Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis


Monday, February 13th, 2017
Writers Club: Plotting

Plot is necessary for novels. This seems like a no-brainer. It’s the causal sequence of events in a book: This happened because this happened because this happened and so on. Events happen, problems, conflicts, and everything escalates until there’s a final conflict and resolution. Usually there is at least one secondary plotline, and often more. After all, most people have more than one thing going on in their lives.

Here’s the trouble, at least for me: I often have trouble developing the plot in advance. More often, my brain wants to see what happens as I go along. In some respects, I think this is because I’m out to entertain myself with my stories. I don’t want to know what happens in advance any more than my readers do. I want to discover as I go. I’ve a friend who calls the first draft the “discovery draft.”

The trouble with not knowing the plot is that you make a lot of wrong turns and go off to random spots, find hidden trails, and sometimes–even often–find treasures you never knew you were looking for. That makes writing exciting. It also makes it stressful. You always wonder where you might end up. Will the book make sense? Will it become a well-woven whole or will it be a mess of spaghetti dripping over the edge of the plate?

I would like to work with a plot outline. I’ve tried a lot of different methods. I used to be able to establish the major plot points that I wanted to hit on and then I could navigate toward those points, weaving in the secondary plot lines as I went. But my brain refuses to do that much anymore. I’ve been working on tricking myself and forcing out a plot outline. And of course, it always changes and is never correct. In fact I don’t really expect it to be, which ought to sound bizarre–I mean why do it at all? But having a sense of the path does help.  It frees my mind to play a little bit. Knowing that, I don’t know why I can’t just write down a possible plot direction. I’m such a weird contradictory mess in that regard. A plot outline frees me, but writing it feels like I’m fixing it permanently in place and my brain rebels.

In order to make myself do it, I focus on projects that I’m not planning to write right away. That takes the pressure off getting it done to try to get it written. It lets me play with the story in my head for awhile, and lets me be goofy with the possibilities. That last often gets me to where I want to be–an original plot line. I get acquainted with my characters, developing who they are until they feel real to me and have a voice and I know what they would and wouldn’t do, which of course leads to more adventures.

I wish the process didn’t have to be so messy, but it is and I just have to suck it up. So this is me, sucking it up. *dives back into the mess*

(crossposted from the BVC blog)

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