In the last step we returned to outlining to kick off the post-draft phase of storybuilding. Our goal: effective, time-efficient revision that doesn’t come with a regular dose of migraines and head-prints on your desk. This week we will talk about how this “magic” outline is going to look.
Slow plotting pays off
It seems the villains who get the upper hand in novels full of intrigues are the ones who have been plotting a long time, considering every possibility without making the slightest move until the time is right. So it goes with the plotting writer. You learn to restrain your urge to just write, write, write, and instead spend lots of time thinking, developing your outlines, profiles, maps–what have you. If you’ve been following along so far, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing with the Storybuilder Inc. model, and now it’s time to take those plots and schemes to a whole other level.
After all, we have a novel to turn in, and there might be a hefty advance awaiting our patient conspiring.
Plot before, plot after
We waited a while to get here. We plotted first, through various carefully measured stages, then we wrote our draft–all the while keeping our plans in front of us, and being sure to organize new character, setting, or world-building details as they crept into the manuscript. Our pile grew, and our story took on a life of its own.
And that’s the rub. Whether you are a plotter or a seat-of-your-pants writer, the story decides what it’s going to be. Now, you can be that plotting noble who follows any whim and ends up on a hangman’s noose, or you can be careful and crafty and avoid those dark rooms and daggers (aka dead end stories) by sticking to your outline as you write.
You’re still going to be in a bit of trouble by the end, though, and that’s why we don’t just plot before–we plot after as well. There’s nothing like losing miserably at a game of chess, especially when you had the upper hand on your opponent for half the game. But, not all is lost–plots can be revamped at any stage in the game. And so it goes with stories.
But I hate English essays
I think the only thing from English class I liked was the scene in King Lear when the Earl of Gloucester gets his eyes gauged out, because it made me think of how I felt every time I had to write an essay. Fortunately, I learned something valuable from this process which made those many painful experiences worthwhile.
When you pick a book apart to analyze it, you must think about theme, structure, character development, parallel plots, contrasts, how plot complements theme….the list goes on. When you break apart a story to analyze it, you’re describing its guts. In essence, you’re describing the post-draft outline.
Except you didn’t have the opportunity to rewrite those stories. No. They’ve been published, and therefore they’re untouchable because you’re not the author. Your goal, in those English classes, is to understand what the writer is saying, and how the writer chose to say it well.
That’s not the case now. You are the author of this story, and now that you have it broken down into its sub-frames, you have a chance to use those English class skills and appreciate your story’s structure.
The goal: to show you where the text matches the story, and this will be the key to masterful revision.
Make each part serve its whole
In each sub-frame, you will need:
-a brief header to describe this sub-frame
-a column where you can list the five senses, and emotions felt / conveyed by your character
-a brief summary about how your sub-frame develops the frame it is part of (review what frames are HERE)
-a space for you to list out any research you need to do
-a space for background information pertinent to this scene (this is handy for info-dump removal)
-(optional) places to show inner / outer turning points (where a character’s inner bearing changes vs. where the outer circumstances change)
-(optional) place to list characters and setting information
-(optional) place to show emotional contrast, since this is a key ingredient to creating engaging fiction
-(optional) opening and closing hooks for the sub-frame, since these inflections sharpen your reader’s interest in your story, like a breath of air after an underwater dive–the more, the better
You will also create a new page for each frame and put this at the beginning of each respective sub-frame section. You will want to include:
-a brief name for the frame based on what it does
-a brief description of how it develops the section of your 9-part outline it is part of (to refresh your memory what those 9 parts are, read about them HERE)
-inner and outer turning points (these are not optional here, because you want to make sure at the very least you have some changes that twist and turn your story in each frame
-a brief summary of each sub-frame so you can appreciate at a glance how your overall frame looks
You might want to use your old frame from your pre-draft outline to compare the two for revision ideas
You can do this with each part of your 9-part outline as well, and the 3-part, and, finally, the premise. After all, you want to rewrite all of these things to see how they match your story, and to see how your story might need some changing to get back on track.
Your goal in doing this is to create a detailed structural map of your story to prepare you for when revision begins
It’s worth it
This is going to use a lot of paper (I would recommend printing out a template on 6″x4″ sheets from UPS or Staples), and take a lot of time. However, think of how much time it takes to go over fifteen drafts, only to still feel like you are making circular changes. I’ve been there, and I hate it.
Being a writer, especially when you enter the world of contracts and reader expectations, means you need to turn out quality books, and this, in turn, means you must have a way to reassure yourself that your process is going to work. The Storybuilder model is made just for this, and I hope it helps.
Next week, we will talk about effective ways to fill in these sub-frames to assist with revision.
Graeme Brown has been writing epic fantasy since he was a child and continues to develop his stories every day. Find out more about Graeme and his writing by visiting his website, HERE.
You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog: