Blog Post #13: What I’ve Been Doing, Starting Nanowrimo, and How I Plot a New Book without Killing My Free Spirit

Hey guys.

First, sorry I blipped off the radar there, I just wanted to take a step back before a switched gears again. I’m already prone to change plans (because I’m a crazy Sagittarius, or because I didn’t plan enough, or for any viable reason, really and especially, if the current direction is not working), and I didn’t want to give you guys a string of posts about me being indecisive.

Pretty much I realized that as of now TAW: WRP is shelved. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything with it, or I’m going to delete it, I’m sitting it down for now. Dystopian is pretty dead, I’m debating on possible placing it into a fantasy setting, but the main point is: I just don’t know what to do with it.

My editing plan was going great, but I hit A LOT of road blocks in developmental edits because I didn’t do enough character planning and development, so the plot points were home runs but the characters were… flat as fuck.

So we’ll just see, maybe I’ll work it out and Dystopian will come back, maybe I’ll change the setting to Fantasy and it’ll be a knock out, for now it’s going back into the idea pile.

Deciding to shelf this idea was good, not only because I was bashing my face against a wall reworking this manuscript over and over, but because I really wanted to participate in Nano for the first time.  I had been mulling over a psychological horror that was really intriguing me, and I said fuck it, I’m plotting it. You can also find me over at the Nanowrimo website under the name AnastasiaFrost! (As well as Goodreads under… you never guessed it, AnastasiaFrost, where I do actively update what books I’m reading, have read, and which books I DNF’d). 

That’s why you didn’t see me all October, I spent the spookiest month of the year plotting a psychological horror in the same vein as Jacob’s Ladder, Silent Hill 2, and elements of Dante’s Inferno. This first manuscript is about gluttony, and the main character is a recovering addict recently released from prison. Once I finish the manuscript and polish it, I will most likely post the first few chapters on this blog to stoke some excitement.

When I plotted the chapters out, I cried at the end of my redemption arc, and that’s a good sign I’d say, as it was the first time I was ever moved to tears by a story I was crafting.

This is probably a good time to give you all a short run down on how I plot my novels. I would consider myself someone who uses both plotting and pantsing, but I definitely fall more in the plotter category because if I don’t plot I chase every bunny down their holes no matter how time consuming or horrible an idea it might be. I need to plan so I have a map when I’m writing, or I just write whatever comes to me first, and that’s not the best way to sift your ideas!

I also don’t recommend purchasing a shit ton of index cards, different colored pens, or color-coded anything. All I suggest you purchase is: a lined journal with two book strings, a pack of post its, a pack of book page tabs, and a pack of your favorite writing utensil. The rest is all in your head. 

This journal is essentially the first round of your “book bible” and it will be MESSY. That’s okay though, you really want it to be messy, because this book isn’t just a book bible either, it’s your stream of consciousness when it comes to this particular story idea. My first third of my journals for both TAW and what I’m now referring to as Dark Requiem are just bullet point brainstorming. And when you’re brainstorming, especially for something like psychological horror, you really want to think outside the box, think of ways to invert or express themes in a different way, and to do that I suggest you track  basically every idea you have whether it’s a scene, a line of dialogue, a summary of a character’s motives. LITERALLY WRITE IT ALL DOWN.

Once you’ve scribbled enough ideas and you’re noticing a line of concepts that you could string together to form a plot or at least the themes of your story and the struggle of your main character, now you’re edging into true plotting territory, which might terrify some pantsers, but hear me out quick.

I’m not suggesting you need to PLOT EVERY DETAIL RIGHT NOW. I’m simply suggesting to go through on a roughly chapter by chapter basis and just write the cliff-notes version of what the point of the chapter is, even if it’s just a sentence. These small notes will be elaborated on later, for an example, your chapter five summary now might say “Characters suspect that a witch is behind the terrible plague infecting the town”, and then in a few weeks after you’ve expanded more on the idea it’ll turn to “Characters suspect a witch is behind terrible plague, begin asking around, get directed to a witch hunter, witch hunter is gruff but could help, some characters don’t trust him, etc, etc”.

The point of plotting isn’t to kill your free spirit and snuff creativity, it’s to give you a map when you don’t know where you’re going, and believe me with all the plotting I do, I still end up changing chapters or changing character direction, because it’s all fluid based on what the story needs, not based on what your plotting journal says. 

With this method I had brainstormed for about three weeks and plotted out 12 chapters in the last week of October, giving myself a clear map to keep me focused during writing. I’m hoping for this book to hit 100,000 words, but we’ll see. At this point I’m just trying to get a catalog of 6-12 books stashed so I can publish every 30-60 days of my first debut year. It’s a hefty goal, but it will be so rewarding.

With that I’ll leave you be and remind artists to not be afraid to change gears multiple times, to do what feels best now, but always thinking ahead.