Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Great Re-Plotting

The last few days have seen me outlining my novel, one sentence for each scene. I threw it all into a spreadsheet with chapter numbers, page numbers and a timeline, all in separate columns.

I've always heard of the screenwriter's technique of using index cards to work out a plot, so I decided to do the same. Thanks to Microsoft Word's Mail Merge feature, I took the data in my spreadsheet, formatted it to fit onto business cards and printed them.

Witness my creation:

I should have vacuumed before I put the cards down: there's cat hair everywhere. But even with this seemingly catastrophic encumbrance, I find it easier to shift the cards around on the carpet than to do it in the computer.

So far I've pulled out one of the major subplots, as well as a minor one, and I can already see that the story will be stronger for it. I'll have to add in a few scenes to smooth things, but one of the biggest problems so far is that the pace is too fast. Removing a couple of unneccessary locations and characters should help me flesh out what I already have and slow the pace down at points.

And if I don't like it, I'll just deal the deck out again.

Will I ever finish this damn novel? Tune in every day or so at random intervals to find out!


Sandra Ruttan said...

Holy cow, that looks like too much work! And too hard to clean around.

I use a powerpoint file to monitor my stuff. Do separate pages for character things, plot things, outline stuff.

Seems to work. And damn, it's a lot easier to keep track of than all that! But it sounds like this visual system is really working for you. My cats would tear up the cards though.

Mary said...

How inspiring! I find that doing things the old fashioned way can help me look at things from a different perspective too, especially when editing. I hope this helps bring the novel together some more.

Seriously impressed with all the hard work. This first novel is proving to really push you on so many levels. You are learning so much along the way. Keep it up!

Daniel Hatadi said...

Sandra: It IS too much work. But that's the path I've got to follow. Probably caused by some kind of genetic defect that makes me half carbon / half silicon based as a lifeform.

Mary: Stop making me cry.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

For some reason whenever I try to map out a plot using index cards, software, sticky notes, dead goat voodoo rituals, whatever, it all goes pear shaped and I end up with a bunch of disjointed notes like, "Ricky does chicken dance, scares vicar / space aliens," with no idea what it all means.

My wife can do the index card thing with her stories and manages somehow to keep it all together. It's like magic, or accounting, or something. I have no idea how you people do it.

Daniel Hatadi said...

I think it's like accounting. Which scares me. Who really am I?

inkgrrl said...

You're halfway there, grasshopper... now use 15 different colors of highlighters to trace the arc of all your plots and subplots on the cards. Extra points for arcane symbols to mark cross-references and conflicts.