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Monday, August 31, 2009

What Kind of Plotter are You?

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

There are many different plotting styles. The detailed plotter, plans the story from beginning to end, outlining every scene with a goal, motivation, conflict and has each plot twist charted before writing the story. Some writers write a basic 3-5 page synopsis, while others write a chapter-by-chapter outline. Other authors use the index card method to record facts, plot twists, and rearrange them as needed when they begin developing the story. Seat of the pants writers make up the story as they go. They sit in the chair and just write. Chart plotters, answer questions, regarding character style sheets, and plot questions and fill out organized charts before they write.

Me? I've tried every method except the index-card method. I started out writing as the seat of the pants writer and converted to the Chart/synopsis plotter. I like beginning with my characterization chart. I need to know my characters before I can build a plot. Then I need to know the basic story line so I begin with a title and a TV script sentence. I expand that sentence into a paragraph like a back cover blurb story. From there, I write a 3-5 page synopsis. At his point, I can usually write the story, or at least the first three chapters and get the proposal off to my agent. If I build a chapter by chapter outline, I write 3-5 sentences for each chapter outlining the main plot points and twists for each each scene. I try not to be too detailed so I can allow enough room for creativity as I write.

I've read several books on writing and how to write fiction, but no source has proved to be a better teacher than trial and error. Sometimes it's necessary to learn by doing. Through my 10+ years before earning my contract on Highland Blessings, I've finally developed a style that works for me. Once you've completed a few novels, you'll have a sense of confidence--a routine of writing--that comes with experience. Highland Blessings was written by a panster, but it was revised and revised by a plotter.

By the time we reach the revision stage, the outline draft is done. At this point, we all become plotters in a sense, as we revise. We have ideas, notes, scene drafts and we rewrite from there.

If you are a writer, what kind of plotter are you? If you are a reader, I'm sure you've written papers for high school and college. What kind of plotter are you?


I used to be half & half. I'd seat-of-the-pants the first half and then plot out the second with a bullet-point outline of the scenes waiting in my head. These days, I discovered it's much easier to stick to my word count if I plot from the get-go. So I'll write a 2-3 page summary . . . usually with bullet points at the end of twists and snippets as I come up with them.

Thank you for leaving a message on my blog...I am glad I found you. I am so excited to explore your blog and books more.

I usually start writing, then begin plotting once those first few pages are complete and I get a feel for the characters, I begin plotting. I just have to get that first little bit down!

Hi, Jennifer!

I usually have one or two major events that happen within the story and try to get an idea of one thing that will happen in each chapter. Often that doesn't happen. I'd love to have a detailed idea of where my stories are going, but that is not now they come to me!

I too was a panster recently converted to the heavy duty outline. I need a target, it's plain and simple. :)

I usually start out with a vague story line. I take my characters, fill in their info and then decide the conflict my main character is facing that drives the plot. As I get into the story, I eventually go on to write a brief, fast outline of what's going to happen. It almost always changes, but having that "structure" there helps me as I work.


I approach writing as much as I do design, (my other job), and I like to start with a blueprint/outline. I do better when I have a plan in mind. But, that doesn't mean that I'm not flexible. I am open to my characters taking me places I didn't expect to go. Good post.

It looks like we all have a little bit of the plotter in us. It's interesting to learn how different we all approach our writing and the various stages we've been through. Thanks for sharing!