I had a chat to my lovely agent today and I think she might’ve been a little worried about me being overwhelmed by the editorial letter (10 pgs…yikes!) that she sent me last week, and to tell the truth I was overwhelmed (as you may have noticed from previous posts), but then I set to doing what I do when I’m overwhelmed: I got organized. And the overwhelmed-ness (word? don’t think so) sort of dissipated, which I knew it would. This is how I am at work, too. I have about a billion and one Excel documents, each with several sheets, all color-coded and categorized within an inch of their lives because that’s how I deal with confusion. So, of course, making a plot board made so much sense for me.

Okay, lesson #1: Poster boards (the science fair kind, the likes of which I last used to make a display for my legendary 7th grade science fair project “How does acid rain affect plants?”, which won 4th place–which is basically bullshit anyway, because all the top five projects, mine included, were great because our parents did most of the work) are expensive in New York. I bought one and a pack of neon Post-Its and I paid about $20, which seems…off to me. Anyway, whatever. You should’ve seen me trying to get that thing home on the subway, though. Hilarity. For some reason I also decided to bring home my new DVD player, which arrived for me at work the day before (I always receive packages at work because I have a teeny, tiny little New York mailbox which fits approximately nothing and they leave packages in the hallway outside our apartment doors, which doesn’t seem very safe to me even though my roommate does it all the time and nothing ever happens to her packages–but I maintain CONSTANT VIGILANCE!! Oh my God, the tangents on this blog are fierce today) but which I had left in the coat closet (apparently I trust my coworkers way more than my neighbors, which makes total sense if you knew my neighbors) overnight for the express reason of…I don’t know, having to drag it home the next day with my giant poster board? That was not smart. Thank God the DVD player box had a handle or else bringing both home would be impossible.

ANYway, so I ignored the board on Tuesday night, but yesterday I left my friend’s apartment directly after America’s Next Top Model and went home to work on it. I assigned a Post-It color (blue, yellow, pink, green, purple) to a subplot and went to work. There are several how-tos on plot boards to be found on the internets: Diana Peterfreund has a whole series of posts on the subject, as do Julie Leto and Rachel Vincent, who plot boards on a white board and not by chapters or scenes. There are also several writers who use the Writers Blocks software to do the same thing electronically, and I have to admit I have toyed with the idea of buying similar software in the past, but to be honest I can’t afford it so it really is a moo point (you know, a cow’s opinion, as Joey Tribiani would say).

For a while I wondered whether or not I should divide the board up into chapters or scenes, and decided that my 300 pg. MS had so many scenes that there was no way I could fit them all onto the board with space for Post-It notes, so I went with chapters, which is working out really well. First, I divided the poster up into squares (I ought to have used a ruler/measuring tape for this, but I couldn’t find one so I just kind of eyeballed it, which makes for uneven squares and I don’t recommend it). There are way too many for my novel (I only have 24 chapters + an epilogue, which I was like, awesome, five squares per line, five lines! But that’s not really how “eyeballing it” worked out), but I figure that’s okay because then I can reuse the board. I even left one square on the board open and labeled it “Prologue” because my next project has a prologue, so I’m thinking ahead. For each chapter (I’ve only finished seven so far, which is why I haven’t posted a picture because I’m sure it’ll look SO MUCH COOLER when it’s complete) I took each different colored Post-It and wrote brief notes about everything that went on in that chapter w/r/t that character arc/mystery/relationship.

I know I probably don’t have to do this, but I’m not using the board so much to make sure that I’m pulling all the threads through–I’m pretty sure that part’s okay. What I really need is an easy reminder of exactly what is in which chapter, since, despite having worked on the novel for six years and also read it so many times my eyes are bleeding, I still forget where some stuff is. This exercise is really making me examine what is in which chapter, so that I can compile a “wish list” per chapter of what I need to add/remove, which will in turn make the edits go easier. At least, that is what I keep telling myself. At this point, writing AUT ceases to be organic–I need to tuck and tighten, and for that I need a game plan, a checklist…I respond well to checklists.

I promise to post a picture in all its colorful glory when it’s finished. I’ve given myself the arbitrary deadline of getting all my edits done by Thursday, April 3. Why? Well, I work better with deadlines, but my agent said, “Whenever you think it’s done,” so I’m going to be my own taskmaster which, isn’t every writer his/her own taskmaster in the end anyway? This’ll be good practice. Also, they’re going to London for the book fair, so if I get it to her before they leave she can read on the plane.

One Response

  1. […] movies, plot board, revisions, show don’t tell, television, The X-Files I worked more on the plot board yesterday night and it made its debut of sorts in my living room/kitchen/dining room when I showed […]

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