Now, on to the subject at hand: plotting a novel.
Recently I spoke at the University of New Mexico’s annual Writer’s Conference, “From Start to Sales V."
Though I’ve been asked many questions about the writing of my novel, Latter-day Cipher, I was approached about two issues new to me. One (and this one greatly dismayed me) was the question that was asked by several people in different forms. It was, “How can I take a WIP (or completed novel) and make it Christian so I can offer it to a Christian publisher?” The implication was that the Christian market was a place for what you might not be able to sell to a secular publisher, but if spiffied up with what one contest judge on Twitter wryly called “clunky Jesus insertions.” Ask any of us here at Novel Matters – is the Christian novel marketplace an easy target?
Secondly, the audience wanted to know how I plotted Cipher. I think I surprised them when I told them what I did: I took a class in novel writing about 15 years before beginning Cipher, and started a first novel which I never finished. However, when I began Cipher, I did two things. First, I bought a workbook called The Marshall Plan Workbook : Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish. I tore the pages out, put them in a binder, and did exactly what the author said to do in terms of number of pages assigned to characters, pacing, placing of “surprises,” etc. Then I took a paperback copy of what I consider to be one of the most effective and well-plotted suspense novels I’ve ever read (though I was ambivalent about the content, you understand), The Silence of the Lambs.
I outlined the whole book, noting when the POV changed, when surprises were introduced, what number of pages were used in scenes.
It felt like a wonderful protective armor, a kind of framework within which to be creative but still satisfying the reader.
Later, I learned of Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake Method” for writing a novel. I love it, and along with Marshall’s workbook and my notes from Silence of the Lambs, I’ll use it in refining the plot of the novel I’m now working on.
What works for you?