For my first blog post I’m going to briefly discuss my experience of planning the plot for my first novel.
I’ve always been pretty creative but never really had any solid plans or plots for books, plays or film scripts so delving into writing as a career path pretty much didn’t grace my “list of things to do with my life”. But then one day last year the power in my house went out after a boiler leak got into the wiring. Alone in the house and short of any modern day entertainment; internet, tv, power to my computer, human puppet, etc… I pulled out a notepad and just began writing words. I had no concept of a plot, I didn’t sit and ponder characters, I just suddenly pictured a man running down a dark lane and wrote about it. Several hours later and a lot of hurried crossings out and I had the meager total of a page and a half’s worth of chicken scratch scrawled story. Not exactly a mountain of success to show from my hard worked evening. But I thought the story was reasonably good and when I showed it to my fiance he agreed (and I’m assuming that wasn’t a filthy lie to please me, but I don’t think I’d have cared either way). So I began to think of what type of story or plot could go with it, to pad out my maybe 500 words into a hundred thousand word novel. I don’t know how professional authors come up with their ideas but I found mine by just blurting out any vague concept that came to my head and snowballing with them. Not a fool proof plan I agree, but it worked and I had my plot. Success!
Unfortunately, it turns out that just having a plot isn’t really good enough, and my little face sunk when I began describing my idea to Chris (the aforementioned fiance) and he pointed out the many glaring holes in my plan. For example, my world is essentially fueled by death; it’s pretty dark. But, and as crazy as this sounds, I did not pick up on that in the slightest. In describing it I kept defending the lightness: “yeah but the characters are nice”, “fun things are made from it so it’s ok”, “maybe nothing nice dies?”. Those and other ludicrous statements like them left my mouth at every mention of how bleak things were. It wasn’t until I sat down with Chris and he pointed out the consequences of every literary decision I was making with my world and characters that I took what he was telling me seriously. My world is dark. My protagonist isn’t a Captain America, all around good guy. She has a dark side. But that’s fine, that’s what makes her and the world more real, and I needed to realize and accept that. And now that I do I can acknowledge it in the words I write and form a better story because of it.
If you’re ever coming up with a story you need someone like I had, telling me things about my idea that I just wasn’t seeing. If you already are that person, great, I hate you, but well done, you’ve got your shit together and can see the consequences of all of your ideas rather than being an excitable puppy with them. That is one of the most important things I’ve found when starting to write a book. Not to blow my own trumpet but I think my plot is reasonably good and fairly readable, BUT that’s only because I had someone to plan it out with for months. I’d come up with an idea, say “hey, I think I’m gonna add this into the story.” and Chris would respond with something along the lines of “sounds great, but you know that means that X, Y, Z will all be useless and A, B, C are completely different.” And he would be 100% right. I just couldn’t see it myself. If I hadn’t had that I guarantee my book would be all smiles and rainbows and utter utter garbage that would be too appalling to even grace a teenagers bookshelf. And don’t get me wrong, It’s hard to accept when someone’s explaining what your world is like. When they tell you how the people and places and characters you’ve created should be. I defended my ideas to the hilt, and was a stubborn little mare until I realized that these weren’t criticisms. I wasn’t being told that my ideas were bad, I was being told that they had ramifications and to ignore them would be to the detriment of the story. And it was all true. So if your knee jerk reaction when someone points something out about your world is to tell them to sod off, that’s cool, but maybe still keep it in mind and mull it over for a few days. Then if you still think their idea is ridiculous, fantastic, they’ve already probably sodded off out of your way with their negativity. But if you begin to come around to what they said, give them a call, apologize for your snap abuse and maybe keep them round to plunder more deeply into your story.
I’m going to apologize now for my rambling and probably ill written post here (this chick’s tryna write a book? Seriously?!) but, hey, this is my first blog post, cut me some slack! I hope despite its word vomit style it might be helpful to some other first time writers and help them with the first stumbles into coming up with and padding out a story.
If you have any queries, questions or additions to what I’ve said here please leave a comment!