Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's Wrong With You?

Pantser or Plotter? Some people write by the seat of their pants and some people spend time working out the plot before they begin writing. Most of the time my attitude is that whatever other writers want to do is find with me. If it works for you, go for it. But there are other times that I can’t help but think of the pantser, “What are you thinking?” because these two methods are not created equal.

Recently, Rachelle Gardner has been looking at query letters, making comments and opening the floor to her readers for comments. What gets me about that and what is relevant to this post is that I read the query letter and I think “this would be better if the story was about [insert something here],” but then realize that off in the wings is this massive manuscript that the author is hoping to send to Rachelle. The author is going to be resistant to change.

Suppose the author sends a query in which we see a statement like, “This is the story of a runway model living in Paris, France.” Now I look at it and say that I would rather it read, “This is the story of a runway model living Paris, Texas.” There’re plenty of reasons we might want to do that, not the least of which is that creates a fish out of water situation. And it’s only a one word change. But how willing is an author who believes his story is complete enough to send it out to agents going to be to make that change, no matter how much it might help the story? That one word change to the query could amount to weeks of work by the author.

That’s why we plot our stories first. The synopsis should be one of the first things we write, not the last. Once we get the synopsis to the point that we think it makes an interesting story that we would purchase if we saw it in the store, then it is time for us to write the story, sticking with what we decided in the synopsis. It’s so much easier to consider those “simple” one word changes that people suggest when they really are one word changes than waiting until thousands of words are hanging on each word.