Saturday, November 3, 2007

Plotting: The Pros and Cons of Plotting Style - SOTP

For those who aren't familiar with the lingo, SOTP is the acronym for Seat-of-the-Pants writers. People who love this style sit down and begin a story. They may have given thought to a plot element or a character or a situation, but they write the book in pieces with no regard for where the pieces may fall in the novel. While they are also concerned about the same story elements--goals, motivation, conflict and characterization--as any other plotter using a different style, these authors end up with pieces and put them together like a puzzle.

While this might sound a bit like Index Card Plotting, the difference is that the cards hold only bits of ideas and scene sketches while the SOTP plots are fully developed scenes that will need lots of editing.

Most SOTP authors can't imagine writing any other way. They jot down scenes as they come to mind and enjoy the challenge of putting the pieces together to make a comprehensive story that flows like any other novel through their editing process.

The pros of writing in this style is the spontaneity. It allows the author to be creative and to handle scenes that are vivid in her mind. This also helps to alleviate burnout on a story because when one scene isn't working, the author can tackle a new scene somewhere totally different in the book and keep writing for that day without trying to untangle the problems from the original scene he was writing. By the next day, new ideas may have come to help him work through what he didn't like about the scene that had stymied him.

These authors will admit that the con side of writing in this style is that it takes many, many rewrites to prepare the story for submission. When showing growth of character, faith and relationships, each scene must be edited once it's put into place to show this growth. Without knowing where it will fit in the scheme of the book, the author could not show this growth earlier. Another negative is that without a plan, the author can easily go astray and take a detour that leads nowhere. This means tossing out numerous scenes and rewriting ones that work.

A suspense story written this way means that the author will have to work in all the red-herrings and foreshadowing once the book is organized into scenes and chapters so that they make sense to the reader and lead them astray (red-herrings) with realistic possibilities.

No matter how complex and complicated this sounds to those who prefer to plot ahead of time, these authors write books that sell and wouldn't have it any other way.

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