Parsing for Plotters: Three Methods

First off, I probably need to explain my headline.  

For starters, I'm a plotter, as opposed to a pantser, though I'm not a terribly serious, must-know-everything plotter.  I know most of you know the difference between a plotter and a pantser, but there are always newbies among us and so I shall pontificate:

A plotter must likes to get the story lined out (be it novel, short story or article) ahead of time, before he starts writing.  

A pantser likes to sit down and write and see what happens.

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Pantsing makes plotters shiver with distaste.  You get stuck in black holes, they cry! You waste time going down story lines that don't pan out! You get to the end and nothing works because you didn't know where you were going!

Plotting makes pantsers shudder with disgust.  If you already know the story, you get bored writing it, they say.  You don't leave any room for the magic to happen! You are not as creative as we are!  

Okay, okay, maybe they don't say that last bit.  But they think it.  

Anyway.

I am a plotter because I've wasted way too much time trying to make books come together that I haven't thought out.  I'm a plotter because if I know where I'm going when I open a file to write, I get way more done than if I don't.  I'm a plotter because I know that even having a loose outline to follow still allows for the creative magic (the walk-on character, the unexpected plot twist) to happen.

And since I am a plotter, I am also a parser.  Even if you are a pantser, you are likely a bit of a parser, too.  Allow me to explain myself. By parsing, I mean figuring out all the shit that goes into a story.  And let me tell you, in a novel, there is a lot of it.  Which means a lot of parsing.  At least for me.

I am not the kind of writer who sits down, does an outline, then follows it.  I sit down, do an outline, write some, realize the outline doesn't work, parse, and then rinse and repeat.  And also, there is parsing a plenty when it comes to figuring out that outline.

Parsing

So, this is an article about parsing.  Because, it occurred to me while talking to a client the other day that there are three kinds of parsing.  (Maybe even more, but these are the ones I have identified.)

You may prefer to thin while parsing.  You may prefer to write while parsing.  Or you may prefer to talk while parsing.  Let's look at each style:

Writing parsing.  This is what I like to do, and what makes the most sense to me.  Writers write, right? I'm a champion writing parsing.  I feel spirals and journals with notes on my WIP and have tons of files saved on the computer as well.  I think through my fingers (to the point that if I'm to retain information, I need to take notes) and so this kind of figuring out works well for me.

Talking parsing.  This kind of parsing can happen in a critique group, with a writing coach or teacher, your agent or editor, or with a trusted family member or friend.  It can be incredibly helpful to brainstorm out loud and throw around ideas for your story in these situations.  And, a note of caution: I find this works best after you've gotten some notes and ideas, and maybe even some scenes, down on paper.  Because I've also had the experience of talking the story out before its time.

Thinking parsing.  Thinking is one of the most underrated of activities for writers.  Sometimes you just need to have a good think.  You need to ponder how things go together, what happened to a character to make her so cranky, or what's going to happen next in the story.  

Probably all writers utilize all these methods at various times, but most will also lean toward one, as I do.  Knowing which you are most comfortable with will help you move forward on your WIP because you won't be spinning your wheels trying to make notes if what you really need to do is put your feet up and think.

So, which are you?  A writer, a thinker, or a talker?

 Photo by jurvetson.


Link Round-up: Writing the Novel

While I'm teaching writing in Europe, I'm mining my eight years of articles on writing for you.  Once a week I'm posting a link round-up on a certain subject.  I'll also re-post an oldie but goodie in full on a different day. And I've got a couple of new posts scheduled for you as well. 

Today's topic is writing the novel.  Scroll down for tons of links!

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Not sure what exactly is going on in this photo besides the writing. Are you?

 

Starting & Prep

 

Finding the First Line of Your Novel

A Novel-Writing Vision Board

Tips on Writing: Prepping For the Novel, Part One: Tools

Tips on Writing: Prepping For the Novel, Part Two--The Ideas and the Process

Tips on Writing: Prepping For the Novel, Part Three: Character

Tips on Writing: Prepping For the Novel, Part Four: Story

 

The Long-haul (or, Sticking With It)

 

Making the Magic Happen: Committing to a Writing Schedule

Fast-Drafting Fiction (Or Any Other Kind of Writing)

Never Underestimate the Power of a Writing Prompt

Willingness: The Mindset for Writing a Novel

Writing Every Morning

 

Character

 

Characters at Cross Purposes

7 Ways to Get to Know Your Characters

9 Ways to Create Characters Readers Will Identify With

Creating Characters: Compassion and Conflict

The Ordinary Day

 

Setting

 

Building Your Fictional World

The Power of Place

Location, location, location

 

Structure

 

Overcoming Flat Scenes: Rising and Falling Action

Story Structure 

The Value of (Groan) Structure

Saturday Writing Tip: Scenes

 

Okay, that ought to keep you busy for awhile.  And remember, I'm teaching my novel writing class this fall, starting in October, if this has whetted your whistle for the process. 

Next link round-up is a week from today, Tuesday, September 8, on journaling!

 


While She Was Out

PrintshopI grew up partially in my Dad's printing plant.  One of the many things I loved about that was hanging out in the front office, which was cleaner and more organized than the rest of the shop, but not by much.  And one of the best things about the office was the office supplies.  I particularly loved the pads of paper headlined "While You Were Out" with handy pre-printed lines to write the message on. I LOVED those pads.  

Alas, they did not survive.  But check out the photo to the left of some simple scratch pads that did. The business itself did not survive the onset on computerized printing in the eighties, and went bankrupt.  Tough times.  But I digress.

Because the point is that I will be out.  Overseas. Across the pond. Gone fishing.  Whatever.  It is time for the annual Let's Go Write workshop in France, this year in Collioure.  Last year, I think I actually managed to post once or twice, but maybe I just made that up.  It might well happen this year, too.  

But I have also made provisions for while I am out.  I have lined up a couple of fun oldie but goodie posts from the archives, written and scheduled a couple of new ones, and also created a couple of link posts that I think you'll like, drawing on the eight years of content (and 1266 posts) from this blog. So there you have it.  All will not be lost.  There will be a dim shadow of a Charlotte here.

But, alas, I've put the Inventive Writing Prompt blog and weekly posts on hiatus until I get back. But don't despair.  As of this writing, there are 392 prompts there, so that ought to keep you busy for awhile.

One more thing--don't forget that my Get Your Novel Written Now class starts in October, and I've extended the early bird registration until I get back so go SIGN UP NOW.


Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #55

It is Saturday! Time for my weekly prompt round-up, with prompts taken from my Tumblr blog.  Pay special attention to this one, because I'm taking a brief hiatus from these posts for the duration of my time in Europe.  But there's almost 400 prompts on the Tumblr blog, so head over there if you need a hit of writing inspiration.

#386 Does your character like to dress up?  Do you?

#387  What is the one thing your character will not tolerate, the thing that is a deal-breaker for her or him?

#388  Try something new.

#389  When the smoke cleared, what they saw was…..

#389 When I was a teenager, my best friend told me of her habit of fantasizing elaborate scenarios wherein she was stuck in a cabin in a blizzard with a dashing man.  We started calling our daydreaming bouts “blizzardizing.” Does your main character blizzardize?  What about?

(Yes, I know there are two #389s.  Its because I like that number so much.  Not because I'm a dork who can't count.  Really.)

#390 When he looked outside, all he saw was a sea of _______________________.

#391  Use the word cheese, red car, and curtain in a sentence. Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#392  Wishing and praying doesn’t make it so, but ___________________ does.

#393  And then they came to the end....or was it?

Happy writing, everyone!  

 


5 Things on Friday: Feeling Frazzled Edition

Paris-parigi-eiffelturm-1577018-lWhy I'm Frazzled: BECAUSE I'M LEAVING FOR EUROPE ON TUESDAY. That's why.

What I'm Reading: Same thing I was reading last week, The Surrender Experiment, by Michael Singer.  I'm about 10 pages from the end, and was going to finish it at lunchtime but then the phone rang and I got distracted.  But, for your curiousity pleasure, here is a list of books I've downloaded to take with me:

The Last Time I Was Me, by Cathy Lamb

My Very Best Friend, by Cathy Lamb

(She's a Portland author and when I learned from a friend at church that she had stayed up until 4 in the morning reading Lamb's most recent book, I decided to check her out.)

Splinters of Light, by Rachael Herron (love her!

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (love me a good science fiction read every so often and this one is loooong--great to take on a long flight)

There's no way I'll get all of those read, especially because last year on the way home from Paris I discovered that watching movies back to back makes the time pass really quickly, and when I'm traveling I don't read as much.  But I like to be prepared.  Because, what if the Iceland volcano blows and we're stuck in Europe? (We should be so lucky.) I will need books to read.

What I Have Left to Do Before I Leave: Host one family dinner, engage in a board of directors bonding outing, attend one birthday party, finish reading one manuscript, exchange one cardigan, write two newsletters, get my hair cut, and pack.  That's not so bad, is it?  Is it?

What I Love This Week: My new phone.  The Samsung Galaxy S4 Note.  It has a stylus!  A freaking stylus!  I went to the AT&T store on Saturday and ordered it.  (Wasn't in stock, small store.) Had great service there.  Went to a different AT&T store on Wednesday where they could do a data transfer and had, um, shall we way, interesting service.  As in, all the worker people telling me, "You're switching from an Iphone to a Galaxy? Girl! You're going to be back in here telling us you want your Iphone back."  Also telling me I have way too many contacts (Is 323 really that many? I didn't think so, either.) And so on.  Hear me now: I WILL NOT BE IN THERE TO SWITCH BACK. Because I'm stubborn that way.  And because I love my new phone.

What Will Happen to This Blog While I'm Gone: Read my post Monday to find out.

Happy weekend! What are you doing this weekend?  Something fun?

Photo by al lannin.