This month I’ll be presenting at my first writer’s conference! And have to admit, I’m a bit nervous.
I’m teaching a breakout season on plotting, which is definitely my favorite part of the writing process.
Below is the outline and talking notes for my class.
Click here for the PowerPoint Plotting Is Fun!
Syllabus: Plotting is Fun! How to keep your story from getting hung up somewhere between 300 pages of eloquently worded sentences and what might very well be the next Great American novel.
Plotting is fun! In fact, I think plotting so much fun, if there were a Chinese character for it, I would have it tattooed on my body somewhere. Except that I hate needles and anything that’s permanent, so . . . And because I think plotting is so much fun, I often have other writers come to me with plot dilemmas to which I find myself offering the very same advice, over and over again.
You’re making it too hard. Too complicated.
Obviously, we want our stories to have twists and turns, to make our readers ooh and ahh over the genius of what they never saw coming. But the genius doesn’t come in the intricacy of how we get from one twist to the next turn. That part, we need to make simple. When we ask ourselves, what is the easiest way to get from this twist to that turn? Miraculously, all our troubles just drift away.
Let’s give it a try. Do it right now. Think about a place in your story where the plot is hanging up (better known as the dreaded “writer’s block”). Now think about the simplest way you can get your character from where he or she is right now to where you want them to be.
Too simple, you say. My readers will get bored, you say. Not true. Isn’t it true that we can be doing the most fun thing in the world (a wedding, a trip to the beach, a party, Disney) but the minute we make it complicated, the less fun it becomes?
It’s the same with writing.
The wow factor for our readers comes in our delightfully quirky characters, our snappy dialogue and our concise but eloquent descriptions.
That’s what we are going to focus on today. Keeping it simple so it can be fun.
Discovery Writer or Meticulous Outliner. Every writer must plot.
Meticulous Outliner: The Meticulous Outliner lays their entire story out ahead of time. They plan all the pitfalls their characters will fall into and determine which chapter that will best happen in. They research and know all the intricate details of whatever it is they need to know intricate details on.
Discovery Writer: Takes a fly-by-night approach to writing. Sit down in front of the keyboard, set your fingers on the keys, close your eyes and just let the story flow down from your brain, out your fingers and on into the computer.
I like to think of myself as more of a hybrid. I outline in order to have an idea of where my story is going so I’ll have an idea of how long it will take me to get there. If the book has a time line—say I want to story to wrap up by Christmas—I need to plan so I know what month I’m in. Are there leaves falling? Is it cold? Etc. But not much more than that. Then I like to just let it flow. Sometimes the story takes me in a direction I hadn’t anticipated and I have to go back and re-outline, which is no big deal. Allowing the creativity to flow is more fun and more important than being bothered by occasionally having to re-plot.
First: Every great story is made up of a set of compelling chapters.
Four basics that every chapter needs: