Well, not really book jail. Book jail is when the hot breath of a deadline is upon you, and meeting the deadline is all encompassing. My Wicked Cozy Author blog mates and I talk a lot about book jail, especially since four of us have deadlines within a month of each other. May/June isn’t going to be pretty.
I read Jamie’s post from Saturday about being a pantser versus a plotter. I am a dedicated plotter. In fact, a lot of my writing time is spent actually working out my plot. I’m in phase two of the process, writing the scenes I’ve laid out. I write in Scrivener, and in order. This isn’t to say there won’t be changes along the way, but I’ve worked out the main plot, the subplots, and the red herrings. The puzzle has been worked out. Unless one of my characters goes off the rails (this has been known to happen, but we all tussled during the plotting), the roadmap is a good one.
The challenge of this phase is that it is a slog. The words in my head are perfect. The act of typing them into my computer makes them less so, but fixing that is phase three. I can’t edit a blank page, so the slog is on.
I talked about Paula Munier’s Plot Perfect in my New Year’s post. I’m going to recommend it again, highly. Paula did a great interview on Jungle Red Writers, with visuals about her sixty scene structure. It is a variation on traditional dramatic three act structure, with the middle broken into two sections.
Of course, to figure out dramatic structure, you have to have your story to guide you. Working on plotting forces you to work on details, and flesh them out. It can also make you think about whether your idea is a book, or a short story. In other words, if you’re done telling the story after 2500 words, you have a short story. Stop, polish, submit. I’ve had short stories that turned into novels. and novels turn into short stories. The story is what it needs to be.
Given that we are a bit snow bound here in New England, it is a good time to think through a plot. How to begin?
Start with an idea. Write it down on an index card. Ask yourself “and then what?” over and over. Write down each answer on a card. Now look at each card, and ask “who” and “why”, write those answers down. Some of these answers may make you fill out more cards, maybe as part of the main story, or maybe as part of a subplot. The beauty of the index cards is that you can change the order of the story as you need to. Maybe you thought you started at the beginning, but you really started in the middle, and need to fill in the front part of the story so it works. Or, and this has happened to me more than once, you start your novel too early. Backstory slows down the momentum, so you need to cut it, and sprinkle it throughout the rest of the novel.
Plotting helps you build a road map for writing your book. You may not follow the roadmap exactly, but it will move you forward.
Now, this may not work for you at all. But it may help you stick with it. Writing is a process. Plotting may help you with that process.
So, are you a plotter or a pantser? How’s your writing going on these snowy days?
J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. Just Killing Time will debut in October, 2015.