Friday, 20 June 2014

Plotting mixture


When someone asks you what a book is about, what they're really asking about is the plot. The plot can be defined as a series of linked events that create the main story.

Writing a plot is vastly different from writing a book.

I heard once about a writer - a very well-known writer - who, when plotting a new book, rents a hotel room for several months.

During that time, he lines the walls in large sheets of paper, each sheet representing a chapter of his book, then he writes the basic outline of each chapter, shuffling the order of the sheets as necessary. He is obsessive in that room, living in his characters' world, detaching himself from his normal society and the world he really lives in.

He stays in that room, for days on end writing brief outlines and swapping sheets around on the walls for however long it takes to develop the book's plot.

I've heard grotty rumours about how in the months of his residence in this room he never bathes and refuses to have the room cleaned, but I think they're just nasty stories.

The truth, as far as I know it to be the truth, is that he creates masterpieces in that room.

Who is this guy? Well, I'm not going to say just in case I have my facts wrong because, after all, it is just a story I heard, right? If you have also heard this story and know to whom I'm referring, I'll leave it up to you to announce his name.

Regardless of his identity, if this is true and he really does plot his books this way, then it works for him; he is a big name in the writing game and his stories are very successful.

I'm at the plotting stage of my next book. This one will be the third and final installment in the Broughton Hall series. When I first wrote Torn and subsequently Inviolate, I always planned there would be a third book which is why I included little hints in the first two like the diary and the elderly woman - the ghostly lady too.

In the third book, the reader gets to find out all about these and the who, what and why of it all. Trouble was, Inviolate was a clean follow-on from Torn, there was no gap in time, location or characterisation. I'd plotted them at the same time and readers knew that in Inviolate Alex would be attempting to resolve her problems and find some happiness in her life.

Natural flow.

It's different in the third book. It would be perfectly feasible to leave the story where it ends off in the closing pages of Inviolate but I have always felt I needed to write more about the house and the people who lived there.

The house is, after all, haunted! So there's a story there - right?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I couldn't sleep one night and the plot just came to me. Well, since that day I've been on this obsessive mission to see, hear and 'speak' with my characters. It's not that I plan it that way, but I've always found that I need to immerse myself in the protagonists and their world.

As my plotting builds, I write nothing down - it's all in my head (bit of a worry that, actually). I see scenery, clothing, gardens, rooms, people and animals.

I hear birds, voices, accents, music and laughter.

Then the dialogue - snatches of conversation, from the mundane to the aggrieved, angry, happy sad.

I can't force it, it comes naturally but the result is that for many hours a day, I operate in a dreamlike state. The people around me, who have seen my process before, are used to it. Long suffering husband, Stuart says that when my eyes glaze over and I seem to be focussed on some invisible thing in the middle distance there's absolutely no point talking to me - lights are on, everyone's home and there's a party on but you're not invited.

This is great for me because it means I can 'work' anytime, anywhere. My favourite place is in the car on long car trips. (We live in Mornington so just about everything is a long car trip). Sometimes I'll plot while on the train when I'm a bit bored with whatever book I'm reading, or often lying in bed at night just before drifting into sleep.

The bed one doesn't usually work all that well because I'm often so tired that just as I enter the scene I want to work on I fall asleep.

The writing process for me hasn't started yet. There is still much daydreaming and imagining to do. Meanwhile, because I established what the plot was and who my main characters are, I set about researching. Oh internet - when you use your powers for good instead of evil you are a magnificent beast!

I'm looking forward to getting into the nitty-gritty of writing - putting those lovely, lovely words on the page. That's when the fun will really start and I bring my fantasy world to life.

I'm nearly there. I estimate another week or so and then ... full steam ahead!

So, apart from that one guy I mentioned at the start, I don't know how other writers plot their books. As for me ... well that's my process. It works for me. That's how I plot my story.

I'll write more about this as I progress, but in the meantime, I'd love to hear from other writers out there. How do you plot your novels?

If you feel like sharing, please do so, and until next week happy plotting!

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