For those of you that write you’ll know this – getting your plot right is probably the hardest thing you can do – the actual flesh of something will come together easily once this is done. This is a key art that underpins any written work, be it sci-fi, fantasy, chick-lit, a cookery book – anything. There has to be a plan or it all falls apart after about 10 pages. Although a good plot is not completely necessary for a best seller – there are some truly awful (in my opinion) works out there with so many holes in the plot they make Swiss cheese look like a block of granite. On the flip side, there are some excellent plotted books that never sell well – but is that because they require the reader to think about something? Let me develop that idea – I’m sure you have all seen one of the procedural shows that has come from the USA in the last few years – CSI, NCIS etc, they can’t seem to go for more than 20 mins without a recap of everything that has happened (lets ignore the silly being able to zoom into a picture taken on a mobile phone to read a number plate 10 miles away that always seems to happen).
Personally I enjoy these shows, to an extent – but they all get a bit samey after a while. I like something that makes your mind work. I’ve ether missed it or we haven’t had one of those for a few years.
I’ve often just let the pen flow and got to that 10 – 15 page mark and gone – right – where to now? I enjoy writing those first pages, but then you have to start thinking. In fact I really enjoy writing those first 10 pages. I’ve got piles of them kicking about, started and left, waiting for some sort of plot to develop. Some need introducing to a match however.
Without the “plan” you will just get some random, unusable block of text. You may have some good ideas that can be developed for something else, and some truly awful ideas that require the use of another match.
I am now on my 4th different alternate plot of Mary Rose. I know this one will work because I have broken it down into 20 “chapters” – I’ve put that in “” because there will not be 20 chapters to the novel. It just broke down that why when I started to think where to take the story.
The first 3 plots wouldn’t have worked – and I got a lot of ink on paper to find that out. And a couple of back stories – I will probably tidy them up and put them in shorts at some point.
I’ve even managed to leave it open at the end for more to come at a later date. But it took me 2 weeks of just working on the plot to get that. I had lots of bad ideas, some reasonable ideas and a few good ones. I went through a few carts in the pen too.
But the big question is probably – how do you get a plot developed? I’m sure you will get a different answer if you ask a different writer, but this is how I do it. I start with about 10 pages of random story – one of the ones described above. If I can’t get that far and do a little character development I won’t enjoy writing more. I then think a little about what I’ve written, this normally involves a healthy amount of red wine. From this if I can do a 2 page backstory on one of the characters and the world I will break down a plot. I normally start with a single page of A4, and have a before, a start, a middle, an end, and an after. Those before and after I find are the most important – otherwise where does the story go? Where did it come from? I will probably have 2 or 3 lines for each. I then rewrite putting in more detail. Then rinse and repeat. After a couple of cycles I get to about 20 pages, each page a “chapter” or stage of whatever I’m working on.