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On Elephants - Plotcards

An examination of my Stockholm's for Writing.

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© 2013 - 2021 ixris
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anthropomorphiccanin's avatar
You plot on note cards?  That's interesting.  Do you do one plot point/event per card?
ixris's avatar
It's usually one scene or event simmered down into anywhere from one word to one sentence.  :heart:  I haven't broken out my notecards in a while, though, since I have an outline for the Elephant typed into the document right now that is More Right.

Lol.  Sometimes some tools are only useful some of the time.  <3
SideQuestPubs's avatar
That's, um.... That's a rather interesting visual.
I don't think I could manage note cards. Not physical ones, at least; I'm clumsy and messy and they'd probably wind up all over the place. Especially after laying down on top of them. ;p
Digital note cards.... I could try it, but I'm not exactly organized, either. It's taken me a near decade just to work out a system to track paragraphs I like and don't want to cut entirely, but have to remove from the current draft.

Good luck with it.
I've only been in NaNo three years, and though I've won each time, I've yet to actually finish any of the relevant stories.
Though I did at least plot my 2011 to the finish, and published a 6000+ word "flashback" :roll: from it, rewritten as a short story.
And my 2012 NaNo is actually a collection of stories, one of which is almost done.... (Pity I can't publish them, not without permission.... :()
ixris's avatar
I am -RIDICULOUSLY- clumsy. I well know the falls of clumsiness. But I also have a really big need to fidgit with things (lol, my writing desk has little matchbox cars and tiny horse figurines on it, simply so I have something to fiddle with when I feel utterly lost). Handling the notecards gives a physical weight to a story that's otherwise 100% digital. I have tried to print the pages out before. Does not work for me at -all-. (Lol, they'd turn into snowflakes and copy/pasta scraps more than anything. XD; ARTSANDCRAFTS - wait, what?)

Besides, a physical card makes it easier for me to focus on everything or just the one, without worrying how much of it I can see, how often I have to alt+tab to see the rest, etc. I'm a neurotic thing. :) I have to see what I'm working on ALL THE FLIPPING TIME. :giggle:

I've only -lost- Nano once out of the umpteen times I've done it. To the point that I didn't do Nano the last two years because I'm like "What is the point? I have all these untamed wild nanoplots from years passed lying around, surely I can find some -better- use for them..." Seriously, when you can 50k after day 10, there's not a point in playing the marathon race. :) (HOW did the Elephant get so big, I have no idea....)

:heart: :hug: :heart: As Chuck Wendig says (and has become my mantra): "Finish your shit."
Razor13's avatar
This is inspiration. To have a limited word count in mind. >.> XD :heart:
ixris's avatar

Razor13's avatar
I don't repeat yours. I HAS MY OWN PROBLEMS! *flail flail die* x.x
ixris's avatar
Razor13's avatar
NEVAR finishing outside of NaNoWriMo X_X

PLOT. Oh the bunnies. They eat meh!

I need a writing schedule. I just need to find one and keep to it. It's going to end up multiple different times. x.x
ixris's avatar
Nano is totally the best thing ever for "OKAY BUT THIS" because you have a deadline to uphold. :) I 50k way too quickly (lol, I make veterans weep with how many novel plots I can shove into November) to the point that I use the rest of the month to figure out how to end stories that have stalled out. :) There is magic to November. <3

Too much plot? Wrong plot? Not enough relevant plot? *PEER*

Writing schedules are very important to some. I have Ideal Writing Times. "Magic Hour"s as they were. :) Right before dawn is one (lol, I woke up today specifically so I could work on revision early, but um, all that happened was I answered my old dA messages... XD; ) But yes, you should totally make time to write. :)
Razor13's avatar
I need that deadline. It feels odd if I don't have one. Last year I had 366 poems and NaNoWriMo. This year so far I've had Camp NaNo from April and I think I wanna do the next. I have some ideas.

I have the issue of lacking plot and then it's usually a weak plot. This is why I like months to prep for NaNoWriMo because I spend months trying to plot and work on things and my characters are nice enough to talk to me when I'm trying to go to sleep and say things like 'this won't work' or 'I wanna do this' and get very whiny in a helpful way. I have plot problems. I need help. Any good resources you can recommend?

Deadlines and schedules are nice to me. Sadly most of my magic time is already scheduled for other things like work. This is why I love my iPad. I can write on it, checkout books from work digitally, and edit. I'm starting to keep my notes on one app. I just wish it would sync across with my iPod. >.< My hours tend to be best at night. But I can't stay up late at night because my parents would whine at me and I already don't want to wake up. I think part of it is I need to make sure I have my butt in the chair and just write.
ixris's avatar
Nano and the deadlines that come with it are -fantastic-. :) I love them.

Hmm..... Plotting has never been a weak point for me, so I don't seek out resources for that. For me, I learned the basics of a good solid outline and plot from Roz Morris' Nail Your Novel (she also has a blog: [link] ), which gave me what essentially evolved into my Mobile Outline, which is the most solid-form plot tool I've ever used. For me, also, just a life inundated with fiction has helped hugely. I know you read a TON, but make sure you have healthy doses of non-fiction and essay in your diet, too. (i'm sure you do, but unfortunately that's all I really have to offer. D: )

Also: Omg, characters in your head. X3 I love the voices in my head. They are one of my favorite things about being a writer.

Can you be more specific about your "weak" plot problems? You feel they're implausible, or you feel like they aren't interesting, or...?

Oh god, I hate when work eats magic time. :C My job currrently eats -both- my magic hours (4 PM and 6 AM - WHY SPLIT SHIFT WHYYYYY) e___e But once I was out of high school my parents were always like "whatever, just don't wake us," lol. I write pretty much every moment I can spare, though, when I'm not composting. Active projects on the board? Forget anything else. That is my happy space. 8D
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Neurotoxiclifeguard's avatar
Wow, thats a lot of papers! > A > good work getting all of this together!! :icongwompplz:
And this is how you plan your storyline? o A o I dont understand a thing... (aka pls explain)
(also, we need to talk more xP sry I havent had time to answer your replies lately... Im working on it! ^^;)
ixris's avatar
Lol, this is so not the planning stage.

This story started as a shot in the dark for my first ever NaNoWriMo. It is the first long-view project I ever began (ie: it is the first one aimed as a novel, as opposed to "IDK I RITE WERDZ :dummy:"). I had the Best Plot Ever and then it got trainwrecked hardcore by who I thought was a tertiary character, who basically took over the plot. I let it run. I'm glad I did.

Every year since then, I've added, subtracted, changed things until it became pretty damned obvious I couldn't put this thing down. It earned its name ("The Elephant") from ~Quissie telling me one day "It's like I'm sitting here saying, 'Lilu, we're going on a trip, pack lightly.' and you're over there 'Okay, Qui, but I'm Not Leaving without My Elephant.' and I have to say, 'Lilu. Lilu. Look. It won't fit in the car. You have to leave it.'" That was almost five years ago. I've admitted I have a problem probably three years ago. Lol.

Those first pictures are the thing as it stands right now. My most recent draft, in an effort to trim it down to a publishable size. If you were to publish the thing how it is now, you would have (aside from an excruciatingly broken book) a book that is approximately 1,080 pages long. Looking at that number puts me into a terror. I think, taking out scenes that were broken and redundant, I trimmed it back to 900 pages even, but that's still too big to publish seriously.

I have walked away from and abandoned this thing so many times. It won't leave. I won't leave it.

The third picture, with far fewer cards, that's the plot how it stands now, lain out in a '1 2 3 4' by the numbers, just to get a visual on how much smaller it is compared to the Elephant proper. It's still big (especially if you compare it with my Chasing Sunset plot <3 but Chasing Sunset takes place over about 2 months, whereas the Elephant is technically 6 years, though the brunt of it is 12 months), but it's a manageable size. I don't want to hyperventilate at the thought of its existence.

The 'Mobile Outline' is how I'm starting to learn I need to plot things to keep myself on track as far as size and shape of things. A standard outline (very rigid, fixed shape) makes me want to crawl the walls and scream until eardrums rupture the next state over. It's because I can't look at things as they happen. A LOT of my plots have things happening at exactly the same time.

Besides, if I decide something doesn't fit, I don't want to rewrite an entire outline. Not yet, man. Leave that for when I actually need to make one for queries and shit.

What happens is every major plot point is written on a card. I write them in order, then lay them out. As I lay them out, I try to visualize (fast forward or slowed down) what would happen in that scene. Some of my plotcards have lines of dialogue, a little touch-stone for the direction I had in mind when I get around to actually writing the thing. Some of them are one word, some of them are a whole sentence. It's a tool for -me-. No one else has to think it makes sense.

But once I get stuck, I move to the next thing I -know- happens. "Goldilocks finds a cabin in the woods .... aw fuck... um.... uh.... BEARS COME HOME AND FIND HER. Yeah." And build a bridge back and forth between those two points. WHY do the bears come back? Where were the bears? What was Goldilocks doing when they find her? And before that?

If I decide that something doesn't fit, I can pull out the entire bridge that that point is part of. I can set the bridge aside, build a new one, see what implications it has on the plot. In my Chasing Sunset cards, I have about 20 unused plot points. Some of them went into the later plots in the series, but most of them were scrapped. At this stage, it is ridiculously easy to get rid of something.

Then, when I feel like I have the whole plot ironed out, I lay it out how it happens. "This then that then this then that, oh but at the same time as this, that other thing is happening." I need a looooooong space for the Elephant, but I can do it (lol, I just didn't have space in my living room yesterday, so you can't see it all in one single line - I considered shopping the picture apart and together, but really, this way works just as well).

And as I lay out the cards, I let the story run, fast-forward, through my head. Little touchstones are in each of those cards, little pieces that make sense to me only. (Case in point: In my Chasing Sunset set, I have a card that says "HERMAN is tres cool, yo" - what that means to ANYONE but me is pretty much nothing. To me it means that the big bad master vampire shows up, makes a menace of himself, and starts being a bigger asshole at Bina than he'd ever been, and pretty much makes himself known to the Hunters.) This is a tool only I will use, and my bffs who wind up being my sounding boards. And any questions they have can be fielded right away to me ("What does that mean? ... Oh, okay.")

I run through a plot's Mobile Outline about five times before I'm sure this is what I'm going to commit to. I try to leave a lot of wiggle room because I am notorious for doing the opposite of what I say. And when I'm finished each run, I pick it up again, then set it out again. If anything feels wrong, I take it apart, decide whether or not this is what would make the strongest story.

I know a lot of people just write whatever they want without paying attention to a preconceived plot (Oh god, I was like this for so long and it didn't do me a whit of good. D: ), and some people who need very rigid and rigorous outlines. I need a middle-ground. I need the support of a plot that every time I falter I can say "HERE. You go here next." but if I change my mind in writing it ("This scene is awful, what can go here instead?") I am granted that liberty.

Does that um... explain better?
Neurotoxiclifeguard's avatar
Wow... I... when I said explain, sure you explained it... but I didnt expect... xD
Yup xP I think that about explained it xDD

I suppose I do almost the same thing though, but in my head? I have the whole storyline thought out from begining to end on a few stories, but a few I havent really come up with a good ending to yet... and sometimes I mend characters together or make scenarios happen earlier or later than originally planned, or change the age of people etc... and after I change it it sort of stays that way without any effort really xD
I suppose thats nice? being able to get by without the plot cards! but perhaps my stories would get a push or become clearer if I outline them like you do... hm... might actually do that sometime xP
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