Friday, February 7, 2014

Keeping the Plot Straight

I don't know about you, but the idea of completing a book from start to finish is always daunting.

Sure, I've been writing and publishing for years, but there is always that void that occurs just before I start a new project. It's like the void is saying, "Do you really want to start this? It may take you a year or more to finish, and that's only with the first draft!"

And then the inevitable comes.

What is your plot?

If you're like me, the thought of casting a plot on paper from start to finish is about as exciting as cleaning the refrigerator or toilet. There is something about it that drains me, makes me feel as if I'll never get to the book.

For those who know me best, they also know that my plots sort of happen to me. I have an idea of how I want the story to begin, what characters and setting I'm going to use, but often, I have no idea how the book is going to pan out.

How, then, do I keep the plot straight?

Although writers of various genres have their own ways, from plotting a story board to writing down everything they can think of about a character, for me, keeping my plot straight usually goes something like this:

1. I come up with an idea. I make sure that the idea is strong enough to carry the main character through the length of a book.
2. I come up with a cast of characters. I decide on basic traits the characters will have.
3. I choose a setting, primarily one in which I am familiar with. This saves me from endless research.
4. I get writing, and I write every day. 
5. I listen to the characters. I let them take me where I should be going.
6. I continue to listen to the characters. I am not afraid to cut a scene that isn't working (because I've forgotten to listen to the characters).
7. I think about an ending.
8. I work towards the ending in mind, with the assistance of the characters.
9. I am open to changing the ending at the character's request.
10. After the first draft is finished, I read over the book in one sitting. I make sure that the plot runs straight throughout the story, and that I haven't left any holes like a character making a surprise appearance and then never being seen of again, or a huge gap in time that causes confusion for the reader...

If I can do it, I let the book sit for 6 months to a year before I tackle the first edit. No kidding. With this length of time between writing and reading, it's almost as if I'm hearing the story for the first time. If you can't wait 6 months or a year, consider at least of month of cool-down time before picking your manuscript up.

Keeping the plot straight in your next or even first novel, doesn't have to be difficult; neither does it need to cause you stress. Consider plotting an opportunity to keep all of your ducks lined up in a straight row.

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