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Ideas for Plotting

Plotting the Middle Way

By Charles Suddeth

Some writers are Outliners, writing their novels from outlines, already knowing the beginning, middle, and end when they start writing. This is especially useful for genre writers and plot-driven fiction. I have used outlines a couple times, but they seldom work out for me. My stories and characters take on a life of their own, diverging from my outline.

Other writers are Pantsers, writing without knowing the beginning, ending, or middle, sometimes only knowing the first word. Though some Pantsers prefer to have a general direction their story is headed, their story usually takes on a life of its own. Literary writers and writers of character-driven fiction swear by this method. I have sometimes used it, but I find the stories lack focus and often need extensive revision.

I have a third method I call the Middle Way. I start out with either an idea for a beginning and an end, but no middle, or I start out with just an idea. My method is to take my time writing and wait for an idea or the story beginning or the direction a particular character should take.

Perhaps I should call this the Subconscious Way. This differs from a Free Write where the writer is given a word or phrases and writes without conscious thought. My method involves channeling your subconscious, feeding it, encouraging, sending it in specific directions.

I often mediate. Or sometimes I sleep on it. Or I just discuss it with a friend, family, or fellow writer. Sometimes I forget it and let Father Time handle it. In all of these examples, the subconscious takes over. Yes, it is time-consuming and not deadline friendly. One day I may write two lines, and the next day I might write two pages. I usually write two manuscripts, not worrying when I finish either.

I invite you to try my Middle Way. Let your stories and characters decide when they’re ready to see daylight. If all else fails, you can revert to be an Outliner or Pantser. If you try the Middle Way, I think your stories will blossom and explode into life.

Eights Mask2

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On Saturday, April 21, I attended an all day Master Class on Plotting presented by Cheryl Klein, an editor for Aurthur A. Levine Books. I learned a lot and enjoyed visiting Asheville, North Carolina for the first time. The Midsouth SCBWI and the Carolinas SCBWI jointly sponsored the class.

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