- Contemporary wisdom tells us that there are two approaches to writing fiction: the plotter and the pantster. The plotter makes meticulous notes before beginning a story. The pantster (flying by the seat of their pants) makes it up as they go along. This divisive categorisation is little more than horseshit and I know writers who use both approaches for different types of work. I also know writers who use a blend with some plotter-esque note-making to begin, and then a lot of pantster making-it-up-as-they-go-along stuff before the conclusion. Don’t pigeonhole yourself as plotter or pantster: just do whatever works for that project.
- When you are plotting, start off with broad brush strokes. What’s the genre? What’s the story for the hero? How does the main character get from start to finish? Deal with these ‘big’ areas first and finesse your way to the more detailed and nuanced areas.
- Don’t lose sight of reader needs: If you’re writing a horror story, your readers want to be horrified. If you’re writing erotic fiction, your readers want to be aroused. Whether it’s a thriller or a romance, your readers will want to be thrilled or romanced, respectively. Plot for these elements to occur and incorporate them as part of your story’s structure.
- Don’t overplot – this can sometimes lead to a feeling of ‘why bother?’ amongst writers when they realise they know how a story will conclude. What’s the point of working your way to the end when you know how it’s going to finish? Leave a little mystery so you’ve got your own interest in the project.
- Don’t rely too much on pantsing. Pantsing works fine for many authors but it can also lead others down a blind alley where the story is jest reacting to its own content and not telling the story you’d originally wanted to convey.
It’s a fine line between point 4 and point 5, but it’s worth keeping it in mind if you want your longer-form project to be a success from its inception to its completion.