Monday, September 6, 2010

Plotting Technique

Lately, I've been getting interested in plotting technique.   I'm doing a plot revision on Book One, coming up with ways to pick up the pace and make those necessary-for-character-development scenes work harder.  I started by cutting over 20,000 words.  Then I took everything that was left—the big, dramatic turning points; the quiet, emotional realizations; the snippets of backstory—and started shuffling things around, asking how I could make each moment have the most impact.  I realized pretty quickly I was going to need some visual aids.

Usually, I use a spreadshseet to keep track of my plots, writing down each event under a column for the plot or sub-plot it's part of.  I like how easy it is to change things in an electronic format, but this week, I wanted something more tangible to work with.

So, I took all the scenes I was keeping and wrote down two- or three-word descriptions of them on little slips of paper.  My plot was a disorganized pile of color-coded scenes, ready to be fit into a story.

Next, I printed out a page with 34 lines on it, one for each chapter plus a few extras.  I knew I wanted certain really big events to come at specific points in the book (around Chapter 10, around Chapter 20). Those are my anchor points—I put them down first.* They’re farther to the right (and in red ink) because they’re high-impact.

I put down the more minor plot points next: stuff that’s important, but not totally game changing. I moved things around as I went to make sure every chapter had a reason to live. (Or rather, a reason for me not to kill it.) Then came the subplots, color-coded, of course.**

Looking at my plot, there was a bit of a hole around Chapter 13. I’d also come up a little shy of 90,000 words.  I decided to expand one of my subplots, so I shifted things around to fit New Subplot in.

Then I took a deep breath and taped everything down. I’ve got my roadmap; now I’m editing and re-writing and forging new scenes. Having been a “pantser” in the past, I’m finding I like this mapped-out version of plotting, at least for this project. What about you guys—what’s your plotting technique?

*Picture has been blurred to prevent spoilers!
**My geekiness knows no bounds.


  1. Wow. This is so freaking cool. I love seeing how other people plot. I really like how hands-on this is. Sometimes it's just nice to work with real paper, you know?

    As for me, I do most of my plotting either on a notepad or in Scrivener. The lion's share is in Scrivener, though, since I've learned that being organized does tend to make things a lot easier in the long run. It helps me to have everything in the same place.

  2. I'm hearing so much about Scrivener! I really should check it out. I love working with something "real" on occasion, but day-to-day, I want something electronic. Hmmm...

  3. I'm WAY behind in blogs, but this is AWESOME. (Another vote for Scrivener, esp. when you're doing this kind of editing. Ask me how I know.)


  4. Thanks, Rachael! I think Scrivener deserves a post all its own. I wish to know what makes it so awesome.

  5. Wow! For some reason pictures of shoes and yearbook layouts entered my mind! Hehe! I love your creative process!

  6. Ha! All those years on yearbook staff have paid off!