Thursday, August 8, 2013

Guest Blogger Laura Chapman Takes on Plotting

(I’m taking a few weeks off to market “Keeping Score” and get ready to move. In the meantime, I’m hosting a few other authors on my blog. Today Laura Chapman gives some advice on plotting.)

I wish I could be a full-fledged pantser. Someone who weaves a page-turning story, while spinning brilliant prose.

Though I've learned to be a bit more spontaneous with my writing, I'm a plotter at heart. When I come up with a story, I like to know the beginning, middle and ending before I get down to the dirty work of writing. I've adopted and developed a few practices for keeping my thoughts in order. Some of these can work even for you pantsers who don't have to know every detail between Point A and Point Z when you're telling your story.

I'm going to suggest using supplies such as folders, index cards, pens and paper. If you're opposed to killing trees (and that's a good thing), you can do this same idea by creating documents and folders on your computer. I do some of my writing longhand with notebooks, because I like to take breaks from technology at certain points of a story, and these physical copies help at those times.

One way to learn the shape of your story is through creating character sketches. More than coming up with a name, this tells more about who your character is, what he or she likes and why he or she acts a certain way. I like to keep these organized by using folders -- one for each of the primary characters (usually my main character and her leading love interest(s)) with another folder for the secondary characters, who don't need as much of a back story.

As part of this, I like to consider where a character will begin and end. Story is what happens to characters. Knowing the before and after will establish the path your character takes.

You can simplify this process by using index cards. I'm a big fan of index cards, and even if I do character sketches with folders, I like to write down the specifics I'll need for each of my characters on an index card.

If you're a full-time plotter, then a working synopsis is a must. This includes a chapter by chapter breakdown of the scenes you will write. I did this for my two completed manuscripts, which I worked on during National Novel Writing Month. Doing this work in advance allowed me to focus on writing the 50K words during November, followed by the rest of the story in subsequent months.

You can also break down your chapters -- and even scenes -- with index cards, in addition to having a working synopsis file on your computer. I keep all of my cards together in a small file box, which I carry with me in my purse most of the time. It allows me to pick up and work on my story whether I am in a coffee shop, on a flight or settled at my desk.

About Laura
Laura Chapman is a blogger and soon-to-be published author of women’s fiction. A 2008 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Laura studied journalism, English and history. She spent four years in corporate journalism, traveling the country as a writer/photographer, and currently works in marketing and communications. Born and raised in Nebraska – in a city, not on a farm – she is a devoted football fan, lover of British period drama and frequent bar attendee. Her debut novel, Hard Hats and Doormats, and a holiday novelette will be released later this year.

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