Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sheppey Writing Workshop: Plotting

Plotting... I've been doing this recently. Not only is the dreaded/longed for (delete as applicable) NaNoWriMo coming up in a matter of days, but I've got deadlines. Quite a lot of deadlines. This is not something I've ever really come up against before since until a few months ago I only really wrote to my own tune. Or something.

What I'm trying to say is that since I've been actively searching out writing opportunities, I've had to plot. Otherwise I'd never get anything finished on time. I've had to be organised and dedicated. I've had to stop being a pantser, which is something I never thought I'd say (for a variety of reasons). But the thing is: I love to plot! I can't believe I've never done it before! It makes writing so much more... fun. It also makes it more successful. For me, at any rate. And plots can change, of course. I can still do a little bit of pantsering (I made that word up, but you know what I mean) if the mood strikes.

Last night's third meeting of the Sheppey Writing Workshop dealt with plotting. We broke the plot down into its fundamental elements: structure, motivation, subplots, outcome. And from what you find here, you should be able to write one sentence which sums up your entire work, from flash fiction to an epic novel. And then you should be able to write the book or story.

Try it.

It works.

That should be enough to get a very basic plot for your story. Of course, there will be a lot of filling to do, that's what writing is about, filling the frame so that a picture emerges. Chaucer was one of the first writers to use the framing technique in his story-telling. Think of the Canterbury Tales: the frame here is that a group of pilgrims are travelling to Canterbury and each one has a story to tell. Within this simple frame, the stories provide the picture.

We also discussed what happens when a piece of writing simply isn't working. It happens. And it seems such a shame to delete the entire thing when a game of 'what if?' might just save it...

What if... you mix genres or change genres?
What if... you swap the main plot with the subplot?
What if... you change from first person to third person or vice versa?
What if... you change the structure, start at the end, in the middle?
What if...

But remember, don't alienate the reader. Remember who you're writing for. In the 1960s there was a movement of writers who thought that 'shuffling the pack' would be a good idea. Sounds interesting, right? It meant that the writer would complete their novels and then 'shuffle' the chapters, picking them randomly, putting them back in a different order. This piece of experimentation didn't last long.

Strangely, I'm tempted to give it a try (for my own curiosity's sake anyway).

The next meeting is on 14th November, and by then we need to have a first draft of our story... Now that it's been plotted, I need to get writing!


  1. I have never tried plotting. I get this idea and then I just write it out, I write whatever comes to me. But I have been meaning to give it a try, especially with my longer works.
    Great post.

  2. Thank you :) I've found that now I've started plotting, I enjoy it!