Let's start with The Idea. Writers have various methods of coming up with The Idea. Taking inspiration from everyday life, brainstorming, their own past. None of these work for me, or at least, very rarely. To get an idea I first have to start writing it. Sounds kinda backward and counterintuitive huh? Yep, sounds that way to me too. But it's the only way that woks for my muse.
In case you're wondering what I actually mean by that, well, it is how it sounds. I sit down, no clue of what I'm going to write, and start putting words to paper (or tapping them out on the computer) and I start writing the start of my story. After a page or two I start getting an understanding of The Idea. For example (an in-class demonstration =P):
The back of Makenna's hand stung, like shards of glass jabbing into her skin. She rubbed at it, trying to ignore the pain, and the tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. She'd been in trouble one too many times this week, and she wasn't about to get kicked out of class again. The thing is, while she could feel it digging into her skin and bones, she knew if she looked there would be nothing there. Only her pale skin and long spidery fingers. Mr Fredrickson would accuse her of causing a commotion and send her to the principal, or worse, the school councilor.
So she would wait till class was out, and then hurry to the bathroom to run some cold water over the phantom wound. All the while trying to ignore the creepy stares the new kid kept giving her. It was hard not to notice the fact the pain had started when he turned up.This is how my stories start, I had no idea what I was going to write just now (and yes I came up with this while I was writing this blog post so please forgive the crappiness) but as I wrote it the more I knew what had to come next, and what was happening to the character, and even why it was happening. The Idea is forming. (And now I actually kinda wanna write this story).
So now that we have The Idea, we need a plot (and characters, conflict, setting and all that other good stuff, but let's save that for another day). Again there are so many ways to plot a story: scene cards, story arcs, computer programs, etc, etc. They're all good ways, and they all work for someone.
My plotting method grows organically from my idea cultivating method. I keep writing. Once I've written that first paragraph, or page, or whatever it takes, I start seeing things that I want to happen in the story. Scenes I want to write. Characters I want to meet. I never have a fully fleshed out plot, but I tend to have a few scenes I know in advance which I'm really excited about. The rest comes as the idea did: by writing and discovering.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Not always, sometimes I get stuck, have a bout of writer's block (I hate writer's block). At these times I try out some of the tried and true methods of the more organised writers out there. I try to think about where my story is going. Have conversations with my characters. Ask questions. Usually I can get past the block and keep going. Sometimes... it takes awhile.
There are definitely pitfalls to being a pantster. You can be writing in a certain direction for a long time before you realise you've gone completely off course. And it can take a lot of effort (and cut words) to straighten out the story again. But I find that, for me (at least for now), this is what works. Maybe one day I'll realise that it doesn't work as well as I thought it did, and have to force myself further along Pantster-Plotter spectrum. But for now, I'm happy where I sit.
What about you, how do you come up with your Idea? How do you mould it into Plot?