Quick-Tip Tuesday: Lessons From a Concert

A little over a week ago, I saw Edgar Meyer in concert. Edgar Meyer, for those of you who don’t know, plays double bass, the HUGE acoustic bass that you see in jazz bands and classical symphonies. And saying that Meyer “plays bass” is bit like saying that Willie Mays “played baseball.” Meyer is a virtuoso, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and someone who has excelled in classical, folk, bluegrass, and jazz circles. You might know him from the Appalachian Waltz and Appalachian Journey recordings he did with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor.

This was a solo concert. He opened with the Bach Suite for Solo Cello no. 1, which he adapted for double bass. Brilliant. Then he played a work in progress — a concerto he’s composing. He had the first and third movements just about complete, but he was still working on the middle of the […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Finding Balance Between Plotting and Pantsing

Whether to outline or whether to just write the story — put another way, to plot or to pants.

This is an ongoing discussion among writers, one that we’ve discussed here in the past. It’s actually more relevant for me right now than you might know. I’m well into a novel — I’ve written more than 100,000 words on it already — that I did NOT outline. And now I find myself struggling with the plotting as the book approaches its climax.

So, I must be about to give you a sermon on the virtues of plotting and the evils of pantsing, right?

Well, not entirely. The truth is, while I’m scuffling a bit right now, writing the novel has been fun. Because I haven’t been working from an outline, the discovery of each new plot point has come as something of an epiphany. I’ve been experiencing the story as […]

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The Creative Flexibility of…Plotting & Outlining?

Please welcome back our special guest, Josh Vogt! Writer. Freelancer. Unashamed geek. Josh splits his time between dreaming up new worlds and forms of magic and providing marketing/sales copy for clients. And best of all, author of Enter the Janitor!

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When I’m doing panels or workshops for writers, I always like to ask how many in the room are plotters or pantsers. The response often varies from a bunch of raised hands and eager nods to totally blank stares. Plotters, of course, being those who like outlines and character sheets and maybe even making up a whole new language complete with alien grammar (no, I haven’t…yet). And pantsers refusing to write while wearing any pants, of course.

Ahem.

I quickly learned in my early years as an aspiring writer that I was bent to be a hardcore plotter and outliner. If I tried to wing a story from the […]

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David B. Coe: The Plotter Pantses

I’m a plotter, and I have been for most of my career. I don’t outline every detail of my books. Far from it. I tend to write loose outlines that touch on the significant plot points of my narratives but leave the details — dialog, specific action, descriptions, etc. — to the moment when I’m actually writing. In other words, I’m a hybrid, as so many of us are: I plot a bit, but I also allow much of my writing to happen organically.

I think that my penchant for doing at least some outlining is, at least in part, an outgrowth of the kind of books I’ve written through my career. I started with big epic fantasies — multi-book story arcs, lots of sub-plots, lots of point of view characters. If I hadn’t outlined, I would have gone crazy trying to keep track of it all. And then I […]

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Beth Bernobich: Hello, Story

As I said in my last post, not all writing advice works for all writers. We each find the approach that works best for us, and for the project at hand. But! I do believe it’s useful to share our approaches with each other. Maybe we add a new technique to our writer toolkit. Maybe we try out this other technique and learn it doesn’t work for us.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is how I turn my ideas into stories.

Ideas. Those wispy scraps of “what if” that float through our brains. Most of my ideas are fragile things that never survive discovery. That death of the story can be quick, as quick as me noticing the idea, only to have it fade into nothing. Or I might jot down a few notes about a possible story, to find the story feels dead in my imagination. But […]

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Lara Morgan: Plot Wrangling and Highlighter Love . . .

One of the hardest things, for me, when writing a book is keeping the plot straight; by which I mean keeping track of it and making sure it makes sense. Which is probably why I always, and I mean always, wonder why I persist in writing series. And series with lots of characters with intersecting plot lines. The book I’ve got coming out now, Betrayal, is the second in my epic fantasy series, The Twins of Saranthium. It’s set in a world of deserts and jungles, and has a vast cast of characters, including ancient resurrected gods seeking to enslave an entire people, warring desert clans and serpent riders who have lost control of the beasts that once protected them. Plus of course the main characters, the twins, who must find a way to stop it all. It is also the middle book in the trilogy and gave me more […]

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On Outlining and Not

I can’t decide if I’m late or early on this post. The main problem is that I’m on the road with the family and time has become . . . fluid.

I want to talk to you about plotting. When I first started writing, I would create an outline. It wasn’t a really in-depth outline. It usually covered the beginning, the major plot points, and the ending. One thing to remember about plot is that it’s a causal sequence of events. Causal is important, because in my plotting, I’d know why a character did something and how that ended up creating the next plot point, and so on. So when plotting, I’d start with the characters and the world, and I’d stir up some trouble, and think how they dealt with that, and what that caused, and so on. I usually would have some sort of main event or problem […]

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