Hi there! I know, I promised to write about plot development a week ago, but now that I am a writer, I also have writer’s block. I even talked about it in a writers support group. Everyone’s got it – it’s like a rite of passage. We also bitched and moaned about lack of time for writing, probably for a good couple of hours. I then twitted about it.
I am, however, happy to report that I seem to be completely cured! I have written a couple of thousand words in just the last few days, and that’s in the evenings, after a hard day’s work. How did I get over the block, I hear you asking? Deceptively simple – I wrote a plan. It’s technically a chapter outline based on a plot, but in a way it is a plan of how I will write this book. I can hear the “organic” writers protesting, and maybe it wouldn’t work for everyone, but for me it has been a breakthrough. The organic writing still happens, it’s just that now I know what to write about.
I started with writing my ideas for a plot on post-its and plastering them on a long wall in my house. I did one row for the main plot and put subplot ideas in other rows. The finished plot ended up looking like this:
The photo above shows the plot after about a week of staring at it, reading about plotting, conflict and character arcs, and staring at it again. I found a huge number of plot holes in the beginning! For starters, my protagonist lacked motivation. It didn’t bother me at first – I rationalised that because it’s a comedy the motivation is not needed, after all Beavis and Butthead are not motivated, right? Then I thought about it. Beavis and Butthead’s burning desire to score with chicks made them worthy of a feature film. I thought about other comedy protagonists and had to admit to myself that every single one of them was motivated, even the lazy ones.
Another problem was sporadic appearance of subplots and support characters. By sticking pieces of paper on the wall, I was able to see easily where I completely forgot about a character for a few chapters. I added ideas on post-its, moved them, threw some out, added more. I used little blue stickers to break the plot into 20 chapters. I used a five-act structure, which is really a variation of the classic three act structure: life as usual (setup), confrontation, and resolution. I marked out small conflicts leading progressively to the ultimate “everything is lost” moment and the eventual solution to the problem.
The plot and chapter outline will probably evolve as I go along, but for now they are great tools to help guide my avalanche of verbiage into a coherent story. Best of all – look Ma, no writer’s block!