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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Plotting

I've spent the last couple of days playing with Holly Lisle's Notecarding plotting technique. I've never plotted a novel before (which I think I mentioned last time I updated), because the task has always seemed pretty daunting. I don't know why but in the past I've always felt much more comfortable just sitting down and writing, without knowing where I was going.

Of course, every time I try that I write myself into a corner or get bored and the project stalls and dies. That's why this time I decided to do things differently.

Stacks of scenes sorted by character.

Scenes starting to be moved into some kind of order.

Even with lists of scenes I found that I struggled to form a cohesive plot at this stage. In Holly's examples she writes quite specific scenes - "Frisco -- playing with the Ouija board alone, runs into the ghost of Annabelle, who tries to seduce him to her cause." for example. This probably comes from experience, and knowing what kind of story she wanted to write, and the benefit of it being an example not a real exercise in plotting. My scenes turned out to be a lot more vague, and the scenes for each character didn't really take into account the other characters.

At that point I felt like giving up and just writing it the way I normally would, but I decided to stick with it. I've added another stage into the process for myself. I took a notebook and wrote the text from the first index card at the top of the page, then expanded it into a proper synopsis of that scene over the rest of the page. I've done this for all of the scenes that I decided to use - and more of them got cut at this point, because through doing this I found the plot falling into place. I could even feel the story falling into a proper 3 Act structure, which was nice.
The joy of this is also that I've been able to go back and leave notes for myself as things in the plot crop up - things like Show that Rhod has a history of blood-letting here, ready for Scene 23. The kind of thing that you end up having to do when you're banging out a first draft and you find you need to rewrite several thousand words to make things work. Hopefully I can avoid that now - I can write each scene/chapter from the page of notes, not having to worry about inconsistencies with what comes later. In theory.

At this stage I'm sitting at the end of Act 2 having run out of scene cards. I think I'll do the exercise again, keeping the story in mind while I come up with more scenes for each character, and see what happens. Then I can start writing the thing, and hopefully this one will get finished. Fingers crossed!

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