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The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Forget Snowmageddon – The Plot-ocalypse is Upon Me February 2, 2011

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 10:32 AM
Tags: , ,

If you live in the US, either you’ve probably seen footage of whole states crushed under feet of snow, or you can look out the window and get the view for yourself. I’m one of the latter, and I’m not looking forward to the shoveling that will soon be mandatory – or the second avalanche of make up work that the IB will force upon us if I ever find my way back to organized education. But the sea of white  has moved indoors, at least for me. Behold:

This is most of, but not all, of my NaNoWriMo novel. Most of, because I couldn’t get all of the notecards to fit into one frame. These said notecards have taken up residence on my bedroom floor, and will probably remain there for a week or so, resulting in an awkward tap dance being necessary whenever I want to reach my closet for a change of clothes. But it’s worth it – I hope.

See, I think I’ve mentioned notecards before in another post. They’re helpful for tracking things – plots, characters, important themes – in a more visual way. You can pick up your story, move it around, play with it… without the fear of messing anything up. I’ve only used them once before, but they’re more helpful for the type of story I’m doing now. Before I get into that, however, here’s the way to make them:

Get a pack of index cards. Label them all like this:

Point of View (if split):                                                                                                               Chapter #:      Scene #:

Characters:

Location:

Action:

Role in the story:

Making all of these will take a while. But once you’re done, there are lots of cool things you can do with them. First of all, by looking at the ‘role’ section, you can decide what scenes to cut. After all, if a scene doesn’t advance the story, it’s not worth it, no matter how deathless the prose. Next, check characters and locations. If a few characters and locations only pop up once or twice, think about either cutting them or weaving them into the story more. Sometimes you’ll have even forgotten a character, or added one in the middle. The notecards will help you figure out who’s missing, or who’s around in the wrong place.

Now, the tricky stuff – plot. Since generally a full-blown book has more than one plot, I found it helpful to color code them. You can’t see it in the abysmally blurry picture, but every notecard  has colored dots on it, telling me which plot or plots ties into that particular scene. That way I can figure out what plots are over or underdeveloped.

Finally, the most helpful use of the notecards of all, at least for me. Sometimes only after you finish do you realize there are scenes you should have added. When your story has a single narrator, you can pop the scene in whenever. If it’s split… it’s a lot harder. (I think I talked about this in another post.)  What I’ve been doing is making another notecard for each extra scene, complete with POV, characters, and location. Then, like searching for that elusive space where the puzzle piece fits, I look for a spot where all those factors mesh. Sometimes I find the perfect place, and everything’s great. But sometimes I have to accept I’ll have to rewrite whole sections in order to squeeze an extra scene in.

Notecards aren’t for everyone, but they can be great tools, especially if you want to step back and take a big picture look at your story. So if you have some notecards and some time to kill, try it out.

 

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One Response to “Forget Snowmageddon – The Plot-ocalypse is Upon Me”

  1. Pam Parker Says:

    I’m not sure notecards are for me, but may try this on my next novel. On a pretty much unrelated note, but since you put the snow in your title and comments are places for shameless plugs, you might like to see how one writer sent some of the blizzard: http://pamparker.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/winter-ballet-blizzards-dancing-digging-out-and-digging-in/


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