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What do all you plotters do when you're trying to sketch out the road map of your story? A document? Post-its? Some fancy software package? I'm finding myself a bit bogged down with planning at the moment and would love to get some ideas on how to stay a bit more synthesized....
 

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One sheet of yellow paper with 15 beats. Between each beat is a number of bullet points stating the steps necessary to get from A to B. If it takes up more than the space of the sheet, I'm putting in too much. If I can't fill the sheet, it's too little and should be considered a novella instead.
 

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I have most of it in scrivener.

They have post-it note, story-boarding, a section you can upload photos, I can create a skeleton outline which allows me to think deeply and creatively about everything inside of that huge outline. I usually write a 1-2 minute scene note before I start writing a scene which has a big cast change, theme, or location change, and rattle off some beats to help me along the way.

Personal experience (and science) has shown me that there is much more creative juice in outlining than just sitting down and going about it off the top of my head. Pantsing is outling just by another name. The endless rewrites that pantsers have to write is a way of finding their outline.
 

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I write short novels and novellas, mostly. I write the blurb first -- usually a longer version than the one I'll actually use as the blurb.

If it doesn't work, the storyline probably won't.

Then, once I'm satisfied, I start the first chapter, usually introducing and fleshing out the main characters. If it ticks, then I know I can get into writing about them.

Then I add other key elements a page or so below the bottom of the document -- far enough away from the body to not get in the way, but close enough for easy access. It, naturally, gets removed before preparing the document for publishing.

For longer novels, I do not know what would work. My way of doing it would probably be more or less ineffective, but it's better than nothing.
 

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mobydickensianmalcom said:
What do all you plotters do when you're trying to sketch out the road map of your story? A document? Post-its? Some fancy software package? I'm finding myself a bit bogged down with planning at the moment and would love to get some ideas on how to stay a bit more synthesized....
I use a document.

I think the post-its are good if you want to see the entire story all at once, but I usually don't mind having to scroll up and down in a document.
 

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D. A. J. F. said:
I use a document.

I think the post-its are good if you want to see the entire story all at once, but I usually don't mind having to scroll up and down in a document.
Likewise. I tried all kinds of sofware, including Scrivener, but it just doesn't work for me. It's basically the same as a Word document, I can't see any difference whatsoever. Purchasing Scrivener was actually a waste of money for me: it doesn't do anything that MS Office can't. I've abandoned it entirely.

Just like Rob Martin above, I too divide the story into beats (I use James Scott Bell's Super Structure which I recommend wholeheartedly) and try to come up with exciting ways to connect them, then work on detailed scene outlines. That's the most exciting part of the process for me because that's where the actual story is born with all the backstory, character motivations and plot twists. Then I use my scene sheets to write the first draft. With all of the story already in place, I don't need to worry about having to advance the plot so I can indulge in actual writing.
 

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I use the story building method as proscribed in Pre-Writing Your Screenplay by Michael Tabb and The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.
 

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Lady Runa said:
Purchasing Scrivener was actually a waste of money for me: it doesn't do anything that MS Office can't. I've abandoned it entirely.
It does several things that MS Office can't. You can lay out your scenes on a virtual corkboard, for one. The binder allows you to see all your scenes at a glance, and rearrange them by simply dragging and dropping. It allows you to keep your notes in the same file as your story, and organize and access them easily.
 

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ShayneRutherford said:
It does several things that MS Office can't. You can lay out your scenes on a virtual corkboard, for one. The binder allows you to see all your scenes at a glance, and rearrange them by simply dragging and dropping. It allows you to keep your notes in the same file as your story, and organize and access them easily.
Yes, I agree, it must work for a lot of people otherwise it wouldn't have been so successful. I just didn't feel comfortable, so I stopped using it.
 

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Back in the late 80s and early 90s screenwriting books and seminars were all the rage, and I bought a lot of them. Nearly all of them promoted the 3x5 cards on cork board method, so the cards could be shuffled around.

Then at one of the seminars the instructor asked why would anyone ever want to move a card? If you can move a card then it advanced neither story nor character as both build on what has gone before and can't be shuffled around. You can't die before you are born. You can't go to college before high school. You can't buy the gun after killing someone with it. The only reason to move a card is to toss it in the trash because it never advanced story or character in the first place.

 

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SND said:
I use the story building method as proscribed in Pre-Writing Your Screenplay by Michael Tabb and The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.
Lady Runa said:
Just like Rob Martin above, I too divide the story into beats (I use James Scott Bell's Super Structure which I recommend wholeheartedly) and try to come up with exciting ways to connect them, then work on detailed scene outlines. That's the most exciting part of the process for me because that's where the actual story is born with all the backstory, character motivations and plot twists. Then I use my scene sheets to write the first draft. With all of the story already in place, I don't need to worry about having to advance the plot so I can indulge in actual writing.
Thanks for the suggestions. :)
 

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Phase 1: brainstorming in a notebook. Vague sketch of the premise in bad handwriting. Sometimes several variations follow in the same notebook as I find different angles on the premise. A lot of ideas never get any further than this.

Phase 2: Excel workbook. Dramatis Personae, key concepts, dictation nicknames, things like this. "Proper" story outlining starts here, usually a reverse outline that features what I know about the end at the top and works backwards from there as a series of plot points. I've found "beat"-themed spreadsheets and Scrivener  templates helpful even though I personally don't use that terminology.

Phase 3 (new development): Flip the order of the scenes (relatively easy if you've set up the spreadsheet correctly), copy and paste into Word. If I managed to number the correctly-ordered scenes with a # sign (#1-#XX), I can then import it into Scrivener and tell it to split at the # symbols in the process. Voila, scenes pre-outlined in Scrivener. It sounds like a lot of work but it's been great for morale this NaNoWriMo to see all the scenes I've written. I think I got the idea from seeing Chris Fox's process in Scrivener on one of his videos. I still don't like composing in Scrivener, I use Word for that, but I've been transferring this NaNo project to Scrivener as it gets written.
 

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Gavroche said:
Then at one of the seminars the instructor asked why would anyone ever want to move a card? If you can move a card then it advanced neither story nor character as both build on what has gone before and can't be shuffled around. You can't die before you are born. You can't go to college before high school. You can't buy the gun after killing someone with it. The only reason to move a card is to toss it in the trash because it never advanced story or character in the first place.
Wow, an instructor who had never encountered non-linear or multi-strand story-telling, or encountered the kind of situation where you realize that plot point X would more logically be triggered by plot point Y instead of plot point Z, and move plot point X accordingly. They must have led a very sheltered writing life.
 

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jaglionpress said:
Wow, an instructor who had never encountered non-linear or multi-strand story-telling, or encountered the kind of situation where you realize that plot point X would more logically be triggered by plot point Y instead of plot point Z, and move plot point X accordingly. They must have led a very sheltered writing life.
Perhaps that was a basic single thread story writing class?

I like using Word's navigation pane since I can reorder chapters with a drag/drop.
 

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I do most of my writing in Pages, but for outlining I create a TextEdit document with brief descriptions of the scenes I envision using, then just use cut and paste to reorder them. Seems so much easier than using index cards.
 

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jaglionpress said:
Wow, an instructor who had never encountered non-linear or multi-strand story-telling, or encountered the kind of situation where you realize that plot point X would more logically be triggered by plot point Y instead of plot point Z, and move plot point X accordingly. They must have led a very sheltered writing life.
I believe his point was that people come up with "great" scenes they don't want to part with and just keep shuffling them around trying to come up with a story to fit those scenes, rather than writing scenes that advance story and reveal character.
 

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I usually do a number of different outlines to start out. Here's an example:



Two books ago I used the Hero's Journey template outline, and that went well:

 

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Lady Runa said:
(I use James Scott Bell's Super Structure which I recommend wholeheartedly)
Thanks for the reminder. I have this book and started reading it before my ereader died and I bought a new one. It's now downloaded and I'm reading again with fresh eyes.
 
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