Plotting hell!


It’s Boxing Day here in the UK, and I’m settled in at my parents’ place, sitting on the spare bed propped up on lots of pillows and trying to fix the part of my plot that went wrong. Plotting doesn’t come easily to me. The way I think about stories is always through character and emotion – even though The Iron Witch and The Wood Queen are written mostly in 3rd-person POV (with a sprinkling of journal entries written in 1st-person), I still focus very much on the emotional life of the people I create. That’s my way ‘in’ to the story, and my plot always arises organically out of the conflicts between the various characters and their wants and needs. Where those needs clash, that’s where the conflict exists which helps me to build plot… But I still find this the most challenging part of writing; plotting is always a struggle for me.

I was getting myself completely tangled up, when two of my friends stepped in with the same piece of advice: Suzanne and Renee both said: have you tried index cards? And although I don’t have fancy software, there’s always the old-fashioned way! So I broke out plain white index cards – and I also dug out my PDF of Holly Lisle’s Create A Plot Clinic – and got to work over Christmas. Now I’ve plugged an important gap; discovered that things were sagging towards the end (the middle was okay); and also introduced a subplot that I’d previously thought about, but not really known how to approach.

There’s more work to be done – and I have some new scenes to write as a result of my plot re-think – but I still hope to have this rewritten and handed in by 7th Jan. I hope you’re getting on well if you’re working over the holidays alongside me, and I wish you a happy Boxing Day! 🙂

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16 Responses to Plotting hell!

  1. Index cards can definitely be a lifesaver and I have a stack of them ready for use when I get stuck. I also struggle with plot in a big way and for the same reasons as you. Story to me is about character. I think my issue tends to be getting to close to my characters and seeing too much going on for them, so choosing the plot points that I need to share gets hard. Thanks for the link to that plot clinic. I’m collecting things like that!

    • Kaz says:

      Yes, story = character. We have a lot of differences in the way we work, it’s cool to find something we are the same with! 🙂

      The clinic is particularly good for revisions, imo. It’s the kind of thing you can take the parts that work for you, and just leave the rest.

  2. Skarrah says:

    Merry Christmas!

    Holly Lisle’s index card system was my lifesaver for Swan Song and the backbone of Black Mass. I can’t plot without them anymore! Glad it’s been able to help you too. 🙂

    Good luck with getting it all sorted by Jan 7th.

  3. Suzanne McLeod says:

    Looking wonderfully ORGANISED! Go you! 😀

  4. Firewolf says:

    Ohh, awesome 🙂 Good luck with your revelations and I hope your holidays rocked 🙂

    I wrote a little but I mostly spent time with my parents. They live far away so I only see them once or twice a year. But now they are gone and I can get back on track.

    • Kaz says:

      I can’t imagine only seeing my parents – especially my mum – once or twice a year. 🙂 I’m glad you had a good holiday!

  5. Kiara says:

    Index cards is a great idea! It looks pretty beneficial to have every aspect of your plot spread out in front of you – it’s easier to discover the holes. I really want to get a corkboard to hang on my wall, simply so I can plot out my novels and scan for plot holes. It would be a lot easier to combat them if I was looking at it as a whole.

    I don’t have too many problems with plot. I’m really analytical about everything, so more often than not I catch the small things that might have caught me later. Sometimes things get through the net, so I have to go back and sort them during editing.

    Good luck with your plot, Kaz, and I hope you had a great holidays!

    • Kaz says:

      I’m definitely finding it useful once I’ve written a lot of the book – that way you can see what you’ve done and what’s missing. I know people who use index cards to plot a book out from scratch, but I can’t do that.

      It’s easy to miss things, but that’s what revisions are for! 🙂

  6. Dan-Phi says:

    OK, I know plot is important and all, and it’s good to know that the index cards are working for you and all, but not even a single line about the good Doctor?

  7. Renee Sweet says:

    Looking at those neatly aligned index cards, one would never know you’re a pantser. 😉

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