Musings on the writer's craft

Plotting a novel: focused creativity

I recently signed up for grocery delivery, part of which is a produce box with a selection of produce. Having this pre-selected produce might seem restricting but I’ve actually found that it fires up my culinary creativity.

Instead of spending my time thinking about what I could make from all the ingredients available in the grocery store, I can focus on what I can make with this small selection of produce. There’s some limited ability to swap items out but I haven’t done much of that — I’m enjoying this new way of cooking…so far.

Panster to plotter

I think I mentioned before that, in the past few years, I’ve taken on my pants…instead of flying by the seat of my pants, I plot out my books.

My plotting process isn’t too heavy. It’s largely based on the methods of K.M. Weiland (of Helping Writers Become Authors) and Libbie Hawker (she of Take of Your Pants). I determine the high points and low points of the story, and fill those in. Next, I work out the scenes that are needed to move the characters from point to point by asking why they move at all, what’s their motivation positive or negative. I add in some bullet points of things I need to cover and ideas for how I can show this motivation.

When I sit down to write

So far, I find that having those notes focuses my creativity when I actually sit down to write. Rather than being overwhelmed by all the possible things that could happen next, I’ve already know what needs to happen — I know my ingredients if you will — and I can focus on the best way to convey that.

I didn’t write my two published books this way, but I’ve written two novellas using this method, and I personally think they’re some of my best writing. They’re not published yet though, so I don’t know what readers will think (though I got positive feedback from the beta readers who’ve read one of the novellas). Now, these were shorter works and from a single character’s point-of-view.

I followed this plotting process for the full-length novel I’m tackling for NaNoWriMo 2018, and I’m really interested to see how it works out on a longer, multiple point-of-view story.

What about you? Do you find boundaries spark your creativity or hinder it?

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