I recently took an online class on plotting. Plotting via Motivation by Laurie Schnebly, as a matter of fact. Brilliant instructor. I’d gift her with my first-born if he wasn’t a dirty mechanic with no social skills. If he didn’t think belching in public was a fine art. If he didn’t cut his own hair with the dog clippers. If …well, you get the hint.
I’ve always been a pantser, and quite thoroughly enjoyed being so. Set me in front of a blank word document and zoom! Off like a Maserati on race day. And then I come to the critical Chapter Four. And come to a screeching halt like a wasp hit by Aqua-Net.
Chapter Four is my downfall. My albatross. The black cat crossing my path. My broken mirror.
How does this happen?
It’s all that darn PLOT’s fault.
My characters are out there having charming witty conversation. They’re dressed well; hair is combed into place, lip gloss on. (the heroine’s not the hero’s) They might be dining, ball room dancing or fighting over the last egg roll. Then I type CHAPTER FOUR.
And they roll over and play dead.
I poke at them with a stick. C’mon, I say. Come out and play.
What if I give you a limo ride and some champagne? I wheedle.
I turn up the speakers on my computer, just in case I’m missing some small sound, some assent. Some clue.
Fine, I say. I’ll just carry on without you. And I bring out the killer of all writing programs. The big guns.
I crack my knuckles, twist my shoulders a few times like Muhammad Ali before the George Foreman fight, play a quick game of solitaire to get my mind muscles moving.
CHAPTER FOUR. I type it into the program.
‘A limo arrives at the front of their office and both Polly and Peter step inside, her silk dress sliding like silk on the leather seats.’
Backspace, delete, do not save.
The Write or Die screen starts to turn a violent shade of red. I shake it off. Ok, that was just a warm-up. Here we go with the real thing.
All right, we’re cooking with propane now. (I live on a farm in Iowa – it’s propane)
‘Polly slapped Peter across the face with her right hand. Slap! There. Take that, you monster. Take that! And with a huff, Polly stomped away in a huff.’
Stop program. Delete. No, I really don’t want to save it. Back off, buddy.
This situation obviously calls for more stringent measures. Vodka and/or chocolate. Putting the program on hold, I dash to the kitchen. Miniature brownies on a paper plate (we writers don’t have time to wash dishes you know) and a splash of vodka in a plastic glass with diet lemonade. (we writers like to keep our girlish figures)
Oh yes, now I feel the power. My figurative cape and tights are in place. Back off Chapter Four, here I come.
‘Peter and Polly sittin’ in a tree
First comes love, then comes marriage,
Then comes ….’
DELETE DELETE DELETE!!! DON’T SAVE! WHO INVENTED THIS DARN PROGRAM ANYWAYS! DIE! DIE! DIE!
So, my original point being, whether it’s flying into the mist, being a pantser or just writing willy-nilly on the Write or Die program, you still have to have some semblance of a plot.
And that’s where my plotting class and admiration/reverence/regard for Laurie Schnebly comes into play. Laurie walked me through sixteen chapters of a book, three scenes in each chapter. Including the thrice-damned CHAPTER FOUR. I have an outline, and yet I can still pants. I can still fly into the mist. I can for once, overcome my personal writers block.
Look out CHAPTER FOUR. I’m kicking butt and taking names.