My current WIP (Work in Progress) is in the revision stage. I am finding this process, in some ways, much more difficult than writing the original manuscript. This is the time to work out those kinks and tighten up all of the loose ends, a time to really make sure that your plot is working and the characters ring true. The process is filled with moments of brilliance and then moments when you feel less than brilliant.
I found this exercise on the Query Tracker.net website and thought I would pass it on. I found it very helpful to really lock in on where my story is going. The site gives a possible origin as the author Verla Kay but they were not certain.
9 Steps for Plotting Fiction
Start with a piece of paper. It should be large enough to write on. I used 11×14 just to give me a little more room, but 8×11 is fine. Draw two parallel lines both vertically and horizontally across the page, creating 9 comparable boxes, as if you were starting a game of tic-tac-toe. These boxes represent chapters, scenes, or sections, depending upon your book’s intended length.
Number the boxes, starting from the upper left: 1, 2, 3.
Next row, starting from the left: 4, 5, 6.
Last row: 7, 8, 9.
Title each box…
1. Triggering Event
First things first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping through its pages? Your triggering event is the answer to these questions, so make it a good one. Also, don’t make the reader wait very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence. These are good spots for a triggering event.
Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters, more so than on the strength of their plots. Box 2 is where you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn’t an excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough about the protagonist in Box 2 simply by reading how he or she reacts to the event.
3. First Major Turning Point
By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box 2, the reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist, or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative turning point in Box 6. There is a reason these boxes are touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box 3 may introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the events in Box 6.
You’ve earned some time to fill the reader in on important data. Since this box touches Box 1, here’s where you shed some light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box 7, you get to foreshadow your protagonist’s darkest hour. Box 4 often reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that contributes to the dark times ahead.
5. Connect the Dots
Here is where many plots fall apart. Box 5 represents the trickiest part of fiction, and since it is the center of the diagram (and book) it must connect to all the boxes around it. (2, 4, 6, & 8.) Kind of like the nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box 5 should tick systematically upon elements introduced in Boxes 2 and 4. And like the calm before the storm, Box 5 should give the false impression of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box 6. Most importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist’s revelation in Box 8. That’s a lot for a little box to do, but focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.
6. Negative Turning Point
Here’s where that bomb explodes and all (word censored) breaks loose. Good thing you laid the groundwork in Box 3. Good thing, too, that Box 9 will deliver some just desserts.
7. Antagonist Wins
The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat depends upon the traits and/or story developed in Box 4, which leads to his or her revelation in the next square.
Of course! The protagonist’s revelation turns the tide. Here is where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles of Boxes 6 and 7 via the device introduced in Box 5.
9. Protagonist Wins
The negative turning point in Box 6 is rectified while the character’s resolve from Box 8 is brought into full bloom. Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.
Thanks to Suzette Saxton for the article and Debbie Ridpath Ohi for another great cartoon.
Writing on the Sidewalk
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