NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and if you’re like the rest of us, you alternately panic about and ignore that fact. To help you out, we’re changing how often the site is updated. From now one, you’ll be treated to a post every Sunday. The first two Sundays will be random ideas, the fourth Sunday will be a writing challenge complete with a photo for inspiration, and the third Sunday of each month will offer a writing related book review posted by one of you! Yes I know that is out of order; just think of it as good practice for NaNo. Not everything has to be written in a linear fashion.
Today’s guest is Stacy Jones. See what she has to say about “Rock Your Plot” by Cathy Yardley. See you next week!
By Stacy Jones
A few months ago, I was sitting at my desk attempting to do whatever it is that we do to force words out of our brains and onto keyboards and pages. I was communing with my muse. I was channeling the spirits of dead ancestors who had faith that, one day, I could become a famous, and properly published, writer. I was in the zone and it felt great. As I sat there, preparing to set my fingers to the keys, I reviewed my outline to figure out where I wanted to dive in. I’d been struggling with this for days, trying to figure out what was going on so that I could get past the block and just write. Then it hit me, doing the work wasn’t a challenge. The act of writing itself wasn’t what was setting me back. It was my plot.
I had no idea how certain scenes connected with each other and the whole thing read like one of those eBooks you download for free off the internet on the recommendation of some random stranger, only to discover that you’ve read through book five of a ten book series and you have just realized that the main character is annoying and you can’t stand to read anything about her anymore. Sure, those books have their place in my collection, but I wasn’t writing that kind of story. My plot needed some serious doctoring.
I found my answer on the Internet when I came across a book called, “Rock Your Plot: A Simple System for Plotting Your Novel” by Cathy Yardley. It was available for Kindle and it was three bucks. I figured that, for three bucks, it was worth a shot. I expected to find the usual dry, boring instructions on how to do something one author’s way and I was thinking that maybe I could use some of the included ideas for story writing to get mine moving, but that’s not what I got. When I finished reading and working the exercises in this book, much to my surprise, I had a complete outline for my story that made sense.
Outlining has always been difficult for me. I’ve tried the Snowflake Method, sticky notes on the back of my office door and several other techniques to get my outlines to come together. I found that many of those tools are really useful for building characters and putting together the backstory for your novel, but none of them really helped guide me down a path that would get my plots to gel. I expected to get similar results with the “Rock Your Plot” method too, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself getting really into the process once I started doing the exercises in the book. My characters started to come alive and their story had a purpose and meaning to it that I hadn’t been able to discover on my own. I also had exactly the sort of plot that I wanted when I was done. I didn’t end up with a carbon copy of some plot the author guided me through the process of creating. It had my twists and turns in it. It’s completely original. Instead of giving out bogus writing exercises that churns out material can never be used again, Yardley takes you through laying out the building blocks for your own novel. Her method is not genre specific, it’s enjoyable to read and easy to work through. The whole process is about your characters, your story and your ideas and it encourages you to build on those things until you have a stable framework from which to write a piece of just about any length. Yardley also has downloadable worksheets on her website that you can print out to assist you with doing the exercises in this book and a wonderful list of other books for writing references at the back, so if you find yourself in need of more plotting assistance, she’s already done much of the research for you.
I wasn’t expecting much for my three bucks, but I have to tell you that this is the probably best three bucks I’ve spent on a book in a while! Once I was finished ‘rocking my plot’, I haven’t had to focus so much on how and when and where things are going to happen in my story. That’s already been planned, in advance.
All I have to do now, is write.
Stacy Jones is a freelance writer and has been a NaNoWriMo participant since 2008. She is a mother of two human children and three Labrador Retrievers and maintains a blog about their antics, and whatever else happens to come to mind at the time. You may visit her blog at http://www.randomgemini.com