Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chunking, Arcing, and Outlining....Oh My!

My crit partners and I got in a discussion the other day about outlining. I'm knee deep in revisions at the moment (and feeling bad because I should be neck deep), so the discussion came at a good time as I am currently outlining my poor little manuscript to death :)

Now, these methods are all new to me, but I absolutely love how they've been working out.

For my first draft, I try to do a bare bones story arc. I draw a little chart that looks like this (ignore the black spot...that was an accidental cut :D)

and I put up 10 or so highlights...the big turning/decision points, climaxes, setbacks, etc, in my story. If I know more specifics here and there, I'll add them in. But just having a few major points to shoot for gives me an idea of where I need to go and what needs to happen. Then I write.

When it's time to edit, I do what I call chunking (not sure if this is the real term or just something I latched onto one's a bit of a mixture of a few techniques I've read about in books or heard from other people).

Basically, I take Post Its and on each one I outline each scene in my book. When writing, I don't separate my scenes into chapters - I leave them as scenes until further into the editing process and then I designate chapters for each one.

Anyhow, on each Post It for each scene I write down who the characters are, whose POV the scene is in, the setting, and what happens in that scene. Then I stick it up on my corkboard, which looks like this (and p.s. I think I need a bigger board...the back is just as full as the front!):

THEN I go through and see what needs to be cut, changed, and added. And I color code. The original scene chunks are all one color Post It (purple this time around). A new scene that needs to be added will be tacked up on a different color Post It (blue this time). And any changes that need to be made to a scene are noted on the Post Its in red pen.

I'm a very visual person, so laying out my whole story in this way allows me to see exactly what I've got going on. It makes it easier for me to spot where changes, additions, and cuts need to be made, and when it's time to rewrite, I can go through each scene and then flip the Post It over when I'm done, so I have a visual of how far I've gone and how far I need to go.

How do you handle writing and revisions?


Jack LaBloom said...

This is great information. I too am a visual person. I am going to give this method a try.

Thanks for posting this.

Shari said...

I have used the post-it method before and it was helpful, but I love the story arc chart. I think I'm going to give that a try! Thanks for the ideas.

Matthew MacNish said...

I've done something like this, but less involved. I used a spreadsheet, and it did help a bit, but this looks even better. I've read that Philip Pullman does the same thing.

Unknown said...

Oh girl, you are way more organized than me. I have a notebook that looks like the ramblings of someone with schizophrenia. Scary pages. I should try this. Thanks for the tips.

Shari said...

I gave you an award on my blog. Come on over to get it!

Tessa Emily Hall said...

This tip is very useful for me, a visual and unorganized person. =) I may have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

wow I wish I could be that organized. I've tried and it kills everything in my head. LOL. I've always been a pantser, but I just recently learned an easy plotting device involving an arch and postits, very basic...I'm going to give it a shot.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I linked to you on today's blog post. Have a great day!

Misha Gerrick said...

I'll let you know if I get there.

Good luck with revisions!


amberargyle said...

I tried to do post its once. My children thought it was great fun to pile them up like leaves and jump in them.
I no longer employ that method.

Laura Pauling said...

I write from an outline, but during revisions I go over and make sure all my plot points are still relevant.And then I check to make sure I took advantage of the emotion that goes with those key points. Basically, I line it up with a good story structure to see where I'm lacking. Not easy.