Wednesday, April 6, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 10: Creating a Plot Outline or a List of Key Scenes


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.


Welcome to week ten of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. I posted Chapter 8 of THIRST yesterday over on my author website. Eli and friends are doing their best to avoid trouble, yet it always seems to find them! Click here to read it.

 
  

Recap

Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.


Week three was Storyworld. Week four: maps and floorplans. Week five: protagonists and main characters. Week six: side characters. Week seven: prewriting. Week eight: plot structures. Week nine: Theme.

Today's Topic: Creating a Plot Outline or a List of Key Scenes

Two weeks back, we talked about different types of plot structures. I took a break to talk about theme because theme can be something to consider when outlining key scenes in your story. Today we're going to look at creating a plot outline or a list of key scenes.

Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, having a small outline can help your plot stay on track. There are lots of different ways to do this. Here are some archived posts for you to take a look at.

Archived posts for outlining a novel:
What is the Best Way to Plot a Novel?
The Pros and Cons of Plotting and Pantsing
How To Develop Your Novel Into a List of Key Scenes: Part One
How To Develop Your Novel Into a List of Key Scenes: Part Two

For those who don't outline:
Tips for Writers Who Don't Work Well With Outlines
K. M. Weiland on Outlining Your Book Backwards
A Non-Plotter Explains How She Outlines

 

Things To Help

1. Use three-act structure brainstorming sheets.
This is the "Jill Method" of initial plotting. I created my own story brainstorming sheets that are based off the three-act structure. So if your story uses the three-act structure, my brainstorming sheets might help you. There are other plot worksheets out there. Spending some time on Google can help you find them. Another one I have used often is Blake Snyder's beat sheet, which is written with movie lingo, but is a solid structure for a novel. And here is one by Jami Gold for romance novels.


2. Adding Genre Conventions
If you're writing a particular genre, there are key scenes to consider adding that might not fit within other genres. Take a romance novel, for example. In a romance, you need certain types of scenes to help these two people get to know each other. And these are scenes you wouldn't need in a mystery. This post on genre conventions might help spark some ideas as to key scenes to include in your story: Are Genre Conventions Important?


3. Adding Mystery Elements
Whether or not you're writing a mystery novel, you might want to add mystery elements or a subplot to your story. This takes some forethought to execute well. You'll want to write out a list of scenes or situations in which you can plant clues. Here are two posts to help you if you're planning to add some mystery to your novel: The Beginner's Guide to Writing a Mystery and 7 Ways to Add Mystery to Your Plot.


Assignment Time

Today's assignment is to make a list of key scenes. You could do this using a plot sheet like mine, Blake Snyder's, or Jami Gold's. Or you could simply write out a chronological list of events: the things you know you want to have happen in the story. Once you've got this list, look it over and show it to a critique partner if you can.

How does it look? Do you have a strong story from start to finish? Do you need to do some rearranging? Do you see any glaring plot holes? If so, brainstorm a scene to fill each hole. You don't have to plot out everything that will happen in the book. And you don't even have to plot out all the way to the end, though that certainly helps me. I simply want you to be thinking about important scenes that will keep the story moving or lay a foundation for mystery. Feel free to share your list in the comments, if you'd like. Or you could share a concern for your plot--something you see coming already and know you're going to have trouble with when you get there. Or just give us an update with how your story is coming along so far.

For THIRST, I'm eight chapters in and at 26,980 words. I'm good to go through chapter 13, then I'm going to have some rough patches. The plot is going to change drastically once Eli and his friends reach the compound. I will need to introduce a bunch of new characters. I'm concerned it might feel like a completely new book is starting and I don't want that. For now, I'm going to keep plugging along.






Jill's New Book is Out!

Also, yesterday was the release day for King's Folly, my new epic fantasy. Whoo hoo! It's been two years of really hard work to see this one in print. Epic fantasy was the most challenging genre I've ever tackled, but I'm glad I did it. I'm giving away a signed paperback copy of King's Folly on my author blog. Click here and scroll down to enter. Also, I'm going to be doing a read-along on my Reader's of Jill Williamson Facebook group, and you're all invited! It's going to be a fun time.



37 comments:

  1. I haven't done too much plotting, as I generally prefer to just write. I do, however, have quite a few scenes that I know are going to happen and I have a basic idea of the plot.
    I'm writing this for Camp NaNoWriMo, so at the moment I have just over 10k in words. But I haven't written anything yet today, so I'm hoping to get it higher.
    Oh, and I've pre-ordered King's Folly! I've read two of the e-books, but it'll be great to have a physical copy.

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    1. Sounds like a good plan, Esther. Get your word count in!!!

      And, thanks for pre-ordering King's Folly! I very much appreciate your support. :-)

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  2. I have a pretty good outline for my WIP (it's about ten pages long, I think), but there are some places that could use a little ironing out, like "X and Y have an argument." When I write dialogue-intensive scenes like that, it's good to have a plan, and maybe a few snippets, of what the characters actually say.

    Thanks for the post, Mrs. Williamson!

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    1. That's very true, Linea. Nice job writing such a detailed outline!

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  3. So far writing's going really well! I'm at almost 7k (I'm doing Camp NaNo and need to write just over 1300 words a day) and planning to cross 10k in the next two days. I've got a list of key scenes--my first attempt at writing with any real plan--but it gets a little vague a quarter of the way in and again near the end, so I may have to improvise.

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    1. Congrats!! Keep writing!!

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    2. I love NaNo anything. You can do it, Ellie!

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  4. I've got a pretty solid list of key scenes and I've got several chapters done (I don't know my word count since I'm writing by hand!). I've been taking a break for a while since I was working really hard on a contest entry but I'm starting back up on Sunday, hopefully.

    By the way, is 1st person, present tense an off-putting POV?? That's what I was writing my novel in, but I got a critique saying that it isn't typically used...should I do a re-write and change it?

    Thanks for another fantastic post, Jill!

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    1. I'm writing in 1st person present too, so i'd be interested to hear what you think, Mrs. Williamson, as well.

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    2. That's great!! Keep writing!! I have been writing medieval romance.

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    3. Oh, yeah. Word count would be tricky when writing by hand, though you could likely count the words on one page, then multiply it by the number of pages you have. It wouldn't be exact, but it might give you an idea...

      As to first person present... It can work. It worked for Hunger Games. It's jarring at first, but then the reader tends to forget about it if the story is engaging enough. A few years back, there were some editors and agents saying they didn't want to see any books written in first person present. But that was mostly due to the large number of people copycatting Hunger Games. I'd say, if you love it, write in it. But if you're not sure, try writing a chapter from first person past and third person. See which feels more natural and pick that one.

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    4. Thanks so much for your input, Mrs. Williamson!

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    5. Thanks for your thoughts, Jill. I really connect strongly with 1st person present (and some of my favorite books are written in this POV) but my main goal is getting published...will this POV kill my book's chances?? I'm really confused...is my book in need of a major re-write...already???

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  5. I almost posted a scene list, but that would be difficult for anyone to critique seeing as they would know next to nothing of all those names...

    I have been studying some older authors lately, and I have noticed something interesting about their works. Many modern books have very linear plots, where the reader is taken step by step down a straight thread of Story, coming to plot points along the way.
    Older books are often more complex, with characters, setting, and key turning points given to the reader in the first scenes, as if the author dropped a tangled web in front of the reader and said 'now watch it unravel.' "The Laughing Cavalier", a book I highly respect, establishes nine characters, their personalities, and very plot-important material in the first two scenes. It's like setting little stones rolling, and it isn't until later you realize those little pebbles were the ones that started the avalanche.

    I tried imitating, and I was astonished at how difficult it is. (I'm not certain if this expresses what I mean very clearly)

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    1. Good point!! I agree. <3

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    2. That is quite fascinating, Savannah. Thanks for sharing, and well done analyzing such books. You can learn a lot from doing that.

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  6. I have the beginning of my story down, but I'll need to do some brainstorming for a full list of key scenes. This'll be fun, LOL.

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    1. BTW the link to the key scenes post part one is broken and leads to a different post :).

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    2. Thanks! I will. :) Good luck on your story!

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    3. Yes, do have fun, Jason. Brainstorming plot and such is one of my favorite stages of writing.

      Thanks for telling me about the broken link. I fixed it. :-)

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  7. Interesting!! This will totally help!! Thank you!
    Gianna

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  8. I have one quick question. Is there a post how long your book should be? I was wondering but I am no where near done- twenty pages 6,050 words.

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    1. Check out these two posts, Gianna.

      http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-long-should-my-book-be.html

      http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2014/04/childrens-book-types-and-suggested-word.html

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    2. Thank you!! The first one helped a lot!

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  9. Yay!!! I've been needing to re-outline my novel now that I've gotten to know my characters a little better (I'm a plot first novelist). I realized that my characters were doing things they would never do, so I need to rethink a lot of my plot :)

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    1. Abi: I hope your book turns out good! <3
      Have fun!!

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  10. Thanks!! This is helpful.

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    1. Is there a post about first drafts? I hope that doesn't sound stupid.

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    2. There's a great section for first drafts under the How to Write a Novel page. Good luck on your book :)

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    3. Thanks, Abi!!

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  11. I tried for years to write without plotting, and was doomed. Seriously. it did not end well, except it did make me realize I need to plot. so...yeah.
    I tend to mix and match different plotting techniques I find for my stories, including the wonderful ones cooked up here in Go Teen Writers, K. M. Weiland's super-duper thorough ones, and Christine Frazier's Master Outline on her Better Novel Project blog.

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  12. So glad I found this blog! Very informative post.

    Sarah Allen

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  13. Thanks for the post!! It's helpful. <3
    Allison

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