I’m taking off my pants because I’ve lost the plot

After almost a year of resistance, and a number of years pantsing, I decided to look into this plotting business. Why have I resisted for so long? You’ve probably heard the word organic when it comes to pantsing. I like to let the ideas flow naturally from page one and see where my characters take me, rather than suffer a structure. And hand on my heart, I was worried anything to the contrary would come across as contrived. It’s a harsh word and one that has plagued me. I’m a fairly stubborn person, and I guess I’ve stuck to these thoughts as a way of protecting myself from the truth: my MS needs a revamp, and it’s going to take some plotting research to do this.

I think if I were more experienced, I’d know how to wear my pants well and keep them on. If I’d read plotting books, looked into character development, orย  had already written a book or two, I’d be well armed starting page one. All the critical elements would be top of mind as I forge on.

But I’m a green writer, whose pants need some readjusting. Starting from page one is not hard, but knowing where to take that plot is another story altogether – a story that may be a much harder sell.

So my green-writer status became obvious while thinking about how to change the start of my MS. If my MS is not being requested based on my query andย  first few pages, then I assume both are letting me down. But to know where to start, I need to think about the plot. After reading some plotting material online and also Save the Cat by Blake Snyder ( and now First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke), I found that that my MS lacks depth. And to fix or analyse my plot, I need to know where my character begins on their journey, where they end up on their journey and how the plot will take them there.

For me, it’s helped to look at my story like this. MC is at point A and wants X. To get X, they must move to point B and the inciting incident helps them get there.

From here, I can write a query blurb and this should (hopefully) show that my book has conflict and growth. And I’m not going to write my new beginning until I can do just that!

Even armed with just those elements, I could have saved myself years. I was so scared of plot outlines because I thought I would have to write down every scene. But I haven’t beaten myself up too badly about this late revelation. After all, all of this makes sense because I have written my book and spent months and months researching querying. It would have been like picking up a book that helps you translate another language from English – when you don’t know English….

So this is where I am at: looking at my character and where they start their journey – what is the one thing they need to change to help them achieve their goals. It’s a tough one but a good question to ask, and a great place to start ๐Ÿ™‚

8 thoughts on “I’m taking off my pants because I’ve lost the plot

    • Oh yes, I should have thought of that ๐Ÿ™‚ I could just as easily have said, I’m hanging up my pants! But fyi, a panster is someone who doesn’t plan out their novel, they just start writing and see where it goes!

  1. Hi, Lorelle,
    I also like to follow the characters more than I like to direct them. I’m in the middle of the second book in my “Sarah” series and I’m finding out new things about my characters every day. What helps me stay on track best, I think, is a general question like the one you’re asking: what is the underlying issue the character hasn’t faced up to, the problem that drives his or her behavior and causes all the problems. Then, as you say, what will need to change, and what is the incident that will bring about that change. Having this moment of decision in view has always helped me. But I do think you have to spend some time with your characters before you can really understand who they are and what their issues are. So your time isn’t wasted as you explore your fictional world on their heels.
    My two cents! Write on!

    • I think that’s the key, Virginia: having those considerations top of mind about your character’s story when you allow them to forge through the plot. At the start, all I thought about was having a character who was difficult to deal with, who ended up learning to cooperate for the greater good. Although she had a reason for her behaviour, I never thought about the core of this issue and how it would affect her along the way, and even scarier, how the plot specifically cultivated this growth. I’m having fun thinking about my first scene now and how to highlight her internal conflict in the best light. Thanks for stopping by, shall be over shortly ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. That’s such a fascinating post, Lorelle. Thank you. I guess that outlines, like the first draft, are just the beginning. Your point about understanding our characters’ journeys is such an interesting one. Plenty of food for thought there. Thanks again and best wishes from the UK!

    • Hiya from Australia ๐Ÿ™‚ The most confronting revelation for me is that I considered myself and my book character-driven. But although there was strong differentiation between the characters, it felt like my MC poofed into existence and stuff just started happening. Now I can give my plot so much more strength, just be considering what her journey is and how the plot will affect this ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I just did the James Patterson Master Class and I recommend this for you. Its all about focusing on the story, not the sentence and he takes you through the process from idea to marketing. He is a huge outliner, which I like, because I am too. You know outlining is not like we learned in school, you can do it anyway you choose and it can be fun, learning the story, working out the plot before you start. I wish you all the best with your WIP. It’s so nice to know other people are suffering as I am. Heh.

    • I know someone elso who did that class and also recommended I try this. She also found that Save the Cat resonated with her as well. The thing that frightened me most about outlining is I thought every scene and interaction had to be planned. But even just researching plotting has given me ideas I can keep top of mind with every sentence I write from now on. And just starting with the character’s journey and how the plot affects this is a great way for me to structure every lesson learned, which means throwing them challenges tailored with that in mind. I’m amazed!

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