Wednesday, September 5, 2018

When Plotters Pants (An IWSG Post)

Hey, everyone!

It's the first Wednesday of the month (at least I think it is. I didn't miss it again, did I?), which means that it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

I am assuming that anyone who stops by today is already well-versed with the IWSG, but if you happen to be new and have no idea what I'm talking about, please click on the above link for more information and/or a complete list of participants.

This month's co-hosts are: Toi Thomas, T. Powell Colton, Tara Tyler, and some weirdo who calls herself M.J. Fifield.


In other IWSG news, the judges for the latest anthology contest will be announced on the site today, so stop by there for the big reveal...

All right. This month's (optional) question asks, "What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?"

But as I feel as though I have waxed poetical on this subject many times before, I'm going to skip it this time around. Let me just say that whatever path you decide to take/decided to take, you are awesome and I applaud you!



So, instead, I thought I might ramble about this problem that I'm having with a current WIP. The WIP in question is this terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel that goes by the working title Vinnie & Ellie because I can't think of anything else to call it besides the terrible, horrible, no-good bad romance novel. (M.J. Fifield: marketing genius...)

This WIP has been mentioned on My Pet Blog from time to time, most recently this past Monday when I listed it among my goals for September. I'm going to finish the first draft this month, I claimed, but there's just one slight problem...

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN.

I am a plotter. I plot. A not-insignificant amount of wall space (interesting side note: auto-correct keeps correcting 'wall space' to 'allspice', which is funny because I have no idea what one would do with allspice except to, you know, spice something.) in my office is devoted to big, semi-elaborate storyboards on which I plot out whatever WIP I'm currently writing before I start writing it and/or while I'm writing it. I'm sure you've seen many photos of said storyboards because the only thing I apparently like to do more than create storyboards on any wall that will hold still long enough is to take pictures of those boards and post them all over social media.

But Vinnie and Ellie are refusing to go along with the program. Probably because I created them and pretty much any character I create is stubborn, sarcastic, and has serious problems with authority (I wonder why that is...).

And because they're refusing to go along with the program, I'm left to write this novel by the seat of my pants, and I don't know how to do that. I need a plot, a plan, a story map—something! I have no idea how I'm supposed to just make it up as I go along.

I swear, every other line in this novel is my narrator lamenting that she has no idea what's going on, and that's really me lamenting that I have no idea what's going on.

But I'm so close to the end.

At least I think I am. It's not like I have any big, semi-elaborate storyboards on which to keep track of such things.

*glares menacingly at stubborn characters who flip her off in return*

So, all you pantsers (haha—auto-correct keeps making you into panthers. It's possible I'm too easily amused.) out there—hit me with your tips. How do you do it? What's your secret? Mellow jazz, bongo drums, huge bag of weed? (Name! That! Reference!)

Help a plotter out?




That's gonna do it for me today. Thanks for stopping by!

59 comments:

  1. Panthers don't have to worry about allspice.
    Maybe talking the story over with a critique partner will help?
    Thanks for co-hosting today!

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  2. Well, I guess there's no rule against listening to your characters and then going back and revising your storyboard. I need an outline to write, because I always have to know where I'm going in order to write. But as new ideas come to me while I'm writing, I'm always changing the outline. That way I can write and still get my plotting fix.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG!

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  3. Quick question. Are they opposites in personalities or have you made Vinnie and Ellie? too much alike? I did this in my MG mystery earlier on and a CP pointed it out to me. I went back and changed the boy's personality. BOOM.

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  4. I would definitely say you have to sit down with Vinnie and Ellie and have a serious close door talk with them where no one can see you talking to yourself. Or you have to listen to what they are trying to say and compromise. :-)
    All the best with your manuscript.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  5. Oh, I forgot to say, thank you for co-hosting this month.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  6. I'm not much of a pantser anymore, but I find when I can't seem to get beyond a point, it's because I'm not being 100% true to the characters. Whatever the magic key is, I hope you find it and get over the hurdle. I have full faith you will, even if you have to SIT DOWN AND PLOT THE NOVEL. *gaps* ;) Sending cheese to help.

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  7. Thanks for co-hosting this month! Since I waffle back and forth about plotting and pantsing (that is, I’m a firm believer in plotting who sometimes takes off too fast and ends up pantsing it), I can tell you what I do when I reach this point.

    I quit.

    Not permanently, of course. My last mystery I got to the end and didn’t know whodunnit. I only knew that the person I’d *thought* was the killer wasn’t. So I left it in a drawer (metaphorically speaking) for about 6 months longer than I needed to, and came back, wrote an outline of what I had, engaged in long discussions with my writer buddies, and came up with a plan, which involved rewriting large chunks of the book but made it work in the end.

    So don’t panic, and enjoy the journey! If you have to let the MS sit for a while, write some short stories while you wait :)

    My advice is, of course, worth exactly what you pay for it :D

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  8. I have a story that's doing that to me. I had an outline then it veered and I'm not sure where it's going. It's been some time, so maybe that's all that was needed.

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  9. Plotting means a plan for me and I have to live out my plans. I write that way, too.

    Teresa

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  10. Ooh, I'd like to be seen as a panther! As a pantser, I don't know how a story will end until I get there. Sometimes that drives me bonkers, but other times, my muse tells me to chill out. She's got this. Usually the trick is to circle back around to the beginning. Maybe it's something small you mentioned or a big problem/fear, but that's the key. It's all about the protagonist's Batman comic that you mentioned in one sentence on the first page. Thanks for co-hosting this month. :)

    P.S. I'd totally read a romance novel marketed that way!

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  11. Panster...plotter...I'm a hybrid depending on the story. Some stories want an outline; others will battle that until the very end. But at least your end is nearing, so yay! And I'm thinking 'Terrible, Awful, No Good Romance Novel' would be a great title. Definitely draw attention.

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  12. My characters are often like the funky lady on my GPS telling me to "recalculate" my route when I turn in a direction they don't seem to agree with. I'm definitely a planner, but often find myself changing course as new ideas and situations pop up on my journey to The End. I know you'll figure it out, M.J.
    Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  13. I actually started as a panster and then tried storyboarding. Now I have a mix all my own. I too, am in a story where I don't know yet how it will end. The ending I wrote to get the first draft done doesn't feel right, so I'm continuing on not knowing where I'm going. It feels bad to not know, but I found I really want "my" characters to tell me, so I'm trying to follow their lead. Which is leading to a lot of writing I'll probably never use, but, will get me there in the end. I've had this happen before so am trusting the process. Try trusting your characters to lead you on to the end...?

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  14. And thanks for co-hosting today!

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  15. My WIP is giving me headaches too, I'm finding excuse after excuse not to finish it, and the worst part is, I'm so close! Damn...
    Thanks for sharing, I feel much better. LOL You know, misery loves company. :) Normally, I do both, there's a time for plotting and a time for pants-ing.

    I guess now is the time for getting off my ass and working. Thanks for the pep talk!

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  16. I've decided to call myself a PLODDER because, apparently, I like the struggle, the zing of invention, the problem-solving oneself out of a cul-de-sac and back onto the main road. The THEME finds itself as I ramble.
    Yet, I have a suggestion that may help you: I was trained to write the logline and synopsis first, the vessels that contain the story. I print them and sticky tape them to the wall... Now, if I just remember to look (wink-wink)
    Another suggestion might be the blog post I wrote, not precising aligning with this week's topic either: The BE Attitudes to Prevent Writeres' Block

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  17. I've used allspice in pumpkin dishes when I run out of cinammon or cloves. Not bad. Not perfect either.

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  18. Please tell Vinnie and Ellie that Doug & Laurel say hi. (I can't seem to name my romance WIP either.) I've been trying to learn the way of the plotter, following various plotting gurus, but my characters insist on having their own way. Dunno if this might help: After I finished my sprawling first draft, I typed up a detailed synopsis. (16 pages!) That gave me a sort of bird's-eye view and helped me figure out where to trim & combine scenes. Anyway, happy writing in September.

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  19. A lady in my writing group read something about just sitting down and writing and letting the characters take her where they will. She said it was liberating (and the story is taking shape--she's sharing it with the group).

    I have no advice. Good luck. Perhaps you need to add in a character that one of them likes better than the other. Maybe they aren't meant for one another.

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  20. Seems like you're already drowning in panther advice, so I'll just wish you luck! Play nice, Vinnie & Ellie. And thank you for co-hosting this month!

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  21. Throw in a ninja attack and see how Vinnie and Ellie react. That or monsters. Or a giant hole in the ground...

    I don't know if you'd want this semi-pantser's help. I've had to rework my stuff over and over again before I finally got it to flow right. (And it's usually because I threw in one of the suggestions above and later had to take it out.)

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  22. Often,I have an idea going into the story, but the characters take over. Trust them. Trust yourself. As the words start to flow, let the story go down those unexpected paths.
    Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month!
    Mary at Play off the Page

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  23. Oh do I feel your pain. I'm at the so-called END of my WIP and it will not go the way I want it to. I've worked and re-worked that last third, and it's a total, humungous, miserable mess. We need to share some wine and whine together for a bit.

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  24. As a panther (LOL) all I can say is I hope for the best. Often I barely know where the story is and at times have never even had a villain in mind when I start. I just let the characters take over and hope it makes sense and I don't have to shelve it.

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  25. As a planster/panther-who-plots-in-small-doses (love the panther spellcheck distraction), I understand some of your frustration. I've always been a happy planster, but lately, I have felt a need for PLOT (in all caps because it's serious). It's frightening, but I'm not sure how else to wrestle a particular project into completion.
    I "plantser" by writing out big plot points - the intro, the incident that starts the journey, one step in the rising tension, the climax scene idea, and the "afterward" part. These help me get through the story, even if my characters are stubborn. Or, at least that's the way it usually works. My characters in Generations(aka Greenling/aka that annoying book I've worked on too long) are wonderful but they don't want to do anything.

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  26. I'm an outliner, but I'd rather be a panther. A writing exercise I've used is to spend some time with each character asking them exactly what it is they want out of life, why they don't have it, and what they're willing to do to get it. The answers sometimes get a spark. And Allspice is the secret ingredient in my fabulous marinated pork loin roast. Good luck and thanks for co-hosting today!

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  27. I like to have a basic plot in place before I start writing. I tried being a panster once and it was fun.

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  28. Sounds like a tough predicament. Or are predicaments by nature tough? I love how amused you are at all the things you mention. I would be, too, and it is a perfect distraction from the issues at hand. Or, are distractions always perfect. :-)

    I can't help you, unfortunately, because I write non-fiction stuff, about my life and travels. The story and the plot already exist. It's my way out of having to plot, or pants. Good luck and thanks for co-hosting this month!

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  29. Huh, that weirdo sounds familiar for some reason. I'm afraid I don't have any advice about your stubborn characters. Maybe they need some better parental discipline in their backstories?

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  30. I imagine it's hard to force a story, especially if you're near the end. Do you have the big climactic scene? Do you need to set up a cliffhanger? Are there issues to resolve? A change of scenery needed? I'd probably think about various scenarios while taking long walks or showers or both and see if anything sticks.

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  31. Well, first I wrote a novel about something that actually happened. I’m guessing that’s not helpful.

    And I drew a story arc on a piece of copy paper for the actual fiction novel but I’m no where close to finished and have no idea if that strategy worked. So I wish you good luck as I have no advice!

    P.S. Autocorrect cracks me up too. I find it a benefit in life to be easily amused!

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  32. I have a couple of projects where I know the general ending I want but have been having fun writing whatever comes to mind. And that's odd for me, because like you, I normally plot out pages worth of chapter outlines. I've even plotted out conversations! lol

    The auto-correct tidbits had me laughing...I have some Allspice if you need any. :P

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  33. Thanks for co-hosting! Good luck with writing the story. I'm a plotter by nature, so unfortunately I don't have much advice for pantsing a story.

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  34. I generally pants, but there is some plotting involved once I get going. Usually I have a beginning and ending in mind, a only a hazy idea of how to get from point A to B. As I write (and digress with backstory) I can start to see a little ways ahead, like to the next exit sign (chapter ending), or maybe two. Sometimes I'll get a glimpse of something that happens later, which I duly write down and note where I think it might end up. There's a lot of two steps back and three steps forward, especially as I get deeper. Don't know if this helps at all...but that's pretty much how I write.

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  35. I'm a true pantser all the way. I can't plot at all, and have to let my characters tell the story. Sometimes, it takes a while for the next scene to come to life in my head. I have to contemplate away from my computer. Take a walk, mop the floor, clean while thinking of the story, and what needs to happen. Wishing you much luck.

    And, thank you for co-hosting this month.

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  36. Totally understand. For me, I'm a plotter, but it's more of a guideline than a direct line of command. Kind of like planning a road trip. You know where your stops are and where you'll sleep, but what about the in between? That's where I make stuff up, but use the next stop as a guide from getting too off track. Someday I want a wall like yours. :)

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  37. I'm half and half. I heavily plot my mystery thrillers, because I can't stand loose ends when I read other's. Even Raymond Chandler had a few. Infuriating!

    When I write horror or experimental fiction I'm pantsing. (I'm getting silly images of pants being pulled down) I typically start with my idea, turn it into a prompt, then start writing on a timer. I'll write for thirty minutes and review what I got on the page right after the timer goes off. If I get stuck before the times up I'll keep writing the last sentence over and over until I can move on. The one rule is to not stop writing. Rinse. Repeat.

    Thank you for co-hosting. Awesome post!

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  38. First, let me just say, I love your writing style. Probably because it's like mine. I'm a pantser. Hmm, no panther. Guess I'm a cougar and it knows it. That sucks. Where was I? Tips..I "talk" to the character that's giving me the most problem. "So Joe, I hear you don't feel like you need to sit in this restaurant for much longer. Why?" Or "Becky, you keep telling me that you're feeling confused about blah blah blah, why is that?" and then I just write down what they tell me in a brainstorming session (even though it may not make sense) for five minutes. I know, it sounds, um a bit odd, but it can help loosen my writing muscles and get the gears flowing. :)

    Good luck!!!

    Elsie

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  39. Welcome to the dark side of pantsing! Bahahahaha! Okay, now that that is out of my system...
    You need to just relax, think about the scene while you are doing something else. Eventually it will hit you like a tidal wave! Sadly. Talk to your characters. I do this often. Out loud. It's a sickness. I always have to tell my husband I'm either talking to my cat or my characters. He totally gets it, so he's a keeper. It's difficult to go from plotting to pantsing, but it can be done. It's also different to go from pantsing to plotting, to be honest, but I am finding it easier! I wish you luck. sit back, drink some tea and chat with your characters. And just so you know, I would totally buy a book titled "the terrible, horrible, no-good bad romance novel".

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  40. If your love-struck characters seem to be stuck in a rut - drop a house on them. Watching how they scramble back to one another may ignite the perfect starburst ;-) Cheers to creativity - and beyond!

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  41. I like panther better than pantser. And I have no idea how I do it, which isn't helpful. I just start typing, and figure out where to steer things as they present themselves. Relax and go with the flow? Sorry, no big help here. I've tried plotting and I suck at it, and there are countless classes on that.

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  42. I'm a pantser (mostly). When I get stuck, I like to brainstorm a list of things that could happen at that moment. I write all of them down, even the ones that don't fit the book at all (Clint Eastwood enters, riding atop a spaceship like a rodeo wingwalker and shoots the MC in the head).

    I also like to stop and make a little chart of what each of the important characters WANTS at the point where where I'm stuck and what's stopping them from getting it. Then I can decide if anyone is getting what they want and what they might have to do to get it.

    So, anyway, there are two things that have helped me. I hope you find the thing that helps you soon!

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  43. Bring in 'a man with a gun', a sort of unexpected calamity. They often help me move the plot along, when I'm stuck.

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  44. I have a love hate relationship with auto correct. Its amusing and frustrating at the same time. See how bored I can get? Being entertained by auto correct. In a word doc, not my cell phone when I'm texting.

    I'm a true pantster. I've tried plotting, and end up just writing whatever scene/dialogue has popped into my head. I do get stuck sometimes though. I generally know how it all ends, and a couple things that have to happen in the middle. My starting point however has a tendency to move and reflesh as the story progresses.

    When I'm really really stuck, I either have my characters have an adventure - just for the fun of writing - or I jump to a scene I know does have to happen (usually near the end and write backwards from there) and at some point the characters will do something that needs to be written earlier. Like, at the point of blockage.

    Sort of like having a name on the tip of your tongue, but it comes to you when you are distracted by something else and not even thinking of it.

    Meh, you'll get there. Hang on and just relax and enjoy a small break to refocus.

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  45. Can I just say that "the terrible, horrible, no-good bad romance novel" is a title that would catch my eye?
    - J Lenni Dorner: terrible marketing tip giver and ruiner of all shoppers choice surveys

    My characters like to take my pants off.
    *pauses to think about the wording*
    *pauses even longer, lost in a daydream about one of those characters taking my pants of in the more literal-than-metaphorical way*

    I... ummm...

    Yeah.

    So, romance... I guess they end three ways.
    1) HEA -- The most popular choice
    2) Not happily ever after together
    3) In a to-be-continued fashion that drives readers crazy but also increases odds of sales of the next book

    And there's pretty much ALWAYS someone who says the two aren't really meant to be because some-life-experience-reason. You could always toss in a character or two who chats with your MC and Love Interest and tries to talk them out of the romance, but maybe not for love triangle reasons. I don't know. Just trying to toss out a plot bunny for you.

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  46. Thanks for co-hosting today!
    I’m a plantser but even when I mostly plotted out my WIPs story then let my characters take over. Yet I still find myself not knowing what’s going to happen next. And I’m in my final chapter too.
    But as a suggestion what about interviewing your characters. Scratching deeper into their psyche.

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  47. I wish I could help you out, but I don't read much romance. I'm not familiar with their story structure. I also don't know how far along in the story you've gotten. However, even if you don't map out the plot, you know the fundamental structure of any good story, right? I'd suggest attacking it scene by scene. Don't worry about the overall destination, maybe? Just Focus on writing a solid scene? Dunno, making this all up. Good luck, though. Thank for hosting and for sharing your plotting (or lack of plotting) struggle. Hope you get it all figured out. :)

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  48. Thanks for co-hosting this month. I'm a pantser for the beginning of the story. Then I have to plot. I ask myself what's the worst that could happen; what's worse than that. What would my character(s) never do? Why? Make her/him do that. Since this is a romance, what would cause her to leave him? (or the reverse) What is the worst thing s/he could do? I've often "interviewed" my characters. Pretend to be a reporter and ask uncomfortable questions. I wish you well for this story. BTW, my latest release went through several title changes, starting with Katie's Story (Katie was the main character's name that had to be changed when I got a DIL with that name LOL). Eventually, the right name will occur to you. Don't sweat that until it's time to be sent to a publisher. Good luck!

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  49. Huge bag of weed definitely helps! I honestly haven't tried a story board but I think that would help me. But there's something nice about just writing what comes to mind without stressing about following an already set plot though. If you're stuck though then that takes the fun out of it. Good luck and thanks for co-hosting!

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  50. As a pantser who writes a heading for what is supposed to be happening in the chapter to keep me on some sort of track... just keep writing. Those characters will finally get around to doing things, sometimes with each other, as long as you concentrate on their characters and not yours.
    Then you can edit out their whinges later!
    I have actually done this, it led me to somewhere interesting in the story, and I bet nobody who has read my series has the slightest idea which one or where.
    Thanks for co-hosting today. Loved the post!

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  51. Hi there fellow co-host.
    Thanks for the laughs. I know the reference, but can't for the life of me name it at the moment.
    Anyway, I never know exactly what happens to help me complete a WIP. Since I always have multiple going at a time, when I finish one and move onto the next, I never realise how I got there. Still, I think green tea, chocolate, and Spotify have something to do with it.

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  52. Thanks for co-hosting, M. J. Your post was funny and generated a lot of insightful comments on a perennial debate. I can’t seem to plot things out. I start off with an idea, and then my characters take over and write their story their way. I’ve given up trying to fight them. Good luck writing in September! I’m late making the rounds for IWSG. Lots of technical challenges, including getting locked out of my google account while trying to post on a train

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  53. Thank you for co-hosting this month! I can't help you with the story. I'm a plotter. I could tell you what happens on page 112 when I'm still writing page 11. Good luck.

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  54. Thanks for co-hosting this month! I'm kind of a plotting panther. I start out with a plan knowing that it will change. You might want to let Vinnie and Ellie out to play and see where they think the story is going. You can always whip them back into your plot later, but they might have some good ideas. My only other thought is to get away from them for a few days and see what happens. Good luck!

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  55. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG's September question. I'm a plotter, too, M.J. And dang! It is difficult to get our characters to do what the story needs them to do. Susan above has some solid advice. It's exactly what I was thinking. Good luck with the manuscript.

    I've followed you on social media and I've followed your blog. All the best to you!
    http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

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  56. Happy belated IWSG Day. Thanks for co-hosting.

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  57. As a former pantser, I have a few ideas that might help. Maybe.

    Interviews work, especially if you're really nosy and just as stubborn as the characters. Mind mapping, a la Writing the Natural Way by Gabrielle Rico, has helped me with images I want to see inside a story and the images often lead me to what the characters want.

    But what got me unstuck the most as a former pantser was forgetting about writing the novel. Instead I would read the whole novel from the beginning and let myself edit as I read, changing whatever I wanted to change as if I were a reader who was getting very irritated with the book in her hands. You know those moments. "Well that's stupid, why doesn't he just say this?"

    Part of the reason it worked for me was because if there was a problem with my ending, there was usually a problem with my beginning. Also, starting at the beginning helped me see where I initially wanted to go. Knowing that either helped me change the direction of the story (since I'd already worked out so much later on) or alter what came after if I wanted to keep that initial direction.

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck!

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  58. Hahaha, silly, stubborn characters! As a plotter myself, I know how frustrating it can be when they won't cooperate. (Nicholas and Coco from Echo Effect pretty much do what I want, but the characters from my horror comic are another story.) Whenever characters of mine refuse to embrace a plot point I've created for them, I often realize it's because they want to do the exact opposite, so I start plotting in that direction instead. Hope you finally figure out what's going to happen for Vinnie and Ellie!

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