The Reform of a Plantser

I’m late to post today, because I’ve been plotting. *Insert wicked cackle here*

For weeks–well, truth be told, just about the entire summer–I’ve been stuck. Every time I open up WriteWay Pro to write, absolutely nothing comes. I have two stories halfway done, but they are both a hot mess.  Weak conflict, boring characters, yadda yadda. Now this has happened with every single book. I get to the middle and wham! No idea what to write next. I know how I want it to end, but I just can’t get it there. With the first two books, I did finally break through, but these two, not so much.

I finally decided to put them aside and work on something else for awhile, inspired by two things: one, the agent I pitched at RWA Nationals, who told me that the story I pitched (one of the hot messes above) would never sell; and two, the story idea I mentioned to her would be of interest, assuming I actually started to write it.

But I knew that this time my hybrid plantser style would never work. If I was going to sit down and write a book straight through, past “the dreaded middles,” I was going to have to learn to plot. *shudder* So I bought and read Blake Snyder‘s Save the Cat. I had halfheartedly browsed it before, even had a partially-finished beat sheet for my third book. But I didn’t really take it to heart until I read it all the way through, and finally understood what his beats actually meant. (Insert “duh” here.) So I roughed out a beat sheet for the new book, and it started to take shape, until I got to–yes, you guessed it–the middle.

Another week went by while I puzzled over this. I started to do some historical research, and as I hoped, it got the juices flowing, but I still had the middles problem. What was going to happen to these two people? For the past two days I have been digging through story tropes and story generators, and randomly Googling words that had to do with plots and story structures. Finally, today I found Jami Gold’s website, where she has tons of incredibly helpful posts for writers. Reading them, and then re-reading a few things in Save the Cat, was the final push I needed to figure out the middle, and voila, I now have a completed beat sheet for the next book. I wish I could thank Blake Snyder, but fortunately I can thank Jami. Thanks, Jami!  🙂

And now, I’m off to get some words on the page, but if you’re a writer, I hope you’ll feel free to share your thoughts on getting past those middles. What resources do you find helpful?


16 Replies to “The Reform of a Plantser”

  1. I love the Beat Sheet. That’s really the only part of Blake’s book that I use for every book, but it’s been so helpful in figuring out if I have enough of a story for a complete book. Glad you found it. Now I’m off to check out Jami Gold’s site. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Becky! It really is a wonderful tool for planning a story, and seeing the holes. 🙂

  2. I’ve heard so much about that book, but I have to admit I don’t have it yet. Looks like I need to correct that oversight. Enjoyed the post, Marin.

    1. I’ve never used the W; I’ll have to check it out. I do like Candy Haven’s plot arc, though. 🙂

  3. I found plotting never worked for me. I get into the story and find those ideas just didn’t work. I tend to think of scenes and work those in or discard during the writing of the story. For my first mystery I went through several characters for the murderer until I found the right one.

    1. Oh, my characters waver from their intended course too, but I get stuck when they go too far afield–we’ll see if I can keep them on the path in this next book. 🙂 I always wondered that about mysteries–if the writer always (or usually) knows the culprit when they start the book!

  4. Hope your new strategy continues to work for you. I’ll have to look into that book you referenced. I’m a hopeless pantser (that’s how I’ve usually heard it referred to; you write “by the seat of your pants”), but I do have my tough moments myself. One of my favorite quotes is, “Every book has a beginning, and end and a muddle!” But I did read about an interesting strategy I’m going to use next time I start a book. You simply write down the things the keep your hero and heroine apart.

    1. Interesting strategy, Mary! I will definitely consider that. I call myself a plantser because I always do a bit of plotting, rather than flying completely by the seat of my pants, but even that hasn’t been working for me. I am pleased to report that I have been making great strides with the Save the Cat method–I’m 5000 words in to the WIP. 🙂

    1. We are kindred spirits, Susabelle. 🙂 I hope that Save the Cat gives you a couple strategies to help work through those middles!

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