Part 2 of How to Plot Like a Pantser deals with how to plot scenes in a way that gives you as much creative freedom as possible. The reason why this is part 2 is because even when we have outlined our plot (Part 1) many things come to light as we write which enhances our story. Therefore, after the info dump stage you use your writing to tease out the finer points of detail before making the final revision to your plot (Part 3).
A scene is the part where you describe the action happening and the reader visualises it in their mind.
And a chapter is a collection of scenes which relate or flow on from one another.
Why Plot Scenes?
When you create your info dump plot document which details what happens in your plot you are not going through each scene with a fine tooth comb. You have written the skeleton of your story and by plotting the scene before you begin writing it helps you get your mind in the zone and nails down the finer points of detail. Not only this, but planning out your scenes helps you:
- figure out the structure of the scene: It can be difficult to know where to start- in the action, before the action or after the event. However, if you plan out your scene before you write it will help you decide how to start and how to finish.
- navigate difficult scenes to write: You know when you are writing a scene and you keep stopping because it is very difficult to write because it is either a technically complex battle scene, an emotional rollercoaster or the culmination of a psychological thriller? When you plot a scene like this, it has you thinking beforehand how everything should be arranged. For instance, I tried writing a battle scene without planning it out first and I felt like I was trudging through mud as I wrote it, so I stopped and planned it out. After I did this, writing the scene was a breeze.
- trim the fat, so you don't have to waste time writing something you will cut anyway: Sometimes after you have spent time writing a scene or a chapter by intuition you know that you will have to cut it. By planning out your scene beforehand you know what is relevant and what is not. You will be utilising your time in a productive way and not waste time on scenes you will ultimately cut.
- lessen procrastination: Procrastination comes when you feel overwhelmed by the task before you. Sometimes, a scene may prove to be too hard to write and you keep stopping as you feel unsure where to go. However, planning gives your writing a destination and you will not be trudging through mud for inspiration. If you want to see more about how outlining scenes decreases procrastination click here.
What Planning Will Not Do:
- Decrease creativity: Outlining your scene does not decrease or inhibit creativity, it is actually giving your inspiration focus to where it is truly needed.
- Takes the joy out of creation: Just because you have given yourself direction as to where it is going does not mean that everything is laid out before you and you are just mechanically writing it up. Everything the characters say, the way they move, what they wear, what the surroundings look, feel and smell like is up to you. You are still creating your own world. This is writing without a plan: Imagine you are with your friends for a fun night out on the town, but instead of pinpointing the place you want to go you all wander around the city trying to figure out what is best. Wouldn't it be better and more fun, if you just say where you wanted to go and just doing it?
- It takes too much time: It takes less time to do then sitting on your chair staring at the computer because you can't figure out what to write next or decide where it is going to go. Use the time productively before you start so you don't waste time when you should be writing.
- The scene will be too contrived: It will be contrived only if the plot goes where you want it to go. Be mindful of your characters and let the plot be driven by them.
"Outlining your scene does not decrease or inhibit creativity, it is actually giving your inspiration focus to where it is truly needed."
- I outline my scenes in the notebook I use to write down ideas for my current WIP. When I write it down onto paper, I retain the information better and it helps to have it beside you as you write the scene, instead of going back and forth between Word documents.
- I start with a title just to remind myself what scene I am writing, such as 'When K meets X' or 'Battle Scene in X'.
- Before I start writing I think about what may happen in the scene and where it should start. For instance, are my characters walking into town, or are they already in town? Sometimes you know where you want to start because you see it playing out in your mind and other times you don't. What I do is if I know what happens in the scene but don't know where to start I leave a page or a sufficient gap to come back and fill it in when I know how I want it to go.
- I write everything in dot points as this makes me write succinctly and give pointed detail. This is what allows you to write like a pantser because bullet points prevents you from going overboard with information. As you write you fill in the gaps which the bullet points prevent you from doing; such as how the place smells and what vibe is the other character giving yours.
- The main thing to remember is the outline is to give your scene direction. You do not need to include dialogue or what people are wearing unless you think it is important and you don't want to forget it.
Example of Outlining From My Own Notebook
- They come into the main town and meet with Gaius' contact. He is a small hotel owner who was married to Gaius' sister before she passed, his name is X.
- He never met the princess before, but a couple who stayed there briefly matched her description.
- He introduces them to a maid who acts as the couple's house keeper in the residence they live in outside of town. She tells them.....
This is exactly what I wrote in my notebook. It honestly is that easy to plan out your scene! You will see that it is very bare and only tells me what is going to happen. What the hotel looks like, where it is or what the maid is wearing is up to me when I write.
I hope this helps all you hesitant pansters understand that plotting is not the enemy and can actually act as a lightning rod to your creativity. Let me know what you think in the comments below!