Our dear readers, this is repeat blog from literally two years ago. As I'm am working through a new book, I thought it was pertinent. Do, please give us feedback on your process. Best, Cassy
How Yellow Stickies are Running My Life- Well, at Least My Story
I’ve mentioned a number of times over the last few weeks about my stickies. Today I thought I’d share what a change they have made in my plotting process. Those of you who are not plotters, this is where you might want to stop reading, or hang in there just to find out about “the other side.”
For my most of my books, I have done some plotting combined with some seat-of-the-pants writing. My editing has been pretty extensive. The worst was one of the years I did NaNoWriMo (another blog for that one—a great process for so many people). This time I decided to accept that I really am a plotter and want to understand my story right from the beginning. Alexandra Sokoloff, screenwriter and author, has a super blog and newsletter filled with information on structuring your novel. It’s basically all the same stuff we’ve read again and again, but she presents it oh so well. I took her advice.
So, this is how I have set up my current, and still very new, story.
- At the top of my table (use a big one, guys) I have a sticky that has my story’s premise—right there sitting in the middle of the table at the top, so I don’t lose sight of it.
- I divided the table into four vertical sections—Act 1, Act 2, Midpoint, and Act 3 (I did say that this is the stuff many have written about and we’ve all read—nothing new).
- At the bottom of each section I put a sticky that has the climax of that section spelled out. At this point it’s only a sentence or two, I’m not actually doing the writing.
- Then, I back up and start to fill in the scenes I’ve already thought through, so the scenes fall from my prior fussing and thinking. Each scene has its own sticky so I can move them around if I wish (and that happens a lot).
- I am shooting for 15- 20 scenes per act.
What works for me is that I know within each act or arc where I need to be—what has to happen in the plot. Questions constantly on my mind are: have I built the tension; has my character shown her true colors; has the bad guy been “bad” enough; what else can I do to torture my poor heroine, and so on. This is another way of asking—how do I pull it off? But, the structure sits before me, waiting for me to add more stickies ( no, I’m not OCD. You’d be convinced of that if you saw my closets).
I started this book while traveling. All of my beautiful stickies came home on kid’s school-book paper and they are now living lined up on four paneled doors in my office. This is a much more structured approach than I have used before. But, I confess I love the look of the soldiers marching in order, plus I love that I know my story. What I now have to do to is make this fun tale come alive.
Talk with me. What is your process?