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WritersLife Wednesday – Plotting so you aren’t just Plodding Along


“There’s no such thing as writer’s block.  That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” ~ Terry Pratchett.

What do you do when you’re stuck in a story, or even just trying to start one?  Since nanowrimo’s starting soon, I want to go back to an earlier post I had on plotting your way out of writer’s block.

What you need to do is figure out what works for you.  Some people swear pantsing is the best way out.  Since plotting works for me, I’m going to walk you through a few questions I put together to help you nail down your story.

1. What’s your book about?  This is what we call the blurb.  Tell yourself in one sentence, aim for under 30 words, what it’s about.  Not as easy as it sounds, huh?  🙂  I still can’t write blurbs for some of my books.  That’s a warning sign that you need to coral your plot bunnies a bit (errrr, a lot 🙂.

We had a saying in law school during finals.  “If you can boil it down and explain it to a 5 year old, you’ve got the concept.”  Same here.  If you can’t boil your plot down to a sentence, maybe you don’t get your concept.

2.  Once you have that down, even if it’s a sloppy sentence that goes on way too long and is just run on and would make your English teacher flinch… where was I?  Oh yeah, just get a sentence down, you can make it pretty later 😉 Once you do that, flush it out and make a paragraph synopsis.  So you can add in a bit more detail about the plot, kind of like what would be on the back of a book cover.

For examples of blurbs and back cover synopses, read the ones on amazon and on your books at home.  See what they do and try to replicate it.  No trust me, it’s okay to steal in this instance, I’m a lawyer, I know these things 😉

3. So there’s your plot in a nutshell.  Now, what is your story about?  This is a different about than in #1.  This is where you say it’s about love, survival, betrayal… it’s the underlying meaning/feeling you want the book to convey.  And yeah, it’s usually one word or phrase.  This will help set the tone.

4. Bringing us to, What’s your voice?  Are you silly, spunky, gritty, jaded, funny, sarcastic, hard-boiled… um, char-boiled?  I like to write in first person so my voice has to be that of the main character.  Even if you’re writing in third person, since you’re describing things through a person’s eyes, I still like it when authors try to make the voice sound like that character for that passage.  Makes it more real for me, but this could just be a personal preference.  Either way, you have to figure out what you’re going for.  If it’s dark, you could write it more gritty and jaded, or make it fun and bouncy and have that clash with the dark message (I’ve seen authors make this work and since it is more fun and bouncy, you don’t see the dark coming as much.)

5. Who are your characters?  You don’t have to do an 80 question sheet for each one, but start out knowing them, sketching them out a little.  You can always change and add to it later.  A good starting point is answer Name, Role, Goal (for this story), Ambitions in life, Values.  Do this for the main characters and the main protagonists.  Notice some overlap?  You should.

6. Bringing us to, What’s your conflict?  What is it the MC wants that the MP is stopping her from getting, or vice versa?  Their goals should clash.  If they don’t, why is that person your MP?  I always like to give my MP goals I could feasibly give to a MC.  Basically, if this was his story and he was the MC, would it make sense?  And then, I make him the enemy by him doing horrible things to get the goals or just by having the goals be selfish but understandable.

7. How do you want your character to change/grow in this story?  Doesn’t have to be a concrete scene, you could just say you want her to learn how to handle things on her own, to get over an ex, to do something horrible for a greater good.  This probably ties into #3.  You audience learns as she does.

That’s it. 🙂  If you’ve got this down and you want to start writing, start writing.  If you want to map out scenes so you know roughly what happens when, then do that.  But a little bit of forethought and planning could give you the kick in the ass you need.

Happy Writing 🙂

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