Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On Plotcards and Drudgery

I've begun, and I'm determined to continue through to the end.

Plotting my story on index cards, that is. It's truly an exercise in Boredom Survival. That, and tenacity. And I'm not giving up.

Mind you, I'd much rather simply dig into the editing, recraft the scenes that are crackling with potential but mired down by clunky writing or less-than-tight plot propulsion. But I'm smart enough to know that the plotcards are going to lead to more effective editing in the long run.

And so I persevere.

I've got white cards for my protag--he gets a card for every chapter since he's, yanno, in every chapter. And I've got five different colors for five other characters whose arcs are strong enough to merit their own timeline. The remaining characters are including with the MC.

I'm already seeing oopses and uh-ohs. Hate that.

Hate it, but of course I expected it. And it's the whole point behind the plotcards; find the oopses and uh-ohs and what-the-heck-happened-to-this-threads...and fix them.

Gotta love reading things I totally didn't remember writing--things that were meant to be developed and have an important impact on the story. Guess that's what happens when you push through a first draft in order to get the thing down.

It's what I meant to do. And as long as I continue to not take myself too seriously as I go through this process, it'll all lead to good things.

Despite the fact that I utterly loathe what I'm doing right now.

I mean, think about it. I'm writing with a pen. On paper. This is something I just don't do. Really. I don't even journal in bed at night (I must be the only writer I know who doesn't journal). I put off thank you notes and birthday cards until the last possible moment.

I hate writing by hand. Seriously, completely, indisputably hate it.

So I find myself painfully distracted every day when I sit down with my plotcards. For the last two days, I've gotten three chapters done at a sitting. Sound productive? Not really. Because when Mr. A and I went to Starbucks on Sunday for some mutual work time, I got six chapters done, in the same amount of time. Or less. The only thing that distracted me was the display of cool, handle-free coffee mugs on the clearance shelf. I so want a lime green one.

I know, I know. I need to back away from my computer. Slowly and purposefully. It's the only way to get this plotcard thing done without sudden bouts of Twitter, gmail, and Evony.

Still. I'm feeling good about where this is going. I already see the potential for following each arc through to its conclusion, fixing the bumps along the way. I'm still considering looking into Scrivener, as it will give me the Perfect Reason to use Mr. A's iMac while he's a work. But in the meantime, it's just my notecards and me.

And we're doing fine. One tedious, barely legible card at a time.


  1. LOL, we've been doing a lot of the same things for revisions!

    I recently posted on my blog what I'm planning on doing to revise my ms. I had a series of posts on it, starting here:

    I'm using the comment feature on Word instead of notecards...for now. I've found it easier to type it in Word, and they stick with each chapter, which I like. But I know I'll eventually need a print copy of the ms. to organize all my thoughts and make sure it's all working, and I might break out physical notecards, then, too.

  2. Wow, the methodical way you're doing your revisions and editing is awesome. I don't do stuff like that. I'm sure my editing will take 50 times as long as yours, but I just can't do notecards. I've tried.

    Good luck with yours!

  3. I'm curious, how does this plotcard procedure work? I've never heard of it before.

  4. If you're using Word, why don't you use text boxes? Just click on View, then Toolbars. Open the Drawing toolbar. Then click on the text box icon -- the one with the A in ther upper left corner.

    I think you'll see how it works.

    Mark in the Seattle area

  5. I'm curious about the plotcard method as well. I've never heard of doing this and it sounds like a great editing tool.

    Will you please pass along more info or links?

  6. Elana--this is the first time I've EVER done anything this methodical. In all seriousness. That's why it's making me break out in hives. But the potential for positive results seems huge, so I'm pressing on.

    Mark--I think I just need something tactile right now, something I can spread out on the kitchen table. Eventually I will return to electronic geekdom.

    Others--You know, I can't even remember where I first read about using colored note cards. But here's my take:

    Go through the manuscript, using notecards for jotting scene action and plot points. You can color-code it any way you'd like. I'm using white for my MC, and any time he overlaps with one of the other 5 characters I'm carding, I jot "see (character name)" on the card. I have the chapter number on top of each card.

    So my MC's cards, which are white, look like this:

    Eric -- Ch. 1

    *blah blah blah*

    If a character does not appear in a certain chapter, he doesn't get a card for that chapter.

    I should be able to line up each character's cards and read through the individual story arcs when I'm all done.

    Then the fixing will commence. =)

  7. I still write most of my manuscripts long-hand :) I _love_ the feel of pen on paper.

    However, I can't bring myself to journal.

    Holly Lisle's Create A Plot Clinic has a whole section on using index cards to fix problems/tighten plotlines, etc. (actually, any of her clinics are _awesome_)

    Good luck on the methodical method! You sound more persistent than I've been--I've tried it several times and just can't hold myself to it.

  8. I try to do the plotcard idea, but I'm so disorganized it usually doesn't work exactly the way I want it to. Meh...I need to learn how to use notecards better.

    Cafes are such productive places to work. They're my fav. ^-^

  9. Okay, this is simply BRILLIANT. I have to try this. I've heard of it before, but I like the way you've described it here. Thanks!

  10. Another good idea. Thanks, Authoress!

    The bottom line is to find something that works for you--and how can we know until we try it? I usually have trouble being succinct enough to make the cards useful :-)

    But if they work for you, they will be a great help in streamlining the editing process. Go with it!

  11. The difference between writing for fun and being a WRITER is the ability/determination/drive to slog through the boring and tedious parts. My favorite aspect of editing is once the story is roughed out and I can put my time into aligning all the crucial details. And, of course, eliminating all the not so crucial ones, no matter how cute. The note card method sounds like a great technique to get you there... stick with it.

  12. Authoress-
    Thanks for the description. This sounds incredibly useful! I love notecards and color-coordinating things -- I'm a visual learner.

    I'm going to have to try it when I finish my WIP (half-way there!)

  13. What you are doing with note cards is so interesting. What a great idea!

  14. "I must be the only writer I know who doesn't journal"

    Raises hand.

    I don't journal, either. My life is too boring. That's why I write fiction. :-)

    word verification: feardo -- how about that!

  15. That does sound really useful! I don't usually do a lot of outlining, but the idea of breaking down each character arc makes a lot of sense. That way you can spot holes not just in action but in character development (which I find much harder to troubleshoot).

    I was just visualizing mine and realized that the cards for one of my characters would read "Chapter 1: Attacked, Chapter 2: Unconscious, Chapter 5: Plot exposition, Chapter 8: Dies." Maybe I should work on that :D.