Thursday, May 26, 2011

In The Zone with Zee: Of Plotting...

Hey beautiful people

Once more it's the 26th of the month, and your monthly slot with me Agony Zee is on the spot.

I received a query I just had to answer this time, because it hits so close to home I just knew I had to share my enthusiasm for... plotting!

*I can hear ya groaning at the back!!*

Without further ado, here's today's query and answer.

And if you have a query you want answered, whether pertinent to writing or the writer's life, feel free to shoot me an email at


Dear Agony Zee,

I'm a panster! There, I got that out of the way! *whew* I'm sick and tired of people telling me I need to plot, like I need to know every damn detail about my story before I even write it. Where's the joy in that? I mean, if already know the story in and out, what's the fun in writing?
Still, I know I do need some sort of outline to help steer me along the way. But plotting is not outlining, is it?

What exactly is plotting?


Panster and Proud!


Dear Panster and Proud,

You're right - plotting and outlining are not exactly the same thing, though they do resemble, and sometimes for some authors, they overlap.

Plotting – comes from the word plot. In our realm, plot is akin to the story; how you describe it. There are many different types of plots, such as Man v/s Nature, Man v/s Man, Man v/s Society. These are all broad scopes of plots that have some elements and expectations pertinent to each one.

But from your question, I gather you're referring more to the process of plotting.

I can tell you this from experience - I am a heavy plotter, this I will admit already. I never write without plotting a story, and this has kept me in line and saved my sanity on many occasions. However, I know plotting is not everyone’s cup of tea. Just like I cannot write off the seat of my pants, many writers cannot plot.

So why should you bother with this explanation if you’re a pantster? Well, just like I have gleaned tips and tricks from pansters, you too may glean some tactics from plotting.

Basically, what is plotting?

Plotting is very much like a road map. Let me explain it this way, using an example.

Say you have 2 days free (your word count/story length) and you decide to take a trip (your plot). To make it work and get the best out of the trip, you need to decide where to go, and what to do in this 2-day window (how you will fill in the length of the story with a story).

Taking it further, let’s say for the trip, you decide to go to Paris (a plot). Lively and always awake, there are many, many things you can do in Paris (the ways you can use your plot).

Paris has many attractions, and many circuits to visit, such as:

The tourist circuit – visiting all the famous landmarks, such as Notre Dame de Paris, Le Louvre museum, the Palais de Versailles.
The luxury trip – stay at the Ritz and shopping on the Place Vendome.
The haute gastronomie circuit – visiting all the restaurants awarded a Michelin star.
Nightlife – clubs and world-famous DJs, such as the Ministry of Sound.

All these options sound terribly tempting, but how to do all of them on a 2-day trip? Well, you can’t. You won’t enjoy any of the above circuits if you do not plunge fully into one of them.

Same goes for your story – once you have your plot, you’ll find circuits to exploit in this plot, but you have to choose one so as to focus fully on it and enjoy it to the max.

Plotting thus is knowing the place of your visit (the plot). Then, you create an itinerary for this visit, a roadmap that takes you from A to B and from B to C, etc. You start somewhere and stop somewhere, all while seeing all the spots you’ll hit in between. This too is done in a logical way. For example, if the Louvre is close to Notre Dame de Paris, you don’t take a taxi to Versailles after leaving the Louvre to afterwards visit the cathedral. You proceed in order.

Plotting is basically this – planning your journey. Any savvy traveler will tell you that planning any trip is key. Same goes for your story. Even if you can’t plan like an obsessive-compulsive plotter, at least take a minute to know your start and finish lines. You may be better equipped to find the middle then.

That's where, I believe, plotting might help you. You don't need to know 'every damn detail' about the book, but it would help to know where you're going and why.


Got a question for Agony Zee? Drop her a line at with your concern/issue/dilemma.

Upcoming Release: Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One)
                              Coming June 27 with Noble Romance Publishing

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