Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Carried away by action!

Well it's no secret that I LOVE plot. I just can't help it, when I start writing, the plot races out, twisting and turning as it goes. But plot does not a book make, so I have to get out my big stick, force it back into the barn, and be tough.
Internal conflict has to come first, and especially when writing romance, internal conflict is what the reader is longing for. So I'm always gravitating towards things that will help me keep that front and centre. Here's what I've found, for any plotty romance writers out there!

Plot via motivation - I've done this course by Laurie Schnebly Campbell twice - with different books. At this stage, I'm beginning to think of it as my secret weapon. (No longer secret, as I'm blogging about it!). The online course forces me to think about my characters, their wounds, their background and how, when I write the story, they will respond. It also helps me to see how each character's internal blueprint will clash with anothers, and to make sure that they'll have lots of problems growing from internal conflict (mwaaahaahaa!).

Enneagrams - I use enneagrams to investigate my character types more fully. There's loads of stuff on the web about this, and I find them really useful, especially when investigating how a character will respond under pressure.

Scene by scene analysis - I break down my book into a scene by scene analysis, charting the character arcs of the hero and heroine. I've just done a great course with BJ Daniels on 6 different ways to start a story, and am incorporating what I've learned there into each scene, to make sure every scene has a purpose and moves things along. The recent workshop I did with Shirley Jump also focused on this element, and was incredibly insightful!

Internal synopsis - And the newest tool in my toolbelt was one kindly supplied by Minx Lorraine. That of the 'internal only' synopsis. First I write my synopsis (snappy, plotty, great!). Then I write it again, this time only focusing on the internal conflict, the character arc, and the elements that have to do with emotional change.

Back to snappy synopsis, a brutal cull on all the overly plotty stuff, and a weave in of the internal, a quick check to the Minxes for review (I know they'll tell me if there's an unequal balance) and if I'm happy, its done. If not, I go through it with highlighters. Pink for internal and internal conflict, blue for plot, yellow for 'flavour'. If its all blue and yellow, its back to the drawing board until I have the mix right.

Seems to me that for those who are great at internals, and struggle with plot, you could do the opposite, and write a 'plot only' synopsis!

Lastly, if I'm struggling, I have a moan. A moan always helps. I had a great twitter moan last week at Jackie Ashenden, she was lovely and suggested I sleep on it. I did. It helped. Thanks, Jackie!

Does anyone else out there have the same 'plotty' problem? If so, have you any other suggestions that you use to whip that story into shape?


  1. I love Laurie Schnebly Campbell and her courses, she is a great teacher and her methods have made my writing improve greatly.

    Lorraine really helps me with my synopsis too. We should rename her synopsis Queen :-)

  2. Hey Sally! Glad to be of service with the moan. I do it all the time myself. Good to hear that sleeping on it works! I've found that rereading stuff late at night is terrible because it ALWAYS looks like crap, even when it isn't. Everything's so much better in the morning.

    But great post - I do the internal conflict synopsis too. Isn't it good? But then I'm an internal conflict girl so I don't usually have much in the way of external conflict anyway.

  3. Great post Sally! I'm a big fan of enneagrams I'm hoping that next year I might be able to take Laurie's course too.

  4. Hi Jackie, yeah, that was great advice, it helped in my hour of need, so thanks again.
    Hi Lacey, I reckon enneagrams can be great to get an overview of a character, and of course I'm always happy to recommend Lauries courses, she has a great synopsis one too!

  5. Oh plots! My nemesis! Having a moan definitely helps. I've also found the plotting index cards of Writers' Cafe software are great for planning.

  6. Thanks for that, Talli, I also use Save the Cat software, wich is much the same idea I reckon!

  7. Wow, Sally, what a thrill to hear you mentioned my classes here -- that's lovely; thank you!

    Thanks to Joanne as's always a treat to see familiar names outside the "classroom."

    Lacey, I'll keep my fingers crossed that you make it into my enneagrams class (or any other) coming this fall -- if you want details, just Google my website. :)

    Laurie, counting down six more days until I can order The Book!

  8. Hi Laurie! (waves) golly, I sure am counting down too, 5 more days!