Writing With A Net

When it comes to plotter versus pantser, I prefer to wear pants. I know that comes as a great relief to anyone who likes to visualize authors hard at work. –I mean, people like to imagine authors as creative and spontaneous. What did you think I meant?

Anyway, the problem with writing without an outline is that it only works if one’s subconscious has a certain amount of logic going for it OR if one is writing something in which the story can descend into chaos and still be acceptable. If anyone knows of a market for that, please let me know, because I could make a fortune.

I plot under compulsion. I would SO much rather just sit down and write whatever situations and dialog come to me, throwing in new characters and complications at random. Maybe I should write serials or soap operas.

Or blog posts.

Yes, there IS a point to all this. ~rummages around~ Yes, here it is:

If you have difficulty finishing your writing projects, think seriously and clearly about why. “I just can’t seem to do it,” is NOT an acceptable answer. “I don’t seem to have time,” is NOT acceptable. “Another idea comes up and I get distracted,” is NOT acceptable. People finish bigger projects under more difficult circumstances. “I guess I’m just not good enough,” is WAY not acceptable! “Not good enough” is a decision, not a reality.

Me, I figured out a long time ago that the reason I wasn’t finishing projects I enjoyed was that I needed to do some plotting. Driving around at random might be fun, and you might meet a lot of cool people and see a lot of cool sights, and you might decide you don’t ever have to say, “Okay, I’ve reached my destination” because the journey is the destination– Okay, bad example.

A narrative is an exercise in shaping a part of experience into a logical, self-contained, meaningful, cause-and-effect storyline. When we tell somebody about something that happened to us, we decide where to start and where to end and what details to include. “Julia called me on Monday and wanted to go to that new restaurant.” Opening. “So I said sure, but then Raoul called and wanted to meet me for lunch the same day.” Complication. “We had been fighting, so I didn’t want to say no, but I hadn’t seen Julia in forEVver and I didn’t have her cell phone number and she’d already left.” Dilemma, complication, conflict. “So I told him I’d meet him at that same restaurant.” First plot point.

After this, there are so many ways the story could go and so many styles in which it could be told, if you were making it up (which I am), you would have to start making decisions or the story would collapse under the weight of possibilities.

This is the spot at which I want to quit and start something new and shiny. This is why I plot. This is the part I hate. Because this is the point at which all the bright possibilities have to fly away and be somebody else’s darlings and I have to choose one for my own (well, maybe with a couple more on the side, in case the first one doesn’t work out). How did this technical post turn into a daydream about Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and Adam Baldwin? And Nathan Fillion? And Mark Harmon?

I’m starting NaNoWriMo tomorrow, and I don’t exactly have an outline, but I do have a three-sentence framework, a basic plotline and some subplots. I still have today to give myself some handholds. Here’s hoping I don’t lose my grip.

WRITING PROMPT: Write three possible outcomes to the restaurant story I began above.


p.s. Boo!


I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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