Plodding through Plotting

I’ve officially spent too much time plotting/outlining Memory Thieves.  How do I know this?  My dream last night was plotting out my dreams, moving scenes around.  Seriously.

I used to be a pantser.  I’ve always thought of myself as a pantser.  I always want to be a plotter.  But there’s just so much of the story that is discovered along the way, a thorough, complete outline is beyond me.  But there is some middle ground.  For me, that’s plotting out as much as I can, writing some, then plotting out some more.  Lucky for me, most of my plotting occurs in the first half (first quarter!) of the book.  Want proof?

Below is a screen shot of my current plotting method.  (This is the first time I’m using Scapple for mind-mapping, and I’m trying to figure out how to best use it for plotting.  This method is not perfect, it will probably change.  But for now, this is it.)

Note that there are eight column-like areas.  Columns 1, 3, 5, and 7 just say “Scene XX.”  1-25, 26-50, so on.  Columns 2, 4, 6, and 8 are actual scene ideas that I’ve placed roughly where I think they should go.  Do you see anything…interesting?

Plotting attempt using Scapple to outline

Plotting attempt using Scapple to outline – “Column 6” is completely empty, “Column 8” isn’t much better


As you can see, and as is normal for me, I have the first quarter of the book nearly fully fleshed out.  The second quarter is close, too.  The second half of the book?  No idea.  I have a general idea of where the plot is headed, but I don’t have scene ideas in my head to get me there.  And that’s where I tend to stall out when it comes to writing.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the other books I’ve (partially) written follow this same structure.  My beginnings are solid.  I have characters, and settings, and details, and backstory, and I feel really great about the beginnings of my works in progress.  But then, the idea just sort of…peters out.  I get to a spot and all I’ve got is, “And then this happened and then that happened and then they lived happily ever after.”  Unfortunately, 40,000 words does not make a novel.

Obviously, it’s a conflict issue.  The whole middle of the book is about conflict, about what the Protagonist wants and what is preventing her from getting it and how she keeps trying.  Heck, I could start throwing in scenes where aliens land on her house and take her hostage and she escapes but then she’s hit by a car and now she’s in a coma and can’t talk and then she wakes up but somehow she can’t talk and there are no pens around so she can’t communicate through writing and then someone finds a pen but it’s out of ink and then someone finds a pencil but the lead breaks and there’s not a pencil sharpener and then….  Well, you get the picture.  That’s conflict, eight whole scenes of it, a series of events preventing the main character from doing what she wants to do.  The problem is, none of these issues work with the books I’m writing – if they did, I’d be set!  I understand the concept, I understand how to do it…I just can’t apply it, evidently.

I did play around with the plotting a little bit, and it’s now better than the screen clip above.  I have some stuff in the 6th column now, although I’m still lacking anything in the 8th.  Except, you know, resolution scenes.  But I’ll keep plodding along…



Categories: On Writing, The Writing Process | Tags: | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Plodding through Plotting

  1. anonymous

    Frankly, it might be nice to read the kind of novel you describe – the kind with a convoluted and ridiculous plot. Not because that would be a good book (it might be, for all I know) but because it would be nice to see what a book like that was like.

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