Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Plotter's Weapons

I never thought it'd take two months before I finally felt ready to redraft this story. I've learned a lot about plot and scenes and characters. I'm sure there's still a lot more out there to learn, but there's no point in reading all these books on craft without practice.

February is knocking at my door, however, and I can't wait to jump back into the writing fray. This time, however, I have a few weapons at my disposal. Here's a list of what my compulsive plotter self prepared:

  1. Complete Scene-by-Scene Outline. This outline is full of details, highlighting the conflict in every scene along with the narrator. Scenes are separated by chapters and the whole outline is in four parts. there are descriptions of characters at the start. This little baby is 7245 words long, spans 23 pages and is the most complete guide I have to the novel.
  2. One-Liner Outline. The above isn't handy for a quick "Where next?" check, so I pared it down to one line by scene. I used colours to indicate chapter change and a paragraph jump for every new page. It gives a great overview of the novel's beats.
  3. Tension Graph. At some point in Plot and Structure, J.S. Bell talked about rating the tension level in your scenes. I did it for all 46 of them and then used Excel to graph it. This let me detect instantly one weak scene that jarred the rhythm. It also made me squee, because I have a nice progressive climb in intensity.
  4. POV Tension Graph. Because I have three POV and I wanted to make sure each of them has its share of tension-riddled scene, I added a tension curve for each of them on my graph. It's full of colours now!
  5. Final Scene Table. Click the link for the post in which I detailed this one. It's the most comprehensive, easy-to-check way I found to detailing my climax.
  6. Four timelines. On different scales, about the world's backstory, important characters' pasts, the full storyline and the last half of the novel. I love my timelines.
  7. Pages and pages of brainstorming.
  8. Full folder of research-related links.
With all of these to rely on, I feel confident I won't err too far as I jump back into my usual full-speed writing. I know I can give myself fully to the frenzy of the first draft, and not lose sight of the plot.

Is there anything you can't do without before you start writing?


  1. Hmmm. You definitely think things through a lot more than I do before I begin to write but I do usually a 3-4 page outline so that I have things straight and an approximate direction.

  2. Wow, you sound super organised. This pantser needed to create a plot outline so that she didn't just write another version of the same story with different plot holes...


  3. Misha: I pantsed this story from beginning to end the first time. I had to rewrite it, and pantsed about half of it last November. I *still* have to rewrite. This time, though, I come fully prepared. I hope it'll work out better. ;)

    Michael: Each to his own, eh? All these outlines help with my insecurity. ^^

  4. Wow, sounds like you're good to go! I want to be that planned once I start to rewrite my novel, which should be sometime this month.

    Hope your writing goes smoothly!