by Lucy Morgan-Jones
I’m what’s known as a SOTP writer, or a ‘mister.’ SOTP meaning Seat Of The Pants (or as I like to say: making it up as I go along). A ‘mister’ of the writing variety is a writer who can only see a vague bit of the story in front of him/her. Like feeling their way through a mist.
My method is as follows:
Have an idea about a story! Write the first line of it….
My initial idea was: Opens with young lady getting off a train in a town, looking for a fresh start. Thinks with optimism at the new future. Widowed. Poor choices/little choices young in life.
Set in the 1880’s. A train ride from Denver. Fictional town of Halls Pass. Near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Yup. That was it. All I had! I wrote that first line and then the next, and the next … until I had 100,000 words and typed ‘The End.’ My muse consists of a couple of toddlers who each have fun, clever ideas that rarely agree with each other. To keep working they have to be bribed with large amounts of coffee, tea, and chocolate cookies.
Keep a story idea file and jot down snippets of the story or secondary characters as you work.
I keep a word doc in the Notebook Layout View. I have a tab for each character/set of secondary characters who may have their own books. Anytime a snippet of the story, a line of dialogue, a scene, or an idea comes to mind I’d add that to the appropriate tab and save.
Tell the story—then plot!
Sounds crazy, I know. But it works for me. For this step, the organized side of my brain banishes my toddler muse and comes out to clean up play.
Materials I use: A large corkboard or wall (I have an entire wall which is painted a dark purple for this purpose), lots of index cards and scrap paper, a good book on plotting: I highly recommend Susan May Warren’s Deep and Wide, push-pins (I like the clear ones so they don’t distract me), highlighters and pens.
Divide corkboard into the 3 Act Structure.
Fill in index cards with the major plot points from your story.
(Using my plot book to assign major plot points from my book to their correct index cards. ~Index cards top left.~ One row for my heroine, the other for my hero.)
Pin to the wall.
- Ever thought of plotting AFTER you write? Lucy Jones gives her method of plotting for pantsers: click to tweet
- Writer Aussie Lucy Jones says mister is another word for pantser: click to tweet
Use scraps of paper for scenes that don’t quite fit in one plot spot, or themes to remind you to keep track of, or ideas you want to slot in around that particular point.
Edit, rearranging scenes if needed in your word doc. I recommend duplicating your original file just in case you want to revert to the original or need to look something up and work in the duplicated file. And BACK UP! I use Dropbox and email to myself, as well. That way if the house burns down or I spill coffee on my laptop all is not lost.
My story, mid-edit. Black writing is the original text. Green is text that has been moved, purple text is new words or short bits that have been moved. Red boxes are deleted words.
Read story through, adding comments on stuff to change.
Send to critique partners and then to beta readers.
Apply changes. Sigh with relief and then send to my agent.
This method has produced a story that (so far) has finaled in the RWA Touched by Love contest and earned me an agent (Chip MacGregor). As I wrote my first story, more details came to light about the next books in this four book series. So I know more than just a hazy idea for them. Which is helpful!
I’d love to be able to plot pre-writing a book, but I can’t.
I love structure, plots, organization, and index cards. The creative side of me doesn’t. The toddler muse, remember? It giggles, hands rubbing together at my attempts to plot—then takes over with the zaniest ideas that ‘just might work’ and I’m off on the best whirlwind adventure my fingers can type.
In the end I can plot, plan, and write what I like, but it is God’s purpose what happens with my story—and with myself. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.
Lucy Morgan-Jones is a follower of Christ, passionate reader, and mum of four precocious children. She makes her home in north central Victoria, Australia, and is a member of ACFW, Christian Writers Downunder and RWA.
Feature image: Courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Other images by Lucy Morgan-Jones