Monday, September 8, 2008

Plotting: It Ain't For Wienies

If you've decided to write a novel then you'll be needing a plot outline. Don't like outlining you say? It stifles creativity, you say. Well perhaps you're a little like me and the thought of plotting a novel scares the daylights out of you. Well, get over it. If you'll take the time to plot your novel you'll have a much richer book and it won't stifle your creativity as much as it will focus it.

These are the first steps I went through after I had an idea what my novel would be about. I hope you find them helpful and please share any plotting tips the you have in the comments. We need all the help we can get.

  • In order to plot a novel you really do have to take the time to decide on a genre and read several books from that genre. I chose romantic suspense and I've got to say my favorite romantic suspense author is Brenda Novak. The woman can plot like nobody's business. I know you're ready to write the darn book now while your Muse is calling. Tell her to go out for a spa day and pay attention.

  • Notice who the publisher is, what the book length is and if possible look up their submission requirements. Google Rules!! Then break down one or two novels by scene. No need to create a spreadsheet. Pen and paper will do. How many per scenes per chapter and per viewpoint character? At what point do we see the major complications come into play? Brenda appears to be a Marshall Plan kind of girl.

  • Okay, so that will give you a book length and genre. I used The Marshall Plan to help me determine the number of scenes needed, number of viewpoint characters and where to insert major complications. I'll admit that I've had the book for awhile and it scared me to death the first time I read through it. It seemed like it was too detailed so I did the NaNoWriMo thing which was a great experience but not very structured.

The Marshall Plan isn't the only book I studied. Yes, studying. You know, like you did in school. Because, contrary to what you may think writers aren't some cosmically gifted group who plop down in front of the computer and start spitting out perfectly worded, perfectly plotted masterpieces. They've studied and sweated and learned their craft.

I'll put up some reviews of the plotting books I've studied and what I've gotten from them. In the meantime, gird your loins and wade in. Figure out your genre, target publisher/agent, and target page length.

See, I told you this isn't for wienies!

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