Thursday, June 2, 2011

Who, Me? Plot?

Having been a writer who never wanted to plot a book before actually writing it, I can relate to those who are reading this and nodding at the title of this blog.  Strange, but I've come almost full circle since those days and am no longer a panster.  In fact, the mere thought of writing a book or synopsis without first knowing where the story is going, turns my blood cold.  Yes, it terrifies me.  And that is so weird.

I did not go from panster to plotter in a day, a week, or a month.  It took me a few years to find what worked for me.  Would I like to go back to the days when I sat down with that glimmer and wrote until THE END?  Uh, no.  Not even if I could do away with the cold blood thing.

The key to plotting is that each writer must find what works best for her/him.  Trying to use the exact method of another writer will probably result in huge frustration. Instead, pick from several ideas and use what works for you. If being a panster works for you and you're either selling books or at the least getting requests for full manuscripts if not yet published, then far be it from me to tell you that you must plot.  Not hardly.

But if you've had submissions rejected because of a sagging middle* or you begin to struggle halfway or somewhere else during the writing of your book, giving some thought to doing a smidgen of plotting could be helpful.  And there are as many ways to plot as there are writers.  You may already be plotting in your head and haven't realized it.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a fairly solid idea of where your story will start?
  • Do you know your main characters, especially their GMCs (Goal, Motivation, Conflict)?  Yes, for the hero and the heroine.
  • Do you have an idea--at least an inkling--of what event the H/H is keeping them apart and what (sacrifice?  truth-telling?  compromise?) will bring the together in the end?  (This would be the Black Moment and the Resolution aka the HEA.)
  • Most importantly, do you have a main turning point?  A scene about midway through the story where something will happen that changes everything and ups the ante for both characters?  knowing this will save you from that sagging middle problem.
I'm hearing groans.  I'm hearing deep, heart-wrenching sighs.  I'm hearing voices raising in argument.  I'm also seeing blank looks and eyebrows drawn together in confusion.  So that's plotting?  Well, yes, for some it is.  For me, it's the beginning of plotting.  But you aren't me.  (Lucky devil!)

There's a plethora of information out there that can help with plotting.  The best way to find what will help is to do a search for *book plotting* or similar search strings, read a few articles and suggestions, and then give it a try.  (There are also tons of books available on the subject, if you want to dig deeper.)  Don't try to force yourself into something that isn't comfortable, but look for some small things that, with a personal twist that suits you, could be helpful.  Need suggestions to get you going?  Okay!

Learn the Elements of a Novel - Structure and Plot
I discovered this one not long ago when I was tweaking my own plotting.  It works off the 3-Act principle, making it easier for some to understand.  And there are many other parts of this site that are connected to plotting, so if it grabs your interest, even a little, check out more of it.

Alicia Rasley's Writer's Corner
This is one of my all-time favorites.  Look for the Archived Articles of the Month link in the column on the left.  Alicia and fiction editor Theresa Stevens also have Edittorrent, a blog about editing.  Definitely a must visit!

Hopefully you'll find more resources on your own and maybe one or more will be exactly what you need to shed some light on plotting.  Just so you know that I really, truly do plot, here's a photo of my plotting board.  It's just one way--my way--of plotting.  I hope you can find yours!

Scary, huh?

*Sagging Middle
No, not that kind of sagging middle.  I haven't found a way to overcome that kind.
In writing, a sagging middle is where a book loses steam...and interest.  This often happens in the middle of the story.  Good conflict and a change (turning point) can go a long way in beginning to help fix the problem.

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