Monday, September 8, 2014

The Plot Summary

So I've been extremely excited all weekend thanks to a New Idea (which thus far I will only refer to as 'New Idea' because I don't want to jinx myself). And it's awesome, I promise. And as I've started plotting it out and writing notes about it and basically figuring what the heck it's about, I've realized something.

I think I might have lied to you.

Now, hold off the angry mob. See, I've always prided myself on being a panster; I've mentioned it many, many times that I can't write an outline pre-writing to save my life. For the most part, this is so amazingly true that it's not even funny.

But there's this thing I do that I don't really qualify as an outline, but many others might. I call it my Plot Summary. *points to title*

The thing about this summary is that it's not so much a summary as a list. A list of what? A list of scenes. And that's how I plan, because when I write my new novels come at me in scenes, just tiny little glimpses into the world that I want to create. So I write down 2-3 lines about that scene. Then I get another, and I kind of eyeball if it comes before that scene or after. So I add that one in 2-3 lines. This process continues until I get from the beginning to the end, most likely with large gaps between some areas.

For the most part, though, I get a little road map from the beginning to the end that can guide me through the plot.

Here's why I deny that it's a real outline, though: I tend not to follow the summary. I mean, I feel like the summary that gets written is like the Pirate Code: they're more guidelines than actual rules, you know?

So why am I telling you this? Writing summaries like that-whether it's an actual general summary or a list of scenes-will help you from burning out. I promise. I'm one of those people who probably has around 50 started and unfinished novels that I just started willy-nilly, and it's only those that I took the time to actually think about in terms of the scenes beforehand that have actually gone anywhere substantial.

Last month, Ava Jae wrote on her blog, Writability, about writing a synopsis before the first draft. Even when I read it, I told myself, "Psh! Yeah, not for me." Then, like I said, when I started looking at the New Idea I realized that I've been lying to myself basically my whole life.

Basically: before you start writing, try out the synopsis. Try writing a scene-list. It doesn't matter if you take a detour from that synopsis or scene-list along the way; the point of it is to make sure you at least have one idea of where your novel could take you, regardless of the road you actually take.

Tweet It:

Ever written a summary or list of scenes before you started writing? @Rae_Slater explains why it might be helpful (Click to Tweet)

@Rae_Slater fesses up the reason why writing a novel summary pre-writing might not be a bad idea, after all (Click to Tweet)

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