In the world of writers, there are three types of people—pantsers*, plotters, and those who fall somewhere on a spectrum in between.
I belong to the third category.
When I wrote The Friday Night Date Dress, it was almost entirely plotted in my head. I really didn't know what I was doing, or anything about plot structure. I was working almost entirely on instinct. Because I was writing a short story with what I felt was a fairly simple plot, I thought I could get away with it.
And I did. I got to the end, realized instinctively that something was missing and added a scene that I now recognize as the all-important "Black Moment", when a character internalizes the lesson they needed to learn to overcome their primary conflict.
But still, I'd meant to write a 7,000 word story. It ended up at 27,000.
As I've grown as a writer, I've learned a LOT about plot structure. I've also learned that I still don't work well with having everything in a story or scene (or blog post) planned in minute detail before I begin. I need to know the basic conflict of a scene and where I want my characters to end up by the end, and away I go. Inevitably, there is always something that happens as I'm writing that surprises me. Sometimes, it surprises me a lot and makes me re-examine my plot to see if I can actually make that work or if I'm going to have to rewrite it to something closer to the original plan.
And sometimes, I still start blog posts with the first title that pops into my head and go from there. Okay, that's most of the time. (Ahem.)
I'm still a plotser, as I call myself, but I'm a plotser who understands storytelling enough that I don't have to do nearly the rewriting I used to do. And with longer projects like Finding Heaven or my current trilogy-starter, The Mermaid's Tear, I can't just think of a few great scenes and start writing. Neither can I manage to do a scene-by-scene for fifty chapters (or three books!) before I start.
I'm somewhere in the middle. I do a general 1- or 2-page outline that hits on all the major points of conflict in the overall plot, try to make sure I understand my character's motivations (which I usually get wrong until I've written at least a few chapters. I write the characters correctly, I just didn't understand them as well as I thought. Go figure, eh?)
Recently, I've been reading an eye-opening book called The Freelancer's Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. (In my last newsletter, I discussed a practical idea for staying positive that I had adapted from the book, if you're interested.)
I actually started out reading it on Kristine's blog, but, having read more than half and, finding what I've learned to be more than worth the bucks required for the book, I purchased it.
While reading it, I discovered that, as organized as I thought I've been with my time and business, I still had a lot to learn. I've basically been plotsing my career.
That's no way to become successful. Unless you are very, very lucky. And I don't believe in luck.
Yesterday, I sat and worked out how many hours I need to spend on each activity of my business in a week in order to accomplish everything I need to do, which came to about 54 hours/week. (Lately, I've actually been working more than that and accomplishing less, so seeing this written out was a huge relief for me.) I noticed areas where I'd been wasteful with my time, and could use that to be more productive.
I worked out a timetable that would allow me to still have a 48-hour weekend (from Friday evening until Sunday evening) and still let me get weekly town chores done and spend several hours with my family in the evenings.
And I did some salary math that allowed me to see how much per hour I need to be paid for writing time in order to make it worth my while. (This is an ultimate goal, certainly not yet what I have achieved, for my fiction, at any rate.)
This was all a very eye-opening experience. And, like the plot outlines I write before I begin a novel, will hopefully allow me to fulfill promises I have made to my readers. (Remember that knitting newsletter I haven't sent out in over a year? Or those promised patterns I haven't published? Or this very blog, that's had a schedule that could be described as "she tried?" Yeah. Stuff like that.)
In regards to blogging, I am now aiming for what I believe is a realistic goal of one post per week—instead of trying for two per week and being lucky to make two per month. And if I can maintain the pace I have set for myself, I should see an increase in the speed at which I can release new stories.
Lastly, I have set myself the rather ambitious goal of completing the last 30-40k words of The Mermaid's Tear in the next two weeks. I have been that productive one other time, when I was in the final stages of my last novel. And I hope to make that kind of productivity a weekly thing.
Now I've said it publicly. I have to do it.
So if you call and I don't pick up the phone? I'm probably writing.
It's midnight in two minutes, which means time to shut 'er down for me. (Yes, I've finally embraced my night-owl ways and allowed myself office hours that end at midnight instead of just working until then and then feeling guilty. See, "plotsing" is good.)
*pantsers (n) - someone who writes stories while flying by the seat of their pants