Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Plotter's Delight

This is me, plotting...

So last week I sent Aqua Follies off to my agent, who will hopefully read it and love it and offer me tons of helpful comments to improve it.

And then she'll sell the hell out of it.

That's the plan.

I love it, and have high hopes for my little story about the coach of a synchronized swimming team who falls in love with a handsome trumpet player. The thing I liked best about working on it was digging into the 1950s. Once I got beyond the "Happy Days" clich├ęs, I learned a lot of really cool stuff.

But that's not what this post is about. This is about what happens next. I set a goal of writing two novels this year, and a couple of novellas, and when I finished Aqua Follies I was really, really, really eager to put down my editing toolkit and just plain write.

Eager, but uncertain. I wasn't sure what direction to head. I blogged about that uncertainty HERE in my Spellbound Scribes post this month. I knew I wanted to work on something that reflected the diversity I see in real life, and I suspected it would have another historical setting. I also wanted to do another m/m romance. 

I'm so excited about the idea I came up with I can barely stand it. It's a two novel set, and the working titles are The Lyric Assassin & The Clockwork Monk. The first book is about Emma who's, well, a lyric soprano, and also a spy. She idolizes her older brother Trevor, and he plays a key role in this story. In the sequel, their roles will reverse. He'll be the POV character, and she'll be a main player. 



As soon as I finished dancing with glee for having come up with this concept, a funny thing happened. I wrote a few pages, just letting Emma speak, but I couldn't go any further until I had a better handle on the plot. Part of the reason may be that since the threads are going to wind from one book to the next, I needed to lay as much out as possible before I could really get started.

I spent the end of last week and all weekend brainstorming, and by Sunday afternoon - while the Seahawks were driving us all crazy - I'd hammered out a beat sheet for Emma's book. Even better, by using the template in Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, I'd been able to figure out how many pages, scenes, and word count each section should have.

Like, I know where I'm going. I'm not crazy like a cat behind the wheel of a car.

This will be my fifth full-length novel, and maybe that has something to do with it. Like many writers I tend to struggle with the middle. The set up is easy, and I know how I want it to end, but figuring out how to get from A to B can be a crap shoot. The coolest thing about developing the beat sheet was making a list of all kinds of possibilities for how to cover the big middle sections. I know I'm going to need X number of scenes, which will take X number of words, and the hero and the heroine have to buzz around each other while her brother's causing trouble and bombs are going off.

Oh hell yeah. It's gonna be fun.

Now I now some of you make THIS face when people talk about plotting...



But I'll tell you what. This is the best I've felt at the start of a project. Things may still turn to worms, and for sure some of my brilliant inspiration will end up in the discard pile, For now, though, I am ready to write.

So where do you fall on the plotter-to-pantser spectrum? Would a beat sheet give you hives, or do you write a synopsis of every chapter before you start?

Inquiring minds & all...
Peace,
Liv


14 comments:

  1. Well, you know how I feel about beat sheets. *shudder* I've written a working synopsis before I drafted a few times (under duress, mind you) and while it's not my favorite thing, it did help keep me on track, even though I ended up deviating from it. I might do that again for the book I'm releasing next spring...maybe it'll help me with the length.

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  2. Pantser all the way - I've been to workshops about wheels, boards, squares, even different colored markers to make sure I have enough, but not too much or too little of conflict, goal, etc., It was all wonderful and I wish I could do it, but I don't have the patience. I feel like I could have a chapter written by the time I fill the wheel for one character.

    I'm not saying I'm a good pantser and that I shouldn't be plotting but I don't, and probably never will :)

    PS autocorrect keeps changing pantser to panther, LOL

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  3. It might help, Amanda. You write great set-ups and awesome endings, but maybe if you had more of a plan for the middle, you'd be able to dig in a little deeper (and hit your word count goals). Maybe...

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  4. Deb - Don't you disparage my different colored markers, babe. They're an essential part of my editing process. I've never tried wheels or squares, though Scrivener creates a bulletin board as you go along, which is a neat trick, but not enough to make that program a big part of my writing. It's all a process, though, so who knows what we'll come up with next.
    ;)

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  5. Both! It absolutely depends upon the project. Some I plot. Some I pants. Some get a little of both. How's THAT for a definitive answer?

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  6. I actually think that's pretty healthy, Terri-Lynne. Keeping things fluid means you're open to maximizing the potential of any given situation.
    And you know how I like to maximize...
    ;)

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  7. It sounds like it would be nice to be a plotter. I'm excited for you.

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  8. Your comment makes it sound like you're more of a pantser, Nana. If you ever decide you want to come to the other side, let me know.
    ;)

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  9. Wow - what a machine. Good luck with your two novels in a year. Wish I could do that. (Wish I could do one in a year!)

    I'm not entirely sure what a beat sheet is, but I think I probably work to that sort of model. I've tried pantsing and rubbish comes out. I'm better if I have a rough idea of what is going to happen. But I don't want to know everything up front, because then I'd be bored.

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  10. A beat sheet's just an outline template, Ellen, and from what I know of how you think I can see where you'd like one. Here's a link to Jami Gold's class on beat sheets: http://jamigold.com/store/products/beat-sheet-basics/
    Or you could grab a copy of Save the Cat...
    ;)

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  11. I'm on the extreme end of pantser. I can't even dare to think of what happens in the next scene because it'll wreck the story.

    The problem is that all how-to advice assumes you're outlining, and in fact, recommends things useful for pantsers as "Do NOT do." I ended up walking away from writing message boards and a lot blogs because the outlining advice is so pervasive that most people aren't even aware of it.

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  12. I think writing without even a little planning ahead would be like walking on a tightwire for me, Linda, but even while the idea makes me seize up, it could be kind of cool. If nothing else, you've inspired me to quit worrying about what's going to happen in my next scene, and to just let it happen.
    ;)

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  13. I'm not exactly sure where I fall on the pantser/plotter spectrum. I usually start off by taken simple ideas for potential scenes and then writing them to see what happens. The act of putting words on screen helps me discover new ideas and then the thing begins to grow sort of organically. I work under the assumption that stuff I come up with during discovery writing won't be usable, and I'm okay with that--although a lot of it ends up in the first draft anyway. At some point I try to start thinking about or planning more of the structure. With my current WiP--a short story--I started doing that after finishing a first draft that I totally pantsed.

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  14. "Discovery writing" - I love that term. I think I do most of my discovery writing in my head, and I'll confess that the further you get in my beat sheet, the more often the entries look like, "Trevor does (something), and (something something something) happens. I'll fill in the details when I get there.

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