Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Threading together a plot

I'm currently drafting an outline (what Truby refers to as a Scene Weave, for you Truby-ites out there) for my next work in progress. As I may have mentioned a few times on the blog and Twitter, it's been slow going.

What makes it so hard? Well, I'm trying to hold several plot lines in my head at once, weave them together so none of them get too much stage time and go stale, hit all the appropriate dramatic points, with rising tension and cliffhangers, yet I still don't really know my characters inside and out. Eventually I'll probably give up and just start writing, but I'd like to have as many twists and turns laid out in front of me as possible so I have some place to go once I start writing, even if the actual plot points later change.

However, a few weeks ago I had a revelation that if I figured out only one plot thread at a time, perhaps it would be easier than listing every single movement in the story off the top of my head. Isn't it funny how we tend to make things harder on ourselves than they actually need to be?

Since then, I've been brainstorming ideas for each thread. For example, I've got a sub-plot about my character needing to improve her grades in school and stay out of trouble. I tried to think of increasingly difficult setbacks, some of which are the character's own fault, as well as some successes. Character does badly on a test, decides to retake it. Character hears kids picking on her, and tries to be good, but eventually loses her temper and yells at one of them. Character is seen by the principal and gets in serious trouble. A new friends saves her by defending her to the principal. Her punishment is lifted, but from that point on, the character is determined to be on her best behavior. Then she realizes she needs to skip school to achieve her goals. Etc. I numbered this list, from beginning to end, keeping in mind that things should get worse, and worse, and worse yet before they get better. With several of these brainstormed lists, I can weave them all together, in mostly numerical order (all the ones should be in the beginning, the twos a bit further on, and so forth), to create a list of every scene in the book.

Does it work? Well, yes. It's not a miracle solution, and still involves a lot of thought, and pacing, and I still spend most of my writing sessions tugging at my hair. But slowly I'm adding more events to my outline, creating more excitement and complexity, and hitting all the major story points.

I've only written a complete outline like this once before, for Project Fun. It was a huge help, but I already knew the characters, and knew the basics of the story, so it wasn't such a struggle. Plus I wasn't in the midst of moving and trying to juggle fifty other things. But I will get there with this new book (as of now nameless). And I think it will be a good story, more complexly plotted than anything I've written before, full of exciting twists and turns. I just need to keep pushing forward, step by step, bird by bird.

Where are you in the writing process? Is it hard going?


  1. Have you thought about a Subway chart? I saw a cool one that had each of the threads in Hunger Games charted as parallel lines, with the lines intersecting in scenes that advance more than one plot line forward?

    I'm Truby-ing as well at the moment! Putting a new idea through its paces.

  2. At the charting phase, I would find weaving subplots/plotlines daunting also. But I am an outliner. What I have done is outline the main plot, then begin writing. The "underplots" wind up coming in organically, weaving themselves in. It's the magical part of writing. So I think your decision to work one plot at a time may just turn out to work in this way for you also.

    1. See, I think I might forget all about my subplots if I didn't sort them in advance... my magic (hopefully!) presents itself in other ways.

  3. Yay! Sounds like things are going well for you. I'm on my 2nd draft of my latest book. Crossing fingers on this one!


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