Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Plotting Novel 2

It's been a week and a half now since I've done any work on either of my novels - although it feels like a lot, lot longer - but my brain has been silently working away, thinking about the plot for novel #2.

I know that some people (hello Nichola!) think that plotting and outlining is a really, really bad idea but something writing novel #1 taught me is that I need to plot. If I don't I grind to a halt when I don't know what happens next and I have to pause and wait until a solution appears. I need to think novel #2 through before I write anything (as proven by the opening I already had to scrap!).

I need to think about making each scene count, about increasing the intensity of the MC's crises as the novel progresses, about incorporating unanswered questions that stick in a reader's mind, about making this book a real page turner. I also need to think about the balance between the plot and the subplots (something, I admit, I didn't actively plan for novel #1).

I was reading Holly Isle's pdf on plotting a novel and started thinking about the 'candy bar scenes' (scenes that you're really looking forward to writing) in novel #2. That's what the coloured index cards are for. I've got four different coloured cards and, co-incidentally, a main plot and 3 sub plots (okay, one main sub plot and two lesser sub plots). The idea is to write down as many different scene ideas as possible on the cards and, when I've finished, go through them to see how they fit together, discarding any scenes that are rubbish.

If you look at the bit of paper in my photo you'll see I've drawn a line down the middle with 'beginning' at one end and 'the end' at the other. It's divided into 3 Acts (I used the same structure for novel #1). All the scribblings beneath that line are the ideas I've had for scenes so far. The beginning is fairly straight forward - as it was with novel #1 (I knew exactly what the first few chapters were) and I know what the first crisis point is but, unlike novel #1 I've got quite a few scenes for the second Act and none for Act 3. In theory the scenes I scribble onto the index cards will help me structure Act 2 (I know what the crisis point is at the end of Act 2 which is a help).

Act 3 however...

is a problem.

I don't know what happens!

There's a big mystery to be solved in novel #2 and, at the moment, I have absolutely no idea whodunnit! I'm not even very sure who the suspects are. I read an interview with a crime writer recently who said that, when she starts her books, she has no idea who dunnit until the end. That way, she argues, the reader will be as surprised as she is. Fair point. I'm hoping my subconscious will fill out Act 3 in the next couple of weeks but, if it doesn't, I'm not going to worry. If I've got Acts 1 and 2 planned I'll just start writing and see what happens.

But first, on with the fun stuff. Thinking and scribbling and shuffling.

Am I the only one that finds this bit more fun than actually writing the novel (candy bar scenes aside)?

p.s. If anyone has found any helpful hints online about writing a mystery/whodunnit please feel free to point me in the right direction!


Helen said...

For my first book I plotted everything quite tightly and when it came to writing it up I found I needed to change a lot. But that was fine. So for my second one which I started as part of NaNo I wrote freely. And guess what? I got to the point where I need to plot again. I think I have discovered what sort of writer I am!

In terms of mystery stuff, if anyone finds anything out please let me know too.

Kerry said...

If you're looking for (what appears to be) a really good plotting craft book you might want to check out "Novel Writing" by Evan Marshall. He is a literary agent himself and the book is full of plotting tips that will keep readers hooked. It's also specially for commercial novelist.

I haven't plotted a novel for it but have found it invaluable for thinking about how I structure stories - so it might be worth taking a looksie :)

KAREN said...

I find a certain amount of plotting helps too - the reason I had to scrap my last novel was because I hadn't looked ahead far enough - if I had I've have known it wasn't going to work. Doh!

There's a good classic approach to writing a mystery novel here. Hope it helps!

A. Writer said...

Wow! You're so organised. I do all my planning on the computer using spreadsheets - maybe I should give paper and index cards a go. Hmmm... now there's a thought. I could go buy some stationery!

Nichola said...

Hello Missy! :D

Heh...I got a mention in your blog!

Seriously though, I've tried outlining and it kills any creativity for me; just can't do it. I could maybe get a way with writing a list of things/scenes I want to occur in the novel but any outline I did would be very very baggy. It's the restrictive ones I can't stand where you have to do character sketches, scene outlines, plan every chapter down to the last word, etc. The last outlining book I read suggested such a stringent method and it completely turned me off; as I've said before I'd rather just get on with writing the book if the outline's going to take so much work!

But you know, if you need to, you need to and if it works, it works.

Minette Walters doesn't though - apparently she sits down with a glass of wine at her laptop and doesn't know whodunnit until she comes to write that chapter! I'm not sure I could write a murder mystery that way, but it would certainly be interesting to try!

One idea I've had involved time travel and I confess, that's the one idea I've had that leans towards a (loose) outline so you never know, I might outline a novel one day!

liz fenwick said...

Do you know how it ends?

Did you follow the BBC Scotland's Right Here, Write Now which this year focused on crime.

It had some great stuff.

Thanks for the link and good luck!