The Journey Of Plotting My Work In Progress

If you’ve been following my author journey, you probably know a little bit about my current work in progress. But for any newbies joining me, let me recap for you. I’m working on a coming-of-age series about a young girl named Autumn who is just starting high school.

This is a story that I had been working on since 2007. Originally a story that was slated for just one book, telling the story of Autumn’s senior year in high school, I discovered that with all of the background information I had, I could create a series. So, that’s what I’ve been working on for over ten years.

Lots Of Plotting From Day One

When this story idea first came to me, I plotted like crazy. I had tons of ideas for Autumn (my main character), her friends, her family, and basically everyone in her life and community. I created her world and got pretty detailed (probably too much so). At the time, the whole thing was more of a hobby than anything. It was fun for me. I spent so many days and nights just creating Autumn’s world. Admittedly, my plotting got quite out of hand.

While I have been working on this story for over ten years, I haven’t been doing it actively the whole time. When I went away to college, I didn’t dedicate as much time to it. But after graduating, I picked up my writing again in 2013 and began really diving into it again.

In reviewing my story and all of my notes, I realized there was just too much.

  • I had too many characters. Autumn has a friend group that’s at the core of her relationships. This friend group had way too many people in it. It’s not that a person can’t have a bunch of friends, but when you’re writing a story, it’s best to keep things as simplified as possible. So, I had to cut some characters.
  • I had too many story ideas. When I created my story, I had an outline of Autumn’s relationships and plot points. It was a lot for one book and made it seem kind of jumbled. There were things that just weren’t essential to the story as a whole. For example, my original plan was to have Autumn paired with a boyfriend in Book One, who she ends up breaking up with soon after school starts. I decided it was just unnecessary and created a character that didn’t provide any value to the theme as a whole. So, I cut it out along with a few other things, too.
  • I went way too deep in some places. As I said, I created this whole world for Autumn’s life, including people in the community, who she may not even really know or interact with. I said it was all for fun, so sometimes I just went a little overboard in creating. For example, one of Autumn’s friends (Candace) starts to date a boy named David. Now, I created this whole soap-opera style entanglement for his family. Why? I don’t know, I guess I thought it was fun. But on the whole of the series, this whole idea is so minescule, there’s just no need to include. Cut.

Even though I cut out a lot of these ideas from the story, that doesn’t mean these ideas still aren’t present. The friends I cut? They’ll still be mentioned. The boyfriend that never was? He’s still in there somewhere. David and his puzzle of a family? Still a thing, but not one the readers may ever know about.

I ultimately shrunk down some of my ideas and began an updated version of it. Without going into too much detail, I lost most of the work I had done from 2013 on due to my computer crashing. So a lot of the notes I had had on my shortened version were gone. But really, I didn’t have much in the way of notes anyway, just a few scribblings. I did have a story I was working on, though but I don’t think I had gotten very far.

I Needed To Re-Plot

Last year, when I participated in Camp NaNo in April, it was the first time I restarted my story in years. I started from the beginning (again) and wrote with my narrowed down ideas in mind. Before NaNo started, I did a little bit of plotting, but mostly just trying to remember what I had done during 2013 and jotting a few things down. It mostly consisted of making some notes on which characters I would focus on and basic storylines I would use.

One of my goals last year (and for the future of my writing) is to not reread my story when I sit down to write. My new favorite writing mantra is write now, edit later. I was notorious for reading through my whole story before writing something new. Not very effective. So, that’s what I did all of 2018.

There was only one problem. During NaNoWriMo, I realized I hadn’t ever gone back through my original plotting plans to edit what I was doing going forward. So, I would go look at my notes and they didn’t always make sense. I was itching to plan things out while at the same time wanting to really log those words. What an internal struggle, let me tell you! Ultimately, I stuck by my mantra and just wrote. Anything that needed editing could be done later.

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Going Through The Re-Plotting Process

The fact is that I need to get this plotting out of the way. It will help me as I write my novel and stay true to my ideas as I go through the series. I’m all about consistency which is why it’s very important to me to ensure that I maintain facts and stories that make sense throughout the entire series.

I’ve started going through my old notes. I basically made a duplicate document where I can change everything (I don’t want to completely erase work I’ve already done). As I’m going through, some of the plotting I’m doing doesn’t necessarily have to do with Book One. But I know that overall it will be beneficial. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, as I’ve made it my goal to publish Book One in 2019, but it is something that has to happen.

There’s really only one big thing I have that I want to work on next. Now, you might think I’m a bit crazy about this, but I want to properly plan out Autumn’s class schedule. Sounds a bit much, right? Not for me. This is what I kept getting hung up on the most during my writing.

Knowing Autumn’s class schedule helps me figure out where she is and when, who she is with, and makes the whole timeline of things make sense in my mind. I had made a schedule for her before, but I don’t quite feel like it’s right. It just didn’t seem realistic to me. And I know, this is something that, on its own, won’t be in the story, but it will help me navigate a timeline.

I’m honestly kind of looking forward to this. I was always the kind of student who loved planning out my class schedule each year. I know, I’m a nerd. But once I do this, I really feel confident I will have everything that I need plotted correctly.

What’s Your Writing Process?

Some of you pantsers might think I’m crazy for spending so much time plotting. As I said, I’m a stickler for consistency, and since this is a series, I need to keep all of my “facts” straight. Plus, I just love the plotting process. It really helps me become hyper-focused on my characters and storylines.

I want to know more about your writing process! Are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’re a plotter, share some of your tips with me on how you effectively plot your novel.

The Journey Of Plotting My Work In Progress