Pot That Plot and Watch it Grow

The picture you see captures some brainstorming going on. I addressed all my major characters, and a couple minor ones, and asked them two things: what do they want most, and how are they gonna get it? All those scribbles answer them, and from that a third book will be born. More pages are to come, but they will most like get stuck in a notebook, instead of taped to the wall. I’m running out of space and I have a kitten that would shred them off the wall. Those eight pages you see are hopefully out of the danger zone, the path to the window.

Anyway, I’ve never actually plotted a book this way before. Usually I outline. And usually the story doesn’t stick to my outline. But that’s not the point. The outlines help me stay focused and keep a sense of direction. If the story goes in a direction other that what’s been jotted down in my outline, I go with it. What I just about always keep are what I call “checkpoints”, moments in a story I know I’m working towards. I’ve had some checkpoints in my head for years now, but with book three finally at bat, I’ll finally be getting them on paper within the next year. Funny thing is, the end of Hesitation deviated from a checkpoint I’d held on to since the beginning of 2012. We’ll see what happens to book three’s checkpoints soon enough.

My new approach to plotting (I’m using that term loosely) spawned from all I’ve learned in the past few years. I completed a Master’s in Creative & Professional Writing, but all those lessons my writing mentors were trying to impart on me didn’t really sink in until I started revising my five-year-old draft of book two. The biggest lesson I had to learn, I think, was how to have the characters drive the plot, instead of the plot drive the characters. You actually don’t need plot to write a story (think of movies like The Shining and American Beauty). Story is all about what characters want and how they’re gonna get it. What made me skip outlining and go straight to brainstorming was my main antagonist. His want has been driving the plot for so long, but in book three he’s challenged to decide how bad he really wants what he wants, for he’s got a lot to lose if he keeps going in the direction he’s headed.

And while I was brainstorming, I reviewed this binder full of notes that have been tucked away for the past eight years, back when Aerigo used to be called Virago and all sorts of funny little things I had to change. Since I write fantasy, I try to make up names, but I keep finding out that what I made up has already been taken by someone else. The one name that gave me goosebumps is “Kismet.” I named a world Kismet, having no clue that it was a real word that means “fate”, until a cousin of mine pointed it out. May you get the same goosebumps when you read Hesitation.

In addition to throwaway names, roughly 90% of the ideas sitting in that binder are throwaway ones. I grimaced as I brainstormed on how to make the book longer, instead learning where the heart of the story lies. Man, that’s embarrassing to admit. Yes, I was only 19 and I hadn’t started reading ravenously until 16-ish, but still, excuses to lengthen a book?!

Book three/Determination daunts me. I want to do well, so I keep finding excuses to do anything but start tackling chapter one. I’ve promised myself that I’ll hop to it starting this weekend. I will. The tale gets really dark in this one. Hopefully not too dark. I want it to be gripping like the Mord’sith section of Terry Brook’s Wizard’s First Rule. That was one of the most gripping things I’ve read in all of fantasy. The hero was stuck in this dire situation with absolutely no clue how to get out. I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted Brook’s hero out of there so badly. I hope to emulate it. Wish me luck!

I feel like this blog entry deserves a poll. I’ve been to a few writers conferences and heard lots of bs regarding how an author should approach writing a book. The truth of the matter is that there’s no one universal right way. Us writers all think and write differently. But I’m curious…


About Angela Macala-Guajardo

Author, teacher, soon-to-be full time writer for two companies. Also a lover life in the Arizona desert, puppy butt wiggles, and kitties purring away on my shoulder.
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2 Responses to Pot That Plot and Watch it Grow

  1. mlfables says:

    My walls looks somewhat similar, excepts its a load of tiny yellow post-it notes.

    • smwelles says:

      I used to use post-it notes. I’d lay ’em out in a wreath around my computer screen. But now I’m out of post-its until I run out of those free pages of paper you see taped to my wall.

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