Devious Plots, part 2: What is this "plot" you speak of?

 This is part of a six-part series on plot. You can find the other parts here:
~Devious Plots, part 1: If Stephan King doesn't do it, why should I?
~Devious Plots, part 3: Don't put the toilet in the living room
~Devious Plots, part 4: Plot store!
~Devious Plots, part 5: More plot store!
~Devious Plots, part 6: Plot store, final sale!

On Wednesday's post, one commenter pointed out that plot and outline are not the same thing.  This is not only true, but illustrates a primary difficulty we often have when talking about subjects like plot. Plotting means different things to different people.

But what exactly is plot anyway? What is the difference between a plot and plotting? Or plotting and outlining?

Let's see what the all-knowing Webster has to say.

Devious Plots, part 1: If Stephen King doesn't do it, why should I?

 This is part of a six-part series on plot. You can find the other parts here:
~Devious Plots, part 2: What is this "plot" you speak of?
~Devious Plots, part 3: Don't put the toilet in the living room
~Devious Plots, part 4: Plot store!
~Devious Plots, part 5: More plot store!
~Devious Plots, part 6: Plot store, final sale!

To plot, or not to plot, that is the question!

Lots of top-selling writers don't plot. Anne McCaffrey didn't plot. Stephan King doesn't plot. In fact, in his book On Writing, King says plot is a clumsy tool, a jackhammer that destroys the fossil of a story.

But Terry Brooks in his book, Sometimes the Magic Works, points out that most of us are not Stephen King and Anna McCaffrey. He is in favor of organization, along with screenwriter and novelist Alexandra Sokoloff, and pretty much every mystery novelist you've ever read.

In that face of all these confusing opinions, how do you know what to do? Should you outline, organize? Or simply let the story flow?

Here are three questions to help you figure it out.

Monday Survey: Plotters or pantsers?

This is an incredibly common question among the Internet writing community. so forgive me for asking it yet again.

But it is a valid question.  I start my new series on plotting soon, and I want to get a feel for where my readers stand on this important issue.

So what about it, lovely readers? Do you plot? Do you write by the seat of your pants? Or somewhere in between?

Also, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to the idea of plotting?

How to treat a writer

(From the mailbox of Miss B. Manners, etiquette specialist.)

Dear Miss Manners,

I often find myself tongue-tied when talking to writers. If I meet a writer, what is the most polite way to proceed?

This is a very common problem, Gentle Reader, so don't be confused or embarrassed.

First off, let's look at a normal, polite conversation, such as one would have with any other kind of professional. It would go something like this:

YOU: So what do you do, if you don't mind my asking?

OTHER PERSON: I'm an engineer.

YOU: Oh, really? What kind of engineer?

OTHER PERSON: I'm an electrical engineer. I work over at [name of business.]

YOU: That's very interesting/challenging/impressive. Do you enjoy it?

And so on and so forth.

However, it is very important when dealing with writers NOT to talk to them like you would people with normal jobs. Writers are strange, exotic creatures who live lives totally different from you or anyone you know.

So here are some helpful etiquette tips, sure to impress any writer you meet.

A Fast Five

1. If you've never taken a blog/Internet break, I can recommend it. I missed you all, but a break helped me let go of that anxious feeling. You know that feeling...

I haven't checked the Internet for hours! What am I missing?

2. In other news, I'm 20k into the overhaul of an old novel, House of a Thousand Dolls. Hooray! I kept the bare bones of the plot, and most of the characters, but I'm changing everything else. I want to get a good chunk of it done before August because...

3. August is going to be the Month of Juggling Projects. I've got to do at least one more polish (if not two) on my second YA book before it hits the submission stage and my middle-grade first draft will have finished marinating by then and need some serious second draft work.

Not to mention the project above, which I want to keep working on as well. Whew!

4. And since I clearly don't have enough to do, I'm thinking about doing a series of posts on plot, similar to the ones I did on character a while back. Anyone else think that would be a good idea?

5. Finally, writer, long-time blogger, and just generally nice person Erica Orloff could use a laugh this week. If you have anything amusing or interesting you can share with her, please drop it off in this comment thread. Thank you!

I'm back!

For those of you just checking in, I was on blog/Internet break all last week. The blog break part went well, but unplugging from the Internet proved more difficult. No matter how much I tried, something cool was always popping up.

Monday Survey: Calling all friends, followers and lurkers!

Hey everyone!

In honor of my blogoversary, it's time for the annual survey. Just three quick questions and an otter!


What have you liked about the blog this year?

Anything you disliked?

What do you think of the new format?

(the otter is after the jump)

Welcome to July!

 We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a few brief announcements.

THANK YOU again for all the encouragement on my last post. As per your suggestions, I've taken the time to read some purely fun books and relaxed. And while I haven't stopped writing entirely, I'm mostly revising right now so it hasn't been as draining as creating a first draft.  I'm feeling much better! *grin*

 As some of you know, my second blog anniversary is coming up!!! 

*cheers* *wild applause*

That means over the next few weeks I'll be playing around with the blog format to see if I can improve it, and asking you for suggestions and feedback. (EDIT: if the blog look wonky, it means I'm in the middle of playing with it. Sorry!)  It also means it's time for my annual blog break. Starting July 12th, I'll be off for a week, in fact I'll probably unplug entirely.

(Don't worry, I'll be back. *evil laugh*)

Don't forget to check in on Wednesday for an interview with Beth Bence Reinke and a good discussion of picture books!
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.