Several Forums ago, our heroine took on the task of converting the reticent to outlining their novels. In that article, dear Reader, we looked at good reasons why one would convert to being an outliner and a few simple techniques to getting one’s feet wet doing so.
This time we’re diving into organizing the novel in new ways. Some novelists are born organizers. They’ve never approached a piece of fiction without carefully drawing out the story and character arcs, developing the plot scene by scene and knowing exactly what the secondary characters are going to do.
As I mentioned in that previous Forum, I am a recent convert to outlining and organizing. Weeks have passed and I’ve seen what an amazing and positive difference doing so has done for my stories. I have become greedy for new tools. This Forum is going to share some of them with you.
Theoretically, no two stories are the same. (Good ones, anyway.) Neither are two snowflakes. Have you heard of the Snowflake Method for plotting? AdvancedFictionWriting.com creator Randy Ingermanson‘s article How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is an intriguing look at a new way of fleshing out your project. There are some great ideas here. Make sure you read the entire article to get the full impact of the process.
Lazette Gifford‘s It’s Just a Phase has been sending ripples through the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter lately. An article from 2003, it still has some terrific ideas for plotting out a novel in a new way. Not as restraining as the typical outlining format, it still allows for both the fleshing out of the story and the growth that may be wanted along the way. You’ll definitely want to give this one a look.
In fact, those ripples I mentioned brought a new blog post from @johannaharness, founder of the #amwriting hashtag. It expands on her own experiences with phase drafting. Titled quite simply Phase Drafting, she shares her own embracing of the concept and adding a twist or two of her own.
I’ve stolen another one of her ideas for this Forum post: Big Board Planning. When I thought about combining a little of this, a little of that and bada-bing, using my pile o’post-it notes on big folding display boards, my heart went pitty-pat. Just think how much easier it is to visualize your organization this way! And when writing time is done (is writing time ever really done?), fold them up and put them away. Easy to mix and match, move scenes around. What’s not to like?
Saoirse Redgrave (Shannon Delany), author of 13 to Life, was just kind enough to share another exciting plotting method with several of us on Twitter. (If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, you may want to take a close look.) She called it “Fast Drafting” and described it as follows:
1.) Turn off your internal editor (you don’t need her complaining right now).
2.) Start writing, accepting the fact this is a draft & drafts aren’t perfect. (#2 is muy importante 😉
3.) Write 5k each day for 14 days. What some call a dirty draft.
4.) This gives you about 70k (a real, honest-to-gosh book length) in 2 weeks.
5.) Take a step back–set the ms. somewhere for at least a few days w/o editing.
6.) Approach it with fresh eyes (yours or a crit partner’s). Where are the gaps?
7.) Play “yes and” with your crit partner or yourself while revising–this means accepting changes and giving the “what if”& “what else” more opportunity to grow.
8.) Polish, but not obsessively (obsession is not healthy & breeds self-doubt).
9.) Get your query and synopsis super tight–high concept tight.
10.) Send your baby out.
She commented further, “Interestingly enough (at least to me) is the fact that most authors never finish a ms, and many who do never send it out. It cannot be published until it’s done and in front of publishers.”
(Thanks so much for that!)
As you can see, there are a number of methods available to help you with the plotting of your novel. Fiction done well is a remarkable thing. Use all the tools at your disposal to create the best story you can.
You don’t have to get bogged down in a method that doesn’t feel right to you, though! Take what works for you from each and meld it together until you have your own method. Consider it a buffet and yes, you can go back for seconds.