You’re writing a novel. You can’t plot — or so you tell yourself. Does this mean that writing fiction is impossible for you?
Of course it doesn’t. You can write fiction very happily, without a plot in sight. I wrote my first few novels without plotting, and sold them. By inclination I’m a pantser (someone who writes plotless, happily free style), so if you’re a pantser of course you can write fiction.
Indeed, as I tell my students, pantsers sometimes write better books than authors who can’t start a novel without plotting first. Here’s why. If you have no idea what’s going to happen next, your readers won’t, either.
Neither Stephen King nor Dean Koontz plot their novels, and they happily write bestsellers, very prolifically. Going plotless saves time in many ways. You just dive in, and start writing.
Free style tips for writing fiction, totally plotless
Yep, you can write fiction very happily, and never give plotting a thought. That said, it takes a LOT of confidence. You need the attitude of: plot? Just write a scene — I don’t need a plot!
Let’s look at some tips which can help you to write your novels, free style.
1. Scene it: think in terms of scenes, rather than a book
Here’s what doesn’t work when you’re writing a novel. Disclaimer: it hasn’t ever worked for me, or for anyone I know, it may work for you; try it and see.
What doesn’t work is just to start writing. You can do that, yes — see the disclaimer above. However, when you’re pantsing along, it’s much better to pants in SCENES.
A scene, in essence, is a unit of ACTION.
The key word is ACTION.
Where pantsers usually get into trouble is that they don’t consider action at all. So they start their novel with someone getting shot because they’ve heard that they need to start their novel with a bang, and they take it literally.
Great stuff, but then they get lost in backstory for three chapters. They’ve forgotten forward movement, and action. After three action-less chapters, they go off at a tangent, and within another few chapters, they have no idea what happens next, so their novel fizzles out.
Avoid the fizzle by thinking in terms of scenes, always.
Want to write a scene in which someone gets shot? Go for it. You can make your scene any length. Most of mine are around 1500 words. I’m happy with 200 words, if I just want to write a short scene from another character’s point of view.
Think scenes, and action, and you’ll pants along brilliantly. You’ll also have a lot of fun. You won’t be bored, and neither will your readers.
2. Start with a character, or an image: what’s happening here?
You’re thinking in terms of scenes, which means thinking in terms of characters, and situations. How will you write your first scene?
Think of a character. Any character.
Suddenly, an image of a small boy comes to you. You start writing, remembering that you’re writing a scene, and that you need ACTION. The small boy’s playing in a sandpit in the park. He sees a man, on the other side of the park.
Point of view is important. You’re the small boy. See what he sees. Feel what he feels. He’s patting the warm sand (it’s spring) into a mound. He sees another man hurrying across to the first man. The second man takes something out of his pocket. There’s a bang, and the first man drops to the ground.
Vital: there’s no need to write chronologically. Just keep writing scenes. Sooner or later, scenes will be drawn together, and before you know it, you’ve created a plot, completely free style.
3. Day dream: pretend you’re — (fill in the blank) and write a scene
When you’re stuck for a scene, pretend. Day dream. Close your eyes, and imagine you’re in a boat, or in a plane, or in a board meeting, or struggling across the frozen tundra… And start writing.
Your brain loves order, above all.
By the time you’ve written from five to ten scenes, those scenes will take the shape of a story.
Now it’s time to…
4. Choose a genre, so that you can give readers what they expect
You’ve got the glimmer of a story. What kind of story is it? Is it a fantasy? A romance? A mystery?
Decide now. Choose a genre (category) that you enjoy reading.
And then keep creating scenes.
5. Wonder about your novel: day dream about your novel before you go to sleep
Avoid fencing off your fiction from your life. Bring your scenes to mind during the day. In spare moments, read the scenes you’ve written.
Before you go to sleep, day dream about your novel.
Chances are great that as soon as you wake up in the morning, an idea for a scene will pop into your mind. Write the scene.
Your turn: write a scene, today, to test-drive the free style method
So there you have it. A plotless way to plot.
Try it. In your next writing session, write a scene.
Just one scene. Remember: ACTION.
Have fun. 🙂
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