Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Pacing of Your Plot

I'm a plot girl, through and through. Voice and setting are much harder for me to come by! But in this most recent WIP, I'm struggling a little bit with the plot.

I know I'm starting in the right place. We have immediate action, tension, goals, and it's the beginning of my MC's journey. I've actually gone back and restarted the novel based on early CP feedback. But the beginning is very convoluted and intense. A lot of things are explained to my MC by outside people. I'm struggling to find the right balance of forward movement + introspective thoughts + info dump. It's tough, and one I'm sure will require several edits once I get the bulk of the scenes out on the page and see how much space they actually take up!

That's where today's tip comes in. During my research on plot (you know, so I can procrastinate and not actually write - I do gobs and gobs of research!) I stumbled upon this post by Kendra Levin (associate editor for Viking) on WriteOnCon. In it, she uses a very clear image of structure. Now I'm sure you've all seen this before. Perhaps you outlined your novel to fit closely to it. Perhaps after you wrote your first draft, you checked to see on what pages your incidents occurred. Or perhaps you just don't care!

Here's what she says about structure:

Basically every narrative form—movies, novels, short stories, plays, picture books, and more—follows this structure in some way ... Can you deviate from this structure? Absolutely, and I encourage you to be creative and play around with it—otherwise, every story would feel formulaic. But it’s important to be aware of how closely you’re sticking to it and in what areas you’ve chosen to deviate from it.

Before you start your revision, it might be helpful to map out your own plot following this structure. What’s the inciting incident, the event that leads everything else to occur in the story? Does it happen because of a choice the main character makes, or is it an external event that happens to the main character? How do you make sure the action is continually building? At what moments in the story will you surprise the reader with reversals by revealing that things were not exactly as they seemed? How can you drive the action so it builds inexorably to a head, the climax? And what happens after that climactic event? How are you deviating from this structure, and why?

I definitely plan to go back and see how my manuscript fits with this format, but I love that Kendra also tells you that you can (and sometimes should) deviate from the norm.

Because I think I probably am!

1 comment:

  1. I've been writing for over two years and just started querying last summer. With my current WIP, I am finally going to take a hard look at plot and structure-which I hadn't done before. But being more of a panster, I will write write write, then go back and see how it fits into the structure, then tweak if necessary.


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