I’ve never been much for plotting. In fact, I’m the type of writer than when I get an idea, I just start writing. That idea can be a character showing up in my head that starts to talk. Or a dream I had that tells the entire story from start to finish. Or sometimes it’s a snippet of conversation I’ve overhead in an elevator. Or a title that jumps out that begs for a story to be told.
When it begins in my head is when it begins on paper. At least for me.
I realized that part of my writing problem, though, was that I didn’t plot much (or ever) and then I’d get stuck. And stare at a blinking cursor. Delete large chunks of text that didn’t advance the story.
I’d been thinking about plotting for a long time, trying to figure out what would work for me but nothing seemed to. I got the Break Into Fiction book and tried all the templates. I got bored with that after the third one. I had the, “Meh. Not so much,” attitude about it.
I tried note cards and writing down specific scenes that I had in mind for the story and then arranging them in order of the story. While that was fun and all (I love note cards!), it didn’t work for me either. Anything too specific took all the fun out of writing for me and then why write the story?
I tried to storyboard. That didn’t work either. Another “too specific” problem that made me lose interest in the story.
What I did like and what did seem to work was just writing a blurb. A general, albeit brief, roadmap of where I wanted to go. But it wasn’t enough and I knew this. I still struggled with the story and got stuck. I’d waste weeks sometimes months staring at that darn blinking cursor. But I still couldn’t shake the feeling of writing and plotting. I wanted to up my output and the only way I was going to do that was (1) have more free time and (2) learn to plot a little.
I was unemployed for about three months, which was great for the writing. In fact, I had a character show up and start talking so I allowed the muse to wander. I’d been stuck for a while on a couple of things and nothing I tried seemed to work. The muse refused. And very stubbornly. I allowed my muse to write this story, unplotted, for about 30,000 words. Then I stopped and scribbled a few notes about where I wanted the story to go. That was good enough for the time being.
But then I sold my historical/paranormal. And I knew it would be a sequel. I had nothing done on the second book. All I had was a title, the main characters, and a vague idea of the story. One day, while everyone was away and I was home alone, I took out my Heroes & Heroines Archetype book and started to study it. I figured out who my H/H were, what their archetypes were and wrote it all down. I also wrote down two of the secondary, but important, characters archetypes.
Then I took down my 20 Master Plots book and read through that. I decided what type of story this was going to be. It was, obviously, a romance, but it was ultimately a quest story. With some Good vs. Evil thrown in for good measure. I did a little world-building, too, while I was at it. I realized something: doing this exercise gave me lots of insight into who my characters really were deep down and what my story was actually about.
Then I wrote a six page, single-spaced synopsis. Not very detailed but enough to give me a general roadmap of where I wanted the story to go.
Two weeks later, I got a new job. Thankfully, I had the roadmap to guide me and managed to write nearly 10,000 words on the sequel. My muse has decided not to cooperate much with me anymore. She’s a fickle wench. But I’m forcing her to stick around, even if I have to tie her up and threaten to take away all her shoes.
I’ve yet to attempt to recreate this with another book. I want to do it, though, because I think it’ll help with my output and get me writing a little faster. At least, when I figure out my new schedule with the new job, the kid going back to school, yadda yadda. It’s always something.
Michelle Miles writes contemporary, paranormal, and fantasy romance. She’s really trying to turn over a new leaf and manage her writing time better by doing more plotting and less pantsing. To learn more about her and her books, visit her website at http://www.michellemiles.net.