September 2, 2011

plotting process

Yesterday, I worked a bit more on the plot for my next novel, still untitled. It’s codename is Princes, Princesses, and Peasants, Oh My!

Wednesday evening, I finished writing up the scenes that will go into PPPOM. Yesterday morning, I took those scenes and started rearranging them into whatever order I thought was best. But first, let me take you on a little tour of my plotting process.

You already know that I do character sketches. This is more of a feel of who is going to tell the story. Who is the most interesting character? Do I want to tell this story through their eyes? Do I like them? I figure out their wants, fears, what obstacles stand in their way, etc. Most of the time, the characters take on a life of their own after this and resemble nothing like what I first envisioned them to be, but that’s fine. They come alive, and that’s what is important.

In fact, between writing the character sheet for one of the secondary characters and finishing writing the scenes for the novel, this character went from an adventurous, charitable, and somewhat likeable person to a selfish, apathetic hedonist.

From writing up the character sketches, I start thinking of the plot—little snippets of scenes and dialogue. I start writing these ideas down in no particular order. It doesn’t matter at this point because I always rearrange these. This usually produces a dozen or so scenes. Once that’s done, I start filling in the gaps.

A sample scene would be (from the novel I’m working on):

Arrival at the Castle – Princess Davina arrives in Halstead in a grand procession through the village. She is intercepted by the king and queen in the courtyard, who welcome her and her family into the castle and express their happiness about the upcoming wedding to their son, who is suspiciously absent.

I started with nearly 60 of these for PPPOM. It was surprising really. When I sat down to start typing these scenes up, I had already thought of all of them beforehand. This story has been stewing in my mind for a really long time, and I set it to high heat just last week. Already, the story was fully formed in my head. I just had to write it all down. So I did. My outline alone is over 2000 words. I can’t believe I ever pantsed a novel.

After I have all of these scenes written, in no particular order, I then print them off, divided into little-uniform cards, which I then laboriously cut out. On this particular project, I have two point-of-view characters, so I took the scenes from each perspective and color-coded them: green for Davina and yellow for Edythe. After the cards have been cut, I shuffle them up and lay them out on a large, flat surface, again, in no particular order.

Then, I start playing with scene order. For each arrangement, I record the sequence into a notebook. I only had to do this twice for PPPOM. For my steampunk novel, I went through four or five arrangements. I cut down the 58 scenes to 49, removing any repetitive scenes or ones that didn’t directly advance the plot. I miraculously have a balanced scene arrangement. 25 scenes for Davina and 24 for Edythe, and each of them gets two to three scenes before the narrative swaps to the other’s perspective.

I now have a very solid plot outline to work with, once I begin writing. I’m still going to let the idea stew for a bit longer. I’ll return to the outline next week and see if there is anything I want to add or remove before I start. Then, it’s writing time. There are a few things that I should probably figure out before I officially start writing, but the adventurous, former pantser in me wants to see those things unfold when I get there. And that’s fine with me.

I just wonder how quickly I’ll write this book. It took two full weeks to plot my steampunk novel, and only three days to plot PPPOM. Using basic algebra, if it took me four months to write the steampunk novel, then it will take me… twenty-six days to write this one. Doubtful. But I do hope that I finish within three to four months. I think I can do it. In fact, I know I can. And I’ll do it well. What have I said before? Write confidently. Write passionately. Can’t do any better than that.

Have a great weekend you guys!


  1. How I envy you! I sat down last night to start plotting a new story...and came up with precisely nothing. I couldn't figure out how to get it started, even though I already know that basic premise of the story. Frustrating!

    Maybe I'll try your method of starting with the scenes I've already thought up and start from there.

    Great post!

  2. That is some awesome plotting work. And hey, maybe you can do the twenty six days. After all, NaNoWriMo is all about writing a novel in one month. Perhaps you can do your own BrookeWriMo.