This was a post I had promised myself to upload after the release of my second novel, Avishi. If you are an aspiring novelist, I am sure plotting would have been a topic you pondered on quite a bit. It is daunting to envisage that 80,000+ word novel without a guide map and it is all the more torturing to have it haunting you while it remains unwritten.
Back in 2016, I was going through a usual journey of uncertainty, marketing (or rather wondering about marketing) my debut novel Abhaya and getting stuck at multiple places while writing Avishi. It was in March 2016 that I put what I thought as the first chapter together and all the way through March-July 2016, I had only written different versions of the beginning without making any progress. The method of plotting helped me progress (It is also helping me as I write my second instalment of the Abhaya series!). I think it is worthwhile sharing with you. Hope it helps you in your writing too!
Plot at two levels
You heard me right. The first level, (hoping that a little bit of jargon does not bother you) or L1 Plotting requires the writer to jot down the events of the plot in order. For simplicity sake, assume that each event makes up for a chapter. (Splitting and merging can and will happen later). For Eg, This is how I wrote down the events of Avishi’s plot :
While at it,
- Try not to spend more than 5 minutes on what each event. (Write the first thing that comes to your mind in the sequence)
- Feel free to write down the points where you don’t know and mark them (This helps you improvise your precious day dreaming about the story!)
- Keep in mind that changes will occur at each stage. The plot you write now is NOT sacrosanct.
During my plotting, I managed to jot down 35 events which I thought would define the crux of each chapter. The process took me about less than two hours and left quite some questions unanswered. But at least I knew what I did not know.
Take a break for a day or two before doing this. The L2 plotting requires you to zoom into each event/chapter and detail out how the events pans out, which character is introduced, what would he or she aim for and how it connects to the next event.
The L2 of my first chapter looked like this :
Again while at it,
- Devote not more than 10-12 mins for each event
- Note down and highlight the unanswered parts
- Liberally change the L1 Plot as your mind unravels the story
It took me a couple of days to complete L2 Plotting for Avishi. I noticed that new events (and characters) which I had not imagined in L1 phase came up and some old events had to be deleted. Some questions could be answered and new questions sprung up, demanding answers. All in all, the story was assuming a life of its own!
Take a break of another couple of days to dwell on these unanswered questions or even try keeping your mind off the novel for a while.
In the third phase, type the L2 on to a document on your laptop. Yes, I strongly advocate that you plot the first two stages in a journal. It has its benefits. When you type out the detailed plot on your laptop, you will again find some inevitable changes happening in the course of the story. The blind spots are narrowed down enough to not bother you when you are working on the other parts of the novel.
Now is when you actually start writing. The biggest advantage of this process is that you can write your draft in a non linear fashion, pick up the incomplete parts later and make changes as required. I have to reiterate that changes happen at every stage. (An event or two you see in the first image did not even appear in the draft in my case!). Changes and question marks are a sign that your characters are asserting themselves and it is good! Needless to say, your confidence would have grown multi fold. You are now ready to begin the writing journey.
Do you have a plotting related experience that you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below.
7 thoughts on “Plotting your novel, a two phase method to face your demons”
Hmmm. This process can work for someone who prefers outlining. The problem with me is that even if I manage to build a rough outline, I can never get myself to follow it. Especially when it comes to the actual writing. After every level of planning I would be holding a grudge against the opening chapters, which in turn would prevent me from progressing further (I prefer to write chronologically). I have ultimately made the decision to put my writing to halt, given how I can never get myself to concentrate during the whole process.
Thanks for the comment. As I mentioned in the post, the plots/outlines are never sacrosanct. My draft would have ‘violated’ the outline multiple times before I froze the version. But would you explain a bit more about why you hold that grudge against the opening chapters?
Hey! This is what I do – both L1 & L2.
It works for me too. If I don’t outline/plot, I feel lost. Useful article. Sharing.
Glad to know that this works for you Tarang :-). Thanks for the comment.
Yup, end product is often vastly different from what we envisage
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