January 27, 2012


It’s been a rather eventful week in writing for me. I managed to reach 14,000 words total for my work-in-progress, and then, of course, I had to go back to the plotting board. A work-in-progress is definitely a work-in-progress.

Tuesday, I realized that my main character was acting very out-of-character. Petra is a spunky girl, who doesn’t take crap from anyone, but for whatever reason, when I started writing this book, she changed into a whiny, depressed, subservient person. That was only my first problem. The second problem was that Petra just sort of floated along in the beginning, not really taking action. While part of that is the characterization lapse I had, the true problem was in the plot. Something was wrong with my plot.

Recently, I read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, and while I can’t stand the guy (his voice is just… ugh), he did have some good ideas when it came to plotting. Honestly, about thirty pages of that book are worth reading. The rest is just Snyder saying how awesome he is. So I went to Walmart and bought a corkboard, some index cards, and cute little wooden pushpins. When I came home, I closed all my documents concerning my book. I left the office entirely so I wouldn’t be able to reference earlier outlines or what I’d already written.

Sitting in front of the fireplace, I divided my corkboard into four equal sections: Act 1, Act 2a, Act 2b, and Act 3. Now I’m not going to go into super detail concerning Blake Snyder’s plotting method. That will be covered in a later post as part of the Back to Basics series. I had my index cards, sharpies, and colored markers. I had my corkboard. What I had to figure out was the story.

Without any references, I recreated my story, scene by scene. I managed to get twenty-eight by Wednesday evening. Snyder’s magical number is forty, so Thursday morning, I made it my mission to get those last twelve scenes. Ultimately, I failed. I have a big black hole at the beginning of Act 3, and I have one random blank scene floating around in Act 2. Despite that, I had figured out most of my plot and subplots. There are four total plots in this book, though one of them is mostly thematic, with very few scenes on the board. I put blank index cards in the places I needed scenes, so that while writing, if I think of something, I can write it down and pin it up on the board.

I also made the decision not to transcribe the board to an outline. The detailed outline that I had been working with clearly wasn’t helping. I think by keeping my outline on the board next to my desk, I can see the entire story in one glance. That, and a blank corkboard is a super décor killer.
So I reworked the plot for my book once again. Hopefully, this is the last time I’ll have to start over. I do think I’ll be able to salvage a lot of what I’ve already written, but I’m not going to feel guilty if I can’t use most of it. Writing the wrong words helped me figure out what the right words were. No word was wasted. And now, I can move forward.

The new total word count is 1531. Only 78469 to go.

How is your work-in-progress going? Plotting problems? Characterization problems? Other? All of the above? How do you fix them when you find them?

I hope everyone has a good weekend!

And a last note: this is my 250th blog post! Woot milestones!


  1. I did much the same with my current WIP before I started, except I used Scrivener's virtual corkboard. It's a novella, 12000 words give or take a couple grand, so there's only 10 scenes as such.

    Maybe Snyder's definition of "scene" differs from mine, or I tend to weave with finer thread — my novels' scene counts run over twice 40.

    1. The virtual corkboard was my biggest draw to Scrivener, but I decided that good old word processing and archaic paper-and-pen was my preferred method.

      Snyder does have a very vague definition of scene, but forty is about right for me. The Clockwork Giant has forty-four, or something close to that. I know it had forty-four at one point in its making.

  2. The one I've been doing my main work on is going pretty okay. I'm near completing the first draft (again, got to love rushing, making save mistakes and having to redo at a slower, smarter pace). I haven't had the plot issue but again, just on the first draft. This idea you shared sounds pretty cool to use should I need to doing some plot fenagling.

    1. I was honestly hesitant to employ Snyder's methods, just because I didn't like the arrogant way he wrote. But I have to admit that it did work for me. In this case. It may not work for every book or every author. Good luck with finishing your first draft (again)!

  3. Just curious—are the 40 scenes meant to be more or less evenly distributed across the 4 acts (counting Act 2 as two acts)? Was this true for you?

    1. There are technically supposed to be at least nine for each row, with eighteen for Act 2, and then the remaining four could be placed wherever. Here's the breakdown for mine: Act 1 - 9; Act 2a - 14; Act 2b - 7; Act 3 - 10. Act 2 is a little bit muddled since I have a delayed midpoint.