Monthly Archives: July 2012

Plotter versus Plodder

I admit it — the title was an attempt to be cute to grab your attention.  Anyway, tonight’s title matchup is: do you plot when you write, or do you start writing and see what happens?

In the red corner, we have The Plotter: he lays out his entire story before putting virtual pen to paper.  He believes thou shalt describe everything in excruciating detail from your characters to your opening to your conclusion because thou wantest not to lie in endless fields of rewriting and thou wantest total control over thine story lest it begin to wander into the land of the Philistines and above all, thou hatest surprises and thou doesn’t want thine reader to be surprised either.

In the blue corner, we have The Plodder: he pulls an idea from the ether and starts writing.  Characters form as the story plods along.  The plot plods along.  Nay, plot germinates from the idea.  It blossoms into a story fertilized by the author’s imagination and copious lattes.  It explodes into a glorious climax before gently falling back to earth to seed the next idea.  The author snores contentedly while the reader smokes a cigarette.

I think my blue bias has leaked through somewhat.  Plus these views are overly simplistic, naturally.  I don’t think any writer fully sits in the red or the blue corner.

Anyway, people often speculate, which method is better?  I have my own thoughts on the subject.

All the books on writing that I read in my formative years said to outline everything ahead of time.  For me, that kills interest in the story.  I just want to friggin’ write, man.  I always figured I was doing it wrong.  Then I read Stephen King’s On Writing and it was such a relief.  Turns out, King (my hero) doesn’t plot either.

Plodding does require extra rewriting, I admit.  Sometimes I wander a bit.  Sometimes I have to discard entire pages that aren’t working, but I’m okay with this.  I don’t mind editing myself, and no writing is ever wasted.  If a scene doesn’t work, I save it in a slush document for possible use later.  Yay computers.

I do Plot a little bit.  I create character sketches and interviews before I start.  While I’m gaily tapping away, I generally know what the climax of the current set-piece will be, and I have a pretty good idea how the story will end.  It’s like hiking through the mountains — I can see the next signpost, and I can see the peak where I want to be by suppertime, but I don’t yet know which path I’ll take to get there.

I’m the first audience for my stories.  I write them because I like reading them.  That’s my motivation for writing in the first place.  I’m telling myself a story, and I can’t wait to see how it spins out.  I don’t want to spoil my own surprise.

Plus if it’s a surprise to me, it should be a surprise to my reader.

What it comes down to is, I can’t write any other way than I do.  I have tried.

I feel I should wrap this up in a general conclusion: whatever works for you, that is what you should do.  No one is going to know whether you Plotted or Plodded if the story is good.

If the story sucks, try the other corner.

What about you?  Are you a Plotter or a Plodder?

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Manly microwave omelette recipe

Here’s a quick and ultra-low-carb yet tasty-and-filling recipe for a morning omelette, that’s easy to make and requires little cleanup (especially if you have a dog).

First, spray olive oil Pam in a microwaveable bowl.  If you don’t have that, smear some olive oil around the bowl with your fingers.  This is important because egg sticks like concrete when it dries.

Next, crack two whole eggs into it.  If you haven’t heard, eggs are back on the healthy menu because they have good and bad cholesterol, and the good more than counters the bad.  Still, my doctor doesn’t recommend more than two yolks a day, so I add a little Egg Beaters to the mix, say another egg’s worth.

Add a splash of milk, because it makes the eggs fluffy (science!) and adds a little protein.  Chop some cheddar cheese and drop it in.  Add real bacon bits, either crumbled from a pre-cooked strip, or you can buy them precooked and prechopped in little bags or bottles.

Optional one: chop a little bell pepper and onion and toss them in.  Optional two: add a tablespoon of hemp hearts or ground flax for fiber and Omega-3.

Stir the concoction with a fork, cover the bowl with a paper towel, and stick it in the microwave.  Cook 3 minutes for two eggs, and 4 minutes for three eggs or equivalent Eggbeater combo.  Cook at 70% power to heat evenly.

At around the halfway mark, pop open the microwave and give it a stir with the fork.  If you forget to do this, no biggie but the texture will be uneven and all the veggies will be at the bottom.  Also you can get nasty air pockets which explode and spray hot egg at you when you poke them.  Also at this point, you can add chopped tomato bits.

Generally I consider the omelette done when it feels done and there is no liquid left dribbling around on the bottom of the bowl, however depending how many veggies you put in, there may be a little liquid left anyway.  More for the dog.

When done, flip it onto a plate, then add salt, pepper, and Tabasco.  It’s around 25 grams of protein and almost no carbs.  There is a little fat, but when you are low carbing you don’t care about fat so long as it’s reasonable and mostly non-saturated.  (Low carb beats low fat every time.)

Cleanup is simple: give the bowl to the dog for a prewash then pop it and the cutting board into the dishwasher.  Since I don’t have that many microwaveable bowls or cutting boards, and my dog is getting rather complacent about cleaning every last bit of egg from the bowl, I have started washing by hand which adds an extra 2 minutes.

My wife’s contribution: chop the veggies and cheese ahead of time and store them in Tupperware bins in the fridge.  Over the week this saves a lot of time in the chopping and cleaning up phases.  Danger: this requires some planning ahead.

If you try it, let me know if you like it, and/or if you have any variations of your own.

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