The process of plotting

picture of sunsetThe time has come. I’m ready to start writing. You often hear writers say they ‘have to write’, they have to get the words in their head down in a semblance of order, otherwise they’d burst. I’ve always said I’m not one of those. I write because I want to, not because I have to. But then, when you make promises to people, you have to keep them, don’t you? And I said I’d write a sequel – a real one, not just a sexy short story – to Morgan’s Choice.

The story wasn’t leaping into my head. I had the characters, I had the setting, I had the questions. At the end of the day, though, even all of that does not make an interesting, action-packed adventure story. For that you need scenes, obstacles, new characters and the answers to those questions you’ve raised.

To be able to write, I have to be at the point where I stand outside as the last light drains from the sky and talk to myself, knowing what my characters are seeing, thinking, feeling. Testing the dialogue and knowing it feels right.

It wasn’t happening.

So I went back to plotting basics. Some years ago I bought a few of Holly Lisle’s writing courses. One of those was her ‘create a plot’ clinic. It’s a practical guide to plotting, packed with ideas to stimulate your creative juices. I got to work, making notes, asking myself questions, following the trail through to its end. I dreamed up a new villain, a match for Morgan, and I fleshed her out into a real person, with strengths and weaknesses. Then, how to start? What would be the crucial beginning?

I’d already decided the story would start when Morgan and Ravindra reach Coalition space, where Morgan came from before her spaceship’s shift drive malfunctioned, throwing her into another part of the Galaxy, which is the premise for Morgan’s Choice. I sort of had a setting. But a scene?

Last night as I sipped wine in the gathering darkness (see spectacular sky show at top left) I started my conversation with myself and it was Ravindra who spoke. YES! The one who knows the least, with the most to lose – in this situation, at any rate. Add a bit of local politics (people smugglers bringing in illegal immigrants from a nearby planet suffering dramatic weather events because of climate change) and the die is cast.

We’re off. (Subject to change without notice, of course)


About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 16 July 2012, in On writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Your opening remarks describe a very familiar experience, Greta. I’ve never read any ‘how to’ books but you make Holly’s sound very interesting. Letting (or making?) the character do the work is also familiar, so much so that I rely on them to take me where I need to go. I have no plot, no direction, no literary SatNav, but so far I’ve always found at least one character who does.
    And one final familiar experience – having the forethought to end with ‘Subject to change without notice, of course’. Very wise, very judicious.

  2. Seems like plotting, or just outlining, gets between me and the story. Greta, your procedure of “talking” to your people sounds a lot like what I do. I’ll “find” a particular scene, either the first scene, or a significant scene further on in the story. And the book grows from there.

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