Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Basics of Plotting

I know that some of you are freaking out at this moment. "I can't plot!" you scream, "It will ruin my creativity!"

And I say no way!

The problem with people who say plotting is bad, simply do not understand the concept of plotting. They have gotten into their heads that plotting means that every page, every narration, every dialogue sequence is figured out before you even start writing.

Which is not what we mean.

I have also talked about a method that works really good for figuring out your story by doing a little math. Calculate the word count you need (because you have done your research and know what the publishers want), figure out the words per chapter, and from that, build your plot. Where do you need to be by chapter 5, 10, 15, 20? And of course, when I mentioned this, the pantsters of the world were up in arms screaming that this is formulaic and true creativity can not be done mathematically.

They did not get what I meant.

The idea of plotting is simply figuring out where you are in the beginning of the book and where you need to get to. It also means having a clear understanding of the benchmarks along the way you need to hit to get to that final destination.

Think of it this way. Let's take a Road Trip!

The pantsters approach out be this way.

"Get in the car and start driving. Stop when you want to stop. Take any road you want. See where you end up.

Now, while this sounds interesting, this is not real life. We all have a schedule and we do have limitations. We likely do not have unlimited time and we likely do not have unlimited resources to do anything we want. This trip, using this approach, simply will not work.

So, let's try it the plotter way. I did this right after my wife and I got married.

We had spring breaks that did not quite over-lap. Her family decided that it would be great to have everyone go to Disneyland together for a couple of days. They flew. I drove. This meant I had variables to work with.
  • I knew when I had to be in Anaheim.
  • I knew when I had to be back to school
  • I knew the starting point  (Seattle) and the end
  • I knew I had two places I definitely wanted to see (Napa Valley and visit friends up in Sequoia National Part)
The trip was plotted. As long as I knew where those benchmarks were, I could take any route I wanted, stop and see anything I wanted, but I had to stick to the timeline.

It was a good trip.

When it comes to writing your novels, THIS is what we mean about plotting. 

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