Plotting the W-Plot Way

July 5, 2011

I’ve talked before about how I’m a pantser at heart. I write fast and strong off the cuff, but that doesn’t always mean I write worthwhile stuff.

After I quit my job in December 2009, I finished up a manuscript that I’d been writing off and on for 10 years, and then I wrote three single-title romances (90K+ words each) in six months. I think all three have merit. One of those manuscripts has made its rounds with my CP and is currently out on submission, but the other two are…well…not as good as I can produce now. Having recently completed a manuscript that required extensive rewriting has taught me I don’t want to do that again with an older manuscript unless I don’t have a choice.

Why the extensive rewrites? Because basically the story fell apart in the middle and went downhill from there. I had enough conflict late in the story to start WW3, and to make matters worse, it was contrived conflict. Not knowing how to correct the problems—in essence move forward while going back—I started researching plotting techniques, and that’s how I found the W-plot.

Basically the technique I use (Karen Docter) leaves me with a road map of the story I’m about to write. I have nine crucial plot points for the heroine, nine crucial plot points for the hero and nine crucial plot points
for the romance. Once I have these, I mash them all up, using color-coded Post-it notes, and when I have a sensible path for my story, I begin to write.

The biggest difference between plotting and pantsing? This way of plotting takes longer. I can’t imagine writing three single titles in six months. From past experience, it seems reasonable to expect that I can plot, write and edit a category-length title in about three months—two once I have the process down.

I know it’s not all about speed, but when I’m in this plotting place, eager to get into my writing groove, it can be hard to ignore the lure of pantsing. I just want to write…and yet I know if I dive in I’ll be drowning by the mid-point.

How about you? If you’re a plotter, I’d love to know what technique you use. Have you ever tried the W-plot? What did you think? And successful pantsers, I’m jealous. How do you write a good story without knowing where you’re going or losing your confidence? Or do you have some sort ofdirection? Or is not knowing part of the rush? Do tell!

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4 Responses to “Plotting the W-Plot Way”

  1. Joanne Robinson Says:

    mm a difficult one this.. I have a general idea where I am going .. But my H/h have a tricky way of having their own ideas, and nag at me. And oh how they can nag. Sometimes I ignore them Usually I realise what they are shouting at me is right. Hey, I have endowed them with strong personalities, can I help it if they then use them?
    I have therefore, a general plot, Key phrases in a notebook, what my characters are like and what drives them. And it isn’t always me.
    So plotting panster I would say.


  2. I try to keep my plotting loose enough to allow for the characters to drive the details, because I agree with you about how they can be very naggy–much like children. I see the big picture. I want them to move in a certain direction, but they have to live and learn on their own. 🙂


  3. I am a complete panster. I have a vague idea and it goes from there. Somehow it works out. I am almost at the end of my current wip, which was supposed to be an erotic short and will finish at about 48K I think. I re-read chapter one this week, as someone wanted to read it and I was bit gobsmacked that all the hints to the rest of the story were there then. I honestly had no idea where this plot would go, but I guess my characters must have known all along and just revealed it little by little.

    Never ceases to fascinate me…


    • “…and I was bit gobsmacked that all the hints to the rest of the story were there then.”

      Yes! I’ve had this happen before when I wasn’t plotting, and I was so shocked. It’s freaky really, like somehow my subconcious already knows the story.

      E

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