I have the honor of being the first to kick off a two week long blog series on how each badgirl takes a story from idea (or plot/character bunny) to a full, finished manuscript. So without further ado, *hand flourish*
Let me qualify all I’m about to say with: I am a Plotser. Even with an outline, I go off script if something doesn’t work. I don’t always stick to the plan and I’ve learned to be okay with that. It works for me if I don’t know everything that happens before it happens. I like surprises!
First in my process…an idea comes to me.
Something random like “Three guys run a repo agency.” From there I play with the idea(s). I put my spin on it and flesh out the details. 9 times out of 10, my ideas begin with “__ guys ____” and it lends itself to being a trilogy because that’s how my mind works. My hero pops up first and he always has a couple of friends. Once I have an overall idea of who/what, I begin to develop the characters. I make notes, I imagine how they look, their baggage (they all have baggage), their quirks, the good, the bad, the ugly of who they are, what they drive, what they drink, etc. Simultaneously, I imagine the heroines and the same list of characteristics for them. I begin to pair up based on who they are at the beginning and who will they become by the end. Which heroine will challenge the hero most and vice versa? Sometimes I know right away who will end up together, other times it develops as I sketch them out to living, breathing people. During this time I do a lot of day dreaming and zoning out when I ought to be paying attention to things. Things like not burning dinner. Oh well.
Finally, I plot. *Sigh*
Characters are not hard for me. I can make up people all day long and develop the pathos that makes them suit each other yet have tons of conflict. Making them do things that keep the pages turning is my challenge.
Scenes come to me dialogue and personal interaction first. What are they saying to each other? What are they really saying. I make notes. I jot down the details of the scenes that come to me in a mushy abstract form and I don’t worry about what, where, where yet. Just jot, jot, jot. Once I have all the ideas and scenes down in my notebook, I start to put them in some kind of order.
It looks something like this:
Then I structure a plot. Luckily, I’ve found a way that helps me through the quagmire of my plotting. I use a plot point card – a modified version of a combination of Michael Hauge’s Identity to Essence, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and my own bits and pieces learned through trial and error a la McGovy. I write it all out, numbered as Acts I, II, and III.
I look at the scenes I have and how they play into the overall arc of a character and story. What am I missing? What is weak? What is strong? I day dream some more. I work out, I walk, I sit outside, I nap and dream of the scenes. I fill in the blanks until I have my plot points mostly covered. Then I type it up in a word doc and literally print, cut, and paste onto note cards with POV and major scenes highlighted. It looks like this half way through:
Without fail, the BBM (Big Black Moment), major action climax, and HEA remain blurry at best, totally blank at worst, until the first half of the story is told. I know they’re floating out there somewhere. Emotional gut wrenching will happen, some people will kick a$$, good will triumph, and then the hero and heroine will hook back up and live HEA. Sometimes I have a vague idea – like, “They’ll be on the Cliffs of Moher and it’s foggy.” Other times I got nothing. No worries though, because I know it will come.
Then I start writing. Often I stay on script, occasionally I don’t. It’s my rough draft so it’s okay. I write, write, write. During editing I fix things, making sure I didn’t forget something or add in fluff that isn’t necessary. I normally go through 2 rounds of edits and spell check before my CPs see it. Once I have it back from them, I normally edit once or twice more, spell & grammar check again, and Voila! Book Baby!
I hope this helps you peeps caught between pantsers and plotters. It’s okay not to fit into a particular box! Join me in the loosey goosey land of plotsers! Let’s paaaahtay!