I’m a visual thinker, as we’ve no doubt established, as well as a pantser (but only 90% of the time), but there comes a time when plotting is essential. My current plot is one that requires just that, elaborate planning and forward-plotting, one of which I don’t find too much enjoyment in (the latter).
Plotting and outlining are things I’ve never been too good at, I love binge-writing (and with school it was almost the only way I’d get anything written) and pantsing, there’s a thrill akin to an adrenaline rush that comes from galloping into the unknown although the momentum can be limited, prone to running out.
I see plotting and outlining as lengthy, strenuous processes (though I’m most definitely bias) in which your creativity is sucked dry by an idea that’s barely had time to stew in the pot of your mind. Nevertheless, it’s something I’ve had to learn to do, though not very willingly, and as such I’ve developed my own methods, and ones that (hopefully) retain the creativity I so fiercely love to protect, five are listed below:
- To not plot at all; the exception. If you see your story as a movie (in your head, as though you’re sitting front and centre in the theatre), and one you hopefully enjoy, the plot should be sound enough to write a first draft (in the least) from the seat of your pants.
- Map your story; grab a piece of paper and begin to imagine your story as a two-dimensional journey, one you can sketch on a map. Where do you start and where do you need to go? What happens in between?
Photo by Enrique Flouret
- Mind-maps; it’s not the most visual story development tool out there, but in mind-maps it becomes easier to visualise the story and to make links between events and trains of thought which makes complex plots possible to follow for those of us that dislike traditional plotting methods (i.e. Writing a long list of events).
Photo by Austin Kleon
- Flow charts; are you on the right track plot-wise? Flow chats can most definitely help you there! Create a box at the top of a page with the first event in it and work your way down the page and through the story, creating boxes around the main events.
- Sticky notes; hear me out, you know all those ideas for scenes floating around in your head? The exciting bits you’re yearning to write but you’re not sure when or how, write those down on sticky notes along with the scenes/chapters you already have and work out how best to fit them together; think of it like a puzzle.
Visual writers, what do you do? Do you like to draw scenes out in sketchbooks, imagine them in advance or merely write from the seat of your pants? What do you do when words fail?