Seats of the Pants or Planning to make it through the first Act

Top Hat
Creative Thinking – June Perkins

So I told some writing friends recently about my plotting dilemmas and the fact I don’t want a first draft that is a total mess.I need some navigational instruments and am actively looking for them.

Some of them nodded their heads  in understanding as if this was a challenge for them too.It is definitely a matter of learning to put on a number of creative plotting hats. Remember Debono’s hats.  Well this post is focused on the blue hat (planning) with a touch of the green hat (ideas) and the red hat (emotions).

1. Choose a method that works for you.

The most wise thing I heard today was use a method of writing that works for you!  There is no one size fits all, although there are key things a story has in it that you should keep in mind.

So whether you cover a wall with post it notes with the main crisis and turning points marked out, use a spread sheet, start with a line and write, or do a whole outline of scenes before beginning, nobody can tell you ‘that’s not right,’ as long as it works for you and makes you keep  writing until your first draft is complete!

The litmus test for me, is that if I stop writing for any reason, it’s time to experiment, and try something to kick start the process again.  And what works one day, might not work the next day. Does this mean I need to give up?

No way, it means developing a deeper resource of techniques to keep me going.

2- Tension in scenes

The main thing I am keeping in mind today as I write my chapter book is to put tension into my scenes and think about that goal/conflict/setback structure, that propels the reader to keep coming back.

3 – Be playful and open to change

I  had hoped to begin my first 3000 words written with the assistance an outline of a realistic story.  However my outline ended up combining a more fantastical picture storyboard of the same story idea in front of me.  As I looked at both I decided to combine the two into a new story.

I loved the visuals of the storyboard, and I liked elements of the more detailed outline for keeping me on track for a bigger story.  The result of this decisions was that my story went from being realist to being fantasy – change number 1.

The picture book story boarding was done with Storybird by the way, and was heaps of fun.  It put magic and imagination in visual play into my creating the plot process.

4 – Listen to your characters

Then as I wrote the characters had an impulse to behave a certain way that I had not predicted, and began to come to life. An extra character came into being, and he could be important in the story.  Some characters faded away as not important to the first book in a possible series at all.  I was delighted to see the characters emerge and have possibilities for tension with each other.  Important for scene dynamics.

The setting was still realist as it had been in the draft in some respects, but the initial challenge I was going to have for the character changed. This is a huge change, and it was scary for me to ditch the old challenge.

5- Have a plan B

My outline by this stage looking decidedly shaky, but I kept on with the opening reaching about the right length, and  took solace that I still followed a more general idea of Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure.  This resulted in the establishment of my characters, the challenge for the main character, and the reaching of second turning point.

6- Give it a good beginning, edit before moving to the second act

I took the first 3000 words I had written  over two days with my initial plan, and rewrote them with this in mind and was much happier with the text overall.  I tried to build more surprise into the chapters, and tension between the characters, even if they were characters who most of the time get along well.  I rearranged a few things.  Then I kept writing, happy that the editing had strengthened what I had done so far.

The future holds …

Now I am heading into my second act.  I’ll be back to report on that when it’s finished, as this journaling takes up valuable writing and research time from my other projects.  However, I wanted to share and reflect on this process, to see if I find the same thing happening for my next book (that’s promising talking another book after act 1 of the first one).

So there you have it, a combination of seat of the pants writing, and planning.

Now I am going to study two blogs on plotting and creative storytelling from the – Wasted Poet and this post on Pixars 22 Rules of Storytelling  and just go over that opening one more time before moving on.  I think if my set up goes well the rest is going to follow! I feel like jotting down some ideas for scenes, having a cuppa, and finding ways to more me through the next act.

Would love to know what you think

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