Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Plot is the thing

I am not a plotter. I like to feel things out as I go when I'm writing. My characters usually surprise me, reacting as they should to the various elements that I introduce in the story. Like most seat-of-your-pants writers, this can backfire on occasion. I get to chapter five but have no idea where I'm going next. For anyone out there who hates to plot, but is scared of the mid book slump, here are some things I do to keep from getting stuck.

GMC Chart
Deb Dixon is a fabulous woman. If you ever get a chance to hear her at a conference, take it. At the very least pick up her GMC book. Yes, I know I'm not the first person to say it. But being a late convert to here way of pre-writing, I have to say it is invaluable, especially for the seat-of-your-pants writer. By taking a few hours to flush out your character's goal, motivation, and conflict you will have lots of story to explore. As a reader, I like character growth. While the external story is important, if there's no major changes to the characters, then I'm left unsatisfied.

Plot Skeleton
I was the kid in school who always did my essay outline after I wrote the essay. Drove my teachers nuts. But by plot skeleton, I'm not talking a complete synopsis. I always start with my target word count, say 65,000 words. Then I divide by the number of chapters I'd like to have. For this example lets say 16 chapters to get approximately 4062 words per chapter. Now that I know I will have 16 chapters, I open a blank Word document and write one sentence describing the internal and external plot for the chapter.

Here is an example of how I would do this. The (E) stands for external plot, (I) for internal growth.

Chapter One
Heroine is a scientist who discoveries an alien artifact that has the ability to link a human mind into an ancient computer. The station's security chief (hero) wants it off the station. (E)

Heroine has been publicly ridiculed by her peers for her belief that humans are the descendants of a much older alien race. This is her way to prove she's right. (I)
Hero had been in charge of a campaign that failed and all under his command died because he listened to bad advice. He doesn't trust others. (I)

If you can do this for each of your chapters, not only will you not get stuck in the middle, you have the basis for your synopsis when you're finished. :)


Tempest Knight said...

I'm an pantser too. Perhaps I'm of the worst kind. I don't write in a linear way - going from chapter to chapter. I just write the scenes that come to my mind and then I scramble them to make sense. But being a pantser doesn't mean I just sit down and write just like that. Before ideas and scenes flash in my head, I have a general feel of the story. I know point A and point B. The problem is to get from point A to point B. *lol*

I've heard of the book, but I've not seen it at Borders. I don't want to order it and find that it doesn't work for me, just like the other books I've bought.

Unknown said...

Hi Tempest.

I put off buying her book for years myself for much the same reason. To be perfectly honest, I only really wanted to get it when our writers chapter invited her to come and speak. I honestly can say I regret not buying it sooner. I'm not sure if it's available at general bookstores, but you can order it from her site,

And no, I don't get a commission :)

I've been trying to get better with my plotting. Not too much though because I tend to change my mind a lot. The biggest thing for me is not editing the manuscript until I'm done writing my first draft. That is deadly.