The nearly ALWAYS occasionally BORING task of plotting a story
As I pointed out in this post, the problem with plotting is that it can be SO BORING. My plotting up until a couple of years ago consisted of some hastily typed notes at the beginning of my manuscripts. I’ve tested out a few methods over the years with no luck, namely the Monomyth (commonly known as the Hero’s Journey) and the Snowflake Method. It was seriously a YAWN fest.
More recently, I tried writing software—namely Scrivener (it basically allows you to sort your manuscript by scene and save off your research all in one place. It DOESN’T write your story for you… unfortunately.) I must have spent about two days (two PRECIOUS writing days!) transferring my WIP into the programme before giving up. I think it was a bridge too far going from being a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of my pants) to using Scrivener (by the way, there are plenty of other computer programmes and apps for those who are interested, e.g. WriteRoom,Ulysses, WriteRight and StoryMill.)
I’ve now moved on to using palm cards for plotting and… drumroll… so far, so good! I got the idea from Charlotte Nash, who I heard speak at a conference in 2013 about how she wrote her debut novel in THREE WEEKS (GRRR again!). I promptly cornered her and garnered as many tips on plotting as possible (thankfully, she was absolutely lovely and extremely generous with her advice.)
The palm cards are like a long-hand version of Scrivener—as in, they allow me to plot out each scene separately. I use the FRONT of each card to describe a scene. I also note the date and location. I use the BACK of each card for any foreshadowing relevant to that scene, e.g. the reason Finn is evasive when Lise asks about his family is… (stay tuned for the release of The Day We Lived Forever, later this year!)
My next novel (The Day We Lived Forever) currently consists of a fully plotted stack of about one hundred or so cards. The feeling when I hold that weighty stack is so SATISFYING. I basically have my whole story in the palm of my hand. It was also surprisingly FUN when I got going too. I carried the cards around with me EVERYWHERE and when the next scene came to me, I scribbled it down ASAP. I was also able to jump ahead to other (more exciting) scenes and put the palm cards in chronological order later on.
The downside is that it took me about four months or so to plot the story out, but the result is a first draft in breakneck speed (not quite three weeks though…)
The other downside is that you can’t exactly back palm cards up on a thumbdrive—which means if I lose them I have NOTHING but my unreliable memory. For this reason, I’d like to give Scrivener or one of the other programmes/apps another go. But, for the moment, I’m sticking with good old sometimes-reliable Microsoft Word. Maybe it’s because I’m a total luddite when it comes to technology. It took me AGES to get onto Twitter. And I’m not sure I completely understand Tumblr. Forget Snapchat. And thank god I’m married, because it means I’ve never had a reason to brave Tinder.
Ernest Hemmingway famously (and arguably) said that writing was like cutting open a vein and bleeding onto a page. Sheesh. I shudder to think what he would have said about getting published! Every Tuesday, I dust off my creative writing degree (yes, from an actual, real-life university) and share my learnings about the process of writing and getting published (yes, I know learnings is technically not a word, but I worked in public relations for a number of years and we like to make words up. Helifordite?). You can check out all of my Tuesday Tips here.