Plotting is one of those hit-or-miss kind of things. Sometimes, ideas will flood your mind with incredible possibilities of unbelievable (or completely, "well duh") images. But, then there are the days when you can't, for the life of you, think up one tiny, little scheme to foil the bad guys. Now, I've seen some writers tackle the plotting process like some football players tackle...oh, let's say Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, I am not one of those writers. I need highlighters, post-it notes, dry erase boards...divine intervention...to even put a dent in my plots. Fortunately, once I get going, there's usually no stopping me. Usually.
Over time, I've found that I need to revisit the plotting-boards to make sure that everything is all-fine-and-dandy. Even then, after countless plot revisions and agonizing editing sessions, I'll discover a looming plothole that stands out despite the rest of the uber-cool plot. And, as most civilized writers would do, I simply flip my shit.
How could this happen? I've geared countless sticky notes with the sole purpose of protecting my unsuspecting manuscript from the evils of plotholes and--possibly worse--pacing problems. And yet, when editing fever rolls around...*wham, bam, thank you ma'am!* Houston, we have a problem.
Before I go any further, I feel I should warn you that while I'm not a perfectionist, I do have OCD tendancies. And I'm very visual. And I'm a masochist.
But I like plotting. In fact, I re-plot every five-or-so chapters just to make sure that my plot is the best it can possibly be. I've been meaning to do this post for a while now, but it's been a bit of a trouble maker for me. Everyone plots differently, and even I can't commit to a fool-proof way of doing it. I can, however, show you the jist of how I plot. I can only hope that it helps someone else to do their
- I start off with a package of post-its (extra sticky, because I move them around a lot!) then I take my trusty dry erase boards (two of them), a few markers, and sit down
with a glass of wine (or the whole bottle)to get started.
- As the juices start flowing, I write down each idea onto a post-it and stick it to the dry erase board. At this point, it doesn't matter what order they are in so long as I've got them written down and stuck to my handy-dandy white board.
- Once my imagination dries up, I grab my second dry erase board--and even more post-it notes--and start to organize the chaos. I start re-writing the plots-points on different stickies based on what they mean to the story I have in my head.
- Main plot points are on blue post-its.
- Secondary storylines are on green post-its.
- Romance plot points are written on pick stickies.
- Comments/questions are on yellow.
- Ideas that I'm not so sure about get put on purple.
I place them all on the second board in a logical order...
- ...then go through the pointless step of writing them down again, by hand, on the freshly cleaned, first white board--by coordinating colors, of course. There's no point in telling me how utterly stupid this step is--I'm well aware it is repetitive and tedious--but this is one of those OCD/Masochistic tendencies I warned you about earlier. Normal people, feel free to skip step 4.
Step 4 ends up looking like the picture to the right.
- Once all of that is done and I've started the actual writing, I keep a spreadsheet of my word that helps to keep everything in order and tracks the pacing of the novel. This log tells me all the major details of my plot, starting with the act, chapter, chapter-summary, the time and date of the chapter, the point of view, setting and chapter word count. I also have two extra columns called "Point of Chapter", which helps to keep me from including pointless scenes, and "Changes".
The Changes column is there to help me keep track of what I need to change based on my instincts, and what my critique partner and critique group thinks I should change.
The last column is the Total Wordage column which uses an auto-formula to tally up the total word count of the whole novel.
Here's a screenprint of what my spreadsheet log looks like:
Now that I've shown you how I do it, why don't you drop me a comment and tell me how you do it?
Want your own plotting-spreadsheet? Here's my template.