From Idea to Book (Part 4)
Now that I’m deep into my series, I always have several ideas of what I’d like to happen in each recurring subplot in the next book. I usually add these to the virtual notice board first, working out how they would fit together as I went along. After this, I’d plot in the mystery. Having cards and lines makes it easier to see which plotline you’ve given the most emphasis to, and which need to be cut back/added to. In addition to the event cards, I now add headings to each column to mark the different times of the day, e.g., AM, PM, and NIGHT. This is a massive help in a) keeping track of how many days have gone by, and b) ensuring I’m keeping the events of a day to a realistic level. In short, the storylines tool is invaluable for mapping out the pace of your book.
The plot plan for the book will go through between 7 – 12 drafts before I start to write the book. This is usually because I’ve either decided to change/add/remove something for reasons of character development, realism, plot, etc., or because my research has obliged me to. I’ll also revisit my plot plan whilst writing my book to help me keep track of the changes I’ve made and how they effect the overall pace, plot etc., of the book. The plot plan is an ever changing, organic document that I never think of as rigid. Like everything else I’ve outlined in this blog series, it’s an aid to help me start writing, it’s not intended to do the writing for me.
Once I’m happy enough with the plot plan that I’m ready to start writing, I’ll create Word document files for the prologue and first 1 – 4 chapters. Each chapter is given its own file. This makes it easier for me to jump around the book to make changes/necessary edits as I’m writing it. Within each document, I’ll copy the bullet points I wrote on each event card on the virtual notice board and paste them into the scenes of the chapter. Personally, one event card equates to one scene in the book. By copying and pasting the bullet points, I can see where the dramatic cliff-hangers are, where characters are geographically, and, again track the overall pace of the chapters and scenes. After all of this, I start writing!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my “From Idea to Book” segment thus far, and have found some of it helpful when reflecting on your own writing journey. I’ll be having a break in this segment in December and January, returning to it in February 2023. This is due to a couple of pre-planned segments linked to the release of the sixth Bow Street Society Mystery. I hope you will join me for those, too! In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about the writing process/your own writing journey. Send me a direct message on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ T.G. Campbell, November 2022
Welcome to part 4 of this series that explains what my typical process is when writing a book. As with the previous three parts, I’ll be focusing on the practical techniques and tools I’ve learnt in the hope it will help others begin their writing journeys. This segment covers my standard process for plotting a book before and during the writing process. I apologise for the lateness of this month’s blog. I’ve had some things going on in my personal life, as well as a lot of time spent finishing the sixth Bow Street Society Mystery, to be able to focus on it.
If you have any questions that aren’t covered in any of these segments, feel free to send me a direct message on either Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I’m also happy for you to email me directly at email@example.com. I’ll be announcing new segments in this series in the Gaslight Gazette as well, so be sure to subscribe if you don’t already.
Am I a plotter or a pantser?
Most writers are familiar with these terms, and know which applies to them. If they’re new to you, though, here are their definitions:
Plotter: A writer who plans their story before writing it.
Pantser: A writer who relies on their instincts to decide where their story is headed as they write it. In other words, they write “by the seat of their pants,” hence “pantser.”
I’m definitely a plotter, but I know crime fiction authors who are pantsers. There is no “right” or “wrong” way of doing things. Instead, choose whichever is effective for you. If it gets you writing, it’s a good thing.
Notice board vs Writing software
Again, this is about whichever is effective for you. Personally, I use the storylines tool on the Writers’ Café 2 writing software. In simple terms, it’s a virtual notice board that you can attach cards to. Each card represents an event in the story. Horizontal lines (which you label yourself) represent the main plot and sub-plots. You can have as little as one, or as many as you like. I know others like to use Scrivener, etc, but I’ve always found Writers’ Café easy to use and uncluttered.
If you prefer to work with paper and string, an actual notice board could be for you. Likewise, you might prefer to do mind-maps, or other similar diagrams to help you lay out the story in your head.
Plotting multiple storylines
As I used an example from The Case of the Curious Client in a previous instalment, I’m going to return to it here. Regardless of which Bow Street Society piece I’m working on (novel or short story) the mystery is always the primary plotline. The secondary plotline is the ongoing one surrounding the identity of the Society’s true founded. In The Case of the Curious Client, the tertiary plotline was the romance between Mr Joseph Maxwell and Miss Georgina Dexter. The final sub-plotline was Mr Locke’s heroine addiction.