Black or white/plot or pants.
Image © Lori Gravley, Maputo, Mozambique, 2013
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a recovering black/white-aholic. I tend to see the world in dualities, even though I know that it’s more complex. This shows up to remind me of the work I need to do when I have to make a decision for November: plot or pants.
I’ve spent a lot of the year reading up on ways to approach novel design: StoryFix, Wired for Story, Save the Cat, and James Scott Bell’s books have all been my wise guides this year. I think that I need to master a more rigorous approach to planning my novel. But I hesitate.
I’ve always done some planning. I have copious character notes, timelines, school calendars, maps, etc. for the series of novels that Knowing and Seeing are from.
I have piles of research notes for my Christine novels.
But I’d like to spend more time making my words beautiful and less time making sense of the books I’ve written during the revision process, so this year, I’d like to try the scene building approach that so many writers use. You can find the ten-scene outline here.
Terry Pratchett began his books by writing his most important scenes first and filling in later.
This sounds right to me. I’d like to have that overall arc before I write. Then I think, well, if I’m doing that, shouldn’t I do all forty scenes that Save the Cat suggests?
On good days, I stop myself there. As with most of life, writing doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can write out the ten scenes, do the character development I normally do, do the research this novel will require and then pants the rest of the scenes in the novel, filling in the gaps. If that worked for Sir Pratchett, perhaps it will work for me.
I'll be public with my commitment. This year, I’ll move beyond duality, and write the ten scene (maybe twenty ;-) outline of my novel before November begins. I don't have to have a detailed outline of every scene. I can plot some and pants some. I can be grey.
On Nov. 1, I’ll be ready to jump into those pre-planned scenes, and I'll let myself pants the rest.