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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Writing Question: Plot Outline vs. Plot Boards

I'm working on a few manuscripts and have found my work is much easier if I've outlined my plot. Which goes totally against my free spirit ways. But I have to tell you, outlining helps me focus on what I need to achieve in each chapter.

Now, I've thought of a new idea and started a plot outline, but am wondering whether to try working with a plot board this time around. This can go above my desk and I can map out my progress with lovely colored sticky notes.

My thought is this plot board would be so in my face at all times, and I can instantly change something by taking off a color coded sticky note or adding a new sticky note. But I'm wondering if it would make me too obsessive with moving things around on the board, rather than actually writing.

So, what say you? How do you map out your manuscript?

8 comments:

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Once I have my outline complete I transfer it to 3x5 index cards. I color coordinate, either by buying colored index cards or using a marker to draw a line at the top of the card. Color codes are assigned to threads of the story. Romance, bad guy, trial, secondary characters, etc. I then tape the outline on to the wall and mull it over, moving things here and there until I'm satisfied. Then I don't look at it for a week or so except when passing by it earns a quick glance. At the end of the week, I look it over one more time make any last changes and then start writing. Once I'm done with the first draft, the outline is expanded into each scene being placed on a card and then taped to the wall. This is how I find plot holes, scenes misplaced, etc.

So, there you have it, my two cents.

HipWriterMama said...

Candace,
Thanks for sharing your plotting method. Always good to hear how other writers handle this.

Anonymous said...

Um. I don't. I pretty much write free form.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, If you write free flow, doesn't it make it hard to follow the story?

I keep my notes and plot outline in a three ring binder. My kids know heads will roll if they so much as touch the binder.

There is no way a plot board with sticky notes would ever work in my household. My kids would have a field day with them.

HWM, I think I've read somewhere in your blog you have young kids. For your sanity, plot boards and kids do not make a happy, sane writer.

Signed,
One Who Knows

Becky Levine said...

The more I write, the more I realized how much I need a structure. And I keep playing with different thing to find out what might work better for me.

For my first book, I used some of Martha Alderson's plot system. Her website is www.blockbusterplots.com, and she has a book & templates available. She has two main components to her system--one is a Scene Tracker, which is what I use. The other is a Plot Planner, and I know that she herself uses huge rolls of butcher paper on her walls--very much like you're describing. I'm very linear and very non-visual, so I haven't made that one work for me, but the scene tracker is great.

This time around, as I start thinking about my 2nd book, I'm playing with Karen S. Wiesner's book--1st Draft in 30 Days. I recommend this book even if you don't use her system; her ideas on plot and goal-structure are wonderful. The thing I'm liking about it right now is that as I do reading & research, I instantly have a place to put any info I find or want to think about more. I don't work well with notebooks anymore, because I can't jump around like I can on the computer, and this just lets me use a nice, organized file system.

It's fun, isn't it?

HipWriterMama said...

Anonymous,
I used to write free flow, and had a tough time keeping the pacing together. You must have a great memory or feel for your plotline. I envy that.

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One Who Knows,
Thanks for pointing out the obvious. My kids would have a field day with those colored sticky notes. I think I'll shelve the plot board for now.

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Becky,
I'm so glad you stopped by. I was checking out Martha Alderson's website last night. Good to know the Scene Tracker system worked for you. Thanks for the recommendations.

daphne grab said...

i am a huge fan of using an outline and i'm very basic with mine. first i write down (long hand on a bunch of scrap paper)broad stuff, like the big conflict, the finale of each act, etc. then i take a page for each act and write out scenes for each (this takes a while- i lose steam, lose focus, start thinking "why would she ever do this" and have to take a break to think and not write). but when i feel like i have a bunch of decent scenes, i start typing them up in a standard word document- i do each scene, the basics of what will happen and i write in a shorthand that probably wouldn't make sense to anyone else, but makes the process faster. then i start writing- by the time i'm done, my outline has a million changes witten into it, but it's served its purpose in guiding me and keeping me on track. once done i type it up again with all the changes so i can use it when i revise.

HipWriterMama said...

Daphne,
Thanks for sharing your plotting procedure. Obviously it works...your book is due to be released next year! Can't wait.