Most of you know I have been in Ohio for a family reunion and am getting on a plane back to Texas today. I knew I wouldn't have a chance to write a new blog, so I looked back in my archives and came up with this one. Since I'm ready to start on book 3, MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT, I thought it was appropriate.
For some reason, I spent a lot of time either listening to the way other people plot or telling them how I plot. So, I decided today’s blog should be about that.
I recently went to successful writer and workshop teacher, Randy Ingermanson’s Workshop The SnowFlake Method. He starts with a twenty-five word or less blurb and builds it into a workable synopsis. On Saturday, the talented, Lori Wilde spoke at my chapter meeting about themes and plots. She has over 50 books out there, so she’s doing something right. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong way. You have to do what works for you.
Even true-blue pantsers are finding they are doing more plotting nowadays than they used to, especially if they’re writing mysteries or selling on proposal. Die-hard plotters have been doing this all our writer lives. So, I decided I wanted to know how everyone else does it. I’ll start with my own writing and my latest wip.
I went to a “gathering” of a few writer friends a while back, and the question came up about plotting. I confessed I only had a blurb for my second book, BEEF STOLEN-OFF. Here it is:
Jordan finds herself smack in the middle of a cattle theft ring where the “steaks” are high and the cowboys are not what they seem.
Since my series title was about casseroles (or it was before my editor changed it to Clueless Cook, which actually fits better.) I had what I thought was a catchy title following that theme and an idea what it would be about.
That’s it. I had no clue where I was going with it, other than cattle rustling was involved. With the help of my friends, we threw out some “what ifs?” and I came home with a pageful of ideas.
The next thing I did was sleep on this for a week or so. That’s where I do my best plotting, and this time was no exception. Since I write long-hand, I list what I call plot points on a piece of paper.
Things like :
Jordan goes to Cattleman’s Ball so she can write a review and her escort dies in her arms.
Jordan goes to his funeral and his aphasic mother mouths “help me” to her.
I usually have a page and a half to two pages, and these eventually end up as scene hooks and/or red herring candidates. When I have this all on paper, I start my research. In this case, I needed to know something about cattle rustling, ways I could poison someone without it showing up in their blood, and Texas barbecue. These printed research sheets are the things I study when I’m in the doctor’s office or on an airplane, and my imagination goes wild. My plot points get changed so often, I have to write them in pencil. The same goes for my character profiles.
Now it’s time for me to meet my characters. I have developed my own character profile sheet that I use for every single character in my book. It has important things like their GMCs, their backstory, etc, but it also has not so important tidbits like what kind of perfume they wear, what kind of music they listen to, what kind of clothes they wear. Since I am taking my first shot at a series, I can’t tell you how helpful this has been with my second book.
There’s nothing that ticks me off more than when I’m reading a book in a series, and I notice some minor detail that is different, like all of a sudden a secondary character is wearing jeans and tee shirts instead of moo moo’s. Kind of extreme, but you get the point.
Since my series involves a small town, I have given that its own character sheet as well – where the Pizza House is, how far does she have to drive to get to work. Things like that will appear in all the books of the series and trust me, they’d better be accurate. I’m on a loop with mystery readers, and those gals are educated and know what turns them off...and have no problem talking about them. God forbid if Aunt Suzie's hair changes from blond to brunette.
I once heard the wonderful Roxanne St. Clair talk at Nationals about keeping a diary, especially if you are writing a series. Said the fans get really bent out of sharp if you get something wrong in your own book. She didn’t do this and ended up paying big bucks for someone else to do it for her. ..after the first few books.
Thank you, Rocky, as that one thing stuck in my head and forced me to take the time while I was writing Book One. Number one – I don’t have big bucks and number two- it has really helped me know my story. I use my character sheets for my diary. It was great pulling out the original ones from LIVER LET DIE to use when I started on
Of course, there are different characters in BSO since I killed off a lot in LLD. Oh well, what’s a few more sheets?
I wanted to add that I did the exact same thing with MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT. I went with a blurb:
When Jordan and her friends find themselves on a cruise where she is judging a culinary competition, things get "fishy" when the front-running chef is found face first in his signature Halibut dish.
From there we fleshed out a beginning plot that I have built on. We now call ourselves the Plotting Princesses.
So, let’s hear it. How do you plot? Inquiring minds want to know. If you’re brave enough to throw out your blurb so we can tear it apart – just kidding- go for it. I will respond to all of them tonight when I get home. Feel free to rip mine a new one on this glorious Monday in Texas where we’re still celebrating the fact that our Texas Rangers went to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, and our Mavericks are the NBA Champions for the first time ever.
Now if only the Cowboys would win more than 6 games this year.