Dun Writin’—Now Whut? A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing – (20 Plotting)

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Plotting

Some authors are meticulous plotters, outlining their book carefully. Others are called “pantsers” because they “fly by the seat of their pants,” letting the story and the characters take them where they want to go. Many authors use a combination of these two styles, but this post deals with the plotters.

Keeping track of what’s going on in your book can be hard work! Especially if you have multiple plotlines, it is easy to get confused as to what’s already been discussed or revealed and what still needs to stay hidden. Even if your book is completely written and finished, your beta readers or editor may find loose ends that you haven’t tied up.

There are many different techniques to keeping track of your story. Some authors use index cards. Color-coding them according to character involvement or plotline can be helpful. By rearranging the colored cards, you can aid yourself in intermixing or weaving plotlines together. Pinning or taping the cards to a large surface, like a wall, can guide the author visually as to what comes next.

Other authors use white boards or bulletin boards. Some use notebooks or pads of paper. I’ve heard of writers using Word or Excel to keep track of details and characters. Especially for a series, good recordkeeping is essential! You don’t want your readers to discover the minor character you killed in Book Two has suddenly reappeared in Book Four as a major villain!

An author I know, Dutch Rhudy (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dutch-rhudy/72/9b5/591), shared the following information in a LinkedIn group thread: “What did you learn last year?” I thought you would find his experience with storyboarding, which is another type of graphic representation of plotting, valuable. He gave me permission to use his thoughts in this post:

The best thing I learned this year was how to properly ‘storyboard.’

No matter how carefully I may design and rework my ‘outline,’ I invariably drift far from it, as the character begins telling the story.

I cut n paste and mix and match my ‘outline,’ make changes to reflect the direction the story is going. Sometimes this can be hard without twisting or destroying the plot lines.

Using a ‘storyboard’ helps to keep you on-track, while giving you the freedom to deviate from the ‘outline’ a little ways. But at those crucial points, the ‘storyboard’ lets you pull things back together again.

You can deviate from the road map (outline) and take side trips and excursions along the way, visit a few sites you never intended. But you know you must cross the river on a specific bridge (storyboard point), not the one upriver or downriver, else you will blow the whole plot. The ‘storyline’ can meander around, before you tighten it up. But the ‘throughline’ must always remain intact, or you will lose the readers’ attention.”

If you use plotting in your writing, what’s your favorite way of handling the details?

We’re Dun for today, so keep on Writin’!

Susan

Susan Uttendorfsky

Owner, Adirondack Editing

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15 thoughts on “Dun Writin’—Now Whut? A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing – (20 Plotting)

  1. Reblogged this on Pukah Works and commented:
    I’m a panster, I’ll admit. I write an outline and by page two I’m so far off line I can’t even figure out where the outline went. However, I do know many authors who are meticulous plotters. It takes both to make the book world as varied and rich as it is.

    Thanks Susan for once again assembling another great article, and Chris for hosting.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I tend to see a story fully developed in my mind like a film before I start writing, so I spend more time on sentence nuance than plotting once I’ve hit the writing stage. But plot notes mainly stay in my head. Most of my notes are either done in text files or on physical notepads and concern logistical issues like schedules, timelines, and schematics or maps.

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  3. I’m a pantser through and through. Although when I have multiple twisting and turning subplots I write them down in my Writer’s notebook so I don’t lose track and leave a plot hole. Without an outline a synopsis becomes much harder. Recently I’ve been also writing down key plot points as well as story points. But I can’t do any of it until AFTER it happens in the book. My stories must evolve organically on their own with no foresight on my part besides the premise.

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  4. I’m a combination writer. I plan out a plot, which always includes a beginning and an end. It’s the middle gives me fits. I usually have weak inspiration as to how to get from here to there and that leads to improvising, which is a dirty word for me. New characters (complete with back stories) rear their ugly heads, and unplanned events tend to consume many words. Oy! That is one reason why my stories usually come out much longer than I intended.
    As for how I organize, I use Word for everything. I have a series of documents called Story Notes. I have one for each book, although I have only one (very long) document of notes for the Ki’shto’ba series. I also have one called Proposed Tales, where I stash all my ideas for future books. I know nothing about story boarding, but I do make lots of tables – historical chronology and the dates of events in my main characters’ lives. I also jot ideas and notes on scraps of paper, which pile up on my desk until I forget what they were about and I have to throw them away! One other thing – I have a little hand-held tape recorder by the bed so I can record all those brilliant ideas and phrases that come to one’s mind in the middle of the night, and then fade away into the ether by morning.

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