Monday, December 10, 2007

Searching for a Plot (My Writing Journey, Part 12)

No, not that kind of plot. The kind I'm talking about is much harder to find! When I last posted I talked about how after I finished my first novel I was desperate to discover the next story I was to write. I knew I had more than one book in me, and I was on a journey to find the next one.

Except it's hard to reach the end of a journey if you don't have a map. Plotting books was all too new to me. I'd discovered the story of my first novel over time and very gradually. So, like I mentioned, I picked up a copy of James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure.

In this wonderful how-to book Jim has a chapter all about getting ideas. One of them in particular I found helpful. The idea is this: sit down with a piece of paper (or open up a blank document on your computer) and fill in the blank:

"What I really want to write about is ___."

This is what I did, and I instantly had a response. I wrote it down.

Over a period of a couple weeks I continued to write in my idea journal various plot scenarios. Some were quite elaborate. I could've made books out of any of them. Then I performed the exercise above again ... and wrote the same thing, the same story idea. Several more weeks passed and I wrote a few chapters, then a few more. Eventually I had a story I was enjoying writing. Last night I wrote the last scene of that book.

Now, there's something amusing in all of this. The other day I was re-reading my idea journal, and I'd actually forgotten the exercise. But when I read my response I smiled. I had written a story that was exactly what I'd wanted to write about all those months ago ... without even realizing it.

My point? For those out there struggling with what to write next, search inside of yourself and be honest. What do you really want to write about? Chances are, that's where your best book will be found. Follow those ideas.

Second, for us SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writers, don't be afraid if your plot doesn't come to you full blown. After all, the journey of discovery is why you write this way in the first place. My second novel didn't come to me full blown. I had plenty of days full of angst over what would happen next. But eventually, with lots of prayer, the story found me. It'll be the same for you.

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