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Genres & Age Categories => Middle Grade (MG) => Topic started by: Skarecrow on September 16, 2006, 04:49 PM

Title: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 16, 2006, 04:49 PM
I do not want to be a beggar, so this maybe an improper request.  I am beginning to plot a novel....middle grade right now....but it should apply to both YA and adult...I am trying to set up a plotting chart on Excel with headings of the Chapters across the top, and then I want to plot the scenes that make up those chapters below that Chapter heading, all in the same column, so that I can see at a glance where my threads are, and my subplots, etc.  I am lazy enough that I don't want to reinvent the wheel, if this type of thing already exists somewhere.  Anybody want to share their formatting tool, or give me advice, or should I just create my own....I can do that, if necessary, obviously....oh well, here I babble on.....thanks, Skarecrow :banghead:
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: CynJay on September 16, 2006, 10:15 PM
I use a brand-new pad of lined paper and a medium point black pen.  I've found that I have to outline and plot by hand, even though I love my  new laptop.  One thing I do use in MS Word is the outline feature so that all of the chapter headings (and sub headings if you want them) appear on the left hand side of the page.  That way, you can skip around to the part you want as you write. 
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 17, 2006, 05:37 AM
LOL, thanks that is very funny but probably true.....I guess I'm just going to have to jump in, and see what works...I will try the outline function on Word....may be the key...thanks, again :-*
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Liz on September 17, 2006, 10:14 AM
What about creating a template from the sections in the back of the book --
 First Draft In 30 Days: A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript (Paperback)
by Karen Wiesner
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 17, 2006, 10:16 AM
thanks Liz...I will look at that book...have not seen it before.....thanks again, Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Liz on September 17, 2006, 11:13 AM
Try that author's website -- until you get the book -- she has worksheets  in .doc  and .pdf

Scroll down to where it says - Appendix C: 30-Day Draft Worksheets


http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/FDmap.html


Hope that helps you get started on your template  :typing:
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 17, 2006, 12:45 PM
thanks, I have spent some time on her website....I think I will incorporate some of her ideas...not all....she appears to be VERY prolific....I have never read  her, though...interesting.....and thanks again
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Vijaya on September 17, 2006, 08:56 PM
I ran across this last year ... used it between my first and second draft.  I'm considering using it again because I know so much more about my characters and story ...
I've also read Randy Ingermanson's books and enjoyed them.

http://www.rsingermanson.com/html/the_snowflake.html

Vijaya
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: CynJay on September 17, 2006, 10:06 PM
Okay, I was being a little snide before.  On that brand new notepad with my medium black pen, I use Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method quite a lot.  I tend to adapt it a bit, but it is a great way to get a handle on your characters. 
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Jennie_1551 on September 22, 2006, 11:39 AM
There's an example of an Excel spreadsheet on Justine Larbalestier's blog:

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/?p=398

J.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 23, 2006, 04:10 PM
Hey, Jennie:  Good Idea...I spent quite a bit of time reading her blog...very good ideas....thanks for the input...Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: sunnyleo on September 24, 2006, 12:17 AM
Haven't heard of one... mostly I use beat sheets (point form plotting - what screenwriters use)... and a mix of voodoo magic. Each beat (1) raises a question, (2) advances the plot or (3) answers a question... However, when you actually get down to the nitty-gritty writing details you'll realize there are large gaps lin story logic. Writing is the art of rewriting.

Avoid linear plots at all cost unless you are writing a gentle/quiet story that doesn't have to be plot-driven.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 24, 2006, 04:37 AM
Sunny:  A couple of questions..What is a beat sheet?  I have an idea, but if you don't mind, how is it constructed?  Also, I believe when you say "linear" you mean in a chronological order?  I am writing a YA mystery where the MC is following leads that happen daily, leading him in a linear fashion forward....If I am correct in my definition of "linear," I guess a mystery might be an exception as well....thanks ahead of time for your thoughts....

Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Frainstorm on September 25, 2006, 10:43 PM
Sunny,

You've got me anxious for an explanation too. Why do you avoid linear plots at all costs? Seems to me you're inviting flashbacks or something dreadful like that, which we're also supposed to avoid at all costs. Not to mention avoiding cliches like the plague. (Sorry.)

Curious John
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: sdp on September 26, 2006, 03:36 AM
I just googled beat sheets; http://dannystack.blogspot.com/2005/12/beat-sheets.html

Sounds good, I might give it a go.

Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 26, 2006, 05:05 AM
yeah, not bad, sdp....gives me some guidance there, but I am still Googling the issue.

And Vijaya, thanks for your post...I had missed it in reading to date, so I apologize....the Snowflake method of plotting is very interesting....thanks for that site!!!!

Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lizlane on September 26, 2006, 08:13 AM
Editor Cheryl Klein has useful articles about plotting and a template on her website Talking Books.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 26, 2006, 08:44 AM
Lizlane:  I really like her site..I spent some time there, and I need to go back...have to leave for some work right now, but thanks for her link...
 :bat: :bat:
Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lizlane on September 27, 2006, 03:32 PM
Oooh...What disclipline!  I'm impressed.  I read everything on her site and reread and reread.  When you can give it some time, I think her illustrations are very helpful.  At least she's not one of those editors who just says what they want!  She does at least give you examples...
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 27, 2006, 03:43 PM
Lizlane:  What do you mean by "illustrations?"....do you mean analogies?  Or art-type?  Sorry for being dense

Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lizlane on September 28, 2006, 06:22 AM
No she actually uses examples from fiction she likes to illustrate plotting points, voice, characterization, etc.  But she also has a template available specifically for plotting.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Stef on September 28, 2006, 06:59 AM
Skarecrow, I overlooked that you were plotting for a mystery.  Her book is out of print, but I love Joan Lowery Nixon's WRITING MYSTERIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.  I bought a second-hand copy online for $10.  http://www.bookfinder.com/ is a great resource.  You may find a copy at your library.  If your branch doesn't have it, they can get it free via inter-library loan.  This book is worth the trouble.  The books Nixon used as examples are old now, but the plotting tips are classic.  Key chapters are Charting the Book, Plotting, and Mystery Novels for Teen-Agers.  This book is a wonderful reference, even if you don't write mysteries.

Scholastic.com has also maintained JLN's spot on their Writing with Writers Web site; she passed away three years ago.  The material is written for kids, but she mentions a few more up-to-date books as examples.  I still think it's a great place to review the basics, and her writing is very straight-forward.  Here's the link:  http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mystery/index.htm 
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on September 28, 2006, 12:46 PM
Wow, Stef!  That makes me sad....I sure have enjoyed Joan Lowery Nixon...one of the greatest!  I am going to try and find her book...I faintly remember reading it years ago, I wish I had a copy now....and thanks for the input....

Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: sunnyleo on October 01, 2006, 09:54 PM
Sunny:  A couple of questions..What is a beat sheet?  I have an idea, but if you don't mind, how is it constructed?  Also, I believe when you say "linear" you mean in a chronological order?  I am writing a YA mystery where the MC is following leads that happen daily, leading him in a linear fashion forward....If I am correct in my definition of "linear," I guess a mystery might be an exception as well....thanks ahead of time for your thoughts....

Sorry, was away for a bit.

Linear plot - X wants Y, goes through a series of small challenges and gets Y. The end.

X should be distracted with Z, H, T (now I'm sounding like a Seasame Street show) and with subplots and other tasks that are related to Y, but . Linear plots tend to be predictable and too narrowly focused. Good novels can have linear plots (Lord of the Rings) but other parts have to compensate for the constant predictability.

I think the best stories are X wants Y, goes through a series of small challenges and fails to get Y but receives Z instead - the goal he/she really wanted in the first place. Y is often the external goal (i.e going to college, saving the world, etc.) and Z is the internal goal (being happy, patching up relationships with your parents)... But there is not "formula" to follow, just avoid predictability.

Chronological ordering and linear plots are separate issues.

P.S Looking for more beat sheet examples...
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: sunnyleo on October 01, 2006, 10:12 PM
You've got me anxious for an explanation too. Why do you avoid linear plots at all costs? Seems to me you're inviting flashbacks or something dreadful like that, which we're also supposed to avoid at all costs. Not to mention avoiding cliches like the plague. (Sorry.)

I didn't mean to imply chronological order is bad. Sorry.

Avoiding X (i.e flashbacks, linear plot, etc) is merely a guideline. If you understanded what you are doing and are skilled then you can write a passive voiced - cliche ridden - plotless story all you like (I've read one - intentionally humourous).
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on October 02, 2006, 04:56 AM
Sonny:  Thanks for the responses....yeah, that makes sense, and I guess while it is hard, that is what makes this so fun...the challenge of it, plus the mystery of watching it take place...thanks,

Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lydap on October 02, 2006, 06:38 AM
This is a fabulous thread. I am going to have to go through and read all these resources. I have used the following plot template more than once (forgive me if it's on one of the sites you all have already mentioned) and found it very revealing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9 Steps for Plotting Fiction
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Start with a piece of paper. It should be large enough to write on.
8.5 x 11 is perfect. Draw two parallel lines both vertically and
horizontally across the page, creating 9 comparable boxes, as if you
were starting a game of tic-tac-toe. These boxes represent chapters,
scenes, or sections, depending upon your book's intended length.

Number the boxes, starting from the upper left: 1, 2, 3.
Next row, starting from the left: 4, 5, 6.
Last row: 7, 8, 9.
Title each box…

1 Triggering event

First thing's first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don't make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.

2 Characterization

Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn't an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.

3 First major turning point

By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.

4 Exposition

You've earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here's where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist's darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.

5 Connect the dots

Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist's
revelation in Box Eight. That's a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.

6 Negative turning point

Here's where that bomb explodes and all hell breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.

7 Antagonist wins

The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.

8 Revelation

Of course! The protagonist's revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.

9 Protagonist wins

The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character's resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.


Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on October 02, 2006, 06:54 AM
Lydap:  That is very interesting!  I am going to play around with that.  Did you discover that before Mr. Touchdown and use it in your writing?  Or after?  Have you used it to success?  A very interesting post--thanks so much for taking the time to write all of that background and info on the squares....

Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lydap on October 02, 2006, 07:26 AM
I discovered it years after I finished a first (second. third) draft of Mr. Touchdown but I was still revising (after having submitted a bad version of the novel to a bunch of editors and agents and shot my wad with them. Live and learn.) It was super helpful with all my MSS that I had lying around. Really helped focus the stories. It seems to me like the stuff you learn in screenwriting classes, but it's also dramatic narrative advice, which I have found is kind of hard to come by. Maybe this is what you learn in MFA programs.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Barbara Etlin on October 02, 2006, 08:25 AM
That looks great. Thanks, Lyda!
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Vijaya on October 02, 2006, 09:12 AM
I find that these guidelines are very helpful after you've finished the first draft.  Because then you can take a step back and see whether things are logical, whether you need to rearrange some events, etc.
Skarecrow, you might want to check out The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler.  It's an excellent book with examples about the elements of good storytelling.
Vijaya
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on October 02, 2006, 09:33 AM
Thanks, V:  I will do that today.....sounds good...I just finished Richard Peck's book on writing for YA....I don't remember the title but it was excellent.....

Skarecrow
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: UKPat on October 04, 2006, 04:34 AM
I’d been trying to come up with some sort of plan or list  my MC could find, or hear about, so she could adapt it and use it to plot out how she could get her idea to work. And seeing as the story runs from December to September, I got the Eureka   feeling when I saw this 9 step plan.
Because I’d need to see for myself how it worked – before my MC could adapt it – I decided to use it for my novel. The only plot plan I had at that point was dozens of scraps of paper with scribbled notes on; I call it the jigsaw method of plotting.

Anyway, I drew out and headed my 9 boxes and, without looking too closely at how and where the numbered boxes should link, wrote a few lines in each box. I was amazed when I checked out which box should connect to which to see how it  matched up and to spot a place where it seemed what I’d written should be in a different place. 

And, you know? Moving that bit to that different place gave me another Eureka moment.
So, Lydap, many thanks for posting.     

Best
Pat in UK
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Natalie on October 04, 2006, 05:21 AM
What a great thread! There's also an article in the Nov./Dec. issue of Writer's Digest Magazine on p. 46 called "All Mapped Out." The article provides a template for mapping out your novel. I haven't tried it, yet, however.

I like the idea, too, of mapping out your novel once the first draft is finished--it'd be a good way to catch what's missing.

Good luck!  :clover

:) Natalie
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lydap on October 04, 2006, 05:52 AM
UKPat: Glad it helped! I had the same experience when I put all my "finished" but imperfect drafts into the grid. I found out why one of them is totally not working, because it just would not fit. That gave me a lot to think about.

ANd all the other suggestions on this thread have given me a lot of good reading to do.

Thanks everyone.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Liz on October 04, 2006, 06:27 AM
i second Vijaya's rec. of The Writer's Journey.  PLUS - it's a GREAT excuse to rent the movies mentioned in it and used as examples of the hero's Journey   ;D
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Skarecrow on October 14, 2006, 01:07 PM
Yes, I just finished THE WRITER'S JOURNEY by Vogel, and I really enjoyed it....gave me a lot of good insight into how to heighten everything in my WIP...I am sure happy I didnt rush and send it out....much better now that I am revising using the Journey as some type of map....

Thanks, V....
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Vijaya on October 16, 2006, 10:14 PM
Lydap -- I just used this and was pleasantly surprised now neatly things fit into the boxes.  I will absolutely use this in my future novels.  And what a wonderful way to even begin ... just on a single page.
Skarecrow, thanks for starting this thread.  My creativity flows better when I'm organized ... and I like discovering little gems for my writing toolbox.
Vijaya
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Liz on October 20, 2006, 02:43 PM
Thank You lydap !  I'm amazed at how much a word/phrase can put the process and result of something into perspective and make sense.
'Triggering Event'  in your post abt the 9 Steps did that for me this week.  It made me realize that chapter 1 of my novel was really me trying to follow the advice of 'capture the reader'
and Triggereing Event -captures the main character-  So,  I went back and wrote a new/better 1st chapter that sets up everything better, and I can keep/move the old chapter 1  :)
And the phrase also reminded me of when I went on a ski wekend and I didn't do too well in the 'bunny hill' classes.  'lean forward, lean back, point your skis.....'  = too much to keep track of. Until we went to a different place and the instructor said "Glide"   Well, after that my body could figure out how to glide and it was much more fun.

Looking forward to filling in the 9 boxes.    :writing3:
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lydap on October 20, 2006, 05:17 PM
I'm so glad the 9 box grid has been as big a help to you guys as it was to me. I have actually been using the snowflake thing on my WIP and it's been fabulous. I hate synopses with a passion because I've always written them WAY after the fact and they're just impossible.The snowflake thing you build your outline up step by step and suddenly, it's a synopsis. Wow!  8)
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Melody on October 20, 2006, 07:52 PM
Yes, lydap, you are the bomb!
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Aud on October 21, 2006, 06:09 AM
I have to say, Lydap, if that was the kind of thing they taught in mfa programs, those of us who gradauted from them would be better writers. I'm at the start of a new project, and it's interesting to view it through your nine-step lens. Thanks for posting!
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: lydap on October 21, 2006, 06:56 AM
Audiate, I've wondered about that re: writing programs. I took every undergrad writing class my school offered and learned literally nothing about dramatic structure, character development, myth, archetypes, narrative technigues. Nothing. I finally started getting this when I took a screenwriting class and suddenly everything I'd struggled with for most of my life as a fiction writer started to clear. At first I resisted it, thinking it was formulaic. And then I realized it was simply liberating. Exactly like "Glide," Liz. 
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Aud on October 21, 2006, 08:45 AM
Believe it or not, there's an Aud and and Audiate on this board. I'm Aud.

For me, graduate school didn't teach a lot of the things you listed below. It was a time to immerse myself in the writing life. I learned quite a bit about craft, but for the most part, the learning came from writing and learning to respond to writing intelligently.

Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: eryan75 on November 21, 2006, 11:01 AM
Wow...this is exactly what I was looking for.  I've never tackled MG, but teach the grade level and only use novels.  I've thought it might be cool to write a book that the kids in my class would like - they sure do give enough feedback...but didn't know how to approach it.  You've helped tremendously - thanks.

~Erin
 :writing3:
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: ladyeclectic on September 20, 2008, 12:05 PM
I know this is an older thread but I just wanted to say I really love the 9-step plotting method, and am using it for my current WIP. I also told several others about it and they seem equally impressed. Great idea!!  :applause
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Christine Norris on September 21, 2008, 09:48 AM
I also LOVE this thing. I have used it - and whoever said it works best after a first draft was right - it really zeroes things in.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Susan Brocker on January 14, 2012, 08:39 PM
Thanks Vijaya for the link to Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method; interesting and helpful.
Title: Re: Looking for Plotting Template
Post by: Woods on January 29, 2012, 05:29 PM
 :nothing