October 22, 2014

Writing Tip: Plotting by the Numbers

Wouldn't it be great if there was a formula for plotting your novel, and all you had to do was fill in the blanks with your wonderful prose? You can actually find this kind of formula - just Google "formula for plotting novel" and you'll come up with 8,350,000 results.
Which ones will work? Who knows. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
Writers do it differently; some outline, some do storyboards, some do chapter synopses, some (like me) just write and let the story unfold. For me, characters appear and situations change as I write, and it's a fun surprise. There's no right way or wrong way. Whatever works for you is how you should do it. You may have to try different things but eventually you'll land on the process that works for you.
Once you've landed on the way to work you'll want to pay strict attention to those things that MUST be present in your novel if you're going to grab your reader: interesting and well-drawn characters, beginning-middle-end, conflict and resolution, prose that moves the story along. Click here to read Kurt Vonnegut's basics on creative writing.
Once you've written your first draft you can use a formula (see the post below) to see if your story will work. I checked my first book, What More Could You Wish For, using this formula and was surprised (and pleased) to see that my story met the requirements: a crossing over point at 25% point and a near death situation at the halfway point.
Check your work in progress, or a short story, article...whatever. It's a valuable exercise.

by Anne Greenwood Brown, Writer Unboxed
A while back, I attended the three-day Story Masters Workshop, given by James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, and Christopher Vogler. I highly recommend it, and you can check out more information about their workshops here. Vogler’s expertise is movie scripts. One of the things that I found most interesting about his presentation was his 12-stage hero’s journey, which suggested that every well-plotted and well-paced story had a “crossing over” at approximately the 25% mark, and a “near-death” at the 50% mark. His case in point: Star Wars. At the 25% point, Luke “crosses over” by leaving his Aunt and Uncle’s farm, and at the 50% mark suffers a “near death” when he’s caught in an intergalactic trash compactor.
If you have read my posts before, you know how fond I am of mathematical approaches to plotting. You can check out my mathematical formula for kicking out a fast first draft here. Clearly I was intrigued by Vogler’s premise, but I wasn’t able to tap into the high-testosterone crime/thriller movie examples he was using: Casablanca, The Godfather, etc. Believe it or not, with the exception of Star Wars, I hadn’t seen a single one of the movies he cited. 
It made me wonder if the formulas he was promoting were as applicable to the Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction my kidlit colleagues and I were writing, as they were to the thrillers and crime movies he used as his examples. As a result, I took it upon myself to put his formula to the test. Read the rest of the article

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