Sunday, March 8, 2009

How I Plot (For Now...)

My friend Mikki Knudsen (in my "class" at Vermont College - her debut novel The Dragon of Trelian will be out April 14) asked me recently how I plan and plot. Whew! I'm still trying to figure out a method that works, which suggests that there is no one right method at all. However...I've recently been toying with that very issue and this is, more or less, what I said:

About the planning and plotting...who knows if my method works??? Only time and readers will really tell. But I have discovered that I tend to work organically from the ground up. Yes, once or twice I've had an idea for a story and the idea came with an ending, but that's not the usual thing for me. I start with a germ - a tiny seed. Sometimes that seed is a phrase, sometimes a potential title, sometimes just an image. Then I start writing. And along about page 25 or so I've discovered one or more of my main characters. At that point I do a character analysis - sometimes a really detailed one. That may take days, and is constantly undergoing scrutiny. Then I write a little more.

Suddenly I'll grab the heart of the story. I start to write and rewrite at the same time. Along the way, I may think of a scene or two, and I've discovered that the most efficient way for me to remember them is if I write them in short-hand on post-its and put them on a board, like a storyboard, so I can mix them up. Eventually I write to the end of the story. And THEN.....I need to sit back and analyze the whole thing and what it means and who it's about. And I start all over again. I've never yet had the courage to ditch the ugly, messy first draft entirely; but I'm considering it. Just chucking it out and starting again. I'll let you know when I get that brave.

Usually scenes pop out of nowhere; sometimes entire plots have to be revised to fit what happens; and pacing can be a problem that I have to deal with (I often get deep into the scene and flower it up). But, generally, my work grows like a tree. Organically.


Liviania said...

Cool. I think that's something that's different for everyone. I like that you write a detailed character analysis; I do too. Everything flows easier once I know who the characters are.

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Liviania! I've struggled with this over the years - where to start and especially how to move forward. This seems to be working for now.
But, you're so right - the characters are all.