Author Topic: Plotting Chapter by Chapter  (Read 1625 times)

Stormblessed

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Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« on: October 08, 2010, 01:59:14 AM »
Hi,  :D

I'm an amateur, but an addicted reader, and I got to the stage of wanting to start writing my own stories. I am a great worldbuilder, and am really good at character development and am even really good at editing, but I suck when it comes to plotting. I can sometimes work out really good story arcs, but when it comes to actually writing a story, chapter by chapter, my story falls apart after 10,000 words. I have a great beginning, and I know where the story is going to end. I even have some great scenes mid-way through the book and stuff, but I just have problems tying it all together.

Any tips from anyone out there? Ideas on how to overcome this frustrating problem>
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fireflyz

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2010, 11:55:55 PM »
If you know where you want to start from and where you want to end up, then I would suggest spending some time considering *how* your character(s) could get there.  For instance, if your beginning is a pickpocket thief whose also very religious and thus conflicted about his actions and you want the novel to end with the pickpocket abandoning his religion and giving himself wholly into thievery then you would have to set that up.  In order for it to work, the pickpocket must struggle with this.  So you have to demonstrate how strong his beliefs are.  Through backstory, thoughts, actions, and dialogue.  Present him with dilemnas.  Have him teter back and forth...decide to forgo thieving.  Have his actions have devestating, unforseen consequences.  Slip back into thievery.  Revel in it...become disillusioned with religion. 

This isn't a particularly great example, but it should serve to convey my point.  Ideally a novel will have a significant character arc that may or may not coincide with a significant plot arc.  What you need to do is figure out where that arc lies and various points or *beacons* that light the way and then write from one beacon to the next. 

Finally, for a new author, don't expect to be amazing at first.  I suggest writing a few short stories.  Perhaps one where you focus on dialogue, another on setting, another on plot twists, another on character arcs.  With all of them strive to travel the arc from beginning to end.  THe reason why I suggest short stories is that its easier to focus and hone specific skills with 15k words rather than 100k.  Ultimately, there is no substitute for writing.  A lot.  100k words...500k...a million.  The more you write the better you'll get.

Also, listen to all the Writing Excuses podcast and pick up Stephen King's On Writing. 

Your welcome  :)
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AndreaGS

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2010, 07:04:33 AM »
I know exactly what you mean!  My most difficult problem is the middle.  Beginning, easy.  End, got that when I thought of the beginning.  Middle...?

What helped the most for me was putting it in excel, chapter by chapter, with subplots titled.  Each chapter should have its own mini-arc.  Beginning, middle, end.  This is really important.  Every chapter beginning should have its own hook, and every chapter end should make the reader want to read the next chapter.  The titled subplots helped me see if it had been too long since a subplot had been touched.

Another technique would be to write down those planned scenes on index cards and then to arrange them by chronology.  Then try to connect those dots and fill in the blanks.

If you're good at character development, run with that.  A lot of times, characters' actions can help define a plot.

Ruthie

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2011, 12:13:07 AM »
Watch this. The link goes to the first of the five videos. It's an AWESOME presentation by Dan Wells on story structure that helped me immensely with a similar problem.

dhalagirl

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2011, 03:40:49 AM »
Thanks for the link Ruthie! 

I have this problem too.  I'll have all of the major events plotted out and a few minor ones too, but when I've finished the first draft I only have 150 pages or so.  Granted, part of my problem is that my writing is too direct.  I'm still learning how to be verbose.  But the rest of my problem is usually that the story arc is too simple.  I'm not challenging the characters enough -- they're taking the easy way out of conflicts instead of the difficult path that force them to grow and develop.  I also tend to neglect my villains.  They need just as much attention as the hero to give the story balance and depth.

Juan Dolor

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2011, 10:53:27 PM »
I think my problem is that I don't know how to tie it all up.  Writing short stories is no problem because they don't have to have a proper ending.  But I have never been able to finish a novel.  I think I have the problem that comic book writers, role-players, and the writers of Lost have-- lots of interesting hooks but no idea where this is all going to go.

akoebel

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2011, 11:30:38 PM »
I suppose that depends on what type of writer you are.
Me, I can't plot a thing in advance (believe me, I tried). I know the general ending and where I start, but what goes in between, I have no idea.

To me, knowing my characters is key. I need to know them inside and out, and I'm not talking about their favorite color, but about why are they scared people, or arrogant, and such. I also try to give them psychological motivations that I can use later to induce changes.

After that, the characters become the engine of the story. I put them in the initial context, and they do all the work, and react to one another. Characters will often surprise me by dropping bombshells out of the conversation, and I'll have to take those into account as I write. The most difficult part is nudging them to go back towards the ending I had planned. So far, it mostly worked (i.e. I didn't have an ending that was that different from my first vision).

If you do it like that, the scenes do flow easily from one to another, so if keeping scenes consistent is your problem, this could help you.

I also found Dan's video to be a huge help, though I do use it for rewriting, not for the first draft.

So, maybe you can try my "write by the seat of your pants" technique : it's fun to see the characters build the story, though it can be stressful at times not knowing what comes next (try discovery-writing a whodunit !).

Jason R. Peters

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2011, 12:59:57 PM »
Whenever I don't know where to go "next", I actually use a short "scene workshop" form. I developed it myself, but it's based on concepts and principles learned from writing classes, podcasts, lectures, and books.

The questions I answer on the form are:

Point-of-View Character:(Hint: Who is suffering the most?)
Character's Current Goal:
Emotional Impact:
Character's Arc Goal:
Major Revelations:
Does Arc Goal Change?
Scene Begins With:
Scene Ends With:

My vision often changes as I begin writing, because the answers to some of these jog loose more ideas, but it gets me started anytime I'm not sure what comes immediately next. Like many, the beginning and end are clear visions, the middle at risk of muddle.


Shiael

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2011, 12:31:10 AM »
the good thing about writing is when you know exactly what happens and when, you can make an outline and just write the parts you want to and then fill in the others later, that way when you are feeling in a writing type mood, you don't have to try and push past a part to get to the next big scene. You just go straight there. I am barely on chapter four of my book and have already written chapter six. I just felt like it.
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fardawg

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2011, 01:53:07 PM »
Watch this. The link goes to the first of the five videos. It's an AWESOME presentation by Dan Wells on story structure that helped me immensely with a similar problem.

I was going to link to those too. These really helped me get my head around basic outlining. It's much better than the overly simplistic three act format.

legacyblade

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Re: Plotting Chapter by Chapter
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2011, 05:21:02 PM »
Wow, there's a lot of good advice in this thread.

@Jason R. Peters, I think I'm gonna use that from now on whenever I get stuck. That's really useful, thanks for posting it.

@Ruthie, Aye, that was a really good lecture. I was going to post a link to that if no one else had, lol.

@Stormblessed, I can't really add much to what has been said. But I'll just tell you what I do. I plan out the ending for the main story, and I plan how I want the main character to have changed by the end of the book (this is after I have the character and the world decided on). Then I look and see what happens for them to get there.

For example, say you have a logical well balanced character who doesn't let emotions get the better of them. By the end of the book, you want them to be an over-emotional almost insane guy who your afraid could snap at any moment and kill someone.  So you have to make him go through some pretty horrible things to get there. Seeing his wife tortured and murdered in front of his eyes, being betrayed by his closest friends, seeing hundreds of people slaughtered by a demon, or other such things would be enough to get him moving down that path. Once he starts on it, he'll have to make certain decisions on how to act and think that'll ultimately lead him to the unstable man we want him to end up as. You do the same with the plot.

Once you have these steps planned on what needs to happen to get on the end, you just need to remember that everything that happens needs to be driving your main character's arc or the main plot. Now that's not to say you can't have other subplots or character arcs. But if they don't highlight or drive either the protagonist's arc or the main plot, they'll feel out of place. Plus, always knowing the next step you need to drive everything towards will really help you keep the middle of the book focused and not wandering.

Hope that helped a little bit.
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