I’m a girl with a LOT of beginnings. I don’t mean that in the philosophical sense, I mean that I think of the beginning sentence for a project often. Here is a sampling:
- It began and ended with a needle.
- This is the tragically beautiful story of the kind of love people rarely talk about.
- Grandmom wasn’t supposed to die this way.
- She desired the solitude provided by cracking open a good book; for the quiet it would provide.
In the past, when I was able to devote the time, or perhaps when I was at a particularly emotional, I would sit down at the computer or with a pen and paper and just let the story flow through me, taking on a life of its own until I was spent. Then, I’d likely file it away. Now, with the #Write90 challenge, which I’m partaking in with a friend and fellow aspiring author Tiffany, I’ve been learning to go beyond the beginnings.
How do you build your plot lines or map out your stories? It’s been different for me with each of the projects I am juggling during #Write90, and no two authors have ever described to me the same way. For example, my lovely friend Hannah recent told me about Dan Well’s seven-point story structure, (which is referenced on the podcast Writing Excuses). It’s definitely one I plan on trying. But for now, here’s what’s working for me.
I’m fairly certain I picked this one up in grade school at some time. It’s that upside down check mark in which your teachers had you fill out with plot points of reading assignments: rising action, falling action, climax, resolution, etc. I used this one to map out my work-in-progress (WIP) Sisters. When I began this, I had a very clear image of the main plot points I wanted to hit, where things would come to a head and where I wanted it to end, so this way made sense. It also was a good visual to see that I couldn’t just jump into the deep end, I had to lay the bread crumbs!
I’m talking just shy of the combination of Roman numerals, numbers and letters my fifth-grade social studies teacher had us copy down. It’s quite literally a listing of the major points I hope to hit. I wrote it out on legal pad and left space between each major plot point to go in and flesh out some light details. This method has been pretty perfect for guiding my more young adult (YA) WIP, because it’s a saga that has multiple parts but happens in a chronological way.
I struggle to even call this an actual map. It’s more or less a bunch of circles showing how one pretty complicated story will unfold. There are large bubbles for each story line, smaller bubbles that come off of the larger ones, bubbles that intersect and arrows everywhere. (Like I said, it’s complicated.) This method has finally gotten me to feel good about a direction with my WIP Chronicles, which will be a series of stories about one family. This works because each unique piece will be from one family member’s perspective, however, time will progress and when one character’s book is finished (or before, depending on the order) he or she will pop up with significant life events in other parts of the series. (I can’t tell you how good I felt to have a plan for this one. It’s long been a passion project and the way to put it down eluded me — until now!)
I outlined some of my goals for this #Write90 challenge in the original post, but one of my sub goals is definitely to prove to myself that I’m not just a person who jots things down every once in a while. I can build a setting; I can create tension, conflict and, hopefully, resolution; I can breathe life into characters and move them through a predetermined, though flexible, plot to reach my desired goals — or at least I’m on my way to doing so!