Story Corner: Plotting

First of all I want to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone who commented on my Fairytale Madness post! I appreciated all of the feedback, praise, and the many oh-my-gosh-I-didn't-see-that-coming's. It made me very happy!

Writing - start 'em young.
Today I want to tell you about a new little method of outlining/plotting that I learned about this weekend. I curiously clicked on a tweet from Paul Dorset ( @jcx27 ) who (to my understanding) is quite a successful self-published author. It led me to his blog, where I began clicking on post after post of writing tips that literally just spoke to me.

We all know that there is NO ONE WAY to write or get published. There are so many paths and options on that journey that trying to give advice or guidance can be tricky. You don't want to make people feel like your way is the only way, because it's not.

For me, when I read posts and articles on writing I try to take what I relate to, and implement it, leaving behind what doesn't ring true to me. The way my mind works, I have to outline - I have to plan - I can't just dive into an idea and have a finished draft in three weeks like some people... (Leigh Ann, Cait, and a few other pantsers come to mind).

Anyway, the system. When Paul gets an idea for a novel, he makes certain decisions, which effect others. What genre is it in? How long should it be? Etc. Based on those things, he breaks down his novel into plot points. In a post called Creating a Book - The Condensed Version, he says:

I know from personal experience that for every plot point I create, I will write somewhere between 400 and 600 words of story. This means that if I want to write an 80k word book, I’m going to need about 160 plot points. That’s a lot of things happening in a story! My first job – before I write a single word – is to create at least half (preferably two thirds) of those plot points. This gives me a firm basis and direction for my book and also allows me to add other storylines as the book develops and gets ‘its own life.’ Then I write the book.

This was an incredible realization to me because my stories tend to run short. I never have enough happening in them to reach the "accepted" word count. I need to have a certain number of plot points happening for my story to be a certain length, depending on how much I write per-plot point.

Now, you might say, well that's not true, because a book should only be as long as it needs to be! But let's be honest... a debut author is NOT going to get signed for a Fantasy novel that's only 50K words, nor a contemporary/paranormal whatever that's over 200k. Agents are looking for specific things. Once you're established, you have a bit more freedom, but at the beginning we need to play by the rules.

So my next question was, what makes a plot point?

I think the easiest way to describe it is SOMETHING is HAPPENING. Whether it's a conversation, a discovery, a conflict, an argument, or what have you. Then realize that some points will take up more words, and some less, but they ought to balance out to your average - whatever that is for you.

I know the pantsers probably won't relate to this, but I hope my fellow outliners will benefit :-D

I'm working on TARGET this week, preparing for my baby party on Saturday, and hoping we'll have a new little person around here before too long.

Happy writing, friends! I'm off to plot.....

-DC

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