A Visual Pantser’s Guide to Plotting and Planning (Part One)
This time you’re going to do it, you’ve decided, you will plot before you write, you won’t make the same mistakes again. This first draft is going to be amazing and you’ll get it done in record time cause you won’t get stuck. That’s right, you tell yourself, if I have a plan I won’t get stuck.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Now to begin…
The first few minutes aren’t so bad, you decide, you’re getting the gist of the story in your mind on the page in bullet points. Ideas roll off of you in waves and you feel great, that is until you get into the more nitty-gritty; dragging the plot off of the page by its hair.
Your characters are angry at you, they wanted to run with the idea—figure the details out on the way—so they’re refusing to talk to you, even if it’s just to help decide between two ideas. You feel lost and you can barely remember a story arch but you want to do this.
In an attempt to find the plot you write down a sentence describing the beginning and one the ending, trying to fill in the blanks. If I want to write about 2000 words per chapter, how many chapters is that? You ask yourself. 80,000 words sounds fair… so 40 chapters. You could stretch your list out.
That won’t work.
Perhaps expanding your previous ideas will help. And you’re right, it does, at least for the time being but you’re going to get stuck again, you think, it’s inevitable. The phrase ‘What to do?’ runs through your mind on replay, like a broken CD repeating the last line of your least favourite song your thoughts duplicate.
What to do?
Write a list of ‘trigger words’ (or phrases and collections) for the story you’re working on; words that, when mentioned, give you an idea regarding plot or character or words that show the mood or setting of the story. If a word isn’t enough, add something beside it (a trigger) like an Author’s or a song’s name, a related word, the possibilities are endless.
Here’s my list of ‘trigger words’ for my current novel:
- Love – fragilities
- A woman’s death (Poe)
- Misunderstanding and torment
- Hot vs cold (Camus)
- Nurture vs nature
- Division (natural or material)
Pantsers, how do you plot when you need to? Plotters, how do you do what you do? Writers, do you use ‘trigger words’?