Write Wow!

Writing tips and techniques from the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo Books. Send your 3-page writing sample to be critiqued to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com with the word "critique" in the subject heading. Your submission will be critiqued on the blog, but your name will not be used unless you give permission.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Plotting your Novel (Part 1)

The Muse conference is over for another year and I think I have enough material from my two chats to fill several blogs.

One of my presentations was called Plotting your Novel: One Way to Get from
Point A to Point Z and all the Places In Between. I had a terrific presentation all written up with cool exercises and everything but I must have saved something over it because it has disappeared. Grumble! I hate it when that happens.

But I am nothing if not resourceful so I will just pick myself up and move forward. When I was a little girl I loved playing with my dolls, and I would often pretend to tell them stories. I say "pretend" because what I would actually do is say something like, "Okay dolly, I'm going to tell you a story about a little girl who didn't listen to her mother." Then I'd skip right to the end and say, "So you see, dolly, that's what happens when little girls don't listen."

I thought that telling stories was a great thing to do, and I wanted to be the kind of person who told stories, but I just wasn't real good at the actual telling part. It was kind of like planning a trip to the top of Mount Everest and then walking through a transporter and voila! I come out on the other side and I'm standing on the peak of the mountain without having to mess with Sherpas and tents and water bottles and rock climbing gear.

However, real live story telling doesn't work that way. When you are telling a story, the journey is the important part and if you shirk on that, no one is really going to care about your fabulous ending. How much can you really say about standing on the top of Mount Everest, and how can your readers even begin to put it into context if they don't know what you went through to get there?

Plotting your novel is like planning a journey. The destination is the climax of the novel, and the body of the novel is all the stuff that happens between points A & B, and sometimes Points C, D &E as well.

So you want to write a novel. Why? What do you want people to come away from your novel with? My whole starting point for writing The Dead Detective was, "I want to write a book where the victim comes back as a ghost and solves his murder." That was the easy part—Bill and I started off the book by killing off our hero and we knew we were going to end it with Budge finding out the identity of his killer. The hard part was the stuff in between—we had to come up with a motive, a murderer, a method and lots of red herrings and memorable characters.

In my next blog, I'll discuss how Bill and I came up with our plot and give you some suggestions for how you can organize your plot.

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