Monday, September 16, 2013

Plotting, Outlining, and Editing

151535I've been in book editing mode for several months, which has made me do a lot of thinking not only about editing but about outlines, planning, and making the first draft closer to where I want it to be.

I also just picked off my shelf and started reading a book that's been mouldering there for several years, Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.  (I picked it up at the library booksale for cheap, and then never read it).
It's giving me a lot of food for thought about character development and more.  But even before I picked it up, I'd been doing some things I've never done before: plotting the story, and writing back-story on leading characters.  

I've also gone back for another look at How to Write Good by John Vorhaus to refresh my mind about pivots and turning points.

Partly, I'm doing this because I want to make my next book easier to write and--especially--easier to edit.  And I want to do that partly because I want to shoot for a NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month, which is November) head start (the target for NaNo is 50,000 words, which is not a full draft of a genre paperback).

My Ninja Librarian novels were really collections of short stories that offered a modest story arc overall.  But this one is a murder mystery (a sequel to one I'm currently editing, which is partly how I know the first version needs to be better!).  And a mystery requires a tight plot, and that seems to be requiring a lot of thinking about a lot of things.

Here's what I've been doing:
--"Outlining" using the "question method," where I start asking questions and as I answer them ask more, until I have a pretty good idea what the story will look like
--creating more characters
--world-building: creating the people, geography, and layout of Pismawallops Island
My efforts to draw maps for this book, as well as for the current WIP, a middle grade fantasy I'm currently calling Halitor the Hero, are laughable, or enough to make you cry.  I need to find a better way to get my mental geography onto paper (it may involve bribing Eldest Son, who creates gorgeous maps of real and fictional places).

I'm hoping that by November, I'll not only know what the story will look like, but more about the town and the people than I will need for this book--I want the world firmly in place in my mind so that I can keep expanding and developing with future books.

Wish me luck!  And leave your tips and tricks and ideas in the comments.  I can use all the help I can get.


  1. I think you're wise to do the detailed approach for a murder mystery. They need far more plotting than the other books I've written - largely why Victor's story changed from a detective kind of novel to an adventure one. Good luck!

    1. Yes! My first poor book was a mystery, utterly unplanned and plotted, which too about 10 years to draft. An awful mess, as you can imagine! The one I've been editing was also written without an outline and with only a general idea where I was going, and has been a huge mess. I want to start this next one knowing who did it and what the red herrings are.

      Though part of me feels like it's wrong to write it all out in my notes--like flipping ahead to read the ending. I have to remind myself I'm not reading this, I'm writing it!

    2. And no, that first book is never going to see the light of day. Not even though the friends who read it enjoyed it.

  2. I read Maass's book when I was thinking about writing fiction. It had great information and I've heard great things about the other one too. I love reading craft books and stimulating my thinking process about writing.

  3. Really, the more I think about it, the easier it gets to write! I spent a very stimulating afternoon getting feedback from my editor on the murder mystery I've just about finished (as in finished editing; the first draft was done years ago). Got some great ideas about how to improve my vision of all the aspects of the story, much of which I'm in a perfect position to apply to the next one.


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