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Shadow_Ferret
06-20-2009, 12:14 AM
I know, it's a silly question, right? Probably one that someone who's been writing as long as I have shouldn't even be asking, but I have to, because, well, I'm confused.

Someone today on twitter said they were plotting their novel.

Now, I know what plot is. Plot is the general course your novel takes on it's way to the conclusion. For instance, the plot of Tarzan is that his parents are shipwrecked in Africa and then killed and he's raised by Great Apes and grows up to be the jungle's protector, eventually discovering that his mom really wasn't an ape, but that he's a wealthy English Lord.

But plotting. Is that just another term for outlining? Maybe if I outlined I'd have a better understanding, but I don't. I just write the story. To me, plot pretty much takes care of itself.

Cyia
06-20-2009, 12:17 AM
They're probably working out the broad, overreaching arc of the novel so that they know where they begin and where it ends up.

DeleyanLee
06-20-2009, 12:33 AM
Yes, at some point "plot" became a verb in the writing community--something that I've never really understood but have fallen victim to using from time to time.

They do mean outlining, in some form, but apparently "outlining" is a bad word or something and most people prefer "plotting". Maybe it's just more fun to type. Don't know.

Shadow_Ferret
06-20-2009, 12:35 AM
Well, see, that makes sense, because when I Googled plotting my responses all seemed to be about something planning someone else's demise.

NeuroFizz
06-20-2009, 12:46 AM
an outlier
out lying on lines
of future prose,
lying about anything
but truth

plodding, plotting
gone besotting
my life (or yours)
for a story
to jell

Dale Emery
06-20-2009, 12:50 AM
But plotting. Is that just another term for outlining? Maybe if I outlined I'd have a better understanding, but I don't. I just write the story. To me, plot pretty much takes care of itself.

I'd guess it means: Creating and selecting events that will appear in the story, and sequencing them to increase their intellectual, emotional, and thematic impact.

Dale

Shadow_Ferret
06-20-2009, 12:53 AM
I'd guess it means: Creating and selecting events that will appear in the story, and sequencing them to increase their intellectual, emotional, and thematic impact.

Dale

Really? No wonder I didn't know because I don't even know what you said! :D

Dale Emery
06-20-2009, 01:01 AM
Really? No wonder I didn't know because I don't even know what you said! :D

Well, I made it up, so...

How's this: You make up events. You decide which ones to include in the story. You decide what order they'll appear in the story. You choose the events and their order to give them oomph. That's plotting.

;-)

Dale

Shadow_Ferret
06-20-2009, 01:06 AM
Which is the same as outlining, just another word for it. Right?

ChaosTitan
06-20-2009, 01:10 AM
Which is the same as outlining, just another word for it. Right?

Pretty much.

Dale Emery
06-20-2009, 01:15 AM
Which is the same as outlining, just another word for it. Right?

I don't know. I see outlining as more formal than what I said. For example, I think outlining implies writing those choices down. Plotting doesn't necessarily mean that; to some extent you can do it in your head.

Note that I'm speaking only for myself, and that I'm making up my answers as I go. So other people may mean entirely different things by the two words. And I might mean something else if you ask again tomorrow.

What makes the similarity or differences between outlining and plotting important to you?

Dale

NeuroFizz
06-20-2009, 01:15 AM
See, this is the problem. The difference between "outlining" and "writing with no initial preparation" has a vast gray area in the middle, with a smooth gradation of possibilities so this becomes a false dichotomy. If one jots down a series of five or six story events and plays with their order, is that outlining or is it making notes on the story arc? What about ten events? What if the list of ten events then have a couple of sub-items listed under each of them (now it's starting to look like an outline)? But what if someone does all of this in his/her head, including the sub-points? This is why worrying about whether someone outlines or writes without initial preparation is such a useless argument. The vast majority of writers likely fall somewhere between the two extremes.

I'd say plotting can be anything from thinking about the story arc in very general terms to making a detailed outline. The only thing that can be removed from the concept of plotting (for sure) is absolutely pure writing without initial preparation, in which case the writer has no idea of a story arc in mind. And some people use this approach (as far as I know from posts in various threads here), having a character in mind but no real story for that character until the fingers start moving on the keyboard. So if we come in the backdoor and define plotting by what it isn't, this latter approach is what it isn't.

Kurtz
06-20-2009, 01:16 AM
What I do is work out where the work ends. Then I work out where it would have to start, keeping it as close to the end as possible. The plotting I think is working out what happens in between.

Shadow_Ferret
06-20-2009, 04:15 AM
I'd say plotting can be anything from thinking about the story arc in very general terms to making a detailed outline. The only thing that can be removed from the concept of plotting (for sure) is absolutely pure writing without initial preparation, in which case the writer has no idea of a story arc in mind. And some people use this approach (as far as I know from posts in various threads here), having a character in mind but no real story for that character until the fingers start moving on the keyboard. So if we come in the backdoor and define plotting by what it isn't, this latter approach is what it isn't.
I wasn't necessarily looking for an argument, although those can be fun, I was just looking to get an idea of what plotting meant as I'd never really heard the term before.

As far as what I do, I guess I do the absolutely pure writing with no preparation. I sit down with a scene or a character in mind that could be just a few paragraphs long and I keep writing until I have a novel.

NeuroFizz
06-20-2009, 08:26 AM
Nor was I trying to start an argument. In fact, I'm trying to show the folly in arguing about outlining versus writing without pre-planning.

As for plotting, it has to do with some form of pre-planning. From there, the definition will vary with each and every person depending on each individual's method of preparing to write, excepting of course, people who don't pre-plan.

Namatu
06-22-2009, 06:02 PM
I've found pre-planning to be helpful. I grasp for a general plot idea, read books and articles for research to feed that idea, and then I start writing. I'll do additional research along the way as needed. Eventually I reach a point where I have to know the ending, and then I'll start figuring out exactly how all the threads tie together. I call it "thinking." :D

Shadow_Ferret
06-22-2009, 07:08 PM
Research, in my mind, is vastly different from either plotting or outlining, as described above. I always do research, depending on what I'm writing, whether its about Vikings, or medieval life, or even vampires and werewolves. That's just a natural extension of the writing process to me and really has very little to do with pre-planning, plotting, or outlining. It's simply getting information into your brain so it can digest it and then use it knowledgably later on.

JamieMT
06-23-2009, 12:18 AM
When I use the term "plotting", it means I'm figuring out what my story is about. It's not an outline for me, because all I'm doing is deciding what the basic story arc is. When I'm finished, I end up with a one or two paragraph synopsis of what will happen. To me "plotting" is exactly that - working out what the basic plot of a story will be, without actually going into detail. I suppose "synopsizing" would be more accurate, but you can't really have a synopsis without a plot...

Outlining is completely different in my mind - that's where I'm figuring out scenes, what order things will happen in, and details that will pull scenes together. I don't use the terms interchangeably, though some might.

ChristineR
06-23-2009, 12:45 AM
Outlining to me implies that you have a bullet list, and probably some sublists. Outlines also may be arranged in several ways that do not necessarily correspond to the way you write the novel, or to the way the points are covered in the final text, or even to chronology. Plotting has more to do with the structure of the text itself, but obviously there is overlap.

Ruv Draba
06-23-2009, 01:29 AM
They're related but not the same.

Plotting is the game played between adversaries for control of your story's conclusion: stimulus and response; action and counter-action. Plotting is about who, what, and why.

Outlining is a roadmap for how you mean to tell the story. Outlining may be informed by why, but talks about who, what, where, how and when.

Elements of plot may not appear in your outline at all. For example, what an adversary does between encounters with your viewpoint characters might only be inferred or guessed by the reader. Conversely, elements of your outline might not strictly form part of your plot. For instance, you could dedicate a scene to a character in personal crisis, undergoing change. Since plot is just about action and counter-action, scenes involving reaction tend to fall in the gaps between plot-points.

You can plot without outlining -- you'll know what happens and why, but not where, how, when or with whom. You can outline without plotting if you sketch scenes of your character in trial after tribulation, but still have no idea what's tying those scenes together.

Hope that helps.