The Art of Mirriam Neal

//my “plotting process”

A few weeks ago, my friend Eli asked what my writing process was like. I laughed, and then realized he was serious and agreed I would. Then I told my friend Arielle, and it was her turn to laugh. It’s a well-known fact that claiming a ‘process’ is probably aggrandizing when it comes to how I write. It’s like comparing a well-built wall to a rockslide. But I promised, and even though the promise is late in being fulfilled, fulfill it I shall. Onward.

plotting

STEP ONE: CHARACTERS

Rarely do my novels actually start with a story idea. They start with a character, and I build a story around them. I find characters more interesting than plots, for the most part, so it’s always a challenge to build a plot I find equal to my love for said character.

STEP TWO: CREATE A VAGUE OUTLINE OUT OF THIN AIR

This is easier said than done. Usually it’s something completely vague and generic. ‘Evil so-and-so must be taken down by heroes,’ or ‘two broken people mend each other.’ The usual schtick. It morphs greatly over time, but a vague idea of a general plot is a good way to start.

STEP THREE: FIGURE OUT THE ENDING

This is very important to me. Even if the ending changes completely by the time the novel is over, you need to have one set so you know where to go and what to aim towards. Otherwise you’ll wander aimlessly and get lost following any plot bunny rabbit-hole that comes across your path. (Believe me. I’ve been there and I’ve done that more times than I care to count.)

THERE ARE NO MORE STEPS THESE ARE JUST RANDOM THINGS I DO

• Plot four chapters ahead. I generally have an idea of what’s going to happen four chapters ahead of wherever I am. It’s a solid distance that keeps me moving forward.

• Pinterest. Sure, it’s easy to get lost wandering through the mystical PICTURES of THINGS but I refer constantly to my pinboards. It’s a great way to keep all your inspiration and help in one place.

• Keep a specific notebook and/or document for all the miscellaneous stuff pertaining to your project – I write down spur-of-the-moment ideas in notebooks, and transfer the keepers to a document for quick, easy reference.

• Listen to songs, watch movies/dramas, and read books in the same vein as whatever you’re writing for extra inspiration. (Remember that inspiration does not = plagiarism, however.)

You may have noticed that I did not go very in-depth where characters are concerned, but characterization is another process entirely and one I plan on tackling very soon. In the meantime, I hope this at least satisfied some curiosity somewhere.

Do you have a process (or at least an excuse for one)? I’d love to hear about it! Maybe I’ll steal some tricks.

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