Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Plotting and Pages

This past week, I had to stop writing on my WIP and regroup. Though my roots are in total Seat-Of-The-Pants writing, I have changed over the past few years. I need a synopsis. I need more than that. I need a Chapter By Chapter synopsis. I need a GMC chart so I will know what my characters want, why they want it, and what is keeping them from attaining it. The photo above is of one of the white boards in my Sunday School class at church. Last Thursday, I took possession of the room for about five hours and wrestled with this storyline. I filled out Goal-Motivation-Conflict charts for each of the Point of View Characters. Both internal and external GMCs. I made a little time-line to show the three acts of the story and where the turning points are. I even sketched out how many words per chapter I could estimate, though that will vary greatly. Then I started listing (in no particular order) all the different things that had to happen in the book.

I took that list and began sketching out the chapters. What scenes would I need where in order for the story to make sense and get where I wanted it to go by the end of the book. Using the other white board in the room, I sketched out 20+ chapters, scene by scene. Then I started typing. I now have a 7 page chapter-by-chapter outline, more than 4500 words worth of story. I'll refer to this document constantly, along with the GMC spreadsheet I typed, while writing the book. I had thought that my original synopsis would be enough, that I'd be saving time if I just wrote from the synopsis I had. But I was floundering with the opening chapters because I only had a hazy idea of where I was going. I have to plot chapter-by-chapter if I want to be confident in the story. Lesson learned.

Also this week, since my daughter was home from college for a long weekend, we went shopping for some scrapbook stuff. For the past couple of years, I have kept and added to a scrapbook that chronicles my writing journey with pages for big events and a page each for my novels. You can view some of the pages by clicking on these links to previous posts.

The above picture celebrates my signing with Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary a year ago. The envelope holds a card from her to me on her personalized stationary, and I've included a picture of Rachelle, the WordServe logo, and the masthead picture of her blog. If you're an author and you haven't read her blog, do yourself a big favor and go read it! You can find it by clicking HERE. When I first decided to query Rachelle, I spent several days reading through her blog. I am amazed at her knowledge, her willingness to help authors, and how professional she is.

This page is to celebrate my novella in the upcoming September 2011 release of A Log Cabin Christmas.

Check out this line-up of authors and stories:

No Place for Angels by Margaret Brownley
The Christmas Secret by Wanda E. Brunstetter
Christmas Earthquake by Kelly Eileen Hake (tentative title)
A Star in the Night by Liz Johnson
The Courting Quilt by Jane Kirkpatrick
Under His Wings by Christine Cain (Liz Tolsma)
The Dogtrot Christmas by Michelle Ule
A Grand County Christmas by Debra Ullrick
Christmas Service by Erica Vetsch

Isn't that a terrific collection? I'm honored to be in such excellent company.

The scrapbook page is supposed to look like a Christmas present. I've included the title of the work, the title of my novella, and a photograph of a log cabin church such as is described in my story. The nativity scene, the wreaths, pine trees, and especially the sheep in the upper left corner all play a part in the story. I've left room for a picture of the cover of the book.

I'm not professional. I'm sure that dedicated scrapbook people could find lots of flaws in my pages, but I love my scrapbook. Each page is special to me.

I'll be working on a page for my current WIP as soon as I have more of it finished. Hopefully, before my writing career comes to an end, I'll be able to fill lots more pages.

Question for you scrapbook?


  1. I think I recognize that white board. Somehow, all your markings are much neater than mine when I fill it with references, words, arrows and, of course, my really bad artwork trying desperately to illustrate something.

  2. I love that white board. I. have. to. have. one. of. those.!!!!

    Love the scrapbooking pages, too! Those are fantastic!

  3. I have begun to leave the Seat-of-my-Pants method too. For my new project I purchased a big notebook and have started sketching out the characters and plot in advance. From now on I intend to have a full descriptiion of each character written down and keep track of dates and places and names. It's different for everyone, but I feel better knowing Im more organized this time. Love the scrapbooking...makes me want to get out all my stuff and make a few pages.

  4. I put all that stuff down, but in a notebook. I'm really thinking it would help to have a better visual.

    Keli Gwyn wrote about this on her blog some time ago and it tickled my strategy for this next book.

    Hmm. And now you are tickling!

    What a cool scrapbook page. Made me proud of you.

    ~ Wendy

  5. Congratulations on the novella!!! Woot!

    After our IM the other night, my process is looking a lot like yours. Maybe I should take a picture of my plotline--it's vertical, so not quite the same, but still. I need the security of a pre-written plot.

  6. Thanks for sharing your plotting process, Erica. What a neat way to get a big picture view of your story.

    I loved seeing your scrapbook pages. What a lovely way to document your journey.

  7. Love your scrapbook pages. The layout of the Christmas story page is very clever.

  8. He he...this sounds like me. My chapter by chapter outline was 10 pages long this time (about 28 chapters) and I LOVE that thing! It follows me all over the house and I can add extra notes to it and read what's coming up so I start to formulate that scene in my mind.

    Those scrapbooking pages are so cool. I used to scrapbook all the time but now I only do it for our women's retreats at church. I LOVE your idea of chronicling your writing journey, though, and I might have to steal your idea for the future :)

  9. You amaze me. I don't scrapbook but you make me want to start! I totally might start copying you someday....if I ever get to have a page in my book!! :)

  10. I wish! I have fantasies that I'll start this soon. My daughter is 9 and I think she has an inkling of an interest so maybe it'll be our thing. Maybe we can devote an hour or two a week to this? Love the Rachelle page!!!

  11. I looooooooooove this post.

    1. I've started to not be such a pantser anymore either. I typed up my "short outline" to sent to my CP and it was over 2K words. And I'm working on a more full scene-by-scene outline still. I think I'm right with you on that. (hehe, I clicked the picture of the white board and it let me zoom in - I could even read a few things on the board. Thought you might want to know.)

    2. I scrapbook! You would love seeing my collection of papers. I need to actually get to using them though! (Had this bright idea that before I scrapbooked everything I'd scan all the pictures. From back to my childhood. And my husband's. That made the project draw out a bit.)

  12. I scrapbook, but not proficiently. Interestingly, the name of my daughter who loves scrapbooking is also Heather, and she's occasionally helped with one of my projects. (We like making greeting cards together, too.)

    I've made a personal scrapbook entitled, "It's a Wonderful Life", and it has pages for random events that I remember as significant -- one page collages for each of our children, my encounter with astronaut Robert Thirsk, my one movie-making adventure, etc. But the only writing-related page is about the sale of my first magazine article and subsequent paycheque years and years ago. There's nothing about my current writing. Maybe because my novels aren't published I don't consider them significant enough? LOL. I do collages for them, however, and keep those clipped into my working binders.

    I remember your earlier posts about pages for your contracted books and love the idea of recording your journey as an author.

    Your white board is a good idea. I keep everything in a spreadsheet -- it's not as visual but I can take it with me.

  13. Love your scrapbook pages---so creative and so pretty! I do scrapbook but for some reason I don't allow myself the freedom to do it very often. I must fix that!

    I enjoyed reading about your plotting process! It's always fun to get an inside peek into a writer's mind!

  14. You and Kaye Dacus are just so inspiring with your plotting techniques! I love it!

  15. I'm totally drooling over that white board! I'm so going to need one of those...

  16. Everything about this post, every part of it, makes me itchy.


    Except your pretty scrapbook. Those were very pretty pages. :-)

  17. I will write the 1st draft 'free' as I plot best that way & it never works for me if I try to tell the characters who they are. I have to wait until they reveal themselves to me.

    I do plan at the revision / spit & polish phase however - gmc's - scene charts, etc ... That's when I rein it in and make it cohesive. So, I must loosen up more on the first draft and just allow it to be so I can write it quicker.

  18. I love to scrapbook as you probably remember! :) Just finished a huge organization of my closet and cleaned out my scrapbook corner. Now I'm all set to make a scrapbook for myself with some of my new book projects. Most of the time I scrapbook and give them away - but I'm thinking I'm going to love doing one just for me.

    Your pages are lovely.