plotting the next novel

I finally finished my current novel An Autumn Tale this weekend. There will still be some minor edits once my beta readers have all phoned in, and I’m sure if I ever get this novel past an agent or editor, there will be more edits; however, tweaking is much less laborious that conceiving, organizing, and writing a novel.

While I’m giving my beta readers a chance to read the novel, I’m looking at beginning a new novel. I had such success following my instructor’s recommendations for An Autumn Tale, I intend to use the same technique with my next book.

My novels always begin with a character, and I formulate my plot around that character’s flaws. With An Autumn Tale, I began with a sentence that encapsulated the entire novel and described the theme I wanted to convey. Then I built a three-act synopsis for the novel.

In my first draft of An Autumn Tale, I used the three-act synopsis and started writing. My story rose mid-way to the climax then flat-lined. By closely examining the chapters of the first draft, I could see where my story began to stagnate. Of course, entire chapters had to be completely rewritten so that in the second draft, the action rose steadily to climax before flowing to the denouement.

It was a bit time-consuming to write like that. So this time, I want to use a technique I found by author Hélène Boudreau in her post Plotting OCD Style where she talked about using a document map to plot a novel. This is a tremendous tool, and I intend to use it for my next book.

From the document map, I will create a rough chapter-by-chapter outline and then begin writing my novel. Isn’t this a lot of work on the front end of the book? Yes, but this way, I can clearly see how well the climax is working without writing 10,000 words that I’ll end up trashing.

Will the chapter-by-chapter outline be clad in stone? Absolutely not. I intend to give myself flexibility to deviate from the outline wherever necessary.

Doesn’t that kill all the joy of discovery with your characters? Absolutely not. Nuances of characterization will arise, but these distinctions can be shaded with some minor editing once the first draft is finished.

So here we are. A new day. A new novel. Hopefully for the next year, we’ll be talking about Guillermo and we’ll look at new processes and techniques as we go.

What about you? Peter Cooper has said he intends to use the same techniques with his sequel to The Ghost of Ping-Ling. Will you try a new technique with your next novel or do you feel comfortable with your current writing process?

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About T. Frohock

Please visit my web site at: www.tfrohock.com
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9 Responses to plotting the next novel

  1. Kelly Bryson says:

    I’m going to try it, too. I loved finding out what was going to happen as my novel spilled onto the computer, but I didn’t love that it took 14 months of furious editing to get it in shape. I used to have trouble feeling connected to my words on the computer, too, and thought I would have to write it out longhand, but I got over that pretty fast. I know some people do that, but I can’t imagine.

  2. kat magendie says:

    I have considered trying something different with the third VK novel – the first three novels (VK I and II and Sweetie) were all written by the seat of my pants, just sitting down and the story/words/characters unfolding and revealing.

    I know when I try to be more organized, my brain gets pissy with me *laughing* but, … I don’t know….

    • Teresa says:

      Good Lord, you mean I’ve converted both of you?? *passes out*

      No kidding, I use it like a sketch more or less. Just a few jots here and there so I know where I’m going, because I have such a bad tendency to roll into vague and unknown territories without it! I had to trick my brain so that I stopped thinking about it like it was CLAD IN STONE. When I did that, it worked beautifully! ;-D

      Thanks for stopping by, Kat!

  3. Jan O'Hara says:

    I wish I could plot like this, but in my WIP at present, for instance, I don’t know what will happen at all in Plot Point 3. I know what specific character flaws need to be exploited in the climax, but I can’t quite see it’s execution.

    I can see the value for this in revisions, however.

    Good luck to the rest of you who think this way. I’m jealous. 😉

    • Teresa says:

      I had the strangest experience with An AutTale in that I was able to envision the entire story before word one hit the page. When I started writing the synopsis, everything fell into place. I knew every obstacle, but the actual writing of the obstacles gave me some interesting sub-plots.

      I think my problem was that I had a hard time feeling my way through that first draft because I didn’t have an outline that showed a clear story arc. I could try this approach and find it wanting for many reasons, but I’m willing to give it a shot if it will save me some time. Thanks for stopping by, Jan!

  4. lawrenceez says:

    Hi Teresa,

    Congratulations on finishing your novel. Hope all goes well from this point.

  5. Julie Musil says:

    I’m off to check it out!

  6. saraflower says:

    It is always so exciting to plan a new novel. All the best with your story!

Comments are closed.