Plot Category Archive

On Plotting (Downloadable Plotting Doc Attached!)

There are a thousand-and-one ways to plot. To write. To draft and edit and tell stories. I’ll be the first to jump on the no-way-is-the-right-way train, that all ways are valid. In fact, I’ll argue that the way I write now isn’t the way I’ve written before and is not the way I’ll write later. It will always be in flux, and I think this is healthy! It allows for growth and change.

Being aware of the above has meant that over the years, I read craft books and explored techniques on plotting (I’m a reformed pantser), and through it all I’ve taken notes to refer to later and to share with friends. A few weeks back while on a writing hiatus, I started to combine those notes into a Google Doc, which turned into a fill-in-the-blank doc for myself for future works, which turned into a question of, “Huh, why on earth don’t I make this available to others?”

So, if you’re curious about my process, please check it out! I would like to emphasize that nothing you see in it is set in stone. I’m not arguing that this is how you should plot or draft or edit, it’s simply a few things I like to keep in mind when I write. I’ve found that drafting often often includes the willingness to forget certain elements now, and the necessity of remembering them later. This doc is one way I’ll help myself to remember elements for later. I very much hope you find it helpful! Please feel free to download it and use it in whatever way you’d like.

Without further ado, here’s my Plotting Overview doc, as well as an EXAMPLE Plotting Overview doc of how one might use it (I’ve used the book example HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE).

Cheers for your writing! Whatever you’re working on, may the writing-gods provide you with a day of joy.

9-Squares to Plotting Fiction

I can’t take credit for this post. All credit goes to the amazing Deana Barnhart for her original post on the 9-Squares, and she, in turn, got the information from Verla Kay. If you haven’t checked out either of those lady’s websites, you need to.

I used Verla’s Plotting Template for the past two books I wrote and I’m using it for my next book. It seems to work well. I don’t over plot (leaving room for creativity) and it gives me a great guideline to stick to. I took the 9-steps and created an Excel doc. (click on the “9-Squares” below)

9 Squares Each of the plot points are described shortly, leaving enough room to jot notes. Feel free to use the document!

The following is from Verla on the 9-Steps for Plotting Fiction

1 Triggering event

First thing’s first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don’t make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.

2 Characterization

Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn’t an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.

3 First major turning point

By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.

4 Exposition

You’ve earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here’s where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist’s darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.

5 Connect the dots

Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist’s
revelation in Box Eight. That’s a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.

6 Negative turning point

Here’s where that bomb explodes and all (Satan’s home) breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.

7 Antagonist wins

The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.

8 Revelation

Of course! The protagonist’s revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.

9 Protagonist wins

The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character’s resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.

What I learned at the SCBWI Conference

The first thing I learned was how very, very similar we all are! There are so many of us out there, taking the same journey. It was an incredible amount of fun to make new friends and meet old ones.

I stayed with my critique partner Janice Foy while in Atlanta.


A few more of the amazing people I met. Unfortunately, none of these ladies are bloggers! Get on it girls! :)

I also had the privileged of meeting Jaye and Mary Ann. It was crazy meeting people I blog and tweet with. It’s such a small world! (Hope you don’t mind I stole your picture, Jaye :)

From Kirby Larson, I learned: Don’t be afraid to take big risks. There is a certain amount of uncertainty we all must have when we’re writing and we can’t be afraid of where that might take us. Kirby was an amazing keynote speaker and this message stuck with me through the entire weekend

From picture books, I learned (from Mary Kole): -Cut what doesn’t fit in the heart of your book. This was stated for picture books since the word count is so low, but I’m finding it completely applicable for my own 80k MS. Cut what doesn’t fit.
-Never strike the reader over the head with the moral. I heard this and immediately went to cut a few paragraphs that had been bothering me. I finally figured out, they were bothering me because I was far too blunt. Delete. Delete.
-Have a rich emotional arch, emotions are the glue that hold plot together.

On Dialogue (from Kristin Daly Rens): -Edit out anything that isn’t essential to the plot. Don’t use dialogue as a crutch for info dumping, to lengthen a scene or say instead of show.
-Dialogue always needs to move the story forward in some way. It can contribute to characterization, be used as a plot device, or to set a scene, but it always must be significant.
-Don’t overuse dialogue tags (woops. Another delete. Delete. moment for me)

On the Slush Pile (from Mary Kole): -Query 10-20 agents in the 1st round. Fix anything that needs fixing and send out to another 10-20 in the second.
-Be sure to follow agencies guidelines
-Ask yourself these questions when doing your agent search: What is important to you for your relationship? Don’t just pick the first agent that offers, be sure they are the right fit for you.
-The goal of the query is to get an agent to take notice. The manuscript is infinitely more important- the query cannot break you. Use the query to get the agent to your (hopefully perfected) MS.
a)isolate your hook- it’s your selling point
b)who is your audience? Find the right comparitive titles
c) be brief and professional, have a short bio but mostly focus on the project
d)a good idea and good execution is enough
-Make the agent care
a)who is your character?
b)what is the inciting incident
c)who/what do they want most?
d)who/what is in their way? The Obstacle
e)What is at stake?

On Writing a Thriller (from Greg Ferguson): (Yep, I’m totally going to write a thriller after listening to this ;)
-Must have non-stop action, dangerous situations where the protagonist is in grave danger, hair-raising suspense and a heroic character

On the First Page: On Saturday night, Mary Kole, Greg Ferguson and Krisin Daly Rens read multiple first pages and gave their insights on if the first page worked, or not. Here’s what I learned:
-The first page must be grounded in the world
-It must have specific cues as to the world it’s in and the main character
-Do you have your opening line or a opening line?

On Plots (from Kristin Daly Rens): -The opening must grab the reader and must not let go. It must make a promise that is kept through to the end.
-Don’t do too much in the beginning. All you need is the hook to lead on.
-Introduce the MC, central conflict and know what is to come ->make that promise
-Your reader should be able to begin reading and understand what’s going on without dropping back story on them.
-Begin with action that moves the story forward with momentum and tension, but do not have action that confuses your reader.
-As you continue with your story, make every word, scene, dialogue count. Continuously up the ante. Test scenes with the question, “What purpose does this serve?”
-Make sure you keep the promise you made in the beginning scenes. Again, test each chapter and scene to see if tension is increased? How have things changed for your MC? Be ruthless :)

Massive TBR List (only titles, I haven’t looked up the authors)
I Heart Killers
Spanking Shakespeare
All Alone in the Universe
The Disenchantements
The Madman’s Daughter
Rampant
Fat Vampire
Through to You
13 Reasons Why
Bad Girls Don’t Die
Bliss
Rosebush
Blood on my Hands
Bzrk
The Butterfly Clues
Ashes
Everneath
Defiance
Dark Divine
Repossessed

p.s. I’m sorry this post took a week to get posted. It was a lot to soak in and I hope I’ve been able to pass on at least a little to you!

Judgy Juliana?

Gasp! I realized last night that I’ve been snidely looking down my nose a group of writers.

Pantsers.

I’m a natural plotter. I love plotting and knowing where my story is going.

The ironic thing is, it turns out I really enjoy pantsing. Another gasp! *sigh*

I’m in the midst of editing Guardians and don’t have the focus to plot out a whole new book. So instead, I’m completely winging it with my new WIP. And it’s been great! I’m discovering the characters as I write and am realizing I don’t have to agonize over plot, structure, and pre-fabricated ideas over what the WIP should be.

Simply amazing.

So I apologize all of you wonderful people who are pantsers. It seems I’ve learned a thing or two in the past week and have been completely proven wrong.

Two amazing writers have helped me realize the benefits of pantsing and you all should go check out their blogs: Misty and Kate. You guys are the best :)

Are you a pantser or plotter? Or do you find you enjoy doing a bit of both?

(Thanks everyone who’s stopped by for Deana’s blogfest! I’ve had a blast stopping by all your sites and can’t wait to get to know y’all better. :) )

The Importance of a Timeline

I like being an organized person.  I love it when my house is clean, when I know exactly where my favorite pen is because it’s in the same place I always put it, and when my writing is outlined.

I’ve already posted about my plotting techniques, but something I did not write about was the importance of a timeline.  I hand wrote a timeline a month back for this new WIP, but since then have felt the need to make one on the computer, which I did yesterday. Yay!

Here’s a quick summary of how I made it:

  1. In your word document, go to the tab Insert. Under insert, click on shapes and choose a style of line.  You can have a squiggly line, a straight line, a straight line with arrows.  Oh so many options.
  2. After you’ve chosen your line, click on the document and draw the line out.
  3. Now is the fun part.  Go back to Insert-> Shapes, and this time go to Callouts- these are the bubbles that come off the line.  Again, oh so many options!  Stick the Callout of your choice onto the line and type away.

See, it’s easy.

Now, why do I think a timeline is so important?  Because if you don’t know what’s happening on different days in your WIP than your reader sure won’t.  This is a great reminder to put this information into your chapters, separating events and days.  If a month has passed, make sure to say a month has passed, or if it’s only the next morning, say it’s the next morning.

I’m already in love with my timeline and how it’s helped my writing, and I’ve only had it for a day.  Go make one of your own!

P.S. Be sure to come back in a couple days to see why I think writers are like wrestlers, and the writer’s journey is like WWE!