Plotting generally doesn’t work for me. Extensive, scene-by-scene outlines make me lose excitement after plannin so many “boring” scenes. AKA scenes that don’t involve fighting or romance. But not plotting ends in me never starting because I never know where to start.
With the only novel I’ve finished – The Dove of Hope – I had a writing buddy that chatted with me daily so we kept each other writing without outlines to guide us. (SIDE NOTE: WRITING BUDDIES ARE AMazInG) We talked about endings and shared excerpts, but that was the extent of our plotting.
Without a friend to write with, I have a million unfinished projects.
When starting my most recent project, I decided to try a mixture of two plotting techniques – the zero plot method and the snowflake method.
To start off, an overview!
The Zero Plot Method
This method involves writing a quick draft without any details. You describe the main events that happen with any important details and leave out the rest to fill in in Draft 1. For example, here is part of my zero plot for the the first chapter or two for R&B, my current project.
R, a young widow, follows her mother-in-law M to her home town in Alaska after World War I. She is forced to sell her wedding ring in order to pay for room and food during the first few weeks. They come into town and discover it ridden with miners and railway workers after the Treadmill Mine incident the year before. In new surroundings, R is forced to quickly find a job, despite the abundance of workers, in order to open L’s broken-down shop. She runs into B, a handsome farmer, and M remarks how much he looks like O’s husband.
Ignoring how rough it sounds – gotta love first/zero drafts – I wrote the main events in present tense to quickly get the words on paper. Try not to think too much about it and write through the whole story.
The Snowflake Method
This method takes plotting a little slower, leading up to a summary that basically is a zero draft. I found the snowflake method on this site. It takes you step by step, starting with a one-sentence summary:
A young widow struggles to open a shop in a growing Alaskan town while falling for a rich man.
You go on to create a quick one paragraph summary about each character in your novel. Next, you expand your one-sentence plot summary into a full fledged paragraph with characters and conflicts.
You continue to expand each sentence of the character and novel summaries into full paragraphs until you have a few pages of each. At this point, you have a zero draft and pages of character arc information.
The website leads you into creating a spreadsheet to lay out each scene from your summaries before writing the first draft. I prefer not to do this step. I also don’t expand the character summaries beyond one paragraph. Once I go much farther past these steps, I lose inspiration and start drowning in the details.
Merging the Two
By the time I finished using these two methods (following the first steps of the snowflake method and jumping to the zero draft), I had created the following for my novel in a couple hours:
- A list of major characters
- A full paragraph description of each character’s goals, motivations, and a brief plot line.
- A one-sentence book summary.
- A full paragraph book summary with each major conflict and the ending.
- A 3 page “zero draft” of my novel with major scenes involving the main characters.
What I didn’t create from the methods:
- Full page character descriptions with small details like dislikes, favorites, physical descriptions, and backgrounds.
- A spreadsheet of in-depth scene descriptions.
If you’ve read my other posts, you know that my favorite part of writing is creating characters. That’s where the planning stops for me. I have a general view of what I want the character to be like but details don’t come out until I’m writing the first draft. Once in the middle of writing, I create a more in-depth description of each character once I get a feel for them.
Remember, your plotting doesn’t have to be pretty either…this may or may not be a scene idea in my zero draft:
He has to find R is some amazing, exciting way and he FINALLY professes his love to her. Kisses may occur mwahaha
Then you start pounding out the words, filling in scenes here and there and most likely changing your outline as you go.
I’m excited to put these methods to use in all my unfinished projects!
How do you plot? Or do you prefer to jump in without outlines?
Also, forgot last post, but I have a new blog design! I know…this is not the first time I’ve changed it. But oh well! 🙂