TBR Tuesday: What Plotting a Novel Really Looks Like

Late posting today–it’s been meeting after meeting after meeting, and according to my Vivofit, I slept 2.25 hours last night. BUT I came across this tucked underneath some TBR books–one or two of which I’m giving away today to a commenter, by the way.

So, in the writing world, there are plotters, there are pantsers, and there are hybrids. Plotters work out every detail of their book before they start writing; pantsers write by the seat of their pants, beginning with a rough idea and seeing where it takes them; hybrids do a loose plot so they don’t wander too far afield yet still have room to let their subconscious take over and take their characters into unplanned realms.

I’m a hybrid that leans toward the plotter side of the thing. Usually, the “big idea” comes first–a vaccine makes blood poisonous to vampires, a hurricane tears down the borders between worlds. THEN I find the characters to play out that “big idea.”

Every once in a while, though, especially in a series, the characters come before the big idea. New people come and go in the Sentinels and Penton books, but there are some mainstays that take a lot of work to avoid becoming stale.

Some authors plot on index cards or post it notes that they can rearrange on a wall or a corkboard. Others, like me, prefer the electronic route and plot by computer.

Except I don’t, really. When I do my most serious plotting is in the car, where I’m in traffic and have nothing on which to write. Or in a store while I’m shopping. Or when I’m downstairs watching TV or cooking dinner. The more I write, the more intrusive I find the computer in the plotting process. My Freudian analysis of this is that by removing myself from the keyboard, where I can really and truly type at a rate of 125 words per minute and blither endlessly about nothing, I force myself to slow down and actually think.

THINKING=PLOTTING. What a novel concept.

Anyway, here’s what I found, my thinking/plotting from Allegiance.

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Yes, that is, I believe, a bit of junk mail–a solicitation for a magazine subscription. It’s all I could find to write on. I pulled it out of my floorboard while stopped at a red light and
scribbled as I drove.

Is plotting while driving a bigger offense than texting while driving?

What kind of plotter do you think you would be if you were (or are) a writer? Any questions you’d like to ask about the plotting process? Leave a comment to be entered for a couple of TBR books!

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

28 thoughts on “TBR Tuesday: What Plotting a Novel Really Looks Like

  1. I think I’d be a plotter, I like to think things all the way thru up front. Works most of the time. No zombies, explosions, yes.

    • That’s what I do, Sandy. I plot it with just enough rope for my characters to get themselves tangled in it. One of the magical things about writing is how the subconscious conspires with characters to do thinks you haven’t planned on!

  2. hybrid i think… i do have an idea then i start writing as it comes or as my dream inspire ( but all on paper ^^, computer is not my friend for writting)

    • I like paper (or envelopes, LOL) for dreaming and trying out ideas, but I need the keyboard for writing–I guess because I’ve been doing it so long and I type really fast so my fingers can keep up with my brain…usually 🙂

  3. Probably a hybrid. If your cell phone allows you to speak reminders, maybe you could use that while you are driving instead of scrabbling for a piece of paper.

    • LOL. My cell phone and my car are both smarter than me, and are synced together. When my phone rings, it turns off the music and puts the call through my speakers–and I can answer by pushing a button on the steering wheel…which I missed last time and turned on cruise control instead. God only knows what would happen if I hit microphone. I might try it (when I’m sitting safely in my driveway).

  4. I can only imagine I would have to plot like crazy to be a writer. I tend to become distracted and diverted enough now as a non-writer. Just imagine what I’d be making my characters do if I left them to their own devices.

  5. I don’t think I’d be a very good plotter, whenever I write anything, I just go with the flow and see where I end up. 😀

    • I have quite a few author friends who write exactly that way. The only problem with doing it that way is that you end up having to revise more, which means you write more slowly, which means deadlines….it’s a downward spiral!

      • I agree. I tend toward being a pantser but have gotten stuck too many times and ended up starting over. So, I’ve taken plotting classes and I’m working on learning to plot. I’m writing more hybrid this time and with the major plot points in place I can see when I’m moving to far off on a tangent in the story line.

        I’m looking forward to taking your Plotting 101 class.

  6. I don’t think I would ever be able to be an author, because I don’t have a very good imagination. But if I were a writer, I would probably be a plotter. It was very interesting to learn how you plot your books. Thanks for sharing.

    • Every writer comes up with her or her own system. I developed my basic system when I wrote REDEMPTION without a plot and ended up having to write the whole thing over. Now that I’ve learned the rhythm of a novel, I am not as rigid. Although I’m having trouble with the current book so maybe I need to go back to basics!

  7. I don’t think I could ever be a writer I’m not creative at all.. Now a reader I can do that 🙂

  8. I believe that I would be a hybrid. My plotting would only work to a point and then characters would likely take it and run or turn back around and stare at me with a “What were you thinking???” expression.

  9. I’m a plotter with some hybrid tendencies. That is, I come up with a solid-ish plot (it’s outlined to the scene level, but fairly vague within the scene), but I’m not afraid to throw out a scene or add another or whatever if it’s not working.

    And I tend to have my best plotting breakthroughs in the… (cliche incoming!)…shower.

    Which is great, because there’s REALLY nothing to write on.