I am stuck with plotting, but pantsing does not work either.

by Frank Parker

Question: First off sorry for any grammar / spelling mistakes. English is only my third language so a few might slip in here.

My question is the following:

I have tried to get a Novel written several times now with varying success. With pantsing it I managed to produce roughly 60k words and the plot became so convoluted and I lost track of things. I scrapped it.

I started over the same story this time trying to plot things out in advance. My problem with plotting now is that I want to follow a system that I can understand and comprehend.

I decided upon the 3 acts / 9 Blocks / 27 Chapters structure.

I started making notes and have a general handle on the story and what plot points I want in there. The goals are there, the stakes are there, the struggle is there all seems well but...

The problem that I am constantly shifting plot points around since for the life of me I can not gauge the scope of the plot points.

Things I planned to only take a scene take nearly a whole chapter at times and things I gave a hole block are in the end handled within a few sentences.

What makes this worse is that I "wasted" a whole month with plotting now have not written a single word of the actual story and get more and more frustrated.

I tried everything from notecards, to the snowflake method, mindmapping. I soaked up every writing tips that I could find and seemed sensible, to no avail.

Right now I am questioning if I am just not cut for writing, or if it is just my knowledge of literature theory is lacking.

I think I know how a story must flow what it entails but why can I not judge the scope then?

Anything that might get me out of that rut would be highly appreciated.

Answer: First, let's acknowledge that a novel is a complex creation and writing one is a task that has stumped many aspiring writers.

Second, I highly doubt that you "'wasted' a whole month with plotting." A month is not a lot of time for some plotters. I also suspect you discovered a lot about your story in the process and have a better handle on it than before.

As for the scope of plot points, bear in mind that story events are highly elastic. It doesn't really matter whether an event takes a chapter, several chapters, or a few sentences to describe, so long as the turn of events impacts the reader effectively.

If you feel disappointed that you have described an event too briefly, you have the option of developing it -- having the event unfold over a sequence of smaller events with its own dramatic arc (setup --> complication --> crisis --> resolution).

Third: you can never fully plot a novel in advance. There will always be creative choices to make in the writing. Trying to make all your choices ahead of time can give you so many factors to hold in your mind simultaneously that it becomes impossible to write.

What you want is enough plotting to know where you are going (the next big turning point you are building to), but not so much that you get paralyzed.

Fourth: you can use a combination of plotting and pantsing. Plot until you feel confident enough to start writing. Write until you feel stuck. Then go back and revise your outline until you feel confident enough to start writing again.

Fifth: your own emotional state has a lot to do with how the writing flows. You want to be focused, relaxed, and optimistic about your story. The theory and techniques you employ should help you to get into that state, not create so much anxiety that you shut down. Don't try to get it perfect. Just make the story one you can be excited about.

Trust your instincts while you are writing. Or at least trust that any deficiencies will be corrected later in revision.

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