Monday, August 29, 2011

Plotting Tools

Back in High School I had this amazing English teacher, he was the person that believed in my writing enough to get me to this point. (For the full story click here) Anyway, he made us plot. He taught us the value of thinking ahead of time so that our writing would be conveyed clearly.

I enjoyed neatly outlining my little five paragraph papers and I tried to apply those techniques to writing a novel, but it didn't work for me. I still did free write sessions to get ideas before writing, but an outline felt too detailed. For me, it killed the fun of writing.

Looking back I regret that, I wish that I had come up with a big picture view so that I wasn't re-writing my book at this point. Lesson learned.

Thankfully, the online writing community has provided me with a wealth of new ways to look at outlining and plotting, so today I thought I would share them with you.

The first one is called The Eight Sequences, it actually refers to play writing, but it's a good model for a novel as well. I like this tool becasue you can do a broad outline, but still get a strong feel for the path your book is going to take. (I found this method on someone's blog, but I can't remember who -- so if it was you, give me a nudge)

The next tool is the Main Character Survey on Manon Eileen's blog. This is an in depth, psychological look at your character. I would suggest using it for all of you main players, becasue it is seriously eye opening.

Last, but not least, is 750 words. This handy little site was started as way for people to write private journal entries and pick apart their moods and the things they center their lives on. The reason it is so great for writers is becasue you can write parts of your book and pick apart your characters moods and thoughts. It's a great tool to get perspective, and the amount of stats really blew my mind. Everything is analyzed so well.

So, there you have it. I hope these sites help you as much as they've helped me, and if you have other resources I would love to hear them!


Sarah Pearson said...

I use an outline similar to the eight sequences that I found on Janice Hardy's blog. I often end up deviating wildly, but I agree it's a great way to start.

Claire Lachance said...

A lot of great ideas there!

MG Higgins said...

I'm planning on doing more outlining on my next project, so I appreciate the links. I'm a fellow campaigner and new follower!

Steph Schmidt said...

I love outlining with the eight sequence model! I've heard of it elsewhere as the 8 Phase Model for Outlining a Novel.

Kelley said...

I hadn't heard of any of these, and I'm a writing tool fiend. TY!

Michael Offutt, Evolved Monkey said...

I think that storyboarding is extremely important for novelists to do in order to stay on track and keep from having to do unnecessary work. A book is hard enough to produce without having to add to the load.

J. A. Bennett said...

@Sarah - it's always good to have a plan, even if those plans change :)

@Claire - Thank you!

@M.G. Nice to have you! Glad you like the links :D

@Steph - I've found it extremely helpful, and I'm glad to know it goes by a different name.

@Kelly - Writing tools are the best, aren't they?

@Michael - Seriously, I wish I had know all this earlier.

Ava Jae said...

Interesting! I haven't heard of those before, either, but I've used the 10-scene plotting outline I got from James Scott Bell's writing book Plot & Structure (at least I think it was that book...could've been another writing book). Nonetheless, it's a similar idea and I agree that it's very useful to plotting. It's a nice median for those who don't like to do full outlines.

Mark Noce said...

You bring up some key elements in authorial styles. I find that a middle ground works best, some outlining, but some flying blind too in order to allow inspiration to have its way and just to have fun too:)

Abby Fowers said...

I know exactly what you mean! I have a hard time outlining things out. I try - I really try. I know my book would be better if I did, but it's hard. hmmm. I am currently at a stand still on my YA while I revise and work on a PB. I'm considering outlining more on my YA before I continue. Good to have this post. :)

Christa said...

Thanks! These are awesome. I particularly like that 750 words. Cool idea.

Caitlin Vincent said...

I had never heard of any of those sites, though I've heard versions of the ideas before. Thanks for sharing! They're definitely helpful :)

Claire Hennessy said...

Great to connect with a fellow Campaigner. Thanks for all these tips - will go and check them out.

Christine Murray said...

Some great resources here. Thank you! Nice to meet you, I'm in your campaign group :)

Aimee L. Salter said...

This is great! I'm doing a plotting series on my blog right now too, so I'll check these out and see if they can add to the mix. Thanks, fellow campaigner ;)

L.G.Smith said...

Thanks for the links. I'm not an outliner, but I do lots of backstory work on characters and story before I start. If I know the characters well enough, I can usually figure out the story as I go.

J. A. Bennett said...

@Ava - Oh! I'll have to check it out!

@Mark - So true, if I want to know every detail, I'll write the story!

@Abby - Do what works for you, but I regret not outlining!

@Christa - isn't it fun?

@Caitlin - Hey no prob, Merlin sister :)

@Claire - Happy to meet you too!

@Christine - Hey! I think I've seen you on twitter :P

@Aimee - Happy to help!

@L. G. - I agree that character development is important, my problem was learning new things that my characters where telling me later in the book than they should have, hence me going back and re-writing.

Gail Shepherd said...

I'd also add the screenwriting book *Steal the Cat* (recommended by my friend Becca Puglisi), where the story is broken down into 3 acts, each with approximately 7-9 "beats." I'm going to use this method for plotting my new novel.

Daniel R. Marvello said...

Greetings from a fellow campaigner in your group!

These tools look interesting. I'll have to check them out.

I have a couple more for you that you might like to try. Both are easy to find with an Internet search:

1. Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method."

2. Larry Brooks' "Beat Sheet."

I'm a fan of both methods. I also have a fairly recent blog post titled The Evolution of a Beat Sheet that describes how I used that particular tool.