Friday, January 21, 2011

Plotting, oh yes, I'm plotting...

Today was a good writing day. Interesting, because I started my day by going 10 rounds with my 16 year old. I was brooding as I opened my writing laptop, a glorified typewriter with no Internet connection. I avoid the Internet when I write because it's a distraction, and I really didn't need any more distractions today. Besides, I spent most of yesterday on buddhanet learning all about the Buddhist theory of Karma. (It's interesting. You should click through and read it.)

I opened my file and read some of the notes I had taken.

We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own heaven. We create our own hell. We are the architects of our fate.

Right. I decided to be the architect of my own fate and quit brooding. I put my issues with young son on the back burner and began outlining.

Yes, you read that right. This pantser is outlining.

Writers fall somewhere on the continuum of pantser and plotter. It's an easy inference. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants and plotters, well, plot...meticulously. I was a straight-up pantser on my first two novels. It worked beautifully on Sapphire Sins and not at all on Crimson Crimes.

Hindsight is 20/20, and as I look back, I realize that I did kinda sorta plot Sapphire Sins in my head. I knew what the characters wanted and who wanted to stop them. The result was a briefly agented first novel. I dived into Crimson Crimes with only the vaguest idea of what the characters wanted, and the result is a broken novel that might never see the light of day.

What have we learned from these two experiences? Plot more, dumbass!

So I'm developing characters, setting the rules for my paranormal world, and fixing the 5 points of my story arc. The five points are a road map. This is point A. I have to pass through B, C, and D before finally ending up at E. I followed this model almost unconsciously on Sapphire Sins.
  • Collision
  • Attempted Solution
  • Solution fails
  • Climax
  • Validation/Resolution

I have collision completely outlined. I know the beginning. I have yet to set the other four points, but I'm not turning the key and stepping on the gas without my GPS in place. I make mistakes, but I'd like to think I learn from them. Hello, habitual karma, sometimes I make the same one over and over. But not this time.

I experienced a moment of abject fear when I realized I couldn't write this book in my safe, comfortable 3rd person, limited POV. To do it right, I have to let my male protagonist tell part of the story. EEK! Switching points of view is a skill. Head hopping is one of the hallmarks of bad writing. When a writer jumps between characters' heads without appropriate transitions, she leaves her reader dazed and confused. I'm going to send the first chapter to my beta reader before I write the second and have her read solely for POV issues. I'm excited about the challenge because I'm excited about my story.

The best part of today, the part that has me over the moon, is the backstory I wrote. I needed to know the genesis of my paranormal world before I could plot past collision. To know what happens next, I had to know what happened before.

For the first time in AGES, I rode that high that comes when the words are flowing and I'm creating something out of nothing. I was so giddy, I actually read what I wrote to Bruce. I NEVER do that. I hold my writing close until it's edited and polished and ready to face the world all shiny. He recognized the moment for what it was. When I finished, he repeated a description I had written and told me what it made him think of. It was exactly the imagery I was trying to create.

Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

The 2,000 words I cranked out today may or may not find their way into the actual manuscript, but I needed the information. And I needed to remind myself I can write. And I needed to remind myself writing can be a glorious, heady experience.

The day will come when the shiny wears off this wonderful new relationship between me and my story. It's inevitable. There will be moments when I wonder what I ever saw in it, and I will have to power through because I have too much invested to quit. With my character map, my plot GPS, and my backstory as reference tools, I feel confident the two of us will make it through the long haul to resolution.

I'm chomping at the bit to start writing the beginning, but I'm exercising self-discipline and waiting until the other four plot points are fixed. I create my own heaven. I am the architect of my own fate.

At least where my story is concerned. The 16 year old? Oy vey...thank god I'm a pantser at heart because that kid refuses to adhere to my plot points.

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