Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Planning a Plot

It's a new year and I have big plans for it. For one thing, I want to finish the rough draft of FRIENDLY FIRE. I'm about 85% done, but I know there are many holes and discontinuities in the story. So, how to writers figure out what goes where?

Some writers outline an entire book before they begin writing. Others start writing at the beginning and go to the end. I can't do either of those. I did try to create a story board for the first Cherry Hill book early in the process, but quickly put it aside when the characters' development began to take the story in unforeseen paths. ; )

Now I've got nearly an entire story that needs to be trimmed and fluffed into shape. There are two books on my shelves that have come highly recommended when working on plots.
  • THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler
  • PLOT AND STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell
The subtitle of Vogler's book--Mythic Structure for Writers--is a window into plots based on Campbell's The Hero's Journey. Its multi-layered pattern is very good for fantasy and science fiction stories.

Bell's subtitle--Techniques and Exercises For Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish--is also a clear indication of the plan Bell sets out. Based on the classic three-act story pattern, Bell shows various ways to plot a book to keep a reader in the story.

After working with both books, I think I can say, Bell's is a better fit for my stories, but I'll certainly keep Vogler's ideas in mind if I ever finish my science fiction novel that I've worked on for over twenty-five years.

What about you? Do you have a preferred reference on plot and structure?
Have you read either of these two books?
If you've read both, which do you prefer?