Two weeks ago, I talked about how I begin a new project. One of my first steps is to create a basic plot. I am most definitely a plotter. For my last project, I took a month to create my outlined plot, and because I had such a solid outline, the actual writing of my 67,000 word novel took around two and a half months (editing out the months I spent in revision).
I love outlines! Last time I used a system that I read about from the fabulous Aprilynne Pike. In an author chat at Eve's Fan Garden, she revealed:
I loved that idea and decided to give it a try. The first step was the character interviews for my two main characters so I knew all about them (at the time I used Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens), and then I opened a new document, numbering it from 1-60. I started at the beginning and just started answering the 'What would happen next?' question.
By having to come up with 60 plot points, I really had to think about my characters. What did I want to know about them? What little hiccups could come along the way to mess things up? What biggies could rock their world? What character traits could I pull from to create a scene or plot twist?
Now I should tell you, I didn't end up using all 60 plot points in my final draft. Some I combined with others, and some I just cut completely. BUT by having so many ideas to choose from, I was able to pick the best scenes and ideas. The ones that added to the story I wanted to tell, showed the character traits I wanted emphasized, dded tension and contributed to the pacing I wanted.
This is a great time to think about your story arc and character arc, any sub plots you want to include, and making sure everything is tied up at the end.
Now for my current project, I am starting a little differently. Have you seen Mayra's Secret Bookcase's awesome post from October, "Plot Your Novel in 15 Minutes or Less! By Claudia Suzanne"?
GENIUS! And FUN!
For my bright, shiny new idea, I started with my tag line and a few jotted down plot ideas to create my 15 plot points following this model. It is amazing how quickly I came up with the skeleton outline, and I was smiling the whole time. It felt like a game!
When I had all fifteen plot points, I added a few notes to the bottom for additional potential scenes and then set it aside to start my character interviews. I am still in this phase, but as I've conducted them, I've come up with great plot twists and ideas that add meat to the skeleton I created earlier. When I am completely done with the interviews, I will go through with a highlighter and note the character traits that I think will be great to explore further in the story. Those will then be added to the numbered outline, and I will continue with the "What Would Happen Next?" game.
I go into varying degrees of detail for each of my plot points. For my last story, some scenes just had a paragraph description telling the setting, who was in the scene and the overall scene goal. Other plot points were almost a page long, giving a detailed scene outline, and some even included dialogue snippets that came to me in the outline phase that I didn't want to forget.
All of this is done before I begin my first draft so when I do have time to write in between homeschooling, cleaning, blogging and reading, I can open my document and know exactly what I am working on that day. There is still a lot of freedom in how those scene goals and objectives are met, and how I tell the story of that scene, but I go into writing each day confident that I know my characters, know my story, and know where I am going.
How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you are a plotter, how much detail do you go into ahead of time? If you are a pantser, do you start with any sort of outline in place or totally wing it?