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 Poetand 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.
This one goes out to all of my readers making decisions at cross roads of their lives. I am doing a lot of planning this week, after a friend asked me some questions about what I wanted to do with my writing and how I was going to do it. I am taking a deep breath and then moving to the pathways!
I am picking out a path
to navigate my life
standing at the mid point
wanting to move forward.
I am looking to within
through the dreams that
I still have.
North, South, East, West
which way is best?
I am searching for some focus
the confirmations blossom
and the path only dead ends
Or perhaps needs a push down
of the walls.
Birthdays come and go
people come and go
but the constants
love, compassion, wisdom?
stay in my journey’s pocket.
on the paths not taken
and those still beckoning
on the ways
to unpack my fears
to make the journeys
of my dreams.
Art in the city, not shut away in galleries, but everywhere you look.
It’s on power boxes, telegraph poles, railway station walls.
climbs onto walls and alleyways.
chalked, painted, sprayed, and poster papered.
It’s murals with messages from Martin Luther King
everytime I used to catch the bus in Marrickville
I’d see his face with an Aboriginal flag behind it.
It’s pieces that make you think, smile, wonder remember nature.
Driving past telegraph poles to the Gold Coast
we catch nature wrapping itself around telegraph poles,
birds and trees just in case we don’t see the real
they’re there in art.
I would love to go back and photograph these artistic poles.
I think of the artists commissioned or perhaps underground ones.
What are their names?
Are their signatures there?
Is there a guidebook somewhere to tell me the story of the street art?
This street art tells stories – it’s symbolic and straightforward
it’s naive and surreal.
It doesn’t advertise, it’s an invitation to think, as diverse as the artists in the city.
And when street artists paint, what is going through their minds about the setting
their work will live in everyday.
Do they look at the trees, and the walls and reflect what is there
Or do they represent a dreaming beyond walls beyond the boundaries
of the city and the forest ?
I want to write a spoken word poem all about the street singing forart
and the art calling out on the street,
maybe it would be be performed by a pied poet walking the street with a busking guitar
with people flash mob dancing in the streets?
When I need to clear my head I tidy loose ends. I sort and stack, file and refile, move furniture, wash, fold, renovate and repair.
Sounds like avoidance, but actually it’s like the external work is doing internal work on my mind. It is a process of sorting, prioritising and turning creative piles into manageable, streamlined tasks.
Is this why Agatha Christie reportedly said ‘the best time to plan a book is whilst doing the dishes’? How do you best ready your mind for clear thinking and writing action? Mind you I also like to think of what to put into books whilst walking, gardening and running away from housework too! I think without some clutter what creative piles can you draw upon.
The last two weeks I have been tidying up old blogs. Finding fresh new templates and redesigning the way you enter the blog Ripple Poetry and reopening World Citizen Dreaming (still working on that one.)
I’ve created journey blogs for my projects, starting a series called Journey of a Book for a poetry and story book which is well on the way! But also creating a blog for a book close to the bone, Smile Within, a photo book for family, friends and community.
I’ve found old digital notebooks and begun editing poems and stories, which by sitting and hibernating, or is it marinating, have become so much easier to edit. I’ve found several competitions and journal submissions to work on whilst I do my larger projects, but listed them in order of due dates and made a real resolve to do them!
The upside of this process has been finding things – a missing battery charger, a much needed xray, and stashes of stuff to work into fully blown projects. The next challenge is to stick with the plan, but be flexible enough to know when to change it, and to keep it uncluttered.