April 25, 2017

visualizing my plot

I'm working on the first draft of my seventh novel right now. This is the first book in what I anticipate being a six-book series (with two spin-offs). Each book will focus on a different pair, but characters will make appearances in multiple stories and the timeline matters a lot.

With this big project in the works, I've done a few new things from a creating/crafting standpoint.

1. I created a series bible.

This is the physical version, but it also exists in a Scrivener file that will carryover from story to story. It includes detailed character sketches for the main characters, my outline, and major beats. But it also includes tools for me to track what characters reveal about their back story and personality--particularly in the stories where they're background characters. This will hopefully help me stay consistent and avoid having someone change eye colors from book to book.

Here's how the content of my physical series bible breaks down:

Section 1: Overall Series (timeline of books, character key (a living document where I will add elements revealed about reoccurring characters in each story for consistency/continuity), setting sketches (my current project focuses around a bar, so I created a floor plan and a small file of photos of different elements that exist in the bar))

Sections 2-7: Separate folder for each story, then within that:

  • Tab 1: Cover image (This is subject to change, but designing it helped put me in the mindset to tell this story)
  • Tab 2: Word count tracker
  • Tab 3: 10-Scene Outline
  • Tab 4: Working Synopsis (scene by scene/chapter outline, which also changes and evolves as I write)
  • Tab 5: Main Character sketches (I have two main characters in each of these stories and the sketches are four pages long, which includes a photograph of an actor/actress who looks a lot like I envision this character)
  • Tab 6: Secondary Character sketches (also contain a photo and bullet points with what we will know about this character in the book--and maybe a hint of what readers will eventually come to know--that are one-page each)
  • Tab 7: List of extremely minor characters who are only mentioned and maybe a one- or two-line description of who they are and their role in the story (this is one I'm working on as I go--I'm still outlining, and rando characters pop up as I write)
  • Tab 8: Setting sketches (with specific scenes being used in this particular story, which include locations that will be one-offs or revisited in one or two stories down the road)

It's so pretty. Seriously. I sometimes just sit and hold my little series bible and admire it to the point that I wonder if it's even necessary to write the book, because I put together such a lovely binder of supporting documents.

Then, I remind myself that I put a lot of time and energy into creating that lovely binder with its supporting documents, so I should probably put it to work.

Plus... at some point during the creating process, one of my kittens must've stepped in something then tracked it across the cover. So now it's decorated with his or her (I'm guessing this has Bing written all over it, though) handiwork too. Love.

If you're curious about making your own series bible, I used a few resources. One was a workshop I attended led by members of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The other was this blog post.

As for the other tool I'm using...

2. I made a plot wall.

Yes, look at that. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Basically, one of the easiest ways for me to visualize my story line is to jot down a couple of notes about each scene and organize it chapter by chapter. I've done this on a couple of other books, then I use those notes to create a more thorough working synopsis, which I keep in my Scrivener file and my bible.

(If you'd like some tips on plotting out scenes, here's a great resource from Writers Digest.)

This time (also at the advice of a local RWA member) I used index cards to brainstorm conflict and tension that would keep the story going. I asked why can't she/he love him/her? And I focused on what stands in the way of her/him fulfilling their main goals.

It seemed like such a waste to set those index cards aside, never to be used again. And, now that I have my own office for creating, I figured I'd give them new life by hanging them on the closet doors in my office. They're not completely organized by acts, but that's not a totally incorrect way of looking at it. Mostly, there's the beginning. There's the ending. And then the middle is split into two parts that make sense to me and where the characters are on their development arc.

This serves a couple of good points. For one, I can look up at it from my desk and really visualize where I am in the story and what should--and should not--be revealed as I write. Two, I can see it from my treadmill, so even when I'm burning a few calories, I have my story literally in sight. And three... it's just kind of nice to have. I mean, whenever I pass my office, whenever I enter it, there's no avoiding my current WIP.

Down the road, as I write more and more, I hope I'll also be able to look at this and see how far I've come. At the very least, it doesn't hurt anything, right? I'll keep you posted on how this works out.

What are some tools you use for planning and plotting your stories? How do you stay motivated? Feel free to share any tips you might have in the comments.

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1 comment:

  1. You are super organized - and it's paying off, obviously!