Thursday, October 08, 2009

Plot Board Time Again

It's back to the plotting board for me.
After writing several novels, some Seat of the Pants, some more outlined, I've finally come up with a system that works for me.
Brainstorm, compost, and otherwise ruminate on a story.
Talk about it outloud, exploring possibilities and fleshing out ideas, either with a friend on IM or with my daughter, Heather, or preferably BOTH.
Throw ideas onto post-it notes and put them up on the plot board. What did authors do before post-it notes, BTW? Arrange, rearrange, tell and retell the story, filling in holes, discarding what doesn't work, and celebrating those A HA! moments that come with such serendipity.
Layer in the spiritual thread, and work everything into the romance thread. Ruminate, discuss, discard and add some more.
Eventually, I take everything I've got off the plot board and incorporate it into a chapter-by-chapter synopsis that gives a one or two paragraph summary of the story, a line for setting. a line for characters present, and a brief statement of the scene goal. This one is especially important as I want to make sure every scene is doing some sort of job and preferably two or three things at once.
When I've sent the synop to a crit partner or two for a looksee, then I'm all set to write. Look out, NaNo, here I come!
How do you plot? Or do you write SOTP? Do you have a system, an amalgamation of systems? Or do you think, "who needs a system, let's just write!"


  1. OH my!!! LOL Erica, it hurts to even look at that. I'm SOTP all the way.
    I hope you get a great story going. :-)

  2. Interesting system, though I see way too much pink. Me thinks you should rework the blue thread (-;

  3. I LOVE that system! I'm a plotter. 100% plotter. Right now I'm still working on my outline for my WIP, and I'm still not quite happy with it.

  4. Great idea. At the moment I am systemless... I just write. It seems to work for now :)

  5. I'm a huge plotter but I've never tried the storyboard method.
    It looks impressive!

  6. I love all the colors on your plot board. Wow, that looks fun. I might have to try that. Good visual.

  7. Wow, that's an intense planning system! I'm usually way less of a planner. But, since I'm about 75% sure I'm going to do NaNo, I'm going to work on a new plotting system. Probably the most prepared I've ever been for writing a novel before. We'll see how it works!

  8. Do you follow @johannaharness on twitter? That looks very much like her plot boards. :-)

    I've been moving from pantser to plotter this summer, and have had good results with writing up character sketches, a synopsis of the whole story, and then doing a scene-by-scene outline in yWriter, Holly Lisle style (she uses index cards). I don't plan all the scenes out, just 20 or so to start with, then more as I write.

    For NaNo, I'm going to try to plan out more scenes in advance. :-)

    Good luck!

  9. Anonymous10:42 AM

    I am totally a plotter, even for school papers. I love my outline.

    I like it when Mom gets out the plot board. I love seeing and hearing all the pieces of the story and watching it go up in Post-its. Like Mom says, we throw a bunch of interesting stuff at the board and see what sticks! Happy Nano-ing, Mom!


  10. Is Heather available on loan?

  11. I just enlarged the picture for a closer look-see. Fantastic! I love how you keep the GMC in mind down there at the bottom.

    I must get off my bum and plot for Nov.!

  12. Jessica, I was a dedicated SOTP writer for a long time. It's only just recently that I figured out how to plot a story so that I could write it without dying of boredom. :)

    CJ, you stinker! That plot is actually for another book. This one will have LOTS of blue, just for you, I promise!

  13. Hey, Katie, maybe sometime we can have a writer's retreat weekend and we can compare notes on plotting styles. :)

    Tabitha, if it is working, run with it! No two systems are alike and there's no one thing that works for every writer.

  14. Jennifer, I got the storyboard idea from a post at Seekerville. Here's the link.
    This writing group has it for order, but I just made my own. This current novel will be the fifth one I've plotted with it.

  15. Heather S. the colors are one thing I love about the plot board. It sure helps me see how many POV scenes each character is getting, and in the picture you can see the tiny post its...that's scenes where my villain was showing up, so I can tell if I've left him out of things for too long.

  16. Cindy, Yay for NaNo participation! I don't think I could make it through NaNo without a plan. I'd spend too much time staring at the screen wondering what to write.

    JamieD, I found you on Nano! I tried yWriter, but I found myself spending too much time playing in there and not enough time actually writing the story. I'm glad it works well for you, though. :)

  17. Heather, thanks for all your help and the BRAINSTORM you had about Gus! You rock!

    Stephanie, I'm going to be a sad girl when Heather goes away to college next year. She's going to have to send ME care packages and we'll plot on the phone.

  18. Georgiana, yeah, I find if can figure out what the characters want and why, then denying them that comes pretty easily. :) Not as easy as you seem to find it, but still, :)

  19. This looks like something I could use! I've been wondering how to go about a new plotting system and this looks like it could really work for me! I saw the link to the Seeker's post and checked it out too. Do all your books contain 20 chapters? :)

  20. Hey, Sherrinda, not all my books are 20 chapters, it's just a starting point. If I need more space, use the area between the chapters and the GMC charts, and sometimes I need less room. So far, one board has been enough room to get me started on the process. Once I have a rough idea, then I can write the synopsis on the laptop in more detail.

    I hope this works for you!