Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Let’s talk about plotting.
The more you dig into this, the more you hear a few different terms, so we’ll start there:
Pantser: This term, taken from NaNoWriMo, describes an author who “flies by the seat of their pants” and doesn’t plan the story beforehand.
Planner: This term, also taken from NaNoWriMo, describes an author who plots meticulously, can write their story in any order, because they know how the pieces fit together.
Three Act Structure: This is a story structure that has three main acts: Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action. This structure is used most often in film, but this is a good way to make sure you have all the elements of story in your project.
Five Act Structure: This is very similar to the three act structure, but adds steps on the beginning and end, so the order is Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
I’ve spent time as both a planner and a pantser. For me, it depends on how well I know the story when starting out. My first draft is rarely planned. My second draft is almost always planned.
I don’t plan my second drafts in a “normal” way. I don’t do the whole:
This needs to happen
Get to the climax!
Build to a battle
Who’s still alive?
Nurse the wounded
Tie up loose ends
Crown the new king?
Instead, I write every scene I know of on a notecard. Often, the scenes pop into my mind in a mixed up order. So, after I have the scenes figured out, I need to put them in order. This requires placing them all on the floor or a table and ordering them.
I take the cards from this:
Lastly, I put the cards all up on my wall so I can look at them as I write.
The benefit I’ve found to having a scene per card is that if in my writing the pantser takes over, I can easily move my favorite scenes around to make sure the story still works.
How do you plot? Let me know in the comments.
J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she makes Youtube Videos and Comics, and practices Karate at a local dojo. If you have a writing question, she'd love to hear from you! Reach out to her on the contact page. She is also looking for freelancing work, so if you have editing, beta reading, or writing needs, please let her know.