I love having Stephen Zimmer as a guest blogger on my site. Today, it’s all fantasy and it’s WONDERFUL!!!! It’s been some years since Mr. Zimmer has been on Writer Groupie, and we are thrilled to have him back.
The Plotting of a New Story: Insights On My Process
When I have an idea for a new story and begin to prepare for the writing phase, I have an approach to the plotting side of things that I have found works very well for me, especially with the process that I have honed and developed over the years.
Most of my work tends to fall into various series or themed collections. In regard to a series, I have to bear in mind two key things: the new book’s place and role in the larger series, and the title in and of itself. The book needs its own arc and destination, while also serving a key function within the greater arc spanning the entirety of the series.
Once I have identified my goals in both of those main areas, I envision a basic direction and outline for the main plot elements and key character threads. I do not make this outline overly detailed. A general course is all I need to establish, from where I begin, to the primary conflict points in that book, to some key scene ideas, and to where things end up when all is said and done (which includes what needs to be set in place for the beginning of the next installment).
I choose to leave the outline fairly basic, in order to leave room for new ideas, characters, and plot/sub-plot elements that inevitably crop up during the writing process. Sometimes, the existing characters will guide you to these things, and at other times, the new elements will come from different sources.
One common source is the research needed for an individual volume. In creating the basic outline, I identify subject areas that I am going to need to do research on to get a grounding for the writing phase. In researching a topic, I have often found inspiration and ideas for new elements to introduce to deepen the plot or advance a character.
The creation of a basic outline also gives me a sense of the pacing and plot development without constricting me too much. If I identify an area where the reader has been on a full-throttle pace a little too long, I can put in a thread or scene that gives a breather in the pacing, to help improve the dynamics of a story.
Changes in pace, or dynamics, can help improve the impact of the storytelling significantly, as opposed to keeping things stuck at a singular pacing. A slower moment followed by a burst of action will have more of a “punch” to it, in the way that a loud and powerful segment of music does when following a slow, more gentle sequence.
Further, the basic outline helps give some structure and direction to those new, emerging threads, characters, and plot/subplot elements that I mentioned earlier. It prevents the story from becoming chaotic and falling astray from the book’s goals, both in terms of the series and in itself.
On the “plotter versus pantser” spectrum, I would put myself closer to the center, with a slight tilt to the plotter side. I love the process and the surprises that it delivers, so I don’t box myself in. But I do need guideposts and a sense of direction, to make sure I don’t veer too far off course or find myself written into a corner, where the ending is going to be unsatisfactory to a reader after a great build-up and early development.
It is my firm view that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, and every writer has to find their way to what works best for them. Some writers may thrive with extensive outlining, and others may find their best approach lies in having even less of an advance outline than I use. This is the approach that I find works best for me, along with the reasons why it works well in my process, and I wish you the best in the development of your own process and plotting approach!
This blog tour spotlights the latest Rayden Valkyrie Tale, Darkness Enthroned, and the latest Ragnar Stormbringer Tale, The Awakening! Readers of fantasy, heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, dark fantasy, and action-driven tales will love these adventures featuring two iconic protagonists!
About the author: Stephen Zimmer
Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie Tales (Sword and Sorcery), The Ragnar Stormbringer Tales (Sword and Sorcery) the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), and the Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre).
Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.
Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.