Thursday, May 12, 2011

PLOTTING AND OUTLINING: TWO OF MY FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT WRITING

Current Project: Nine-book LEGACY series
Status: Final edits to book #1

I'm definitely a detailed plotter. However, unlike some other writers, that doesn't "spoil" the story for me, as surprises always come up when I do the intense writing of the story.

I'm currently working on a series of nine books. The main characters are eight adopted siblings and their mother, along with love interests for each. Not only are there internal conflicts for each character and external plot conflicts, every major event affects each member of the family. There's also a major story arc that connects all of the nine books that seems to be resolved at the end of each book, but isn't actually complete until the end of the final book of the series. That means plotting for this series is critical so I don't have one of the women pregnant for two years or have a town explode in one book and miraculously be intact in another.


My plotting process usually involves storyboards on a wall in my office--one with pictures of the main characters and things that are important to them, and another that shows the plot development scene by scene. My series is more complex than any previous projects, so one entire wall in my office is covered with visual storyboards of the main characters and draft covers for each of the stories in the series. (The picture is an early version of my photo storyboards for this series.)


Since the wall space is full, the plotting developments are on spreadsheets on my computer. I've listed the main characters of each book down one side of the spreadsheet, and the main events and when they happen across the top. Then, for each main event, I'm making notes of how that event affects each character. For example, the town exploding triggers one of the main characters to propose to the woman he has been dating for a short time because he realizes he loves her. One of the other main characters is seriously burned in the explosions. Another character suspects the town's citizens are keeping a dark secret that she decides to investigate. And so on for each character.


I also need to keep my spreadsheets up to date as surprises come up in the intense writing of the stories that change later events or spin a character's development in a different direction.


I'll venture to say this kind of plotting is not for pantsters. However, I think my detailed spreadsheets will save me a lot of time and hair-pulling when I'm doing final edits and need a quick check of events that happened in the summer of my story timeline. :)


A question for plotters and pantsters alike: have you used spreadsheets to track the outline or plot of your story or series of books? Do you use spreadsheets for any part of planning your book or is this something that makes your eyes roll back in your head?

2 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

Genene, I'm doing my worldbuilding for my YA steampunk story using spreadsheets. I haven't used them for plotting, but I'm not opposed to giving them a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I say! anew tool is worth a try. Thanks!

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Sarah! Was this an idea from the recent MWV online class on worldbuilding? I haven't had the chance to put her suggestions into practice yet.

Hope you do a future blog about how this process works for you!