Unofficial Weekend Beta User Comments

If you were an unofficial user of the beta of Plot Clinic over the weekend, please let me know how it worked for you. Did you get a plot? What worked best? Do you have any questions that weren’t answered?

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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.

17 comments… add one
  • heatherwrites Apr 25, 2007 @ 22:00

    I can’t even begin to explain how useful the first tool (questions) has been for me. Thank you so much. You are the first person to explain how to relate with Ms. Muse in a way that made sense to me.

  • Inkblot Apr 25, 2007 @ 1:08

    Hmm, I know I’m potentially creating more work here, (sorry!) but how possible would it be for you to walk us through, say, the three act structure with your own example? I would find it really useful in terms of getting a feel for what sort of things can be the changing points, the climaxes, etc.

  • Inkblot Apr 25, 2007 @ 0:35

    Holly, don’t know if I’m too late, but I have thought of a few suggestions:

    Firstly, in one of your articles somewhere you talk about the ‘maths’ of dividing scenes between multiple POVS etc. Would it be appropriate to include something like this in the plot clinic? I’ve found that it’s something I’ve had to keep in mind as I plot, so I don’t end up with a lopsided number of line-for-scenes for any character over the others.

    Related to this, a little bit of discussion on how do plot with multiple POVs could be really helpful – a particular question I have is “Is it ok to have two sentences describing the arc of the story, one for each character, or should I try and combine them into one?”

    Like I said, I may be too late, but I figured it was worth at least mentioning 🙂

    Thanks again for your work, and I hope you feel better soon 🙁 🙂

  • Zink Johnson Apr 24, 2007 @ 16:18

    I haven’t gotten much further then the first tool *weeps* but it was enough to work out some major plot points, honestly. I was a little scared by how well it worked for something so simple. Amazing.

  • Bridget Apr 24, 2007 @ 10:59

    I can’t really add anything to what’s already been said. I’ve only tried a few of the tools (had the best results with the Drawing tool, which I didn’t expect) but they’re all so wonderful and useful. I’m even finding ways to use them to draw out ideas I’ve had for years but haven’t been able to develop into real plots. Thank you so much.

  • Inkblot Apr 24, 2007 @ 0:56

    Holly, cards are an absolute miracle. I’m using the writing deck ones, coz I’d prefer not to use tarot, and they are… *shakes head in wonder while searching for an appropriate adjective*… fabulous!

    Thanks again for sharing such valuable tools with us fledglings 🙂

  • Inkblot Apr 23, 2007 @ 19:32

    I have been working on a story that I had semi-plotted after previously reading your ‘line-for-scene’ article; however, it was failing to go anywhere.

    Using the first few tools – questions, twists, characters, and line for scene take one – I was able to actually figure out what /sort/ of scene I need in the line for scene. I’ve also learned how to plot so that the story shows not just ‘everything that happens between a and b’, but the /interesting/ things that happen – my scenes now have action and conflict.

    I also used the Theme section, the timed writing, the ‘bore your muse’ (to great effect actually – I used it to try and recall a dream I’d had, and it worked 🙂 ), the dream journal (which I use regularly anyway), and cards are my new favourite way to jump-start character development!!

    I’ve really enjoyed learning the different ways that I can use to generate scene ideas. And thanks to the plot clinic, I’ve now figured out how to establish a working relationship with my ‘muse’ 🙂

    So all in all, thanks a million Holly! This book is just what I needed 🙂

    Hope you feel better soon.

  • michelem31 Apr 23, 2007 @ 18:45

    Four words: this book is great.

    I have no idea what exactly it was in the book that did it, but after I did a read-through, something went *click*, and I got 27 line-for-scene cards done in fifteen minutes. That’s a lot more scene ideas than what I had in the last year or so I’ve been trying to start my series! I got the plot for the first book in order, and I’ve been actually thinking about it almost constantly, instead of when I’m really bored. I’m already getting solid ideas for the next few books.

    For the first time in a long time, my Muse is actually talking, and I actually want to fire up my laptop and feel my fingers fly across the keyboard. It’s wonderful. 🙂

  • wingcolor Apr 23, 2007 @ 18:17

    I want to echo the comments above–I thought it was great, even in its first draft stage. I used it mostly on a work in progress that had stalled, and (to a lesser extent) to play with ideas for a new book. I didn’t get through all the tools, but I touched on about half of them, and had a lot of fun doing so.

    Things that worked especially well for me:

    The tips in the question tool about how to ask a question gave me the best Q & A session with my muse I’ve ever had–I’m quite familiar with the problem of asking a question and having the character/my muse reply “…uh. No?”

    The Twist tool. I loved the example you used, I thought that the discussion of assumptions and how they can be used to create twists was really clear and well presented. When I applied it to my WIP, I realized that I’d done exactly that for my overall plot, leading the readers to believe one thing for the first half and then turning that on its head for the second half, all without realizing that was what I’d done.

    A character’s compelling need and how it can be used to create line-for-scenes, and how different characters compelling needs intersect to create various different kinds of conflict.

    The word games were fun, and Word Pong, in particular, gave me better results than I anticipated. Something about writing it out rather than just batting arguments back and forth in my head allowed me to go forward rather than around and around in circles.

    What worked less well for me:

    As I said, I mainly used the tools on a WIP that had stalled, and I had a little bit of trouble jumping in on that project using the plot clinic. I read the section on plotting while writing, and while all the information was useful, none of it felt like it really applied to where I was at the moment, which was writing without any sort of a map, and not sure where to go next. The suggestions you offered all assumed that the user already had a fully developed plot, complete with a stack of index cards listing lines-for-scenes, that might need to be changed. Whereas I really had no idea what was going to happen next in my novel (which was the reason it had stalled.) I ended up going through my novel, writing down lines-for-scenes, and then proceeding with the tools to finish plotting as if I’d never written a single word. I’m still not finished plotting, but I’m feeling a lot better about the novel than I was three days ago.

  • gostiee Apr 23, 2007 @ 18:14

    I’ve read it through yesterday but haven’t tried it out yet, at least not on paper. I have been getting all kinds of hints thrown at me by my inner self about something I’ve been trying to work on. It seems so flat now but I can see how this clinic will easily “plump” it up. Thanks for everything!!!

    Connie

  • heatherwrites Apr 23, 2007 @ 18:00

    I skimmed the book this weekend. Plan to chain myself to the kitchen table after Heroes this evening and get to work. Unfortunately, my three kids came down with a stomach bug this weekend. Not feeling so hot myself, but I’ll live.

  • Nicole Apr 23, 2007 @ 16:51

    I have only gotten a small amount of time to work with the book so far (hence why I didn’t volunteer to be an official Beta tester) but it’s working great to this point. I had planned to read it through first, but started getting ideas for my stalled-out WIP and so went back to the beginning of the exercises and started plotting. (Bye bye stall!)

    The one comment that I have is regarding the character clustering. To me, having the questions “What is Anna’s compelling need” at the center of a cluster, and then not writing down “order and stability” on the cluster page is just begging for me to forget the quick definition of it. Sure, I could use the ideas clustered around the question to figure it out again, but it’s so much easier for me to include the short answer inside the same bubble as the question itself.

    (Just a small thing, really. Great work!)

  • shawna Apr 23, 2007 @ 16:43

    I’ve only just barely started my 1st read-through… my weekend was busy and crazy, as anticipated. But even with the little I’ve read… wow.

    No, I really can’t think of anything more coherent then that at the moment. I’m taking the kids to the part this afternoon with the sole intention of letting them play so that I can sit in the sun at a picnic table and read and write. That’s probably the place I get the most done these days.

  • lizb Apr 23, 2007 @ 15:06

    Overall, I loved the style of the book and I was especially pleased that you stressed the importance of backups. I’m an IT consultant in the “real world”, and believe me folks, you cannot have too many backups. Take ’em’ often and keep at least one away from your desk preferably somewhere away from your home. And don’t ever carry the only backup with you in your laptop bag!

    I surprised the heck out of my Muse over the weekend with the techniques in your book. I also made myself do line-for-scene cards using Liquid Story Binder’s Storyboard tool. This is the first time I’ve tried using index cards in any form, and I now know I should have been doing it a LOT sooner. Thanks for making me do that.

    On the tools themselves, for me Chop Wood, Carry Water Tool worked beautifully, giving me an interesting twist with a character that appeared out of nowhere in a scene that I love. I wasn’t expecting this but it turns out he’s actually quite central to the ending I have in mind. I didn’t know how I was going to get there until I was pounding dough for Saturday night’s pizza. Amazing!

    Cards is an interesting exercise. Although it didn’t turn up anything for me over the weekend I plan to use it for plotting my next effort. Sneaking out to get the deck was a bonus! It’s always fun to go shopping when you’re supposed to be doing something else.

    I couldn’t come up with anything at all with Drawings, but that’s the first tool I really put any work into, maybe I was trying too hard.

  • Richard Norden Apr 23, 2007 @ 12:51

    Rats! Akismet is hungry, really hungry. Doesnt get enough spam, so he feeds on normal posts, I presume? 😉

    I think I discovered a system: Everytime I use the word “Akismet” in a post, it survives. If I don’t … there it goes down the drain.

    Best regards

    Richard Norden

  • CrimsonLadyBug Apr 23, 2007 @ 12:48

    Here is my very short review of the book. I’ve only been able to use a few of the tools.

    This book deals with all kinds of plotting techniques, from using an outline to plotting as you go.

    I tried out the Map and terrain, Timed Writing, and Culture tools.

    These were my favorite tools. I found them very helpful, especially with developing my characters and backgrounds.

    There are all sorts of exercises and techniques in this book. One of them is bound to work for any writer.

    I’m glad I got to use this beta version of the book.

    I’m really looking forward to getting the final version.

  • Richard Norden Apr 23, 2007 @ 12:46

    Your book is downright brilliant, a real blast! Over the weekend I finished the stalled plot for ‘Styngard 3’, the plot for a new thriller and another one for a science fiction novel. 43 hours in 2.5 days. I never thought playing with tarot cards could be so much fun 😉

    The only thing that didn’t work for me is the dream journal. I almost never remember my dreams. Strange, but true.

    My favorite is “Throwing things against the wall”, with a small change: I use google pictures to search for a word related to my current problem. One of the first 10-20 pictures always fires my imaginations and gets me going. This works better for me than digging through newspapers and magazines.

    Best regards

    Richard Norden

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