Happy Friday! Casey here!
I read the most interesting quote by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky - “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
Now, I probably missed this very cool piece of wisdom because I don’t really follow sports. At all. Other than wondering how the Red Sox are faring, I leave all the sports love to my hubby.
Once I read this quote, it rattled around in my head for days. There are so many ways that this is true for writers as well. The first, most obvious comparison is the question a lot of us ask – should we write to the latest market trends?
For me, that is a big, resounding no. Chasing trends, for most writers, is an exercise in futility. By the time you finish your book and get it published, chances are high, the trend has passed by already. Write what you love.
Instead, I’d rather apply Mr. Gretzky’s wisdom to another lesson in plotting. If you’ve been following along, here is where we’ve been: Initial Premise, Shallow Character Development, Three Act Plotting, The Meat and Potatoes and, GMC (goal, motivation, conflict). Since I addressed GMC last year, please check this post out too (really, it’s an important part of plotting).
However you arrive at your plot points, either on index cards (like I do), sticky notes, Scrivener, outline or whatever – they must be arranged in a pulse pounding, forward moving direction. Like a hockey puck!!
Your job as a writer is to move that story along and chuck anything that doesn’t meet that goal. So like the hockey puck, your job is to see the reader to their final destination – an engaging, page turning story.
<and the crowd goes wild>!!! <Insert your own imaginary victory crowd here>
As stated last week, the reason I use index cards is because they are cheap and I can chuck them without remorse. The other nice thing is they can be pinned on a big board or laid out on a table or floor. And don’t be afraid to number the cards or create categories (like main plot, romantic subplot, back story, etc.) Use different colors of ink or highlighter (whatever floats your boat).
Once, I’m sure I have all the major plot points jotted down, I sort the cards into piles for each act. Then once I have the cards into Act 1, 2 or 3, I order them sequentially. At each pass, I read them and determine if that plot point fits. If it doesn’t I remove it. If I notice something is missing, I may add a new plot point.
If I know something is missing but don’t know how to fill the gap, I keep a running list on a piece of paper. Later, I can add another plot point, either before or during writing.
Keep in mind, that while I think this is what the story will be, it’s not final until I start writing. Nothing is set in stone. I can (and will) modify the plot during writing or editing if warranted.
Now, the fun part (for me anyway). I lay out the cards starting with Act 1 and read through them paying attention to the “action”. Do I have too many scenes with talking in a row? Not enough romance? Do I have try/fail moments? Too much action for long
stretches? Did I remember the black moment? Are all the subplots wrapped up? And my favorite question – how can I torment the characters more?
The beauty of the cards is that I can move things around. I add and subtract plot points as needed. This activity allows me to see the plot as a whole in small, manageable chunks. And if there’s a sagging middle, I’ll see it here.
Overall, this is a great way to visualize pacing and ensure that you’ve cut out plot points that drag. This process can take me days or weeks. Depends on the story and the complexity. When I’m sure I have the plot I want, I take the cards and type them into a synopsis and use it as the basis for writing the story.
If at any point while plotting or writing, you get stuck, make sure you have your eye on the end point, not just the immediate moment. That way, you’ll make it to your destination, and for a writer, that is typing – “the end.” Or if you are a hockey player – you shoot. You score!!!
What method do you use to order your plot? Anyone have any fascinating quotes to share?