Archive | pantsing RSS feed for this section

Pantser Special: Using Story Structure Models to Write a Synopsis (& Tighten Your Plot)

14 Jan

Not long ago, while editing my novel, it occurred to me that eventually, I’ll be expected to provide a synopsis of my story whenever I do get around to submitting to agents. (The horror!) As someone who started this ginormous project as a bonafide pantser after failing to produce a likable manuscript going the outlining route, well, the idea of writing a synopsis seemed like a big fat joke…until I realized it really wasn’t.

Without a coherent, logical structure, my story would be DOA.

So…when a YouTuber I follow named Shaelin Bishop posted a video about a 15 Beat Plot Structure this week, I decided to tune in and watch. Perhaps, I reasoned, I could learn something useful.

Boy, did I ever!

Now, I’ve read articles about all sorts of story structures in the past—some more detailed than others—but this “15 Beat” one just seemed to really “click” for me. Maybe because I already had my story pretty much figured out this time around; maybe because it’s actually meant for the visual medium of movies, which I tend to see more than I read, and I’m a very visual person. Anyhow, while listening to Shaelin explain it, I was nodding my head along, mentally listing the ways my story already seemed to align with the plot progressions she was explaining.

Phew! What a relief. I guess, without really thinking about it as “creating a plot structure,” that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all along!

Well, this came as a great relief to the-pantser-that-is-me. Maybe, I thought to myself, I should actually try being organized for once and write down this plot of mine now—y’know, just to make sure I’m telling a coherent story. (It certainly is an easier way to examine plot without the multitude of details of worldbuilding and dialogue and what have you getting in the way.) Within a half an hour of drafting my story structure in Word, I realized that this whole little exercise could actually help me tighten my plot.

It could also, potentially, become the starting point for my synopsis! Continue reading

On Planning & Writing A Trilogy (Or Series)

19 Sep

(For more posts like this, check out my “series” tag!)

Some of you probably already know that I’m a pantser; in other words, I don’t really like to plan my writing!

Well, I take that back.

I do like having a little bit of a plan, but it’s so sparse that most probably wouldn’t even consider it “a plan.”  It’s more like this: “I want [insert big event] to happen in [insert cool locale], where the characters then find/achieve [insert objective]!”  Then I just figure out the rest from there.  And I think this only has a chance at working because my WIP is a quest/adventure series; it’s “mission-driven fiction,” essentially.

Not plot-driven, exactly, ’cause I still focus on characters along the way, but in terms of planning I think of the story in terms of missions…if that makes sense.

So yeah.  That seriously has been my plan for an Element 7 trilogy, in a nutshell.  (“What?  A trilogy, you say?”  Yes, dear readers, you read that right.  Though, I should have probably already mentioned that on my E7 page…heh.)

Planning A Trilogy

Why a trilogy, you may ask.

All right.  Well, I have this thing with numbers, in case you haven’t noticed, particularly the numbers 7 and 3–kinda similar to Dan Brown’s obsession with symbols, though maybe to a slightly lesser degree.  3 is just neat and tidy, in my mind.  I also like to use Platonic Solids in my novel (one in particular, for now, until later books…but we won’t get into that right now.)

So I’ve read only a little about how authors like J. K. Rowling went about their work.  Apparently she took around five years to plan the Harry Potter series before writing it, though I can’t recall reading the specifics about how she did this.  (It’s probably out there; I just haven’t had time to look it up, lol.)  Though, honestly, there isn’t really a lot of advice out there for folks who do want to write a trilogy or series (not in comparison to other writing topics, anyways).  Most times it seems writers are actually discouraged from doing so–at least when they are working on their first novel.

Apparently it’s too “cliché,” when you’re writing fantasy…

As for me, “planning” out a trilogy has kinda just naturally been happening while working on this first novel–like I’ll be in the middle of a scene and think to myself, “Hey, that would make for a totally cool thing to explore in Book II/III!”  And then I just plant the seeds, make a note to water them later and roll with it.  (I’ve actually got probably half of Book II planned out by specific scenes I’ve already written or summarized in my journals, with a few ideas for the other half and Book III still subconsciously cooking in my messed-up head.)

But really, all I’m doing is using that basic formula I mentioned at the beginning three times and designing each end objective so that they tie into one another, leading to the final objective in the last novel, while also figuring out the interconnecting threads (those “ah-ha!” moments) along the way.

I bet some people wonder why it would possibly take 5+ years to plan out a bunch of books, but now I’m pretty sure I understand why…

There Are Just SO Many Little Details That Have Got to Work Together!

Especially when you’re writing secondary world fantasy.  Every piece of invented information that’s in that bad-boy-of-a-series is coming from your brain.  It’s like this giant sprawling 50,000-piece puzzle of your own personal design; everything’s gotta fit together.  And when you do sit down to try and put this puzzle together, it typically doesn’t happen overnight.  Plus, you gotta hand craft all those pieces before that can even happen–nope, none of that computer-aided/die cut business.  So you can’t just toss in stuff willy-nilly because you think it’s oh-so-cool (learned that the long, hard way, lol); everything has got to have a reason for being in the novels–or else you have to work backwards and find a gorram reason for all the dangling stuff to matter.

Harder to do, imo, but doable.

When I first started learning how to write a novel my mind just couldn’t even begin to grasp this concept.  “Whaddya mean I can’t just throw in what I want and expect it to work? Bah!  Watch me…”  And y’know how that turned out…

Lots and lots of experimental drafts that went nowhere.

But that’s okay! ’cause I eventually figured out how to make all that cool stuff I originally wanted to shoehorn into the same story actually work together–haha! (Or at least I think I have…lol.)  Plus, I learned oodles, like…

The Importance of Foreshadowing

…which, I think, is extremely important when you’re planning and writing a trilogy.  Foreshadowed details provide rhythm and continuity and are like the threads that bind the novels in a series together–along with recurring themes, characters, settings and/or ideas, which all help to create a sense of unity and cohesiveness.  (Sorry, I’m using those pesky Principles of Art/Design again…but you’ll find them everywhere that good art or designs reside.  Writers and literary critics just tend to use different terminology for them, I think.)

You know how excited you get when you pick up Part II of a book, game or movie series and learn that some of your favorite characters are back?  Or the telltale hint, or sometimes outright slap, of a promise that “hey, there’s more yet to come”?  For me, that’s part of the excitement of reading/watching/playing a series; it’s also one of the reasons I want to write one.  (That, and getting to my favorite “candy bar scenes.”)

…Because I just love the characters so darn much.  And the world.  They’re just people (and places) I’d like to come back to again, to experience their adventures through their eyes.

‘Cause trust me, if I didn’t love them I wouldn’t even still be working on this project, haha.  (5.75 years is a looooong tiiiiime to be attached to the hip with the same old ideas…)

So how do you plan for a trilogy/series?

Or maybe you’ve never worked on one before; that’s cool.  You’ve probably read at least one, though, right?  What kind of things do you like about series?  What do you wish authors who write series did a better job of?

I know one of the reasons I started writing was because of my own “fantasy novel pet peeves;” I thought hey, why do writers keep doing this and that?  Let’s write a story that does it different!