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All about Plotting

January 17, 2006

While I admire those writers that can sit down and write by the seat of their pants, I am not one of those people. If I don’t have an idea of what is coming in the next chapter or scene, I’ve been known to spend hours staring at a blank screen, checking e-mail off and on, only to return to the blank page and stare at it some more. I’ve tried a number of plotting tricks before I found what works for me. So in a nutshell I’m going to give you Syd’s Plotting 101. LOL

First I start with music. I have it playing constantly, especially when I’m brainstorming. I often have a song or two that becomes a theme song for whatever book I’m working on. Right now one of them is Billy Klippart’s “With You”. I also tend to write everything down by hand in my planning stage.

And then I just start to write scene ideas, whatever images that pop into my head as I listen to music and think about the characters and the basic storyline that started with that “what if” question. On a good night I can brainstorm a whole story and fill numerous pages with scene ideas.

Next I take the scenes and put them in a rough order, leaving gaps to be filled in with other scenes that will be needed to tie everything together to make it flow. And here I start to really focus on the characters and how their GMC (Goal Motivations and Conflict)will affect these scenes I have as my framework and how their reactions will take things in a new direction.

Once I have my basic plot I break it into chapters (yes I am that anal that I do that too before I start to write ). I break them up and make sure wherever possible that my chapters always end on a hook, either with an action/suspense moment, with dialogue-more specifically a question that I want readers to turn to the next page to get the answer for, or at the point where the attraction between my hero and heroine can no longer be denied.

This might sound really organized and thought out compared to the pantser way of writing, but there is still plenty of room left for those ideas that strike in the middle of a scene, the ones that make you smile because you don’t know where it came from, but it’ll fit right into the scene like it was part of the plan from the beginning.

When I first started writing I was very plot driven, in some ways I still am, in that a lot of the time the scenes that come to me first are action ones. But I’ve learned that no matter what way you plot your book, you have to know what is going on in your characters head, why they are the way they are, why they are thinking and reacting the way they are. Without real three-dimensional characters, the plot will fall flat, no matter if you planned it all out in advance or if you write by the seat of your pants.

I’ve also figured that once I have my plot outlined, its the best time to write the synopsis of the book, since I tend to get rather longwinded with my synops once the book is already written. But then that’s another topic all together.

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