Thursday, March 28, 2013


by Allison Pang

I've mentioned before that I don't plot too well. Or maybe it's just that I don't like to. For me, much of the magic is more or less lost when I have a play by play schematic.

Now, just because I don't plot much doesn't mean that I don't know where I'm going. For example, this new book I'm writing? I know the exact sentence it's going to end with. (And actually this book has pretty much become two books at this point - and I know the exact sentence *that* book is going to end with.) What it boils down for me is that as long as I know where I'm going, it doesn't really matter how I get there.

There's a caveat to that though - there's a big difference between author wanderlust...and author wanderLOST.

(I'm so horribly clever, aren't I?)

Just because I have a vague idea of where I'm going doesn't give me free rein to just arbitrarily create characters or scenes that don't have purpose.

Or really, as a panster, it does - however, the other side of that coin is cleaning it up. Obviously, YMMV, but for me, the first draft is nearly always a hot mess - the beginning works, the end works, but somewhere in the middle I tend to lose my way.

Sometimes that actually works out okay - I end up going down paths I hadn't intended to, and suddenly I see that one strand that ties it all together.  Sometimes that strand ends up unraveling the whole damn thing. I really try not to let it get that far, though. I can usually tell when something isn't working - that's when I back up a few steps and see what happens if I take it down a different path.

How do I know when something's not working? My characters start standing around snarking at each other. It's a bit like being a play director - sometimes actors can improv beautifully, but if they're constantly looking off-stage for their lines? Yeah...there's a problem.

If I get really stuck, then I will sometimes look at "plotting" - which for me involved writing down what I already know, and what I'd *like* to see happen. I do it with pen and paper instead of the keyboard because there's something about being able to doodle while I do it that helps me connect the dots.

I tend to brainstorm and puzzle things out best in the shower, though. I have been known to take upwards of 4 or 5 showers a day, though that's fairly rare. Hot water is relaxing and helps me think. (I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this - I know some people who have tile crayons they use in the tub for much the same reason.)

But that's about the extent of my plotting. If I'm feeling really up to it, I may actually put down plot points I'd like to see happen in hypothetical chapters. (e.g. Chapter X - they find a body. Might be under the bed. Who put it there? I will find out!)

The one exception to the plotting thing is my collab for the webcomic. 1) There's no undo button. I can't risk
writing us into a corner because the story is already out there and being read. 2) It's a collab for a reason - both Aimo and I have to be on the same page as far as where we're going. 3) It would be pretty unfair to Aimo to constantly change my mind. If she's only storyboarded a scene, that's easy enough, but once she's started inking?

But for whatever reason, I don't mind plotting the webcomic at all. Don't know if that's because it's a collab, or because I'm just as eager as all the other readers to see my concepts coming to life in pictures. :)

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, I like this one Allison. My husband always asks me why I like to read bodice rippers and watch chick flicks when they all end up the same? I do enjoy both of these, mixed in with my paranormal, UF, and sci-fi...why? Because even knowing the ending is freeing, then ANYTHING can happen on the road to reach the ending. That is what keeps me coming back.