Friday, September 14, 2012

The Master Plan and Kisses to Remember Giveaway!

I’m a plotter. I like an outline of where I’m headed. I need a calendar of events. This holds true in my writing as well…most of the time.

When I’m working on a full-length novel, I absolutely must have a solid idea of what’s going to happen when, where it’ll happen, who will be there when it does happen, and how it all gets resolved. I start by making some lists. First is a character list where I name them, describe their physical appearances, their personalities, what they want, their motivations, and what stands in the way. I usually look for pictures online that match what I envision in my head. I also jot down what kind of house they live in, what their job is, if they have any pets, family, friends. I basically create a profile of each major character so I can go back to it and remember where exactly I put that scar or tattoo.

Next up is notes on setting. I sometimes consider setting to be an additional character in the story, so I pay special attention to collecting pictures of a place, gathering information on climate, land features, and points of interest. If I can virtually tour a setting, great! If I can go there or have already been there, even better! I frequent travel sites to get a flavor of a place and see how others have described it.

Now, it’s time for plot development. This usually comes in the form of a very, very, very sloppy calendar that I handwrite in my writer’s notebook. I easily lose track of time in a story, so I literally make a Sunday through Saturday calendar of events, adding in however many weeks I’ll need. The events are usually just quick notes on scenes, but they include whose point of view readers will get in the scene and the basic action. Sometimes I also include snippets of dialogue that come to me when I’m in this planning phase. This calendar can take a few days to unfold with me working on it even when I’m not physically writing on it. Ideas pop into my head while I’m driving, eating, exercising, meditating, food shopping. You name the place and I’ve had ideas present themselves. Trust me. I just make sure that at some point it all gets onto the plot calendar.

Once this calendar is filled in and is a sturdy skeleton, I begin the first draft. I usually try for at least four full pages per writing session (I do have a day job), and here’s the crazy part. After all that planning in the calendar…I don’t always stick to the master plan! Sometimes the characters make decisions I hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes new characters show up and want a piece of the action.

Sometimes a character dies and I had no idea he/she/it was going to.

But this is what makes writing such an adventure! Even the best developed plans need to be flexible. Out of that willingness to follow the story and the characters wherever they may lead comes true entertainment. These surprises keep the writer writing and ultimately, the reader reading.

So, yes, I plot, but I don’t let that chain me. I run free when the Muse says we must.

For writers, do you plot or make it all up on the fly? For readers, can you tell which method a writer has used when you read his/her work? What are the signs?

I'm giving away one free e-copy of Kisses to Remember to one lucky reader today. Leave a comment to be entered to win. Winner must supply email address.




Margo Hoornstra said...

Your plotting methods sound pretty thorough. I'm a Pantster. A method which sometimes gets me in trouble when I tend to forget things. Great information.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I am a pantser. My agent, though, insists each of her clients use a character sheet she created. Every person in our story must be there: name, age, looks, role in the plot, any physical or speech characteristics, etc. I keep that sheet open as I write, so I can make sure the tat on the right arm doesn't shift to the left by chapter twenty. I almost always know how I want the story to end, so I keep focused toward that scene, unless my characters wake me up to tell me how badly I'm doing as I write his/her story...and it has happened several times. Don't you hate it when your characters whip you into shape?

Great post. I like how you plot. I'm just too impulsive to take the time to do it that way.

Jannine Gallant said...

You and I have a lot in common when it comes to plotting, Chris. In a full length novel I get off track and forget about minor subplots that need to be resolved without an outline. I also use character sketches for consistency. I love your calendar idea because I frequently find myself wondering what day it is and fearing it's a week day when I need a weekend for the action. The worst was creating a plot that revolved around a killer killing on full and new moons. That took soom work to fill in the blanks and keep my days straight!

Anonymous said...

I'm a plotter in life. I need schedules and lists and any changes, especially last minute changes, frustrate and sometimes anger me. Respect the schedule! :-)

Christine DePetrillo said...

The winner is Stephanie! Congrats and thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Great ideas. I think I'll try some of them.

Romance Can Be Murder said...

Interesting post, Christine! I do an outline in a similar fashion, but not as detailed as yours. My big problem is that when I'm in full writing flow I forget to note details that come up, like the colour of someone's eyes or the name of a minor character. I once had to go through an entire novel and find/replace a name because I just left ??? in the spaces :-) Making a novel planner notebook can help prevent such time wasters, yes?