Learning to plot – a writer’s quest

slaughterfalls1

So I am at a virtual stand still as I realise my major writing hurdle is learning to plot. Time to build some stairs, or a rope ladder.

I recently managed to finish one picture book and send it off.  One of the things mentioned in critiques was redoing the plot line to introduce some things into the story earlier, to invest the reader in the character, clarifying aspects of the ending, and making some aspect of the plot in the middle even more believable. I reworked it, and in the end was happy with the plot line.  This picture book came from a poem that was without any sense of strong plot, mostly emotion, but the reworking required me to be very thoughtful about the plot.

Going back to the drawing board for some of the other picture books, unfinished short stories, memoirs and novel I am stumped as the plotting problems started yelling at me! ‘Sort me out!’

As a poet for many years I loved writing emotions, memories, and setting, looking back I seldom consciously explored plots.

At the moment I am creating character poems and realise this particular poetic series is in search of a plot line. It is different from the poetry I wrote before. It may even be a fledgling novel.  This is a good challenge and I will find the journey forward by plotting.

In more recent years I took up writing memory stories, and reflecting on current events around me.

When writing memory stories, the plot is already there, life as it happens, with some added structure, a strong sense of setting and place and sometimes a charming or a challenging outcome. There may even be some twists.

Reflections don’t seem to require a plot line, but if they do have one it strengthens them for the reader making the journey through the reflection or meditation.

But to connect all these memory stories into a memoir, I find myself considering a central plot line with subplots, something to help a reader navigate my life in a way that makes sense.

Sometimes I luck upon my plot line in anecdotes that just came naturally off the pen. The ingredients of the narrative are there, but this haphazard lucking on the plot line just isn’t going to wash it.

In short stories I often create characters and setting that I love and have several half begun short stories I long to finish, but I need the plot to propel them into fully blown novels, and compelling short stories.

I am determined to write some outlines and overcome my plotting deficit. This is going to require, reading, analysis, and practice.

So today I heed Kiki Sullivan’ s plot outline advice and I am going to build a bridge, or is it a sledge hammer to break through my writing hurdle.  I need to read some of my favourite books that plot beautifully and learn from some masters.

Time for this rambling writer to find her story line and polish the stories just as she wants to!

Any advice, or links, please leave them in the comments !

(c) June Perkins

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