MT McGuire Books

Losing (or Not Losing) the Plot

The other day I was having lunch with a publisher friend. He showed me a brilliant ruse he uses to organise any book he is working on. He had it all printed out in a ring binder. All in order. When he edited a bit he simply took the old pages out and replaced them with the new ones.

Wow! Blindingly obvious? Well yes, to you but remember, I’m a spanner so for me, to see a book laid out like this was a bit of a scales-from-the-eyes moment. That’s why I thought I’d share it here. You see, I reckon that if there is one spanner sitting here trying to write books it means that among the hundreds of sensible people out there trying to do the same there must be at least couple of others who are as organisationally challenged as I am.

So listen up spanners, here’s something that makes it easier to keep your head round the plot.

First up, write up all the scenes that are knocking about in your head; not just the ones that are sitting there in perfect order, I mean ALL the scenes, including the unplaced ones, the events which you know happen even if you’re not sure when, or why or what happens first.

Second, type up a running order listing the scenes you’ve finished in the order they go in — make up a nice snappy name for them, I call that section ‘bits which fit’ which is not nice or snappy but I digress. The next list is the bits which don’t currently fit but which you will be integrating into the plot at some point — I call those ‘bits to fit in later’ finally, you may have a few ideas in your head for scenes which you haven’t typed up, I also list those under the heading ‘bits we need’, yeh, I’m articulate with headings.

OK then you print that out and stick it at the front, print out the sorted scenes and stick them in next. Bung a divider in, print out the unplaced scenes and stick them in too. Now you have a real, living snapshot of your book. If you’re used to keeping the whole thing in your head but keep getting disrupted by interventions from the real world, then I hope you will find, like I did, that any continuity confusion disappears pretty much overnight.

If you have real job and you’re writing a novel, sporadically, in your spare time this is a great way to ensure you make the most of those precious minutes to actually write your book, rather than spend them catching up on what you’ve already written.

Posted August 27, 2010 and visited 2759 times, 1 so far today

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