TFG :: A Lesson in Plotting

TFGmagpieYou may be aware that alongside my daily 429 words of Planes Shifter, I’ve been planning a new novel, which I’m lovingly referring to online as TFG. All I’ll say is that one of the characters is based on this star…

<—  (handsome, non?)

This is my first attempt at a “plan-from-the-bottom-up” story — where I made a commitment to try this planning thing in full depth. I’ve read all the advice about knowing the end and the middle; about motivations and well-rounded characters with conflicts. But I hadn’t tried them all. I picked a few methods that I hadn’t used before; and thought I’d try each of them out on this story.

So I have the middle and the end; and I’m working through the key plot conflict and weaving the character conflicts in. I even have photographs of my characters taken from movies and bands. But the more I plan, the less the story has become what I originally wanted.

Normally, I’d have discovered this as I wrote it; throwing the new ideas down on the page as I try to discover the path through the maze. Then at the end, I’d be lost – with a lot of words to cut and no idea at which turn I went wrong. Trying to trace that path back to find the wrong turn; or many wrong turns, is a long and arduous process. In fact it’s taken 7 full re-drafts of Planes Shifter to muddle my way back to the vision I wanted.

This time, I’ve noticed the clash before I write a single word of prose. And that’s both good to know, and frustrating; since I now have to spend more time plotting while I find what works, and fits with my original idea. Then it’ll likely still change again as I write it; because we all make wrong turns as we write (or I presume most people find things that don’t necessarily work).

But if I can minimise the need for change with a well-plotted map, with deviations marked as I go along; I can always choose to turn back.

What do you need to know before you begin writing?

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