Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I Became a Plotter: Goals

This is one off the most personally useful things I have learned to utilize as a plotter-in-training.
Part of the reason I became a plotter is because being a pantser made me crazy and not fun...or really even bearable.

I would obsess over writing enough each day, but "enough" as a panster meant writing until I was happy and satisfied with what I'd written. As many of you know, no one ever stops writing when they're are happy and satisfied. That's when we plow through on a rainbow sparkled writing high until we run out of steam and chug right up to "I'm a terrible writer" station.

It was usually at this point that I would need to stop. Either because I had to make dinner or do some other thing to maintain life OR because I hated my writing so much that I was too depressed to continue. If it was the latter, I would go days without writing and be unbearably grumpy in the interim.

So, now, every day I set a goal, usually around 1500 words. I write until I reach that goal and then I stop. When I am done, even if I end at a low point (boo!), I know I reached my goal (yay!). I put in the time and I produced something. I don't get depressed about it because my goal isn't mounds of gloriously written prose. It's 1,500 words. That's it.

Tips for daily word count goals:

1. Set your goal for whatever you have time for.
I can write about 1,500 in an hour on a good day and I almost always have at least an hour in my day so I know I can do it.

2. Allow yourself to NOT THINK ABOUT WRITING once you hit your goal.
I can actually be involved with my family rather than worrying about my story now.* Of course sometimes revelations will come to you and should be jotted down, but IT'S OKAY to clock in and clock out as a writer.  .

3. Really make yourself STOP once you reach your goal.
Or shortly after. Yes, it's awesome to outdo yourself, but when I come back to a story the next day with fresh eyes and renewed spirits I OFTEN find that the direction I was going in was good, but if I had gone much further in that particular direction it would have been boring and predictable. So I alter my course. I am not so absorbed and committed to a certain direction as I might have been the day before because I've had time to cool off.

Next Time: Mushy Middle
Previous Post: Crappy First Drafts

*Plotting in general has helped with this as well, because I'm not constantly trying to organize plot problems in my head, it's all already plotted out on paper

How I became a Plotter: Crappy First Draft

   I have a friend who recently came to me for advice because she is feeling a little lost about who she is and what she should be doing with her life. She had done a lot of thinking up to that point and journal writing and still felt stressed. My advice was simply:

There is only so much thinking and planning and list making you can do before you HAVE to get out there and test the waters. Try out some ideas and see if they work for you. If they don't move on to the next but TAKE ACTION! 

Little did I know, I was going to have to take my own advice.

Apparently, a problem with being a plotter is getting stuck in the plotting stage. I started thinking about all those little tips from writers/publishers/agents that all advised to “Write a crappy first draft.”

Their words nagged and irritated me because the "crappy first draft" feels completely counterintuitive to my new “I'm gonna be a plotter” approach. Just sit down and write out a stupid first draft? Even if my character decides to end a pointless argument with, You’re a stinky poo-poo head? Where is the method in that? Where is the strategy?!

 In my pantser days, I thought a crappy first draft was simply a reminder to not get distracted by editing as I write, but it’s not and it definitely is NOT in contradiction to Plotterism.* Here's why:

1. Getting stuck in plotting phase is such a plotter hazard it’s important to get started or else you never will. There are endless things to make lists about and research and post-it note. You could seriously do it forever. At some point you have to cut yourself off and just begin. You may not feel ready but that's okay, get started and allow yourself to write some crap. Pat yourself on the back when a scene is truly crappy, you got it down! You can mold it later.

2. You will not REALLY be able to see the shape of things (your story) and get a feel for the mood and the real creative stuff until you get the whole ball of clay (or crap) on the table.

So, here’s the deal. Some online friends started a NaNoWriMo NOT in November. Initially, I was like, “Yeah, no...I'm plotting (foreverrrrr).” But after so wisely advising the friend I mentioned above, I realized, I have to do it. This is a crucial step in the whole plotting procedure. And now that I view it as just another step - another thing to check off the plotting list - it's not such a big deal. Hooray for checklists!

Anyway, wish me luck. Crappy first draft, you're mine.

Next Time: Setting Goals
Previous Post: Surprise!(Just when you think you have it all plotted out)

*Yes, I made that word up.