Book Mapping for the Pantser

3 Aug

I’m a total Pantser… I just took the test at RWA to prove it (that’s another post, but coming soon) and so, if I use a tool, it’s in the aftermath of writing the book.

I’ve tweeted a couple times about either making or using my book map for Secret book 2. This tool has totally saved my life in trying to slot things that need to be added. One of the hardest things about slotting was that a lot of the book revolves around school and soccer games – five day week kind of deal.

Several people have asked what my book map looks like, so here’s the basics.

Along the top of an excel spreadsheet:

CH — SC — PG — NOTE — DAY — DotW

Simple, right – okay, good luck.

Just kidding.

CH: Chapter. Very easy —> 1

SC: Scene. I make these by chapter.scene —> 1.1, 1.2, etc

PG: This is the page that starts on. These will move and sometimes need adjusting. I always make the Page # for the first page of a new chapter a different color so I can scan the list and make sure my chapters are running at good lengths.

NOTE: This is a really basic note about what was important in this scene. I don’t do the whole GMC, I just do what I think I need to know from the scene. If you’re typing stupid stuff in there, you know you need to look at it again.

DAY:Time of day. This keeps things timed out pretty well without a clock.Β M/D/S/E/N —> Morning, Daytime, School (if weekday), Evening, Night

DotW: Day of the week. I also keep these last two in the chapter headers so that I can do the map really easily later.

There are several great reasons for doing the map afterward. First, it helps me slide things in and find things easily. Second, it’s a good gut check for pacing, time and events. Third, there’s your outline or synopsis started.

Mostly, I do it very loosey-goosey just when I need to make something fit. I’ve done it for 2 of my 3 books. I’m sure if I finish the next book and it’s not needing any big slotting I may skip the Book Mapping at the end. But, then again, I may find I needed it for the other two reasons.

So there it is – a pantser and her one post-writing tool — What’s your favorite tool? Maybe I can steal that one πŸ˜‰

13 Responses to “Book Mapping for the Pantser”

  1. Scribereglyph August 4, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    I really don’t have a book map, so to speak, though I do map out my stories.

    I do an outline:



    Act 1
    Act 2
    Act 3
    Act 4

    Under those headings I insert “things” that must happen in the story as well as things that I would like to happen in the story.

    From there, I take the outline and break it into chapters, and create a Chapter Summary for each chapter.

    From the Chapter Summaries I write my scenes.

    It works for me, but I think I’ll give your map method a try.

  2. briaq August 4, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    Oh dear lord….another plotter πŸ˜‰

    I have to tell you, I’ve always been a pantser. Even as a baby babbling out stories in the carseat. I know I couldn’t do this ahead of time. I’ve tried a few times – but I do like how general you leave yours.

    Also, PANTSERS – coming soon, notes from the pantsing workshop!

  3. Amanda Berry August 4, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    I’m a plotter. I admit it. But I don’t do a scene by scene outline, just a synopsis of how I think the action will move through the story. It ends up about 5 pages long. Most of the time it follows the synopsis, but other times it grows differently because of the characters. I’ve used something similar in revisions before, but I like yours. Thanks for sharing.

  4. briaq August 4, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    Look at all you plotters! Are you feeling pantsery just being here.

    I do need to keep it super simple. I’ve heard plotters say, “It takes you 2Xs as long to write a book if you’re a pantser.” This is Not.True. I fast draft my book in 2 weeks (Book 1 = 11 days, Book 2 = 9 days) – the edits & revisions both take about 2-4 weeks pre-agent.

    With my Book Mapping (I build it as I do the read thru so no extra time spent) I can see holes and opportunities and fix them…. No pre-plotting needed for same out come.

    Don’t get me wrong. The grass is always greener. Sometimes, I look over the fence at your plotters and just sigh with envy πŸ™‚ But not always. πŸ˜‰

  5. Patrick Alan August 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    I use a first reader. He’s mean. Tells me when I miss stuff and that I suck at writing. I find him very useful.

  6. Cara Wallace August 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    Does Write or Die count as a tool? That’s about the only thing I use. I try to plan, but it doesn’t work.

  7. briaq August 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    HA Patrick! Mean First Reader – too bad you can’t bottle that.

    Cara – I have absolutely NO tool I find useful ahead of time. The story starts and then it continues and then it ends. If I need to fix something, I use the quick tool here. Otherwise, yeah. And I do love Write or Die πŸ˜‰

  8. Cara Wallace August 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Stories just mock me when I try to plot them. They laugh and make funny faces.

  9. briaq August 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I think we should write a story about the story actually mocking us…. or wait… I think that was Alex and Emma. None of my non-writing friends like that movie LOL

  10. Katrina Williams August 4, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    You’ll be shocked to hear I have a spreadsheet too, but mine has more columns for things like POV, setting, major characters present, yadda yadda. AND GMC. πŸ™‚ I mostly fill it out at the beginning and use it as an outline, then to find gaps after I’m finished.

  11. briaq August 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Um…. hmmm…. It may just be that the upside of writing 1st person clears that all away, but I doubt it. I can’t see me doing that much unless I was reallllly stuck. Do you do all that after the fact?

  12. Leigh August 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    Very good information. I need this structure. All examples were quite good. I need to find the one that works just right for me. Sometimes a swift kick in the right direction is all you need. (how’s that for a sorta mixed metaphor?)

  13. briaq August 4, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    LOL You can mix whatever you want πŸ™‚

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