Tag Archives: plotting

Post-Planning

11 Jan

The whole point of planning is to do it before what it is you are undertaking. It’s so all you have to do is follow the path instead of wading through the wilderness. What if I told you, though, there’s also something like post-planning?

You might think I’m mad. And I am, but that’s neither here nor underwear. Personally, I have tried to plot and plan, but my biggest dream of actually plotting most of my novel and writing like the blazes because of it has only happened once. A small thought stepped forward while I was trying to train myself to plot and it occurred to me that writing a first draft IS the plotting. You write it and afterwards you make a lay-out of your scenes and character growth and all that. It makes it easier to check your work and then make any necessary changes. Basically it makes you an edit-plotter, though I’m sure there’s a cooler name for it. Hang on, I’ll think of one.

This means that really there are no wing-it writers, there are just different ways of plotting. What ever works for one writer, will not work for the other. I mean, think about it, our characters are so different from each other. Doesn’t it make sense that humans are are also very different from each other?

DEATH DRAGON WRITER. Yes, that’s the cooler the name. Spread the word. You’re writers, you’ll be good at that.

 

The Dark Cloud

11 Apr

As you all know I’m a wing-it writer. Even if a completely plotted novel smacked me in the face, I’d still be a wing-it writer, probably. I’m happy with it most moments, but there are also times when I dislike it so much that it makes my left eyebrow move up ever so slightly. That’s right, that’s how bad it is.

You see, there comes a time when The Dark Cloud appears. He is very annoying and always hangs around for at least a few days. At most a few weeks. Why? Because you’ve almost reached the end. This is the part where you actually have to figure out the ending. I know, frustrating when you go with the flow, along with your characters. So this is the part where you get a bit stuck and each time you sit down, nothing comes out. You start to browse the internet and before you know it you’ve wasted an entire day. Worst of all, you feel bad about it. You want to write. You want to finish your first draft. And you refuse to accept that this is writer’s block. And it’s not. It’s pre-writer’s block. It’s The Dark Cloud.

The thing is, there are ways of getting your creative juices flowing. There are ways to just suck it up and write. And there are certainly ways to conquer this evil cloud. First of all, brainstorming. Don’t do it sitting down because apparently walking is really good when it comes to luring out the muse. And then of course, there is the simple Sit Down. This means you set a timer for a brief period of time. (It can even be six minutes!) And just write. Try not to stop. If it’s easier, try not to think too much. Just write. You don’t have to do this for your WIP, but you can do it for a short story or a writing prompt, anything like that. You don’t have to train your writing muscles by working on your manuscript, it can be anything. The important thing is that you keep training them. Who knows? It might spark ideas for your WIP, or it might make you want to work on it, regardless of ideas. Either way, it will get you writing.

And that’s the only thing strong enough to drive away The Dark Cloud: writing. Yeah, and maybe I should really try that whole plotting thing…

Notebook Shenanigans

15 Jan

As per my resolutions, I am scribbling fiercely in my notebooks. I know, even my pet dragons are surprised. Since I am thoroughly enjoying those moments and proudly told someone about my notebooks and handed out advice about what to write in them, I figured, why not share with you, loyal reader writers.

So here we go, based on my notebook shenanigans: WHAT TO WRITE IN YOUR NOTEBOOKS…

 

  1. You need at least one notebook that must be called Book of Wordiness. This is the notebook that you’ll fill with….well, words. Not just any words, though. See, what makes writing an art is when you use the ‘write’ words. Fill this notebook with words you find beautiful and fill it with the synonyms of everyday and/or simple words. Like walking, smiling or looking. There are many words for the same thing. Use them. Diversity is good. Fancy words are also good, as long as you use them sparingly. Also fill this notebooks with metaphors or similes that you come up with. Or perhaps any interesting descriptions or other sentences that pop into your head. Beautiful crap, basically. 😉
  2. One notebook needs to be filled with writing tips. Just writing tips.
  3. One for outlining stuff and structure. So, drawings of the three-act structure and the character arc. Things like that. You can adapt those to any story you write and add brief outlines or frameworks for your stories.
  4. One for short stories and writing prompts. Fill it with post its and put a mini sticky note after each writing prompt or short story to separate them, but write the name of whatever is on that page on top of the sticky note so that when you need to find a writing prompt or short story, you can immediately find it.
  5. One for your novels. Plot outline, characters, scene descriptions, excerpts. Anything to do with the Big Works.

 

And that’s about it. Depending on what you write, you can also get a notebook for each genre, but hey, I like any excuse to buy MORE notebooks. Basically I could manage with five different notebooks, but I have like ten. Why, you ask? Because notebooks are AWE…wait for it….EPIC!

If you don’t have a notebook, get five. And if you do, tell me what you write in them. I’d like to know about your writerly shenanigans.

 

Happy scribbling.

 

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Plot It Like A Bunny

20 Nov

Funnily enough this post isn’t about how to plot or about bunnies. It is however, about the Plot ingredient which should always be in the Story Cauldron. I write character-driven stories because life is about people and books are about life, but this doesn’t mean I’m not big on plot. Even though the emphasis of a story might be on characters, that doesn’t mean that the amount of effort put into the plot should be any less than the effort put into characterisation.

– A plot should always move towards the climax and its subsequent resolution. That is to say, keep the goal in mind. You should also be able to summarise your plot in one sentence.
– There should also be a subplot, which you should also be able to summarise in one sentence. People who get stuck have usually lost sight of their plot and/or subplot. If that happens easily, it might be a good idea to make an outline before you start writing. That makes it easier for you to begin and stick to it once you’re halfway through that beast of a story.
– The one-sentence summary should contain the goal. Every plot should have a goal because that’s how you know what obstacles you’ll add into the Cauldron. Here it is also interesting to create tension by giving the character traits that already don’t match with the goal. Characters make interesting obstacles.
– There should be a set of mini-achievements for a character in order to reach the goal, they are usually reactions to the obstacles. This is especially clear in mystery, for instance. The goal is to solve a murder, they have a suspect, but then new information arrives and shows the suspect is not the killer. They have to use that new information to get closer to a new suspect and every time they uncover something, whether it sets them back or not, it all adds up to the eventual truth; everything leads to their goal. Cause and effect.
– It should always be clear in which direction you’re moving, but you should still throw a few curve-balls at your readers to keep them on their toes. Subtlety is key here. Hint by sliding it past them, not by throwing the hint in their face. Also feel free to lay out false clues, but only one or two or your readers might feel tricked, in a bad way.

Keep moving closer to the goal, even a setback for your character is still a motion. Move gradually, not like a bullet, but like a leaf in the wind. Never ever stop, because like a shark, your plot will die.

plotting bunny

TIP: The elements of a good plot are pretty straightforward and you can discover them easily by thinking of what you expect of a novel with a good plot, as a reader. Thinking like a reader will help you when writing. (Note: don’t think like a reader WHILE writing, only before or after.)

Proud to be a Winger

14 Jun

I’m officially a (self-declared) cosy mystery writer so naturally my plan was to plot this whole son of a b*tch since mysteries involve carefully planted clues. I scribbled and scribbled and brainstormed until my brain hurt and eventually just started writing. That’s when things started flowing and I realised that maybe I shouldn’t try so hard to be something that I’m not. I always dive into my stories and see what happens. When I finished my first story, things came together in a way that my conscious hadn’t even realised yet. I always believed that the subconscious knew more and made connections even before I saw them, but the doubtful voice in my head said that such a thing was too easy and that I should plot like a ‘real’ writer. But lots of (famous) writers don’t plot. The writing process is a personal one. You have to decide what works for you.
That is why I’m declaring myself a loud and proud winger. Winger sounds weird. Non-plotter? Notter? No. Anyway, the only plotting I’ll be doing is during the formation of my world domination plans.

funny-dog-pictures-busy-plottin

 

Right now the writing is going well and I’ve added a word count at the right top side of my shiny blog in case you are interested to follow the process of my latest cosy mystery. Before I tried to write one page a day, but in the last five days I’ve written six chapters! So now a chapter a day is my goal.

I’m just going to see where it goes. The subplot might need some fleshing out, but that is what second drafts are for! We go onwards! To the lair!

One Genre

25 May

When stories come to me, they can be of any genre. How open-minded of them. And I never minded, a story is a story, should it check to see what genre I write before it knocks on my door? I never thought so. But as I’m lately thinking about what kind of writer I want to be, I came across this article that recommended sticking to one genre. This got me thinking. Part of me objected and was like; what about the story? Should I just leave it out in the cold? And the other part of me thought; at least I won’t be all over the place and I can focus on one story.

So this is what I’ve decided to do for now. Sorry, other stories, but you are being shoved into the back of the drawer. Don’t worry, I’ll leave you some candy. But for now, only one WIP at a time.

So what genre am I focussing on?

There is really only one genre that always makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Cosy mysteries. So right now, that is what I’m working on. I’ve already reached chapter seven, but am trying to outline more than ever before. It’s a mystery after all and I need to know how to scatter the clues and where to drop the red herrings. It’s hard though. I can tell I’m more of a wing-it person. It becomes too clinical for me when I have to analyse what I’m about to write and why. With me it has to flow. But I’m not giving up yet, even if I only have a few scenes to work towards, that will help. So all that evil chuckling you hear coming from the writing lair, is me trying to plot the hell out of my WIP. Wish me luck and if I don’t make it out alive…avenge my death!

 sleuth female

Outline VS No Outline

16 May

I read that Charles Dickens never knew what would happen as he wrote. Have you ever seen how big his books are? And everything connects with each other. I think that’s amazing and it proves you don’t need to outline every single thought that contributes to the plot. However, I also believe that it depends on the writer, because there are writers who have the story in their heads from beginning to end and make it work too.

I’m definitely a wing-it-person myself, I try to outline as much as I can, but it doesn’t seem to work for me. It’s like the story is already there, all I need to do is write. So that’s what I do. I just write. It starts with a basic idea, then the characters (sometimes the other way around) and then the words just flow onto the paper. Alright, it’s not always that easy, but for a first draft I just tell myself to keep going, writing for the sake of writing. Then I can always edit later on. Plus, by forcing yourself to write you usually come up with great ideas. At least, that’s the case with me. Of course I do take a little break sometimes to assess different plot turns and see which will work best, but once I know which direction I want to head in I’m good to go. And when I find that I have no idea which way to go, that’s where I just write the first thing that comes to mind and usually that sparks great ideas later on. Pressure can be a good thing, I’ve learned. If you’re stuck it’s also a good idea to write the ending, or a future scene so that you know what you’re writing towards.

The pros of outlining are that you know exactly what to write and why you’re writing it. If you do it well, then you basically already have the roadmap of your story and all you have to do is follow it to the end. Then comes the editing and you can see how well you’ve done. The advantage of this is that you’ve already decided where you’re going and figured out what works and what doesn’t. You’re focused and have a clear vision of your final destination. Now all you have to do is drive there, which goes much faster if you know where you’re going.

The cons of outlining are that there is no room for creativity, you’ve already thought about which scene goes where and after hard work you’ve come up with the perfect full circle, but what if you discover something along the way? Oh, what is that? Another character just popped up? No, that can’t happen because it’s not planned. But it can happen, because in the imagination anything can happen. Writing is a creative endeavour and no matter how perfectly planned the story is, you still never know until you actually write. You might also get tunnel vision and at some point lose track of the big picture because you’re so focussed on what your outline told you to write that it might take you a while to notice that it’s not working. I’ve heard stories of writers that had an outline and started writing, but then realised something wasn’t working and they weren’t sure what. It could be something in the plot that looked good on paper but just isn’t right, or it could be the lack of soul. Sometimes, because you don’t have a clear goal, you go places that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Something that doesn’t necessarily contribute to what you had in mind, but does in fact benefit the soul of the story in some way.

The pros of no outline are therefore that you have more freedom. You’ve packed your bags and are ready for the road trip of a lifetime. You know roughly in which direction you go, but anything is still possible. Predicting what lies ahead can’t always be done and sometimes you need to react on something along the way, something that’s unpredictable. Let’s just stick to the driving metaphor and say that there’s a road block, then you need to find a way around it at that moment and who knows where that might lead to? And that can be a good thing. You have room for creativity and you find that your original idea may lead you to a completely new and better idea.

The cons of no outline are that you can get lost along the way. Without a clear destination you might end up driving in circles. If you don’t at least know what you’re trying to say and what you’re writing for, it’s hard to determine what should be written in the first place. A book needs some structure in order to make sense, so it’s good to have some things planned, even if it’s just one scene at the end and one in the middle.

 

What works for me is the middle ground. Somewhere between plotting like a villain and winging it like a politician that was just caught cheating. However, it is up to the writer. Everybody has their own system and what works for me, won’t work for them and vice versa. So which are you? Plotter? Winger? Or plonger?

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