Friday, April 22, 2011

Hello! My name is Demetra and I am an obsessive list maker—PART 2

A few weeks ago I looked at all my lists and thought, how can I apply this to plotting my next novel? (see post: Hello! My name is Demetra and I am an obsessive list maker—PART I—3/20/11) Adding to the lists from that post is my love for the requisite moleskin writer’s notebook. I make lists in there as well, jotting down things about the characters in my next book or little snippets of dialogue I come up with on the fly when doing rote tasks. I have lists about setting, character naming, and other ideas typed and file away in my equally obsessive-compulsive computer filing system—everything in its place. But how can I combine them all in cohesive order. That was my dilemma. I need structure and order like I need oxygen.

The first time I plotted, for my book Fatal Threads, I had read a great book (I can’t remember the title; it was library loaner) that taught outlining/plotting in a chapter-by-chapter format rather than the looking at the big picture. It was good, but I need more. I turned to YA author Rachel Vincent, known for her exceptional plotting skills. Where other authors dive in and let the story take over, Rachel Vincent knows where her story is going from beginning to end. Consequently, she is a prolific writer and a New York Times best-selling author. The system she outlined on her blog was something I could get behind. I too start with characters and build a story around them. And although she is a lover of the Post-it note, I found her system didn’t give me the story arc instruction I was looking for. I decided to do an exhaustive search online for a better way to plot and found, Fill-in-the-blank Plotting, by Linda George. The unattractive cover was an initial turnoff (shallow, I know. But I am a graphic designer and therefore highly visual). The book’s title was a bit deceptive as well, because it’s not a workbook and therefore doesn’t have blanks to fill in. The writer makes the blanks—on index cards.  Cool. Okay, so they aren’t Post-it notes, but index cards do come in neon colors. Bonus. The book combines the twelve steps of the hero’s journey with the classic three-act structure, utilizing two pushpin boards, one for the hero’s journey; one for the three-act structure. A visual representation of the plot; hallelujah! Rather then spend a gob of money on pushpin boards, I revisited my resourceful art student ways and picked up foam core boards and map pins, making my plotting boards light and easy to move from room to room. I live with a saxophone-playing husband in house without soundproofing, so sometimes sharing the office space is not an option. After all, I’m not the only creative in the house. I can’t hog the room all the time, though I do get more than my fair share. I’m going to start taking my lists and moving them onto the foam core boards and let you know how it goes. So far, just having the structured, visual plan is real motivator. Now, let's see how it looks in action...

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