Hi Writerly Rockstar!
I’ve been a published author for over ten years and I still learn new things or develop new processes every day. There’s always a better/different/interesting/neat-o way to complete part of your process. When I began writing, I was 100% a pantser. I sat down with a vague idea in my head and took off. I flew by the seat of my pants and let the story take me where it willed.
Pro: Lots of fun.
Con: I often got stuck, forgot to tie up plot threads, and generally cried through the self-editing process.
To fix some of those issues–especially when I got stuck–I did what I called “reverse plotting.” I made a spreadsheet outlining where I’d been with the story to help me figure out where I was going. With my list of chapters and the details for those chapters separated into different columns by plot lines, I was able to get a clearer picture. But even this didn’t solve all of my problems because there were some chapters that spanned plot threads. So I might put a note in Column B in excel but then realize that the events also applied to the plot thread in Column E. What was I supposed to do then? How was I supposed to reflect that?
I answered that question by introducing colors into my spreadsheet. Everything that was pink was Thread A and everything blue was Thread B and so on. That had me getting closer to straightening out plot threads without a problem, but it wasn’t a perfect answer. There was more than just the hum drum plot lines to manage, there was timing mixed in there. Plus, there are some things a writer might want to track that aren’t necessarily “plot threads.”
Like the timing of those “bow chicka bow bow” moments in romance works.
So, if my spreadsheet didn’t work, what did? My super awesome, super shiny, super fantasmigorical plot pacing worksheet.
In the above image I’ve taken one of my friends’ plots and plugged it into my plot pacing worksheet as an example. You can see that I have a column for chapters/scenes while I’ve outlined the different items I want to track across the top of the sheet. Then there is a column for the day/time within the story and finally a column for any notes I might have relating to that chapter/scene.
Half-way through plotting this story, Willa emailed me her plot with a cry for help and promises of cake if I could just assist her in figuring out where to go next. I immediately filled out my plot pacing worksheet and saw her problems. She was already in the process of plotting chapter fifteen, but still hadn’t addressed or introduced her big bad/external conflict! Then there was the fact that her heroine hadn’t met her guys (Willa writes Reverse Harem Romance) until chapter ten! And these were two issues she hadn’t recognized until we laid her plot out in this easy to read format. We backed up, did a little finagling, and the I sent her on her way while I ate a big piece of virtual cake. Yum!
What do you need to do the same?
- Different colored pens, pencils, or highlighters. (To color in the bubbles.)
- Printer & Paper
- My Plot Pacing Worksheet (Free!)
Fill out the form below and you’ll have the plot pacing worksheet delivered to your inbox totally free! Then you can take a few minutes, complete the worksheet, and see where your story might be falling flat and where it could use a little extra “bow chicka” with the “bow bow.” You’ll be able to see how you’ve spaced out the different aspects of your story and wiggle scenes around so your story has a nice, smooth flow from chapter one to done.
Have a rockstar day of writing, (<-and plotting)