The most amazing thing happened to me the other day. I was writing along on about page 140 of my rough draft, and all of a sudden, it occurred to me who the bad guy was. I love it when that happens!
Yes, I do write books without knowing what's going to happen next. It's kind of fun, toddling along, going where the mood strikes, seeing how the characters interact with each other and chuckling at the things they throw in there. It's liberating to scamper down the creative path and see where it leads. The problem with this, however, is that once you see where the path leads, you have to go back and put markers along the way to make the outcome possible. You have to plant clues or place characters in different locations or change her name to Jenny - whatever it necessary to make the ending plausible. And that can get a little frustrating.
This is why I'm so fascinated by the idea presented in Weston Elliott's new creation, "The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook." It's just a simple book, really, held together with metal rings, and completely ready to be written in. From the first page, you are given a path and shown how to create an outline for your story that you then follow to create a cohesive tale. The first section is called "World Building," and you write down what type of environment your story will take place in, from its name to its landscape to the system of government that exists there. You then move on to in-depth character sketches, from your major to your secondary characters, through to the incidental characters. We analyze our plot ideas and structures. Then, you head into perhaps the most interesting part of all - breaking it down into chapters. What will happen in chapter one? What characters are involved, what portion of the story will be covered here? By the time you have filled out each page in this workbook, all you have to do is sit down and write the book. You know exactly what should happen when, and if something needs to be fixed, you can just grab your notebook. Should he eat a tuna sandwich for lunch instead of cheese (thereby, getting mercury poisoning which ends up being his cause of death)? You know, from your notes, that he ate lunch in chapter five, and so you can fix it easily.
Perhaps the thing I like best about this workbook is the way in which it makes writing a novel seem easier by breaking it down into steps. Let's face it - writing a novel is daunting. It's something that many people want to do, but when they look at the work that goes into it, many decide that perhaps they won't do it after all. By breaking the process down into steps, and then showing you how to analyze those steps and bring them together, "The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook" makes it all so much simpler. I think that if more people had a copy of this workbook, they would overcome their hesitancy and move to Novel Writing Land, and that's a very happy place to live.
You can get your own copy of "The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook" here.