Plotting J.K. Rowling style

When it comes to writing a first draft, I am an all-out pantser.  (Heh.  This word never fails to remind me of the good ol' days in junior high when it was super funny to yank your friends PE shorts down to their ankles. So popular, in fact, that I wore spandex shorts under everything, PE class or not, just in case.)

For those of you wondering what writing has to do with humiliation I'd rather forget (*cough*, I mean, that never happened to me), there are two types of first draft writers: plotters and pantsers.

Plotters have an outline, know where their story is going, what will happen, how it will end, how many chapters it will take, and probably have their bank account number memorized. 

Pantsers fly by the seat of their...pants.  Their first draft is a journey into the dark, wild unknown.  Who knows where this is going?  Let's watch and see!

As proven by the files on my computer named "The Songwriter Outline", "The Songwriter New Outline" and "The Songwriter New Outline (Revised)", all of which are miles from where my story actually ended up, I'm not a plotter.  (Although, I do have my bank account number memorized.)

When my crit partner first suggested that we exchange first chapters, I was like, "Oh, yeah!  Let me just...*scroll scroll scroll* find a good place to...*scrooool* end 'Chapter One'."  *furiously typing "Chapter One" at the beginnning*

Revising, for me, has been a different story.  I had to have some kind of plan.  I've found one I love, and it's only half because it's J.K. Rowling's personal method.  Check this out:

Neato, huh?

Wait, what?  You don't see how this tiny copy of a sheet of looseleaf is the key to your revising woes?  Oh.  Go here for the full explanation.  I'll sum up.

J.K. Rowling breaks down her novel by chapters.  She lists the number and title of the chapter, when (in her case, during the schoolyear) the chapter takes place and then what is happening in the chapter.  She breaks this down even further, listing the main plot and each subplot and how they weave into each chapter.  So, so nifty.

So, I did the same to mine.  I was excited, first of all, to discover that I did, indeed, have subplots!  And places to break into chapters!  That's a good start.  But breaking down my story like this is really helping me to keep things on track, to find ways to plant little crumbs in my reader's way so that when something is revealed they'll flip back a couple chapters and see how that little tiny bit of info was actually put there to BLOW THEIR MIND.  Good stuff.

For a hardcore pantser like me (don't even get me started on the war my brother and I had that ended in near tears after an incident when I was chasing him up the stairs, after which my mom put an abrupt stop to our shenanigans), this method is super helpful.  So, give it a look.  I mean, it was good enough for J.K. Rowling, right?

What methods do you use when you revise?


Luanne Hardy said...

I don't write=I don't revise. I assume, though, that I would not be a panster, I'm too... must know where my story ends...y.

mooderino said...

very interesting post, hadn't seen the Rowling method before. Personally I use software with a virtual corkboard you can place virtual index cards on and move around (it's called Writer's Cafe, but I think there's other progs that have similar features).

That way you can colour code stuff, switch them around/get rid of them as you edit and also you get to feel all futuristic and 21st century too.

Anyway, off to my pod to have some space breakfast.


A.B. Fenner said...

Oh my! I hadn't seen the Rowling thing yet, either. Very cool! I love that idea. Might have to try it for my WIP...

Right now, my method consists of knowing the high points in the novel -- i.e. the major scenes that need to happen, and the plot points that occur during said scenes. Then I get from one scene to another by the seat of my pants. So it's a half-pants, half-plan method, I suppose.

Juliemybird said...

I am a pantser masquerading as a plotter. I try to plot, I really do. But I get swept away pretty easily, and go all sorts of weird places. And then I find that my ramblings are better than what I'd plotted. So, it messes up my plans... does this sound strangely familiar to you? Ha.
I may have to employ the Rowling method. Anything to organize this happy mess.

Anonymous said...

ugh I can't remember his name right now; but his advice was to take printing paper, cut in half, and write down whatever ideas come to his head from major plot points to small details, each get their own slip so they can be moved around. After that he sorts all the slips into folders, which helps with chapter splits without losing the "pantser" feel of writing. it's kind of like mooderino's corkboard. i admire pantser writers though, i think it would make things more fun but i get too overwhelmed :-(

Sarahie said...

I don't revise because I'm not really a writer...but, I am wondering where you got that picture? Did you steal J.K. Rowling's notebook? And, did you say hi to her for me when you were that close to her? And also, the image of you and Fatty and the stairs made me giggle. And also, it's late and I'm tired. Can you tell? =) Love ya!

Tracy said...

I'm a recovering pantser. While I doubt I'll ever be a true out-and-out planner (do not even think of asking me to do a character outline or questionare), I realize how long it takes me on the revision side when I have to go back, cut so many useless scenes and fill them with newly written scenes that move the story along.

I'm still trying to find a mid-way point that will give me the structure I need without sucking all the life out of my creativity each day. Maybe JK will help.

Julie Musil said...

J.K.'s plot page is amazing! I plot loosely when writing my first draft, and then tidy it up in revision. So far, it's working for me.

HowLynnTime said...

I do not plot in any way - I can tell I am trying - because it's alway where things go wrong. I have to go back - see where I tried to Make it do something cut and start from there. I have an FBI file on every character - and a start - theme - end. How it gets there I have no idea - but it does every time - maybe I plot in my head but if i try to organise it ahead then I will make a huge mess of it. I tend to go back after it's done and make a chart.

Anime said...

I think I may have just found a way to actually get me to plot. *raises hand as a fellow pantser* This would be SO helpful since I also have files titled "Outline 1", "Outline 2", and "Outline 2-revised". LOL *also has bank account memorized*

And you get a thousand kudo points for using a Rowling method. *bows before her feet because I worship her*