scene ideas at work – usually when I’m nowhere near a keyboard.

      I think, no matter how you plan ahead (or don’t heh) first drafts are rife with scenes that need to be tossed. Unless you edit as you write. Personally, I’d never complete a story if I did that.

  2. I tried pantsing for a lot of years just because outlining never occurred to me — I associated that with writing term papers, not Great Art. Then I wound up rewriting the book. Repeatedly. As Nathanael describes.

    Learning The Power Of The Outline has really helped me, but I still use a kind of hybrid method. I like what Steven James calls it — organic writing. The story has to go where the story’s gonna go. Thing B has to happen because of Thing A, not because it’s next on the list.

    I tend to start with scraps; visions of scenes or outcomes, and then work backward to figure out how those things came about. Outlining helps fill in the gaps. Then I write, and sometimes in the process the outline gets re-written. If Thing P leads to Thing Q, which wasn’t on the outline, then the outline needs to change. The outline is more like a sketch of the story than a to-do list.

    • I heard one person say that all writer’s are part architect and part gardener. I’m way more slanted to the architect side, but I definitely plant some seeds and see what grows later on at times. To varying degrees we’re all probably a little bit hybrid 🙂

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