This is the second batch of writing tips from K.M. Levis. Please refer to this post for the first batch.
Plotting Your Books
“How do you plot books? What is plotting anyway? For this video I will tell you what I learned over the years and how I do my own plotting. Other authors may do it differently, and that’s fine too. It’s different each author, but the good thing about these things is that we learn from others and then decide what works best for us,” says KM Levis.
A plotter and a pantser
A plotter is someone who plans the book – from its characters, settings, arcs that goes from book 1 to book 2 to book 3. Each chapter is planned really well. The advantage for this one is that it is easier to organise your story, leaving little room for plot holes.
Pantsing is when you sit down and just write the story. If something comes to you and you want to add it, you just add it. I found that when I wrote like this I felt freer. The problem was that I wasn’t always in the mood to write – and you’ll find that with yourself too. I got stuck a lot during some chapters and I had to stop writing and take a walk to clear my head. This hindered the writing process a lot.
“When I first started writing, I was a pure pantser – mainly because I had no idea how to plot. I just started writing fiction and I was still learning from other authors. It was fun and since it was the only thing I knew how to do, I did it that way.”
“My first novel, The Girl Between Two Worlds, was pantsing all the way. I never plotted the end, never thought of the twists, never thought of the arc even though I already knew it was going to be more than one book. That was quite a risk for me because if you don’t plan a series, there is a high chance you will miss some things. But that was how it ended up and so I went with the flow. It was my first novel too so I wasn’t familiar about the best plotting techniques out there.
Book two was a different matter. I plotted The Girl Between Light and Dark two years before the first book was even released. I knew the start, the middle and the end. But it did not work out that way. When I started writing book two, I followed through with the first half of the plotting. But then there came a point when my character changed, new characters were introduced and the events escalated.”
“It wasn’t deliberate, it just kind of happened. I had time to think about the book for two whole years and in that time, I wrote down notes on changes I wanted to make. I kept a lot of things from the plot I wrote but the second half of book two was very different from how I initially imagined it.
How different exactly? For one, I decided to make it a duology instead of a trilogy. Yes it is a longer book from the first one but I realised there was no point stretching it to a trilogy. I listened to one lecture about writing YA novels and they said only do a trilogy if it is indeed a trilogy. But don’t do it if you’re just doing it to have a trilogy. I thought it was a good point. But I digress.
I have several manuscripts that I’m writing and editing right now. I am pantsying and plotting in all of them. The second time I tried plotting a lot more than pantsing was when I joined my first ever National Novel Writing Month (NaNowrimo). For those of you who don’t know what Nanowrimo is it’s a writing challenge that happens every November. You write everyday for a month and basically finish a whole novel by the end of November. It’s a good exercise of discipline and definitely worth doing at least once. Plotting that book helped me prepare for the gruelling writing month and avoid writer’s block as much as possible. I still experienced writer’s block during that challenge but it happened much less than when I was pantsing.”
So how do you plot your own book?
Just make sure you have the important elements there – the characters, the timeline, the setting.
Think of how it starts and ends. Think of the middle, the climax of the story.
Think of whether the book is chronological or is it going to be a time loopey kind of story.
“When you’ve figured all this out, you can outline the book chapter by chapter. Then when you start writing you can refer to your notes. Some writers are quite detailed with their outline. For me, it was both. Some chapters were outlined very specifically while others were more of an idea on what should happen. And it was all written on a notebook I carried around with me. Sometimes when I needed to write things down, I used my phone then added it to my notebook.”
“Still, one thing you have to remember is that each moment has to push the story forward. By plotting the book, you can ensure that each chapter is significant for the storyline. Whatever you decide to do though, it needs to be something that suits your writing process. Don’t copy other authors just because they are famous. What works for others might not work out for you.”
Kristyn Maslog-Levis is a freelance journalist based in Sydney. several of her works have been published in the New York Times and Al Jazeera. She has published The Girl Between Two Worlds in 2015 and is set to release a sequel entitled The Girl Between Light and Dark in May 2018, both under Anvil Publishing.
She worked as a TV reporter for ABS-CBN before finishing her master’s degree in communication under the ASEAN scholarship at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Kristyn is also an avid photographer with several photos published in various magazines and exhibited in a couple of local and international exhibitions.