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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Holy Wordcount, Batman - Thanks Goodness for Plotting

Yes, I use that joke a lot and no, I'm not tired of it yet. So today I'm going to talk about the importance of planning. :) I'm a plotter. I've always been a plotter, even if a pants a little in between. When I first started out writing, I tried every way of plotting. I storyboarded, I used notecards, I tried an outline, I studied everyone who had something to say on plotting. The point is I tried that stuff. However none of it really worked for me. I never got past 75,000 words no matter how much plot I tried to do or how many cards I tried to write.

Granted, I'm a fuller writer now. I don't write the bare minimum on first drafts. Each scene is complete with description, action, dialogue, senses, internal thought, feelings. So that probably doesn't hurt my word count, but even revised I couldn't pull more than 78,000 words. I'm currently at 95,000 on Fallen and it's not done. It's close to done, but it's not. Holy Wordcount, Batman!

What was different? My plotting technique changed quite a bit from those earlier versions. Instead of an outline detailing every scene, I wrote a synopsis. I know, the evil S word. I can't for the life of me write one of these when I'm done, but I found if I use it to plot....100K book, people.

I learned how to write a synopsis from a class taught by Katherine Garbera for Writing the Selling Silhouette Desire. During that class I plotted and created the synopsis for Catch a Star, which is now L.A. CINDERELLA. From that synopsis I wrote the story. Did the story change? Heck, yeah. But did the roadmap help? Heck, yeah.

For Fallen, I replotted again (cries softly inside), but this time I used the synopsis format.

First Paragraph - heroine, backstory and GMC (goals, motivation, conflict - what does she want, why does she want and what is keeping her from getting it)

Second paragraph - hero, backstory and GMC

If you have a villian you can do another paragraph on him.

What else do I need?

Beginning - how does it start? When does the hero and heroine first meet?

Plot points for the external conflict (making sure that the internal conflict also gets in there) and romance plot points.

  • External conflict plot points - plot points are your major events, generally there are three with the third being the black moment. With external plot points, think major setbacks or major victories that carry the story forward, but change the course.

  • Romance conflict points - first kiss, first sex (if it's in the book or even off screen), first realization of love by both hero and heroine and first declaration of love by hero and heroine

In between you have the filler. :) How do they get from Plot Point 1 to Plot Point 2, how do their feelings change, what has to happen before they can make it to that plot point and what decisions need to be made. This is the vague stuff in the synopsis, but sometimes clearer in my plotting synopsis.

Last but certainly not least is the ending. You need a direction to head so you aren't swimming in circles. Choose a course and aim for it, but realize that if another island with Scots in kilts show up along the path, that it's okay to head for that island instead. :) The main thing is that when you are finished, you can go back to the synopsis you formed in the beginning and tweak it to reflect what really happened in the book and then your synopsis is ready to go too. One less thing to worry about.

Maybe it's not the most elegant plotting device and my instructions may be confusing, but what can I say, I wrote over 4,000 words today and my brain is fried.

1 comment:

Kristi said...

An "elegant plotting device" isn't worth much if it doesn't produce a book :) And your synopsis method still sounds pretty well developed. I suspect that it works well for you because you've been through the book-writing process a few times and can tell what might work and what won't.

I can't seem to go deep enough to write a synopsis or outline without getting my head so deep in the story that I'm writing dialogue and action and introspection and...the novel.

For my last two ms, I ended up needing a completed synopsis before I was done writing the book, and that wasn't so horrible. But I was 1/2 -2/3 of the way through the main plot by then. At that point, it did actually help me a little with writing the end(s). In both cases I did still change the actual storylines as I wrote them.

I keep joking that I do Dora The Explorer plotting: First I go over the bridge, then through the forest, and then I arrive at the castle. Sing it with me...Bridge. Forest. Castle. (cue cheesy synthesizer music here) Come on vamonos!

That gives me an island (no Scots yet, though) to aim for, but lets my mind have enough room to roam about the countryside. And sometimes I end up at a different, but better, castle.