Time for your stories

What sort of experiences have you had with plotting? Problems, struggles, headaches …. I want to make sure I’m being relevent with PLOT CLINIC. Let me know what’s been driving you crazy.

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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.

25 comments… add one
  • Annalisa Apr 3, 2007 @ 18:05

    I have a lot of the problems other people have described here (making scenes connect with one another, creating subplots that interconnect, the rhythm of plotting), but my biggest question is this: HOW DO I MAKE A PLOT TWIST? Tons of writers do it, and I can only hail them as genius demigods because I have no idea how to do it.

    Also, exactly what Jass said: “I need to know how to manifest inner conflict into outer story adventure.”

    Thank you so much for doing this.

  • IanT Apr 3, 2007 @ 2:48

    Like Gabriele – my plots sprawl all over the place. Loads of sub-threads, loads of characters – I need to learn to use the pruning shears…

  • The English Rose Apr 2, 2007 @ 18:14

    My problem is developing my wonderful premise into a conflict big enough to fill a book. Mostly, with having enough substance/conflict, basically. How to figure that out, how to make the plot structurally sound, too, so it’s not just this happened and then this happened… etc. I have problems making big emotional turning points into active scenes, too. While I remember to include narration, I also fall into the too-much-dialogue trap. *sigh* You’ve got your work cut out for you.

  • BookLover Apr 2, 2007 @ 13:01

    I want my plots to twist (blush) like yours do in Talyn or Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood (or The Secret Texts or the World Gates). I want to create that feeling of OHH! and then ‘but of course’. It isn’t enough for me to just twist the plot: the twists have to be intrinsic to the story; have resonance with the characters; be unexpected but then in retrospect seem to fit perfectly into that world.

    I don’t want much. (ha!)

    Thanks Holly for sharing what you’ve learned.

  • heather Apr 2, 2007 @ 8:52

    This is probably a repeat of what others have said, but… I have a hard time:
    Coming up with an ending when I start writing
    Pacing myself with the scenes I DO have
    Staying motivated to work on the story when I hit a snag
    Staying motivated! (Though I don’t know how much this one has to do with plotting per se. Just thought I’d throw that in there.)

  • Bettye Apr 2, 2007 @ 7:08

    My biggest problem with plotting is finding the fine line between outlining enough of my plot to KNOW I have a story to carry a book and doing so much work on the outline that I actually kill my story.
    For me the tipping point is pretty delicate and it is way too easy to go over it.

  • BklynWriter Apr 1, 2007 @ 22:04

    Hi Holly! I know you haven’t heard from me in quite some time. All is well.

    I get lost in the character building, then when it comes to plotting, I am unsure where to start. I am also just way too nice and sympathetic to my characters. I’m afraid of being “too rought” on them, and veering off into the melodramatic.

  • Zink Johnson Apr 1, 2007 @ 14:35

    Hmm. My main plots are usually relatively solid, but I have trouble with subplots in general- creating them, making them fit in with the main plot, not abandoning the main plot for them, and easing back into the main plot once the subplot is resolved. Ack.

    Also- organic plotting. Letting stuff grow in the kitchen sink, as you once said, has never failed me, but it has me biting me nails wondering when “the click” that makes the plot work will come.

  • Gabriele Apr 1, 2007 @ 10:17

    How to deal with big, sprawling epic messes. My plots start harmless enough, but they always develop several plot threads, subplots, side plots and a cast of thousand (A Land Unconquered has 5 MCs who refuse to be content with a secondary role). So I have these wonderful, complex books in my head, but how do I get them on paper without confusing the reader?

  • Adam101 Apr 1, 2007 @ 8:48

    I end up writing about 15k words of the novel then it gets boring, I break from writing.

    I get involved in writing with a new idea, write 15k words, gets boring, break from writing…

    I have about 3 15k word unfinished manuscripts where the plot becomes drier than the Sahara Desert during a heat wave…

  • wolverine Apr 1, 2007 @ 7:40

    I tend to struggle making characters from charts and such-like at the beginning, so I tend to write and find out much more about my characters while I’m writing. Unfortunately, I find this makes it hard to plot out a rough plan because I have no clue what my characters would do or why. Any hints on how to tread this line would be great.

    Also, I tend to start with pictures: a valley of dried blood, a desert city-state, occasionally a character picture/motivation. How do you begin when tricky starting points appear out of nowhere? Sometimes they seem like they’d be great if a story included them, but how to create a story around them is harder. Ideas?

    When you use Inspiration (I hope you’ll have a section on your use of that), how do you keep your decriptions/subconscious notings different from book to book? I mean, if you use say a child as a motif in two books, do your descriptions differ or jsut your connections between the varying motifs used?

    Ideas on any of those would be fabulous. Thanks Holly!

  • Inkblot Mar 31, 2007 @ 20:33

    I was so excited when I discovered you were doing a plot clinic! This is my biggest problem, and I can’t wait to read it!!

    I guess my problem is thus:
    If I plot too much then, like eponin, I feel like I’ve already written the story and get completely bored – what’s the point of writing the story when I know what’s going to happen?
    However, my other alternative seems to be knowing the beginning, knowing the end, and then getting completely lost about the middle. I know where I want to end up, but I have no idea how to create interesting challenges for the character in the meantime that will drive the story forward, and be relevant and interesting.

    Something I’d also love to learn is how to create opportunities for yourself in the opening scenes – eg mentioning places, items etc that will end up being meaningful later on in the story…

  • eponin Mar 31, 2007 @ 15:07

    I’ve found my biggest stumbling block when plotting is that if I plot too much, detail out all the scenes, create a full outline, then I end up bored with the story. It feels like I’ve already written it.

    I’ve learned to create my characters carefully, come up with the main plot idea, and possibly even a subplot idea, and to have an idea of the end. Then I just write.

  • wingcolor Mar 31, 2007 @ 10:16

    Thanks for asking us about this Holly! Plotting is certainly my biggest weakness as a writer, and I can’t wait to get my hands on your Plot Clinic.

    I think that my problem is two-fold. To begin, I have trouble plotting before I’ve begun writing. I discover so much about my characters and my story as I write that plot elements I try to come up with before I begin often seem flat and unexciting.

    But then when I begin writing, whether I’ve got a fully plotted outline, or just a vague roadmap that says “Start at A, end at E, and go through B, C, and D along the way” I tend to stray away from that outline, and in doing so, get hopelessly tangled up in my own story.

    What I’d like to be able to do is create a plot outline that really stands up on its own before I start writing, but then be able to change it while I’m writing in a way that doesn’t leave me wandering, confused and lost.

  • Licorice Riff Raff Mar 31, 2007 @ 9:33

    I have three big problems:

    1. Forgetting that my story has to include anything but dialogue, and somehow transforming every scene I plot to include it.

    2. Keeping the middle exciting. I usually have stellar ideas for a beginning, an end, and maybe even a turning point right in the middle, but nothing to link them.

    3. Deciding how many characters and sub-plots to juggle. I always seem to end up with too few (i.e. two characters who are only involved with one plot line) or too many (i.e. thirty major characters, each with their own detailed sub-plot).

  • katiehasen Mar 31, 2007 @ 9:01

    I generally write a beginning which, hopefully, gives me a few ideas as to where the plot can go. I end up writing with two or three vague plot points ahead of me. Sometimes they change because the characters change, or because I’ve lost interest in the idea. Plot is probably my weakest area in writing.

  • MattScudder Mar 31, 2007 @ 8:57

    I would like to add that I also have the same problem as Anthea. My plot plans always seem to fall apart in the actual writing, no matter how cool they sound in the outlining phase. Lately, it has led me to consider giving up on outlining/pre-plotting all together. I mean, why bother outlining if I still end up with an unrecognizable mess in the writing.

  • MattScudder Mar 31, 2007 @ 8:55

    Hardest part for me has always, always been how to come up with enough plot. Whenever I start plotting, I feel like I often peter out of ideas for scenes. I’m left wondering if I have enough to fill a 90-100k novel. This is also, I think, tied into pace. Since I write suspense novels, a lean, fast-moving plot is essential. But my worry of having ENOUGH makes me feel like I have to pad scenes–which is exactly the opposite of what I want.

    So basically, it’s all about generating enough plot to fill a full-length novel while keeping the plot moving at a thrilling pace.

  • Jass Mar 31, 2007 @ 3:11

    Oh, Holly! You have no idea how long I’ve waited for you to write this clinic! Thank you a million times.

    Okay so what do I need in the way of plotting guidance? I need a way to generate the “cool” ideas. For example, I don’t think I’d have every come up with EVERYBODY is in a coma and linked through the internet in the wolrd’s greatest takeover. But dang if the Matrix wasn’t an awesomely cool idea. So a map of how to walk that creative line.

    I need to know how to believeably limit options. When my dh and I watch tv, a common scenario is that we’re following some storyline and it’s going well and then character does something stupid. Ruins it, I tell ya. We’re always screaming at the TV that without stupidty there would be NO plot. Needless to say when they do those things we’re thrown out of the story and offering up what they shoulda done. I’m rambling here but hopeful you get what I mean.

    I need to know how to find my character’s story, the action/incidences that will help my characters move along their arc with the most powerful impact.

    I need to learn the rhythm of plotting. I know you need a unanwered question at the end of a scene to pull the reader on to the next, but how do you plot in the quiet moments without it being boring?

    I need to know how to manifest inner conflict into outer story adventure.

    There is probably more. May I come back and add to the list. Any idea when we might see this wonderful work?

  • Cwelfin Mar 31, 2007 @ 0:56

    Hmm…well for one thing, I tend to write myself into a corner. I often have one particular plot thread that’s going strongly, and one that seems to have very little actually going on. My main heroine is busy battling the beasts of hell itself, while her companion has done nothing but wander around in the wake of said battles. How can I make sure that I come up with a good idea for how to keep other characters occupied?

    Also, sometimes I come up with good ideas, say an asoutnding location, or a character who won’t leave me alone, or just a small event, but the fact is…I have no idea how to develop this into a real plot.

  • pugh7755 Mar 30, 2007 @ 20:46

    My problem with plotting is similar to eowynjedi’s. I have plenty of scenes, but I have problems linking them together. I have tries outlining. However, I tend to write a generic play-by-play for the whole scene before I even start writing. This tends to cause problems when new scene ideas creep into my head. I feel I have to go back and rewrite the plot outline before I can continue. Therefore, I never get the progress that I hope to achieve.

    Thanks, Holly, for addressing plotting in your next clinic. This has been a major ailment of mine for quite some time. I’ll be glad to have a clinic that can finally treat my illness.

  • eowynjedi Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:26

    I have a handful of really cool, brilliant scenes that I can’t wait to write, except I have to whack my brain with a fish to figure out how to connect them.

  • TinaK Mar 30, 2007 @ 19:13

    I’m with Bridget – I have a cool idea but that’s about it. Or I’ve got a great beginning and I’ve got a kick ass end. But I have no clue how to get from point A to point B. Absolutely anything you have will be helpful!

  • Bridget Mar 30, 2007 @ 18:53

    How to make a whole plot out of one cool concept or idea that isn’t a plot itself. That’s my biggest one.

    I don’t comment often, but I read PFOW every day, Holly. Thanks for always pressing on with it. =)

  • Anthea Mar 30, 2007 @ 18:49

    I plot out a story that I think should work, but then when I actually write, the stuff I plotted out either loses interest or just won’t happen…

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