Monday, July 28, 2014

Plotting Without Explosions

by Jemi Fraser

Have you heard any explosions lately? No? You must not live in Northern Ontario. My brain has been exploding randomly and quite loudly recently.


I'm attempting to plot out a rewrite of a story.



  • I'm NOT a plotter
  • I need more tension between characters
  • the external tension needs some polishing to make it more realistic
  • the characters are too sweet


  • I came across a post by Rula Sinara over at Kelly Steel's blog the other day talking about the synopsis
  • Hmmm. I could write a synopsis BEFORE I start the rewrite
  • this worked out pretty well, and helped me add in some tension between the characters, BUT it also pointed out new...


  • saggy middle
  • most of the conflict comes to me as I'm writing. How am I supposed to know the middle before I get there???

  • google 'visual plot outlines'
  • find this post by Chuck Wendig
  • celebrate a little because writing the synopsis first is there (proving I'm not completely losing it!)
  • find new ideas (writing backwards sounds BRILLIANT!!! I always know my ending before I begin so this might work)
  • feel better when I see story bibles (I've done those - maybe I can do this plotting thing after all!)

  • not sure if any of this will work

  • give them a whirl! I won't lose anything by trying (plus I LOVE trying out new things)
  • if I can't deal with the explosions any more, maybe I'll just Pants out a new version and hope all this thinking helps me make that version stronger!

So how does any of this help you out?

  • some new ideas on plotting
  • a reminder to keep open to new ideas. You never know when something will send you scurrying in a new direction. For me, the best learning experiences have been when I learned something I'd never even considered before
  • another reminder that none of us work the same way -- and that's okay. Writing is a creative exercise and we should approach it that way. There is no one tried and true method that works for everyone. Don't be afraid to be unique! And, conversely, don't be afraid to borrow from others.

How about you? Are you a plotter? What has sent you in a new direction lately? Any other non-linear plotting techniques that might help me out?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. In between cranial explosions, she blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, I am a plotter, and I always begin with the ending. Writing the synopsis early does help.
And yes, I've had to completely replot and rewrite before.

JeffO said...

No plotting for me, but a lot of thinking when I'm not actively writing. A lot of that thinking is, "What makes sense next?" if you know what I mean.

Good luck!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I like to plot the major plot points only, including the middle reversal. Writing a synopsis after a few drafts sounds like a good way to see and try to correct problems.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've always been a plotter. I usually work out detailed character sheets before I begin though.

Mason Canyon said...

I don't think I'd be a plotter either, but would probably need to be as I tend to get off track sometimes. Good luck with your plotting. Sounds like you're on the right track.

Jemi Fraser said...

Alex - I always start with the ending too - maybe I can do this :)

Jeff - I'm trying to slow down with this one too - I tend to just fly along! :)

Natalie - I tried the major plot points, but got tangled up with my draft last time. I'll keep working :)

Diane - I don't write a lot down, but I do know my characters quite well before I start

Mason - I hope so! I love these characters :)

cleemckenzie said...

Kudos to you. Every story comes to the page in a unique way. This one just happens to need some plotting strategy. You're a brave and determined writer for tackling the issues using a tool you're not used to.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm not a complete plotter but before I start a book I write down notes on all the important points I need the story to hit, usually between fifteen and twenty, and then pantser it from there.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lee - thanks! It's always fun to try out a new strategy - we'll see how it works!

Susan - hmmm. That's an interesting way to do that. I might try that too. Thanks! :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Great tips here. I read the Chuck Wendig article. I do something between Tentpoles and Beginning, Middle, End. I always write a log line and try to stick to it. Sometimes I know enough to write the blurb first, but never enough for a full synopsis.

Kelly Polark said...

I usually know the general ending too. But not exactly a plotter. Will check out these links to help!

Kelly Polark said...

Just checked CHuck's 25 ways to plot! Amazing!

Plus the other link, and I just bought Save the Cat a few weeks ago.

Thanks again, Jemi!

Jemi Fraser said...

Carol - a logline first is so smart! And I only know enough for a synopsis because it's a rewrite! :)

Kelly - I've heard so many great things about Save the Cat - but it also seems for a linear brain :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I'm a plotter. I write the outline and pitch before I start. Still, I might end up abandoning a manuscript because it's not exciting enough, but these past few years I've submitted more manuscripts rather than putting them in a drawer.

Shelley Sly said...

Oh, you've got some great ideas here! I like the working backwards idea.

I'm a total plotter. I make a thorough outline of the story and break it into chapters, making sure that each chapter has significant action and contribution to the story. Sometimes the outline phase takes a while, but it makes drafting easier for me.

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - I stopped submitting a few years ago - still too much to learn. Getting closer now though :)

Shelley - I like the backwards one too! I wish, wish, wish I could do that, but my brain grinds to a halt!

Crystal Collier said...

I picked up a plotting program a while back that just asks questions. Yup. Then it organizes your information so you can see how it all comes together. Talk about the best plotting method ever.

Jemi Fraser said...

Crystal - that sounds awesome! It might actually even work with this nonlinear brain of mine :)

LD Masterson said...

Um, I hate to mention it but I think if you write the synopsis first, use a story bible, and try visual plot outlines, you are (gasp!) plotting. Who'd a thunk it?

Jemi Fraser said...

Linda - eep! You might be right... except I did write the draft out first :)