Plotting a Novel

Plotting a Novel

Jeez, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here.

It’s been an eventful few months, though. I’m up to my neck in my MFA coursework, I trained for and ran a half marathon, and I almost got a third dog named Kanye (don’t worry, he found a home), which might just be why I haven’t done much here lately.

Another thing I did, though, was plot out my novel-in-progress, I Could Have Lied. You might be asking, “Adam, why the hell are you plotting out something you’ve already written?” The short answer is that I had to do it for class. The better answer, though, is that I needed a deep dive into my book so I could figure out where things are looking good, where Draft 1 went off the rails, etc. And holy shit, it was a big help.

See, I’ve never been a plotter. I’m more the pantser type, letting my story go along as I write it. And while this was great for pumping out the first draft of my book, it also led to a few extra chapters, a character or two who can probably go, and all manner of excess stuff that won’t make the final draft (womp womp). It wasn’t until I sat down, summarized the whole damn thing, and picked it apart, that I started to realize what was working and what wasn’t. 

I followed the suggestions of James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, which is a pretty badass book if you’re looking to do this sort of thing. Basically, I summarized the three acts of my book, stretched it out into longer summaries from there, and finally broke it out into full chapter summaries. This helped me get a feel for my pacing and how long each act was. The book also suggested a handful of other things like writing my back cover copy, which was cool for figuring out what my book’s really about (forgiveness and friendship), and detailing all of my characters, including essential details, their roles in the story, their secrets, etc. While these details weren’t part of the plotting itself, they helped me sort out where things were working, where characters were, well, acting out of character, etc.

So, if you can’t tell, I’m pretty much a changed man. I’m not going to say that I’ll plot out imaginary my second book (ha!) one day, but I can say that this has made a hell of a difference in my work-in-progress, and that I’m feeling much better about where everything’s headed moving forward. It’s gonna be a lot more work than I originally thought it would, but, looking things over, I think the Plot & Structure exercises are going to leave me a lot better off when this thing’s done.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Maybe I’ll share that back cover copy or the character summaries here in the future. Not sure. Whatever’s the case, I oughta write here more.

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