I recently took a plotting workshop by Rhonda Helms. Since it helped my a lot to increase my daily word count, I decided to tell you a bit about it.
I’ve read a ton of books about plotting. I never got the hang of it. Somehow, I always tried to fit my plots into the structure taught in the books, and I ended up meandering around, writing, deleting, going back, fixing things, re-fixing the fixed stuff…you get the drift. It was like looking for a certain address when I had no idea which country I was in. I got stuck. I got blocked. I lost the fun. And, most importantly, I lost my characters. They ambled along, but neither of us had a clue what we wanted.
Of course I had some idea of what the story was -or should be- about, but I had no idea how to write it.
I forced myself to go on. To write even if I had no idea where this would lead. I hated writing. I was glad if I managed 500 words on a good day.
That was when I heard about the plotting workshop. I signed up immediately and threw myself into reading the book Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon. Rhonda told us to read it before the class started since we’d need it.
I won’t go too much into detail of the workshop itself, since you need to do it yourself if you want to learn it. We covered brainstorming, the plot points, how to fill out the scenes, how and where to add the subplot. Subjects were also characters, their goals, their motivation, and the conflict keeping them from reaching their goals.
Of course, there is no class without homework, so we did an outline of our stories and posted it for everyone in the group to see (I was freaking nervous). We got into the motivation of our own characters. We basically plotted an entire story with subplots, characters and everything else. All I had left to do was write it.
Some of our pantsers had a really hard time, but it was worth it. (At least in my eyes) Rhonda went through every one of our plots and gave feedback, which helped a lot to see flaws. It made me realize why I had fought so hard with a story that simply refused to work. It took me months to write a couple of thousand words. In the end, I gave up on that story. Not the idea, don’t get me wrong. I like the idea and I will write the story-but in the way it’s meant to be. In a way I have fun while writing it.
I still don’t like plotting. I might never like it. But before I start a story, I sit down and do my homework. My GMC and my plot. I outline everything, the plot points, the length, the chapters… I don’t line out every scene until the end, but only a few ahead. That’s enough for me and allows my characters to change a story if they need to. But I can add some foreshadowing and lead up to certain events since I know what will be coming in a later chapter.
I still manage to surprise me (I managed to add a very important character out of the blue in my last story) so outlining is not stifling my creativity. What it does is giving me a direction. I now write 1.5k on a bad day, 3k on a good. (Good and bad doesn’t say anything about my writing itself, only about how tired I am as I’m writing at night.)
I have fun again. My characters talk to me and have fun as well.
This is why I sit down, take two or three days to outline and then write. I wrote a 65k novel in exactly six weeks. I still need to edit it (typos and small tweaks), but basically, the story is done. I might add some foreshadowing or flesh out one scene or two. But I don’t have to get back and see where I took a wrong turn or where I have to change the whole story.
For that, I’m grateful to Rhonda. And believe me, I already told her I’ll attend the next workshop.
If you’re interested in the workshops, I’ll post updates here.
What do you think about plotting? Do you do it?
I’m curious. Let me know.