Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Plotting Troubles

I love writing. It makes me happy. Or, at least, that's what I keep telling myself. And it's not a lie. Writing, the actual writing part, does make me happy! It's the plotting that proves to be very frustrating, most of the time.

I don't know what it is, but plotting, at least for me, is not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort for me to commit to a plot line. And even once I have committed, I'm still never completely satisfied.

So, last week, post plotting meltdown (I'm not kidding. I do actually have those... weekly), I was surfing one of my favorite authors' website for little nuggets of authorly wisdom, and actually, that's exactly what I found.

Here's one little nugget (of many) from the New Moon Outtakes page on Stephenie Meyer's website:

New Moon Outtakes

Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night;
Give me my Romeo; and, when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night...

—Romeo and Juliet Act III scene ii

"This quote was the original epigraph for New Moon. Why did it change? As I spent more time with the book, I decided I wanted the epigraph to be more representative of danger and potential heartbreak. Though this quote also has some nice foreshadowing, I had to choose—the romance or the warning? I went with the warning.

That's how outtakes are made—choosing one storyline over the other, exploring a direction that doesn't quite end up where you want it to, adding something new that makes another piece obsolete.

Of course, these are all rough pieces and it's really embarrassing to let people see them. I'm enduring the shame for three reasons. Firstly, humility is a virtue. Secondly, people loved the Twilight Outtakes so much, and I'm afraid they'll hurt me if I don't give them more. And finally (this is the real one), so many of you are writers, too. I think outtakes are most interesting from a writer's perspective. I'm hoping these might help some of you who are just getting started to be able to make sense of the editing process, and to be more ruthless self-editors. (Just because you love something doesn't mean it should stay in.)"--Stephenie

What can I say? The words in pink really spoke to me. They inspired and brought forth the realization that: My plot doesn't have to be perfect the first time around, or even the second. The outcome of my story may even be different than originally intended--through exploration of different plot possibilities--and that's okay! (One of my biggest problems is that, often, I try to push my preconceived notions of what I think the story should be that I never give it a chance to unfold naturally. This is a big problem that I am working to correct.)

Those few lines, for whatever reason, really comforted me. Now, will I remember all of this next week when I'm in full-on meltdown mode--umm... probably not! But still, there's something to be said about perusing your favorite author's website. Apparently it's more than just a great way to procrastinate. Yay!

So, my question is: How do you feel about plotting? Does it come easy, or the exact opposite? And, how do you work through your plotting frustrations?

Have a great day, everyone!


  1. Wow, I haven't procratinated, I mean, visited Stephenie's website in a long time. I'd forgotten about the outtakes.

    I don't mind the changes that occur in my plotting as long as it's making the ms better. My wip has gone through a number of them. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I do it just to spice things up. You know, 'cause I've already read the ms several times, and now I want to read something new. ;)

  2. Is New Moon the second book? I won't make any friends here to say, I don't think the published one has a plot.

    We writers have the parts that don't come easily. For some it's dialogue, for others it's plotting, or motivation, or a myriad of other issues. The best books are the ones that do it all well. And in the end, it's about voice and character to make readers interested and care. It's not easy!

  3. I just blogged about this today too. I have a tendency to get way overly complicated in my plots, which comes because I usually think I'm not complicated enough.

    Maybe one day I'll sit down to write and when I'm done, I'll not have to completely overhaul the plot. Maybe. One day.

  4. Plotting is the bane to my writing. LOL
    It's never easy. Sometimes I just have to start writing when the plotting gets too frustrating and then stop and plot a little more later.

  5. "One of my biggest problems is that, often, I try to push my preconceived notions of what I think the story should be that I never give it a chance to unfold naturally."

    {nods} I think a lot of us do that. We want to be sure, we don't want to waste time or words. But the truth is, sometimes you have to. And there's no such thing as "wasted" words anyway.

    I too am learning to trust my instincts, to let the story push away from where I thought it would go, when it needs to.

    I'm sure we'll both get there. :)

  6. It's so great when you come across such inspiration. I think we all have issues that we struggle to work through as writers. And like you, I tend to focus more on characterization than plot, but thankfully, my husband is really good at working out plot kinks. But you're right! It doesn't have to be perfect the first time around. Or even the second. It'll get there!

  7. For me, the plot evolves with the story. The more pages written, the more I understand my characters and so am able to take them in new directions. But it doesn't usually remain what I'd thought it would be at the very beginning.

  8. I let the plot grow with the story. I've tried outlining but it doesn't work for me. I write, keep track of what's happening in the story as I go.

  9. I've done it both ways, let the plot unfold on its own and outline ahead of time. I think it really depends on the story you are writing at the time. I think I may overcomplicate things but it helps me to write at least a vague outline at the beginning, then it isn't as frustrating when I get into it. Outlines are not set in stone so if I change my mind I just make a note of it.

  10. I generally have an ending in sight from the beginning, but I have no idea how the characters will get there. It just seems to happen as I go :)

  11. You know, it's interesting, I tend to be more opposite. Of course, I still cut things that I don't need, but I usually have a sparser manuscript and have to fill in the weak spots. I guess it can be different for everyone.

  12. Plotting is so difficult for me, although I think I might be getting a bit better at it!

    I never get the plot right the first time around. I think that's all part of the process! For The Hating Game I rewrote a good 40,000 words of it!

  13. Thanks for this Kim! I loved the insight from Stephanie's website, how uplifting.

    I always plot enough to get going, then just write, write, write. :-)

  14. Thanks for sharing. Everyone hits rough patches and it is always helpful to have someone else's input on how to motor through.

  15. HMM I think I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't have plotting problems... at least with this new novel that I've written...

    more or less because my first novel had huge structure and plotting problems!

    Good old Stephanie Meyer saved the day!!! Brilliant!! :)

  16. Sorry, I've not experienced any plotting issues yet...but I'm an outliner and that is usually all worked out before I write the first word. I'm glad you found the answer to your problem!! :)

  17. I really hate outlining, or plotting. It takes away the excitement for me, so I usually do not make one until halfway through when I know I am committed to the novel. At that point, one is needed as a guideline. Endings can be quite hectic with tons of things all coming together at the same time, so without one, I would be less willing to finish.

    Everyone works differently, and no, an outline does not have to be followed to a T. Inspiration hits; follow your instinct.

  18. Hmm the way I get through my plotting frustrations.... I vent to you :) Lol.

    The outtakes are an interesting read. And inspiring for two ladies in a plotting standstill at the moment!

  19. hahaha you know EXACTLY how i handle and feel about plotting... lol.

  20. Embarrassing to say, but...I've totally read every outtake Stephenie has posted. lol She seems like a really cool person, and I think what she mentioned about the outtakes being most interesting to the author is very true. And we can always console ourselves by knowing that if WE ever get famous, we can post our outtakes on our websites and true fans will read they won't be lost forever. :)

  21. Ah plotting, that is the question. I start off thinking that I've got it under control and then I start writing. After that chapters take their own life on...and completely change my plot. I usually find a quick break or walk helps clear the cobwebs too! Happy Writing! ;)