I’ve stated before that I’m typically a pantser (meaning I don’t plot out my stories ahead of time. I generally kind of sort of know where they’re going, and only because usually the first two scenes I write are the bookends. I write the last scene first, and then the first scene, and then I figure out, or don’t figure out, what to do with the middle). I tried outline #magicballoonbook and it probably helped me not kick this story to the curb but I didn’t stick to it at all.
I finished a first draft, started revisions, and went “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?” and turned to my critique partners for help.
This is a good time to say I LOVE my critique partners and they were awesome help, as was another Twitter friend in helping me sort out my villian. Everyone needs a sounding board. It helps if that sounding board is another writer, but it isn’t necessary. In this case, I needed other writers because my problems were specifically plot holes and pacing. Pacing is my arch nemesis.
One of my CPs, Becka, suggested I try note cards and writing things out by hand. I’m a visual learner, and a kinesthetic learner so it seemed like a good option. I love the idea of storyboards and visual outlines, so I picked up three different sizes of index cards and went to town.
I used big orange cards as my MAJOR PLOT POINTS. I used blue (and then purple when I ran out of blue) cards as my “What Happens” cards beneath those plot points. And then I used neon pink cards as my Character Development cards (if I wanted to hit specific character dev points or thought I was going to forget something).
Then I put them in order, sorted out my calendar and timeline, and stacked them up. It’s very weird to see your novel essentially distilled into this:
The next day, I acquired bulletin boards from my parents’ attic, left over from our rooms as kids. And I started to put it together. Ideally, I would have an entire WALL of corkboard because I had to cramp these all in to make room. Plus, I had (un)helpful cats (not) helping me.
I finally managed to put together the board in proper order. It functions like an outline. I’m currently working on something from the second column so I took those blue and pink cards down and put them on the desk but left the orange card up. It’s a visual and physical outline.
So far, it’s working out pretty well. But if anything, the actual process of MAKING it worked. I figured out major plot issues. As I told my CPs before this project, “I have plot points A and C and E but not B and D”. I found B and D because I couldn’t write the next card unless the previous card SUPPORTED what happened. Everything was a “this happened so then this happened and then this happened because this happened” type of thing.
As a result, I’m still going through heavy and major revisions on the #magicballoonbook but I’m much more confident that the story that I’ll have at the end of this will be the story I want and need to tell.
I think tomorrow I might write about storybuilding and Myst. Yep. I’m going there.