ANATOMY OF A BOOK

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current project: Final edits to novella, CHASING RAINBOWS
Mood: Pleased with the progress

What goes into writing a book? Those who know the way I write will tell you it’s easel-sized sheets of paper covering the walls of my office, which are in turn covered with color-coded stickies and notes made with highlighters that show plot, subplots, and characters arcs. There will also be pictures of the characters and their homes and/or items that represent pieces of their lives. (I’m reposting a photo of one of my walls for those of you who haven’t seen it before. These sheets are in the beginning stages–no scene notes or plotting points yet. 🙂

This is in addition to character charts, scene sheets and folders of research notes. And I’ve also started drafting covers of each book.

Guess I don’t need to confess that I’m a detailed plotter.

Some writers “stew and brew” in their heads (to borrow a phrase from another writer). But this part of the process works better for me if I put it on paper.

For me, plotting doesn’t take the fun out of discovering a story. It simply gives me an itinerary to get from The Beginning to The End without losing my way in The Middle. I still find interesting side roads to explore along the way and the characters still surprise me with unexpected revelations.

These surprises mean that I generally replot about three-quarters of the way through a story to be sure I haven’t dropped the thread of a subplot or left a secondary character in limbo or left out any of those critical pieces of a book described by others in blog posts earlier this month.

This “second plotting” also gives me a process to be sure I’m building the tension to the black moment before the hero and heroine earn their happily-ever-after ending.

What happens to all those easel-sized plotting sheets after a story is finished? No, I don’t frame them or carefully preserve them for coming generations. Their purpose is completed and their essence now lives in the pages of the finished story. So they quietly get recycled and make way for a New Beginning: the plotting sheets of the next story.


Comments

ANATOMY OF A BOOK — 7 Comments

  1. I’m like that too, Genene. My first outline is so detailed, it’s almost a first draft. It’s likely to be 50 pages long. It often has nearly complete scenes in it that only lack fleshing out.

    I’ve tried pantsing, and I just end up with meandering mish-mash. But it’s probably a good thing we’re all so different because that means our books are all different too.

  2. Hi, Delle!

    I did seat-of-the-pants writing for my first book and ended up with 600 pages. Needless to say, that book went through several rewrites and lots of cutting before it sold. 🙂

  3. I’ve become a more detailed plotter with every book. Those first (now recycled) books I wrote were total pantsers. 🙂

    Your storyboarding method is way more detailed and vibrant than mine, thanks for sharing! I love seeing how others work. It’s also good you recycle your “walls”. We don’t need to know every meal and exercise dine during pregnancy either, it’s the finished baby that is the real deal.

  4. Stew and Brew…I like that! Now I have the phrase for what I do. So often DH will find me doing a crossword puzzle at my desk and say “I thought you were working” and my response is “I am.” An hour or a day later, I’m scribbling madly! Stew and Brew. Yep. That’s me!

  5. Hey, Pauline! You can thank Paty Jager for the “stew and brew” phrase. (She’s a member of the Salem RWA chapter and was a signing author at the Readers’ Luncheon.) It caught my attention also, which is why I “borrowed” the term.

    I’m used to being constantly busy, so the “stew and brew” phase is something I’m learning. Maybe that’s why I do so many charts–it gives my hands something to do while my brain is thinking. 🙂

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