Plot Clinic: The tools are done

All that remains are three longish essays—about three days worth of work. (Yeah, about another 9000 words, but that’s okay. I figured I’d end up running a bit long.)

So now’s the time to ask a favor of you.

I already have one beta tester lined up. I have room for two more.

Beta testers get the finished book free in e-book format, you’re recognized in the acknowledgements, and you have the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing that you helped make the book better by field-testing it and finding places where it worked, and where it broke.

In return, however, you end up jumping through some pretty ferocious hoops. These field testers will need to have either index cards and a bulletin board (and pins, don’t forget pins) or software that replicates index cards and a bulletin board.

You’ll need a deck of cards, preferably one of those listed in the previous post, or one similar to one of those.

You’ll need a ring-bound notebook, lots of paper, and a solid lump of free time. I anticipate having the first draft of the book done on Friday, and will choose volunteers then, whether I go a day over or not. I’d like a three-day turn-around, which means I’d like you volunteers to build your plot in three days. If I send it to you on Friday, I’d like your comments back early Tuesday at the latest. Saturday would go to Wednesday, etc..

Yes, this is time- and labor-intensive, and to some extent brutal. You’ll end up with about twenty to thirty plot cards (minimum) and the knowledge of how to create missing scenes to fill in around them, you’ll come up with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you’ll probably feel like your brain has been run through a wringer. I think you’ll also have a lot of fun in the process—I almost always do.

Testers should not start with a book already written, or in progress. This should be plot-from-scratch, because that’s the hardest thing to do under deadline. I can’t guesstimate how long this will take you. I figure it usually takes me a hard eight hours to build my basic plot (the part you’ll be doing) but I know all the tools already; since this is new to you, I’ll need to have you keep track of the amount of time you spend on the process so I can average that and let other writers know what to expect, and the point at which you can confidently declare yourself done. And you have to at least try ALL of the twenty tools.

But wait. There’s more. You have to proof-read, too, which is not going to be easy with the pressure you’ll be under when using the book.

And …..

You have to tell me why you want to do this. Funny or passionate entries which are also articulate, grammatical and correctly-spelled will receive priority.

With all of that in mind, I’m opening the door to proofreading volunteers. Post your applications here.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

28 comments… add one
  • anderyn Apr 19, 2007 @ 17:57

    Hi!

    I’m a copy editor in my everyday life, with 25 years of experience. I am good at finding typos and grammar gaffes.

    My writing group has recently told me that I need to learn how to plot, as I tend to start out strong and then peter out… and this has been a problem since I started writing seriously. I would be very happy if your tools gave me some much-needed kicks in the pants.

    BTW, congrats on the grandbaby — there’s nothing like them! (I have two living with me, and three in Texas, with my Air Force child.)

  • unxplaindfires Apr 19, 2007 @ 17:40

    Thanks for saving my comment from the scrap heap Holly…sorry it appears twice;)

  • Pink Ink Apr 19, 2007 @ 13:49

    Hello Holly,

    I’d like to participate, too, like so many others before me. I know there is only a little chance for me to become one of your beta testers, with so many much more qualified contestants. I wish you could more of us than just two *sigh*

    I hope you consider to offer the first version to all applicants as a special-edition-ebook for the normal price through your shop, so we all can have such a productive and creative weekend as the two lucky guys or girls you pick as your beta testers. I am sure nobody would blame you for some typos 😉

    I hope you consider my suggestion and don’t think it’s just a crazy idea. I am sure, most of us would be overjoyed if you offered us this option. In fact I just could’nt stand to wait until the book is edited.

    Begging you PLEEEEEEEZZZE :-))))

    Greetz PinkInk

  • PhantaPhan Apr 19, 2007 @ 9:29

    If I’m not too late I would like to offer my services in betatesting the plot clinic. I am a freelance writer with more than enough spare time and the unstoppable urge to write my first novel. The first attempts died miserably from the complete lack of a outline (or even something with a distant resemblance to an outline). I feel that your plot clinic would make the difference between an inkblotted heap of paper and a damn good novel. So please HELP ME!

    CHOOSE ME – and my life will be better
    CHOOSE ME – and help my novel to survive
    CHOOSE ME – to stop global warming 😉
    CHOOSE ME … enough subliminal propaganda 😉

    Cheers PhantaPhan

  • Richard Norden Apr 19, 2007 @ 0:56

    Considering the ‘bragging’ posts that have entered this contest since my first post yesterday (just kidding…) I think I’ll have to raise the stakes:

    In addition to my first offer I’ll finish two new plots from the scratch using the plot clinic within 3 days, if you do me the favor to choose me as one of your beta testers. I am used to a 16-hour-working-day, so that would be a kind of NaNoWriMo in miniature 😉

    Best regards

    Richard Norden

  • Inkblot Apr 19, 2007 @ 0:09

    *takes deep breath*

    Ok, I’ll apply. I wasn’t going to – I have two essays due Tuesday – but I work better under pressure 🙂

    Thus, it has been decreed, my essays shall be finished in time to test out your plot clinic, should you happen to choose me 🙂

    Holly, this is an opportunity of a life time. I am known ‘around the place’ for being a good writer, and I want more than anything to write novels.
    But, as I realised recently, being a ‘good writer’ does NOT mean I can write a novel. I have discovered that I have no idea how to plot one, as the numerous false starts on my hard drive will attest.

    I want this clinic.
    I NEED this clinic.
    I am going to HAVE this clinic, whether you choose me as a tester or not 🙂

    Essays aside, this is an absolutely ideal weekend for me to spend at least two full days (as in dawn-to-dusk, first-breath-till-last kind of full) working on my writing. I have the house to myself, no other commitments (very rare), and would absolutely treasure this chance.

    Your articles/clinics on writing have been the most useful I have found – your modus operandus works well for me, and I enjoy your writing. So I’ll be buying this clinic whether you choose me or not.

    But boy would I love to be chosen!! 😀

  • Palomino Apr 18, 2007 @ 16:47

    Oh, blast it! I’d love to volunteer (the Language Clinic was so much fun to beta test), but this weekend is packed solid with field trips (which means literally out in the field, since they’re bio classes) followed by double exams. Darn, darn, darn . . .

  • Nandini Apr 18, 2007 @ 15:08

    Dear Holly,

    I’ve been wanting to write a whodunnit for the longest time. As of now, I know only two things about my book:

    1. It’s going to be set in my hometown.
    2. One of the (good-guy) characters is a transvestite who gave me nightmares when I was a kid.

    I really, really, really want to write about my transvestite. I don’t know HOW to write this character into any of the stories I already have, so I figure I’ll build a brand new plot for him/her using your book.

    I have about three years of hands-on experience as a proofreader. I’m active in a Harry Potter online community called the Sugar Quill (http://www.sugarquill.net), whose motto is: We Don’t Publish Sappy and/or Badly Spelled FanFiction, Ever! I’ve been beta reading people’s stories for close to three years now. I’m also part of a local writers’ group, where we proofread and critique about 10 pages of other members’ work every week. I have a good eye for typos, grammar & spelling issues, and punctuation (oh, I am the Punctuation Nazi incarnate). I can even give you references.

    My offer to you is this: in exchange for the e-book that I’ve been salivating after ever since you mentioned it, I will not only jump through any and all hoops you hold up, but I will also write up a report (a multi-part report, if necessary) on my experience with the book to post on my blog, which gets about 50-60 eyeballs every day.

    Please pick me! This has been a spectacularly unproductive week, and I am ready to get something substantial done.

  • gostiee Apr 18, 2007 @ 13:58

    I would totally love to help you out because I’m such a nice person, a good writer and a Holly Lisle fan. I just might me the president of your fan club, at least in this part of the world. This weekend promises to be boring too (I have to go to a training!) and being one of your testers would improve my weekend 100%. Also, I would like, no love, to give back to the community since I have gotten so much out of it. I have purchased many of your books and would really like to know that I had something to do with one of them. Please pick me! Please! I realize that I’m sending this pretty late and there are others who have asked before I have, and I still will be one of your greatest fans if you don’t pick me, but think about how such an honor would improve MY life!

    Thanks,
    Your fan,
    Connie

  • anders Apr 18, 2007 @ 13:36

    I’d like to do this because:

    1. I’m broke. As in, “my wallet contains 23 cents in change” broke.
    2. I have some really cool worldbuilding for which I’d like to build a plot.
    3. I’m experiencing a paucity of ideas and passion and would like to hook my writing up to jumper cables.
    4. I’m editing my own work at the moment, so for the time being I’m in the business of catching typos!

  • Monica Apr 18, 2007 @ 13:14

    I can do passionate, sure. I’m working on a sob here. HELP!

    Seriously, I’m stuck and need assistance.

    I would beta test your plotting plan on a whole, real, honest-to-Lord novel that’s due, um . . . way too soon.

    And if it HELPED me, I’d gladly pay forward and send it on to other suffering souls (at full retail, of course).

  • valerie Apr 18, 2007 @ 12:28

    I wish I could volunteer–had been planning to volunteer–but can’t. Have a kitchen in the middle of renovation, my nephew, his wife, and 2 small kids coming for the weekend (hope I have a sink and stove hooked up by then!), and another nephew fighting for his life in ICU in a Calgary hospital. I don’t have the time or the brain power to do this right now but I so very much wish I could. 🙁

    (Congrats on the grand-baby, Holly!)

  • wingcolor Apr 18, 2007 @ 12:20

    Beginning:
    I wasn’t going to throw my name in the hat because I’m in the middle of one novel, and didn’t want to put that one down to start working on a whole new plot. But plotting has always been one of the things I’ve had the most trouble with as a writer, and so I’d love to a) get a shot at the clinic as soon as possible, and b) be able to help with the creation of such a useful tool.

    End:
    In conclusion, please, please pick me!

    Somewhere in the Middle?
    Reasons to pick me:
    -I’ve tried many different plotting techniques before, with varying success, so I’ll have a good basis of comparison for the Plot Clinic.
    -I’m willing to try anything, even standing on my head, to get a useable, exciting plot. (I hear that standing on one’s head increases the blood flow to the brain… it’s worth a try, right?)
    -I have plenty of free time this weekend, so I’ll be able to devote the time necessary to this project without sacrificing health or sanity.

    I Have No Idea Where This Belongs:
    I am a Tarot card user, so I’d be using my own decks for that particular section, rather than one of the ones listed in the previous post.

    —–

    As you can see from the above, I’m a bit jumbled up, and so the Plot Clinic will be a huge help to me, whether I get to try it out now as a beta tester, or only when it goes on sale. So thank you, Holly, for doing so much to “pay forward” and help the rest of us.

  • heatherwrites Apr 18, 2007 @ 10:09

    P.S. I’m a pantser. But I’ll plot my pants off for you if given the opportunity. And I mean that in a non-sexual harassment sort of way.

  • heatherwrites Apr 18, 2007 @ 9:59

    Place my name in the hat. Please. I would love to have a novel plotted out in three days.

  • shawna Apr 18, 2007 @ 8:54

    I’d love to volunteer, but I don’t dare. My life had one of those perfectly fitting yet totally unexpected plot twists thrown into it late last week. I’ve learned what surreal feels like. I even wondered if perhaps the powers-that-be had been reading over your shoulder…

  • slunsford Apr 18, 2007 @ 6:59

    About 10 years ago, I was an editor for a medical/allied health publisher. Now I am a sahm, currently writing to relieve stress. And unfortunately, I don’t get paid for being a sahm. I would love to try this out. I already found the posted chapter extremely helpful.

    Recently, I bought a tarot deck and some index cards. Using the index cards yesterday, I was able to jumpstart my plot.

    Please consider me as a tester.

  • hollylisle Apr 18, 2007 @ 6:24

    Jeff, your comments didn’t post because Akismet (my spam filter) flagged them. I pulled them out when I found them this morning.

  • laubaineworld Apr 18, 2007 @ 6:02

    Why do I want to do this?

    I believe we as writers
    should always be willing to learn new techniques. And your plot clinic sounds intriguing as well as exciting.

    I am ready to begin a new story and would enjoy the challenge of creating a plot in the time allowed.

    I shall have no problem being objective, because I have no previous experience with your body of work.

    I have no problem proofreading. I am willing to put in the time and give the plot clinic a thorough workout.

    Though I admit I am not a tarot person, I have no issues using them for writing and it sounds like a great way to get creative juices flowing.

    As a bonus, I would get to learn new techniques to improve my approach to plotting.

    A winning situation all around.

    Please consider me as a tester. I think it would be fun as well as challenging, something I’d really enjoy.

    thanks, and have a great day.

    Siana

  • Richard Norden Apr 17, 2007 @ 23:56

    I would die for getting my hands on the first edit of the plot clinic. I alredy devoured the language clinic, the culture clinic and the character clinic, but my hunger for your books grows and grows.

    The plot clinic would really come in handy for the upcoming planning of my third Styngard novel. Even without your plot clinic I would have to finish the plot until the end of next week – and I could not imagine a better tool to help me on this task.

    I got more than enough time to test every single tool and even would take a few days off if necessary. 40 Hours in 3 days should be no problem.

    Choosing me as a beta tester would be a great honor for me. Knock on wood… 😉

    Best regards

    Richard Norden

  • Jass Apr 17, 2007 @ 23:00

    **Edited Now**

    To quote Donkey, “Oh me, pick me!”

    Now for the whys and the ways. I’ve waited for this since the day I downloaded your Create a Character Clinic, and there was a hint that there’d be a Plot Clinic; waited for 26,697,600 minutes.

    I GOT SKILLS! I’m an editor for one of the online review sites, and I was recently brought on to one of the e-pubs as a content editor.

    I love your writing and support your writing. I buy your books from my local brick and mortar, and that’s not to imply I won’t continue the practice, only that I’m a fan.

    I’ve been here. Yeah, I mean here, every day to cheer you on, and give you my feedback when you asked for it. I’m betting plenty of others will fall into that category too.

    The thought of a bribe almost seems laughable, because what wouldn’t I give for a sneak-peak? But then I’m a poor writer, and I know, you know how that goes. What are your vices, anyway? I’m sure I could come up with something.

    I could go on, and on, and on, but what I really want to say is PLEASE. And more than please, THANK YOU. Thank you for your willingness to give back to us in the rank and file that are coming up behind you. Your generosity, even if I’m not chosen, is appreciated.

    Blessings,
    Jass

  • unxplaindfires Apr 17, 2007 @ 22:50

    so why isn’t my comment posting????

  • unxplaindfires Apr 17, 2007 @ 22:48

    I don’t think it posted the last time so here it is again
    Salutations,

    I would be honored to be given a chance to help you with this particular endeavor Holly. I’ve recently graduated from college and (due to an overwhelming and frankly frightening amount of student loans) have moved into my parent’s home for the time being.
    Having spent 4 years in an intensely creative environment (BFA in Printmaking, minor in English) I find the routine of part-time banking and home life to be a little drab. Well, beyond drab. Actually it’s horrifying. While I love my family and am grateful my folks willing welcomed me home, I need a reason, a strong reason, to lock myself away in my room and spend some quality “me” time. My younger siblings constant presence has become a general pain in the…..lower back, yeah…that whole region.
    Additionally, the resurfacing of enforced deadlines will help with my current creative slump. I find that I am less demanding of myself than my Professors were.
    I have a slush pile of plot ideas (actually it’s a shoe box of cocktail napkins and parking tickets with frantically scribbled sentence fragments) and am ready and rearing to go.
    What’s more, having moved away from all of the distractions and friends that college had provided I find my weekend’s quite open – so open in fact that I have begun watching mind numbingly long marathons of “Golden Girls” on Lifetime. Who would have ever imagined the adventures four senior citizens could have?

    Thank you for being a friend.

    Jeff

  • Jass Apr 17, 2007 @ 21:57

    Dang it. I didn’t reread and edit my own. My son (4) had to go poopy, and I hit send without think about it. Drats!

  • unxplaindfires Apr 17, 2007 @ 21:55

    Salutations,

    I would be honored to be given a chance to help you with this particular endeavor Holly. I’ve recently graduated from college and (due to an overwhelming and frankly frightening amount of student loans) have moved into my parent’s home for the time being.
    Having spent 4 years in an intensely creative environment (BFA in Printmaking, minor in English) I find the routine of part-time banking and home life to be a little drab. Well, beyond drab. Actually it’s horrifying. While I love my family and am grateful my folks willing welcomed me home, I need a reason, a strong reason, to lock myself away in my room and spend some quality “me” time. My younger siblings constant presence has become a general pain in the…..lower back, yeah…that whole region.
    Additionally, the resurfacing of enforced deadlines will help with my current creative slump. I find that I am less demanding of myself than my Professors were.
    I have a slush pile of plot ideas (actually it’s a shoe box of cocktail napkins and parking tickets with frantically scribbled sentence fragments) and am ready and rearing to go.
    What’s more, having moved away from all of the distractions and friends that college had provided I find my weekend’s quite open – so open in fact that I have begun watching mind numbingly long marathons of “Golden Girls” on Lifetime. Who would have ever imagined the adventures four senior citizens could have?

    Thank you for being a friend.

    Jeff

  • Jass Apr 17, 2007 @ 21:54

    To quote Donkey, “Oh me, pick me.”

    Now for the whys and the ways. I’ve waited for this since the day I downloaded your Create a Character Clinic, and there was a hint that there’d be a Plot Clinic; waited for 26,697,600 minutes.

    I GOT SKILLS. I’m an editor for one of the online review sites. And I was recently brought on to one of the epubs and a conttent editor.

    I love your writing and support your writing. I buy your books from my local brick and mortar, and that’s not to imply I won’t continue the practice, only that I’m a fan.

    I’ve been here. Yeah, I mean here, every day to cheer you on and give you my feedback when you asked for it. I’m betting, plenty of others will fall into that category too.

    The thought of a bribe almost seems laughable, because what wouldn’t I give for a sneak-peak, but then I’m a poor writier, and I know, you know how that goes. What are your vices, anyway? I’m sure I could come up with something.

    I could go on, and on, and on, but what I really want to say is PLEASE. And more than please THANK YOU. Thank you for your willingness to give back to us in the rank and file that are coming up behind you. Your generosity, even if I’m not chosen, is appreciated.

    Blessings,
    Jass

  • EJ Apr 17, 2007 @ 19:48

    I’m very interested. My plots have holes big enough to see through, and editing takes twice as long as writing because I’m patching. The real reason I’m throwing my hat in the ring, though, is that I need to know what it feels like to work on a very tight deadline. I’m getting more serious about my writing, but the rubber hasn’t hit the road yet. If I’m going to make this a career, I need a project with a deadline imposed by someone other than me. I need my family to know what it feels like, too. So far our only experience is NaNoWriMo, which I suspect is pretty far from reality. I’m so serious about this, in fact, that I’m ordering cards tonight and paying extra for fast shipping. I never thought of using them–I’m one of those non-tarot people—but at this point I’m willing to give almost anything a shot! I look forward to doing this clinic, whether I’m a tester or not.

  • TinaK Apr 17, 2007 @ 18:18

    I want to do this. Why do I want to do this? Because I am a huge Holly Lisle stalker…er…groupie! Also because, well, I’ve never EVER plotted a novel in my life and I’ve been writing for oh…23 years now. I’d like my first plot and first finished novel to be completely done by holding your hand.

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