I wrote this post a year and a half ago (and am still plugging away on the same book). I can say plot starts to make more sense to me the longer I work on a project.
For the last year I’ve been trying to learn how to plot. I’ve read a half dozen books and have tried numerous systems (the Snowflake Method, the Six-Stage Plot Structure, the Nine-Box Plot). My efforts have sometimes been tinged with fear. (Study is often easier for me than starting work on a hazy idea.) While I might have been searching for a Golden System for everything fall into place, I was also legitimately interested in bettering my craft. But I’m not going to lie. Efficiency and speed were also alluring, as was the unspoken idea that real writers buckle down and learn how to make an outline work.
Never, ever do I want to think I’ve got it all figured out. Still, plot eludes me. I know things that have to happen because I’ve set them in motion, but when I try to strategically plan far beyond where I am, everything falls apart.
Last month I talked to my editor, Stacey, about Miraculous. I confessed that the writing was slow and inefficient because I just couldn’t learn how to plot. She asked why I felt I needed to plot if my system is working. I’ve published three novels. Something has to be right! Stacey told me to take the time I need. I got to pick the due date for my first draft (October 1, right after my critique group’s yearly retreat).
I cannot tell you how validating that conversation was (and how huge it is to have such a supportive editor). I try not to compare, but it’s hard not to notice friends who knock out fabulous drafts in a couple of weeks. That’s their system — more power to them! — and this is mine.
I’ve got permission to find this story’s path in the way that works best for me.
Augusta Scattergood says
You have a gem in Stacy. This post has warmed my heart and validated my own slow process. But I hear you on wanting to speed things up!
I absolutely do. Adore her! So glad you feel validated. One thing I’m trying to remember is even if I might not have a lot to show at the end of the day (or week), the story has moved forward. I’ve learned new, important things that will ultimately shape the work.
Sonia Gensler says
I feel like each time I start a new book, I also try the latest fashionable plotting technique. “This time I will save myself a lot of trouble!” Inevitably, however, I get bogged down and the technique-of-the-moment begins to loom darkly over that initially joyful brainstorming process. What to do?
Well, reading your post helps!
I also must come to terms with the fact that plotting is messy. There’s no neat and tidy process that will cut my revision time in half. I was going great guns with “Story Genius” and then had to take a break bc it wasn’t working as well for an MG story. But I see you have a link to an article on using SG with MG, so I will check that out.
Sorry to ramble! It was therapeutic. 😀
Hello, friend! So nice to hear from you. I Story Genius-ed with this one, too. It was really helpful, until it wasn’t. At some point I had to get writing and start making mistakes, you know what I mean? I am grateful for what I’ve taken away, especially the idea of an origin scene.
“This time I’ll save myself a lot of trouble” is pretty much the same mindset I’ve brought to every new idea. Hasn’t worked out yet. The creative process is all about trouble in the end. We just have to make our way through it. Now off to walk the dog and then get back to work. xo
Sonia Gensler says
The notion of an origin scene is pretty brilliant, along with the defining misbelief. I got A LOT of mileage out of those. 🙂
Joanne Fritz says
Inspirational indeed! Although I haven’t yet published a novel, I always learn something from reading your posts. And the four novels I have written show a definite progression.
We’re always learning (or should be). Just showing up to do the work is a lesson in itself.