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Otherwise known as hot damn, that Amy is one hell of a geek. 🙂

Well, the first chapter of what I hope to be the new WIP (titleless at the moment, and probably until I’m at least halfway through, because that’s just how I roll) is pretty much done. It was harder than I thought. YA is a tricky line to walk. I need to read a little more of it, I think, before I feel more confident writing it.

And now that I have what feels like a fairly strong beginning, a decently-fleshed-out-character, and an interesting (to me, anyway) premise, it’s time for that charming geekfest I like to call Plotting The Rest Of The Book. And since this is something discussed often in forums, on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else on teh interwebs writers congregate (I was reading one just yesterday, hence this post), I thought I’d record for posterity (or at least amusement) my own wacky method. I mean to try others — the Phase method looks kind of interesting– but for now this is my preferred brand of crazy.

So here it is:

1) Open Word. Write a 3-paragraph back-jacket-blurb-type-thing (think of it as a really long hook). You know the type — X lives an ordinary life until Y, W, and C happen, forcing her to choose/become Z... this and this are actually pretty close to my usual structure, come to think of it, just longer.

2) Open Excel. List the plot highlights, as you know them, in the first column, with about 3 rows between points. Think about the tension and story-relevance of each point listed. Assign each one a number in a new column based on how tense that scene should be/will be, and then another number in another column based on how important to the plot that moment will be.

(…I did warn you this was a geekfest, didn’t I?)

3) Have some pistachios.

4) Fill in the blanks — those extra 3 or so spaces between plot points should be filled. You can add as many more as you want, but something connects those dots.

5) Do the number thing again. Get down with your geek self.

6) Have a glass of wine. It’s got to be past noon at this point.

7) Chart it! Yes, I’m serious: make a nice line graph of your beautiful Excel list. Then look hard at it. Every story is different, and I’d be the last one to say that a story should fit perfectly (or at all, for that matter) into the “usual” form — but it’s true that most of them do follow a certain pattern. And a lot of the time it looks quite a bit like this thingy. —>>

Does your graph look like that? No? Don’t be surprised. It’s actually pretty freaking hard to do. If I can get it even relatively close, I’m happy, because a) as mentioned above, every story has its own arc going and that’s a good thing, and b) I’ve written enough novels at this illustrious point in my career to have some confidence that my brain will work out a lot of the kinks on the way from flat line to falling-off-the-cliff line.

But I do spend a while tweaking my plot points and moving them around, trying to get a little closer to that spiky kind-of-a bell curve.

8) Take all your plot points and put them in a Word doc — or, hell, keep them in Excel, whatever floats your boat. Spend sometime describing each of them in more detail; setting, your MC’s motivation(s), other characters involved, maybe even a few sentences of a scene, if you want. Do a scene-by-scene too if you’re feeling über-organized; it takes a long time, but sometimes it’s really useful to have it all laid out like that.

Have at.

9) Make yourself a martini. Drink it.

10) Write a book.

So there it is.

I actually, it must be said, have several spreadsheets going: I like to have GeekGraphs (as they shall be called henceforth) for my MC’s emotional arc, since that always ends up being the main drive behind my story, and then sometimes one for a subplot or two, if they’re significant/interesting enough (or just confusing enough) to warrant tracking.

As I said there are plenty of methods floating around out there, and some of them look pretty interesting: I’ve always wanted to try the snowflake method, and the above-mentioned phase outlining is also on my list. Hell, there’s software out there for outlining too, amazingly enough. But for now this odd process is comfortable, entertaining, and it fits me. Step 1 starts tonight, I hope, and with any luck this thing will take off, and become The Next Big Project.

Here’s hoping, right?

So, what’s your method? Pantser? Snowflaker? Phaser? (heh heh heh. “phaser“) DIY-er? Do tell.

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