Posts Tagged ‘Plot Revision’

During my vacation from my other job – the one where people notice if I don’t show up – I worked on my YA novel which I will refer to as TOTMMCBICSWOIA. (The One That is Making Me Crazy But I Can’t Stop Working On It Anyway).

But as vacation was coming to a close I kind of crashed. I’ve been debating the value of continuing on with this beast. Again. Not the first time. I’ve been torn between 1) I’ve spent so much time on TOTMMCBICSWOIA, how can I stop now? VS. 2) I’ve so much time on TOTMMCBICSWOIA I have to stop and get out while I can.

As the Clash would ask, Should I stay or should I go?

This morning I received a link to a blog post on plot – I believe it’s been linked to and tweeted and all that kind of stuff already but I just read it a moment ago.

And… I think I might actually have a plot in TOTMMCBICSWOIA. Kind of exciting. The scales are tipping toward staying. At least a little longer.

But today I am off to San Francisco! For a Vermont College of Fine Arts west coast extravaganza – and lots and lots of talking about books and writing and being crazy. (TOTMMCBICSWOIA) Very very excited. Faculty presenting are Margaret Bechard, Julie Larios and David Gifaldi – Yay!

For all those high school seniors with one more week to agonize over where to attend school in the fall, I hope they find somewhere they love as much as I love VCFA. Even if it took me several decades to get there. I picked my first college by opening the big book of schools in my high school counselor’s office and blindly sticking my finger in to see where it landed. No wonder about the several decades to figure things out.  Now I just hope TOTMMCBICSWOIA doesn’t take that long.

Sarah Wones Tomp


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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.

2. Characterization

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.

4. Exposition

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.

8. Revelation

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.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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