Thursday, May 8, 2008

Planning and organizing the plot

Finally, I'm getting started on the book the right way. Over time, I read countless books on writing a novel and getting published. In my research I found many approaches to planning a novel, from having no plan (been there, done that) to a basic outline to a detailed summary. Here is the approach I adopted.

I bought a pack of index cards and started writing on the cards. On some cards, I wrote a sentence summarizing a whole chapter. On others, a detailed portion of a scene. I did not follow any rules, but rather tried to capture all my ideas, big and small. Often I was just pointing out background information that would help me later in fleshing out that part of the story.

As I reached the end of my plot line, I organized the cards and looked for holes in my story, to the extent that I could at this stage. The beauty of this approach is quick flexibility. Adding, rearranging, removing, and replacing cards was easy and allowed for immediate sequential review of my story.

Once I felt good about the cards, I moved on to chapter summaries. How did I know where the chapter breaks occurred in the cards? I didn't. I could only make a best guess. As I have worked on the actual text of the novel, the chapters have changed, but the summary still has provided valuable guidance.

The end result of this process was a thirteen page summary of the entire novel, an imperfect guide to lead me through the writing process, chapter by chapter. It was still hard work to start writing the book, but now I wasn't trying to touch type while wearing gloves.

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