My husband and I love to travel. One of the best parts about taking a trip to a place you’ve never been is the unexpected. Even with an itinerary, you never know what you might stumble across along the way.
We usually have an idea of some basic things we want to do during our visit, and maybe even the order in which we intend to proceed, but we like to leave the rest up to fate. This approach has never disappointed us when it comes to finding fun new things to do. It’s how we ended up at the Museum of Sex in NYC (highly recommend – for adults, obviously), the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago (also particularly fascinating), and the dozens of other strange, bizarre, and sometimes downright crazy things we’ve gotten to experience.
Plotting The Journey
I approach my plotting process a lot like I approach traveling. Before I sit down to put a single word on paper, I already kinda know what things I’m planning to see during the journey.
I’m what the writing world refers to as a plantser. I like to have some general thoughts on where my plot is going, but I leave the rest up to my imagination to work out on the fly.
When I prepare to write a new book, I’ve usually already visualized several scenes that are important. These are typically key moments between characters that are definite keepers but still need to be tied together. It’s one of the things I love about spending time with my characters. I get to watch them find their way to, through, and around those moments. I’m still new enough to this whole writing game that it gives me chills just thinking about the way that feels. To be honest, I hope the wide-eyed enchantment never wears off.
MAPPING OUT THE PLOT
Being a relative newbie, I’ve relied heavily on blogs, tweets, articles, chats, notes, quotes, and pretty much every other form of communication you can find on the internet. There’s a world of authors who have gone before me, paving the way and leaving behind breadcrumbs of excellent advice. So many of them are willing to share information and even answer questions posed by total strangers online. I hope I can become a part of that legacy one day.
As I’ve previously discussed, my process will always be a work in progress. But I’ve fine-tuned the way I’m getting started with my books, and it’s worked out well for me so far. I thought I’d shared the resources I’ve found most helpful. Bear in mind, many of these resources look romance genre-specific, but they’re applicable to a broad range of styles. Plus, most of the sources I’m noting have resources for other genres, too.
FIVE RESOURCES TO ROCK YOUR PLOT
- Michael Hauge’s Workshop: Combining Emotional Journeys and External Plots via Jami Gold
- I love all of Jami Gold’s resources (as you’ll see), but this blog post is where I prefer to start.
- The Hero’s Journey for Romance Writers via The Indie Voice
- This is my second go-to. I like the elements of the Hero’s Journey and this particular method keeps my head straight about how those elements can be applied to romance.
- Romance Arcs via Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA
- This is where I head next. I like to double-check myself on keeping the romantic arc of my story as strong as possible.
- Romance Beat Sheet via Jami Gold
- Yep. Jami Gold again. I told you, the resources are awesome. This beat sheet is one of my last steps. It’s a great way to make sure I’ve got all the pinch points, plot points, midpoints, and all the other points on points on points noted. It also gives me a great goal of what to work for in terms of my word and page count while I’m writing. Bonus points for my fellow Scrivener users (also from Jami Gold): Romance Writers: New Scrivener Template
- How to Structure A Story: The Eight-Point Arc via DailyWritingTips (via Nigel Watts)
- This is my last stop. I review everything I’ve worked through leading up to this point and compare my plans with this checklist to see where I stand.
This might seem like a lot of pre-work for a single book, but I’ve found that if I have a basic answer to each of the questions posed in the resources above, I start the outlining part of my process with confidence.
This leaves me plenty of room to be delighted and surprised by my characters and their antics along the way while preventing me from getting completely off-track.
Check out those resources and let me know what you think! What great words of wisdom inspire your process? Share them below!
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. ― Ursula K. Le Guin
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