Monday, February 15, 2016

The 30K Curse

Plotting. It can be scary. There’s so many ways to do it. So many ways it can go right. So many ways it can go wrong. If you're not experienced with it, then it can be intimidating. 

Every book I’ve written has, what I call, the 30k curse. I would get a concept, flesh out my characters, and roll with it. At that point the excitement had swelled and the urge to write was strong as hell. So I put fingers to keys to see where the words took me.

Up until 30k words, I'd be on a roll. I'd be ecstatic thinking I was on the right track. Then, some thought, muse, or secnario would come to mind and I realized that somehow this wasn't right. I'd started in the wrong place, or I'd written to the wrong place. I wrote that the hero and heroine knew each other prior, but really it would be better if the just met because of X, Y, and Z. Yes, we all figure stuff out as we write, but for me, the problem was the stuff I figured out would make me have to start over, because it meant writing the story in an entirely new way because I hadn't thought it all the way through to begin with. Cue the frustration and tears.

The 30K curse became tedious and for me at least, a waste of precious time. When we aren't full time writers, but are striving to be, we may only have a certain amount of time in our day to write. So 30k in, I've wasted a week or more worth of writing time just to start over again. 

Up until four months ago I was a total pantser. Complete advocate for it. Now, I’ve become a plotter with a dash of pants. So a plottser if you will.  What does that mean exactly?

I don’t outline every little detail. That’s too much for me, plus despite having a clear basis, things ultimately do change. For me, having my scenes laid out, with the main point of that is scene keeps me focused. It lets me have the full view of my story to make sure that from beginning to end, the details I want to be there are actually there. It also lets me realize if something isn't working and I need to go back to change it. 

Damn. It's hard sometimes. The urge to just start writing tries to take over, but I know if I don't plot first, that 30k curse will come back and bite me--and not in the fun, sexy way mmkay. 

So how did I go from winging it to plotting it? I sat down and told my story without all the bells and whistles. On each card I wrote what I wanted to happen. The first step, then the next. It’s not pretty, and it’s not every detail, but my basic blue print is there. I can see the next mile marker in the road. I’ve got my target and my aim is ready--but sometimes, as I'm writing, I still need to add, subtract, or move around scenes.

A phyiscal board becomes tedious--at least for me--fast.

Scrivener is my favorite writing program, for many reasons. One of them, is the bulletin board with index cards. This acts as my virtual plot chart. I know a lot of people like hands on, but sticky notes and push pins become tedious for me and I wind up losing half of them anyway. Especially since I may decide a scene should come earlier than another. So instead of tacking and retacking, I can click a tab and go over to my bulletin board, see what’s next or what I may need to add and take away before clicking right back to my document.

No matter anyones plotting style, it’s not an easy transition from just winging it. Sitting down and forcing myself to think through the story made me want to pull my hair out. The urge to write is always there, more so as I flesh out the story. It’s also not for everyone, but the more deadlines that come, the more it might be beneficial to at least have the bare bones of a story.

With any luck, this transition will keep me from having the 30k curse at the forefront of my manuscript.

What about you guys? What's your plotting style? Did your originally pants? Ooh were you a plotter who became a pantser? That's a story I'd love to hear!

Happy Writing!


  1. I started out as a definite pantser, but I realized, about 30k in, that having a good outline was going to help me out a LOT! Since I've only been working on this one novel-length project for so long, it may well be that I need that pantsing time to get a feel for the story, then sit down and plot it out from there. We shall see! :)

    1. That's awesome! So you're a plottser too! *fistbump* Awww yeah. We all have our different ways of making it work.

  2. Good article. I always have the same problem. I sail through the story and end up at 30-40k all vines intact but no stuffing. It's a curse. I see people with 80k and I think "do I even know that many words?" I'll gives this a try. I write on a iPhone and wish I could get scrivener. Alas, not yet, but I hear it's coming. One can only hope!!!