Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A plot is like a map...

I've been reading a lot about plot lately. To plot or not to plot, that is the question. And I've tried to identify and quantify my own plotting process. For you can't change/improve a process until you analyze the death out of it. :)

I've tried a bunch of different plotting methods. Here are a few:

The Snowflake Method. Aye-yi-yi...hated it. My brain just doesn't work this way.
The Plot Skeleton. This helped a bit, if nothing else to help me deconstruct other novels or movies for what worked and what didn't.
The Three Act Model. From Jim Bell's Plot and Structure. Yep, this one helped me see story structure in a whole new light.
Note Cards. Yup, tried these a couple times. Color coded the POV character, the setting, the motivation, etc.
Outline/Synopsis/Storyline. The frustration with this is that I write out how I think the story will go and within the first thirty pages I've veered so far off the storyline I planned it seems a waste of time.

I've decided my plotting is like a road map. I know where I want to start, and where I want to end. The rest is a lot of twisty possibilities, side roads, interstates and freeways, county highways, and streets. And I'm driving in the dark. I have headlights though. I can see as far as the headlights reach in my story, and as long as I'm moving forward, a little more is illuminated.

My secret weapon: My daughter. When I have a rough idea of how the story will go, I talk it out with my daughter. As I refine the story and write more, I go back to her and she listens to the plot again. She endures this process about four times per novel. Each time, she pulls the story apart, asking pointed questions where she sees flaws.

I've just completed my 8th novel, and the last four have been done using this process. It seems to work for me.

How about you? Do you have a process? Are you a dedicated outliner? Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer? Or somewhere inbetween?

My thanks to CJ for the map. If you look closely, you can see her point of origin and what those who live outside Boston think of the rest of the USA. :)


  1. I tend to outline. Comes from linear thinking as a computer programmer.

    As to the map, Boston Civilization. Outside of Boston, the edge of the Earth. Hic sunt draconis. Here there be dragons. LOL

  2. That's awesome that your daughter is so involved and has a skilled ear. I kind of do a combo, and like you I want to know where I'm ending and I like to know the high points along the way. Eight books, eh?