Are You Sitting There Looking At a Blank Screen?
Can’t Develop a Plot? Don’t Know HOW to Plot? Need Ideas?
If you have been following me for any time, you may remember my 100-Day: 100 Words A Day Writing Challenge. Many of you joined me with your own 100-Day writing challenges.
MY 100-Day target (after 40 years of writing only non-fiction) was to finally complete my first romance novella. I not only met the challenge, often writing thousands of words a day, but I actually finished the first draft of THREE short novels.
My biggest challenge was (and is) developing a PLOT. Even though the important thing in a romance, is the ROMANCE and the LOVE story, I still like romances that have a solid plot … not just never-ending angst and implausible slights running through the heroine’s head.
I started my 100 day challenge by writing the “back cover.” When I am in a bookstore browsing, the title catches my eye, and the back cover sustains my interest. After reading a few of the reviews inside, I will either put the book down, or buy it.
So … I started by writing the back cover. Then I started writing, panster style. I had NO problem with the general story or the “love” story or the dialogue. My problems came with the details of “the plot.” After putting my books aside for several months, I read them with a fresh eye.
The good news is that they are actually half decent … as good as many of the novellas that are selling well on Kindle. However, I can’t decide whether or not to go ahead and publish them OR whether I should work a bit more on the plots. I am also considering adding another three to the series BUT before I do that, I want to get better at plotting!
HA! So plot seems to be my sticking point. I probably would have ten or more romance novels written and published by now if it plot didn’t cause me so much angst!
Fast forward to me finding and purchasing a set of plot packages — the Cooper Brothers Series.
At first I was hesitant … but then I realized that the same basic plot could result in TEN totally different books simply by changing the time frame and the setting. 1800’s London. 1900’s Scotland. American Western. Add a mystery component. Add a paranormal component. Sci-Fi. Steam Punk. Sci-Fi Dystopian. I’m sure you’ve got the idea by now.
I am totally thrilled so far. I am creating what is turning out to be, my own unique series, using the Cooper Brothers Series. So far I have used the Book 1 plot and completely changed it to a modern setting. If you read the existing plot and then read my version you would NEVER recognize that the two were the same, because they aren’t! I also chose one of the other books in the series and started working on the plot for it. Part way through the process I decided that my second plot would actually become Book One in my series, which changes the whole concept even more.
The thing I really LIKE about Fiction Plots is the fact that most of their plots are constructed as part of a series. The bottom line is that book series SELL more than one-off books. If a reader loves the first book they find in the series, they are likely to purchase more. MORE is good!
A few weeks ago, I sent out an email letting my subscribers know about my experiment with purchased plots and got back a rather nasty email informing me that since I need help with my plots, I therefore wasn’t “really” a writer. Since I have made my living as a writer (non-fiction) for forty years, I beg to differ. I speculate that the Grinch who tried to steal my Christmas wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to write a 100-page scientific white paper, OR a one hour documentary script.
I AM a writer that just needs a bit of help with something I’ve never done before and I am not ashamed to admit it. We all have to learn. For some of us it is dialogue, for others it is creating believable characters, for yet others it is knowing when to start the story and, when to end it.
So far, I have been thrilled with MY learning curve. Having a canned plot in front of me is only my starting point. Making the plots my own have inspired and motivated me. Even though the final product bears NO resemblance to the “seed” I started with, I am now finding the plotting process to be challenging and fun instead of a show stopper. I have allowed plotting to be a show stopper for 40 years and now I am changing that!
While working on my own version of the Cooper Brothers Plot Series I also decided to “test” the concept of building my own mini romance empire. I have read and re-read David Lee Martin’s book on how he created HIS six-figure publishing empire by outsourcing the writing and focusing on publishing. Though Martin says the same methodology works for anyone wanting to write their own material, his focus in on outsourcing.
Though I LOVE the idea of outsourcing the writing, I honestly don’t know if I can do it. I am a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist. Will I be able to develop simple plots (using the Fiction Plots material), outsource the writing and then take on the role of editor/publisher to ensure good production quality? OR will I spend more time editing, changing and improving the outsourced material than I would have if I started from scratch? Only time will tell (I will up date this post with my results). The one thing I KNOW is that if I had to write the plots from scratch, my empire would be a non-starter.
So IF you need help plotting, don’t let any nasty Grinches tell you that you are not a writer because you are in the learning process.
Grab a book you love and work out the plot and write chapter synopsis. See what your favorite author does and learn from him or her. OR take a look at Fiction Plots and see what you think! I would suggest trying the one-month subscription package and giving it a go. Cancel your subscription if you are not happy with your results. LOL I was SO thrilled by my Cooper Brothers results, I got the one year package so that I would really be COMMITTED to creating my Romance empire! I hate wasting money!
I will admit to also finding and purchasing a 5 + 20 romance package from a different vendor. I wanted to see the difference in what you get. I purchased 5 Done For You Romance Plots (these are NOT a series), and then immediately (one time only offer) purchased another 20. By purchasing both packages you are getting 25 plots for $40 … which is about $1.60 each!
Yeah, I know! I have gone plot crazy.
And just to prove it, I also purchased David Lee Martin’s In Depth Plotting Guide. I just LOVE this guy he is so down to earth and practical. This book has to be a plotting BIBLE and I will be working though it in detail in the coming six months.
IF you write romance, you need to understand that a romance plot differs from regular plots because the “love story” is the main focus especially in short stories, novellas and short novels. IF your aim (like me) is to write contemporary or mystery novels that also have a romance connection, then you absolutely NEED plot. One of my favorite authors in Nora Roberts (also JD Robb) who manages to write very satisfying books that meet both the needs of romance readers and the needs of those who like a good plot … mystery, sci-fi or contemporary. If you want to know more about the all important “love connection” aspect of writing romances take a look at Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels, by Gwen Hayes.