The Plot on the Wall

The Plot on the Wall

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how I wanted to learn to be better at outlining a plot. I talked about a few of the books with concepts I think I can understand and I’ve been working to put them into action. I’m not ready to continue with the Seven Keys Saga, so I need a new story.

I took the last few weeks to figure out what I was ready to write.

Narrowing Down the Choices

I have a stack of ideas. Some I’ve tried to write in the past and some are untouched. My goal for 2017 is to write four books and I’ve picked which four I want to write—three fiction, one long-form essay in the style of Kindle Singles:

Angelic Fantasy Story
This is a book I wrote for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. I like the characters but it started out as a paranormal romance and warped into an apocalyptic epic. Because it is so disjointed, I will need to start the plot from scratch.
Full Length Dent Book
When I wrote For a Few Chips, I had a character in my head I needed to get onto the page so he would stop kicking my brain and calling me a wuss. It’s been almost a year, and he’s grumbling again. If I don’t give him something, he might get violent.
A Different Type of Urban Fantasy
The initial concept for this story was something like “Burn Notice with Magic.” I enjoy the humor and tone of the show and wanted to get more into a nitty-gritty style of storytelling more common in the genre. Seven Keys is a little more “high fantasy” than I intended and I wanted something with much lower stakes.
I’ve also wanted to write an Urban Fantasy series about an artificer (a person who makes magitech) for a long time. I have on my list the possibility of writing an SKS spin-off starring Chad, but I wanted to go with something lower-level. If you watched Burn Notice, you know it is MacGuyver with more explosions and booze. So, I thought it would fit here.
Bonus, MacGuyver with Magic is still a cool idea.
A Long-Form Essay
I have no idea what it will be about yet. I know I’ve wanted to master this art-form since I started blogging in 2010 and my first NaNoWriMo was just a collection of these. I’m saving this one to use as my end-of-the-year treat. I might find something I need to spend 10,000 words on while blogging this year. We’ll see.

I considered doing a poll to see which one you were interested in reading the most, but then I realized I’d need to give you time to respond and it is already the middle of February. I’m not a very fast writer most of the time. I can’t afford to lose three full months for the year.

So, I picked Magical MacGuyver Spy.

Dent and the Angels might need to slough it out for what comes next though. So, keep an eye out for a poll as I get closer to starting my next project.

Meet Vincent Solomon

Taking a lesson from the plotting books, I sat down and asked Vincent some questions about who he is. The total exercise gave me a little over 1,000 words in about an hour. It flowed easy, and I realized I might like Vincent.

Here’s how he introduced himself:

My name is Vincent Solomon. Do not call me Vinnie.

For the last ten years, I’ve worked with a secret organization called The Syndicate of Forgotten Shadows.

The Syndicate exists for one purpose: to keep all of things humanity doesn’t want to remember from getting back into the public awareness.

It’s usually not the hardest work.

You show up, make a deal with something dark and nasty, then move on.

Sometimes, it’s a bit more… explosive.

That’s where the magic comes in. It’s important to have a back-up plan and most of the things in the supernatural world are barely even phased by bullets. A little knowledge of the arcane can go a long way. You’d be surprised what you can pull off—magically speaking—just by assembling the right random pieces of junk, a little bit of blood, and maybe a few words of forbidden script.

You’re doing the world a service. At least until someone decides to make you their bitch. Then all you’re doing is scraping by.

It’s rough and clumsy. It isn’t the best writing. But, I found a character I enjoy. I’m looking forward to telling his story.

So, now, I have to figure out what his story is…

Sticky Notes and Foam Core

Again, following the plot advice, I’ve built myself a little visual aid.

Book plot outlined in color-coded sticky notes

Sorry for the crappy picture. This is hanging on a wall behind my monitor in a dark and mystical corner of my office. We all know magic messes with technology….

Orange notes are plot elements. The twelve on the left are four rows of three. Each row represents milestones inside the four act structure. The idea comes from Tick-Tock Plot.

The neon pink sticky notes are characters. So far, I’ve got the basic ensemble, but everyone mentioned in one of the plot points so far has a sticky note. I’ll move it all into Story Shop or Scrivener.

The yellow sticky note in the middle is an item card. Since Vincent is an artificer, I want to keep track of his inventory. The DM in me is a stickler for these things.

If I continue to follow the Tick-Tock Plot method, I’d break each of those 12 plot cards down into five scenes, giving me 60. If I hold to my SKS word counts, that would be a book coming in around 90,000 words, which is in line with what I’m shooting for with this book. I want it to fall in between 70k and 90k.

Yes, I plan for this book to be twice as long as most of the Seven Keys Saga books.

The math works out, but I don’t think I can write that way. Instead I will take advice from The Self Publishing Podcast and try writing story beats.

I’ve always tried to follow Heinlein’s rules, especially rule 3: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order. For me, this has meant getting a story as close to perfect as possible in the first draft. Awesome concept, but I’m not a good enough writer.

What I’ll be doing for this book is writing a first draft with pure telling. I will write the story first-person with Vincent telling me what happened with little embellishment. I plan for it to be dirty, flawed, and short.

All I want is a rough idea of what happens. Then, I’ll know what needs to be fixed before I flesh it out into Vincent’s voice in draft two and polishing it in draft three.

As Shawn Platt says, “Say it. Say what you mean. Say it well.”

I plan to add more sticky notes as I go along.

So, what’s next?

Now, I begin the first draft. I intend to have it finished by the end of February.

No more excuses. No more procrastination.

It’s time to do this thing.

I’ll let you know how it goes down in two weeks.

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