The Plotter vs. Pantser debate continues… I’ve invited Sharon Ledwith, author of the Last Timekeepers Time Travel series and the upcoming Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls series, both for teens. Sharon is a planner, unlike me, so here’s her take:
Here’s the deal. As a writer, I used to struggle with the question of whether I’m a plotter or a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) when it comes to writing a novel. Truth be told, I’m a little of both, but after much contemplation, I find I veer toward being a plotter. Wait…correction, after writing six complete novels, I’ve evolved and discovered the outlining process that works best for me—a STORYBOARD.
Yup. Those large, cork bulletin boards Disney used to use when creating an animated feature movie. I’m a visual person, so I like to look at the board filled with a printed plan, mark it up with highlight pens, and chart my way through my novel. I’m also not shy on using plenty of Post-it® notes when an idea or concept pops into my mind that will make a scene or chapter better and stronger.
I find using a storyboard to plan a novel is less stressful, and I get a cleaner first draft at the end. Since I’m writing two book series (The Last Timekeepers and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls), it helps to get all my ducks in a row by knowing where all my characters are heading, and who is the point-of-view character in each book. I do this by using CHARACTER TRACKING SHEETS which logs everything about a character like the color of his or her hair and eyes to what clothes they’re wearing to their talents, wants, and signatures. I place these sheets in a series binder for safe keeping and a quick reference. Like I said, I love visuals! Now before I get right into plotting out my novel chapter by chapter, there’s a little thing called RESEARCH that I must do to give my story a sense of integrity and value. That’s when all those ‘what ifs’ start to bubble in my imagination, and solidify the story.
Once most of the research is done, I begin by creating an outline document with the NAME of the NOVEL, then state the WORKING PITCH (that’s the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what’s at stake’), PREMISE, and SETTING in that order. Next, I write out my MAIN CHARACTERS (beginning with who’s telling the story), the age of each character in the book (they get older as the series unfolds), and maybe an update about them. Then, I write out a list of the GUEST CHARACTERS and include their roles in the story. I follow this information with a bullet list of PROBLEMS, COMPLICATIONS, OBSTACLES, and CHALLENGES the point-of-view character must face that will bring his or her out of their comfort zone, make them suffer, learn a valuable lesson in the process, and grow from the experience.
And then comes the PLOT, broken down into CHAPTERS, with a blurb on what occurs in each chapter. It’s like a road map for me, following the twists and turns, peaks and valleys, that takes my point-of-view character on a scary-wonderful ride through words. I number and name each chapter which helps me keep on track of the story structure and build scenes. Of course nothing is written in stone, that’s why I use those Post-it® notes, and scribble down the sides of my outline if the MUSE inside directs me toward a better direction and destination.
This way of planning a novel is a fairly new process for me, but I’ve found that it keeps me organized and disciplined as a writer. Many authors I know use other methods to outline their novels, so I urge you to experiment with different ways of plotting to help you build a better book. If you think you’re more of a pantser than a plotter, check out this post HERE and see if it resonates with you. If you’re an author, what ways do you plan your story? Would love to read your comments. Cheers and thank you for reading this post! Happy novel planning!
Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.
Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.
BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE