Plotting the Course


Good news! This past Friday, I finished plotting my book and now have a road map for my novel. Granted, it’s taken longer than I would have liked to get to this point, but this is a pretty big step for me.

One of the funny things I’ve had to come to terms with is that I AM going to have missteps during this year of writing. For example, the day after I quit my job, I jumped right into writing. There was a part of me that felt I needed to “earn my keep.” I didn’t feel like I was being productive unless I was sitting down and writing for a designated amount of time.

I made a goal to sit down and write for a minimum of three hours every day Monday through Friday. Now, some of you may think, “Three hours? That’s it? Shouldn’t you be trying to write 9-5?” Unfortunately, writing doesn’t really work that way for me. Three hours is a very good chunk of time. After that, ideas start to dry up and my creativity well starts to feel tapped out.

So, Monday through Friday, for at least three hours, I was going to sit down and write. And, I did! For five weeks I kept to my self-imposed schedule and wrote.

The problem was, I kept writing myself into corners. I’d be inspired and writing one day, then get a different idea or direction for my story the next, and find myself having to go back through what I’d already done to “fix” things.

The first time I did it, no big deal. I was game to hunt through all the text already produced and make adjustments. However, my patience was out by the third or fourth time of this happening. I realized that I wasn’t a “fly by the seat of my pants” author like I’d always assumed. I was going to actually have to bite the bullet, sit down, and plot my book out.

But how? I mean, I’ve made an outline for a ten page paper before, but actually plotting out a book was beyond the scope of my experience. So, I took another two weeks just researching the various methods out there.

What I found was both liberating and scary. There isn’t any “one right way” to plot a book. For every writer out there, there was a different method. Some of the ideas were similar, yet many others were completely out of left field.

I came to a conclusion. I could spend the whole year learning and reading about how to plot a book…but I wouldn’t ever actually make any progress if I did so.

So, I pulled a couple of ideas together from a few different methods and started to piecemeal them together. In essence, I had to learn what my own, personal process would be. Unfortunately, that takes time.

Learning to be patient with myself, allowing myself to fumble, and recognizing that it’s not a “waste of time,” is definitely one of the harder challenges I’m dealing with right now.

Originally, I tried using a whiteboard to help visualize my storyline. However, it was hard to erase and make adjustments, and there just wasn’t enough space on the board to fit the whole story in.

Next, I tried using an outline form, but felt it was too restrictive. Every time I tried to insert something, I felt compelled to go and adjust all the headings, titles, etc. Not good.

I decided to be a bit looser with my structure and basically wrote out a synopsis of each chapter. I notated where I’d want a new chapter (but didn’t number it,) specified the perspective I wanted to write from, then gave a brief account of what I wanted that chapter to accomplish.

Some of the chapters are only a paragraph long and don’t have a lot of details. They’re basically placeholders where I know a defined event has to occur. Things started to flow and get easier in the later chapters as I started to get comfortable with the format and characters of the story.

The last few chapters are multiple paragraphs. If I came up with a certain phrase, or knew a character would respond in a particular way, I wrote it in. However, I didn’t impose the need to write out all the dialogue, or go into specifics of the environment or scene.

So, that brings us back to present day. I’ve finally managed to plot my book. In the end, I’m left with a good idea of the scenery and a specific direction for my writing to travel. In essence, a road map for my story. This weekend, I’m going to kick the tires, fill up the tank and get ready to go on my trip. Here’s hoping I don’t get too lost!


2 comments on “Plotting the Course

  1. Erik Conover says:

    A set number of hours to work on your novel I have found is the best way to go about getting it done. I recently finished writing a screenplay, and I would set aside 3-4 hours a night after my day job and classes to just write. The key for me was the nights it was difficult to write, I simply wouldn’t. Writing a novel or a screenplay is a very long process. You have a road map laid out, which is much more than most people can say 🙂

    • Janyaa says:

      Hi, Erik. Thanks for your comment!

      I’ve been pretty good about working on my book for at least three hours every day, Monday through Friday. (I’ve got a bit of an advantage here since I’ve quit my job for a year to pursue my dream. I don’t have to relegate my efforts to just evenings and weekends. Kudos to you for having the discipline and energy to pursue your dreams while also working!)

      I have had to loosen my definitions and expectations a bit in regards to producing this novel. It’s been a struggle to accept that just because I’m not writing, doesn’t mean I’m not doing something of value towards finishing the book. That was (and still is) the main hangup I’m learning to get over. Plotting and research are equally important to the end product.

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