Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Plan! Wait. What?

(doh! premature posting!  This is FRIDAY's blog)

So y'all know how I like to make a plan, yeh? But you've probably also heard that I am plan-FOLLOWING challenged? But I'm definitely not a PANTSER (down with pants!) Whatever the case, I may meander and lollygag through my books, but I ALWAYS know where I'm going. I have a PLAN! *BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA*


But there are things I apparently was not CLEAR on...

Did you know as READERS you don't have ESP? You are not capable of reading my mind... This is BAFFLING to me. But Leigh read LEGACY recently and there was a consistent theme (aside from my lack of tags on my dialog). “Where is this going? What is the goal?”

Say what? The goal is SURVIVAL! And I have a PLAN! But apparently I haven't been clear enough... I guess readers don't just... you know... TRUST US.  We need to give them a promise of what's coming...

And so I've had to do some THINKING about how this works.

In my mysteries, this is EASY. I write mysteries with amateur sleuths, so right from the time of the murder/body finding event, I need to give the sleuth a STAKE to be a sleuth instead of turning it totally over to the authorities... Typically this is in the form of the cops barking up the wrong tree (or at least a tree the sleuth wants them to leave alone) so there is a POINT at which the sleuth says of implies, “if they are going after [best friend, love interest, relative] I'm going to have to solve this myself.”



But what about suspense? It's not so cut and dried... There is something to SOLVE but as written, the protags have no clue what this IS yet...


I haven't quite figured it out. In my first chapter, my character wants OUT OF HERE! And she accomplishes that. End of book, right? Yeah, erm... one chapter book... But really, in the moment, that is all SHE KNOWS, so how the heck to I tell the READER where the story is heading?

This is my problem... I am pretty GOOD at dropping a piece here and a piece there to build up to a PLOT EVENT, but the more subtle layer of foreshadowing... direction? (hell, I don't even know what I am foreshadowing)... the thing agents have been telling us “I want an idea where this story is going to go”... Sheesh! How did I MISS that this advice was talking to me!?

I think the solution is to layer pieces about where she will end up that SHE doesn't get, but that the reader begins to think 'ah—I bet that is where her journey is going'. Tricky, but I imagine it's possible...

My other protags are a little easier. Their first chapter is the murder of their father—and he has been preparing them to hide—he KNOWS something is wrong before the bad guys come to get him. Heck—they start to search the house after the murder, so there is a clue IN THE HOUSE, yeh? But I STILL need to put this all into more concrete terms.




What I'm Learning about Learning

You know, there was a time I would never admit to not knowing what I was doing... But this writing business is very humbling. Every time I think I master something, some other thing crops up that I learn I am apparently clueless on. So I think maybe it is just time to give in to it... there will ALWAYS be more to learn.

I will just have to find the right teachers... I'm sure there is SOMEBODY who can whip me into shape...



33 comments:

roxy said...

I need to remember my story plan and as you said, stop meandering through my writing. And yet, meandering can be so much fun. Sorry, what was I saying? Oh, right, stick to the plan.

Abby Minard said...

Its great to have other people read our stories for that reason- we know what's going on, but the reader may not. And its hard for us to see past that because we know our whole story from the beginning!

And yes, there will always be more to learn- I feel like I am always learning something new about writing.

erica and christy said...

I'm suffering with you right now! I thought I knew where I was going with my MG novel - hit a dead end and had to delete about 4,000 words. Now I've rewritten that part and gone down a new road, but since my ending needs to also be totally different than planned - I'm at a stand still!

Sorry you have to rework Legacy, but thank goodness Leigh helped you catch it!
erica

Misha said...
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Misha said...
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Misha said...

Eek that part of showing where things are going scares me. And I write fantasy.

See... a lot of things are going on that my MCs don't know about. So how am I supposed to mention it in their perspective?

Sigh...

Good luck!

:-)

Old Kitty said...

Up with pants cos that's what I am! LOL!! But getting Naked on a Friday is good too!!!

Good luck with your planning and discovering who will dare take the challenge to erm.. whip you into shape. Ahem. Take care
x

Will Burke said...

At am impressionable age, I read a book where the foreshadowing was done really poorly and obviously, so now I am way too subtle. It is not an easy trick, to be sure. (PS I also just read your previous post, and I think I'm off to be a Crusader. Great MP reference: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition...")

Cold As Heaven said...

I've realized that the more I study a subject, and dig into details, the more I realize how much I still don't know. Living is learning, non stop >:)

Cold As Heaven

Hart Johnson said...

Drat! I had answered almost all of you and firefox shut down! I hate that!

Roxy--WELCOME! And yeah... I can meander and go off on a tangent with the best of them, so I hear you!

Abby-So true! I am always so SURE I have gotten it across and someone will ask a question that shows I've miscommunicated completely!

Misha-My problem exactly! My heroine is too smart not to KNOW too much if my clues aren't REALLY subtle!

Jenny-you will just be in the same spot--adding it in in the rewrite... But MAN, did I not even consider it needed to be there!

Will-you know... I hear you, there. I hate it overdone--disrespects the reader. Glad you're joining the crusade!

CaH-I think that is all of life... the more you know, the more stuff you realize is OUT THERE that you don't have a clue about, eh?

Jan Morrison said...

Tartlette - yep. All true. I got a call from one of my first readers on The Rock Walker and she got me thinking about several huge holes in the plot. As you know, I've changed a lot anyway so that isn't so bad. It was a wonderful if humbling experience - picture me watching the tube with sweet patootie and I get the call from her. She is not a writer but she's a reader. "I have some questions for you." And they were all good and true questions - she wasn't trying to pick holes - she truly wanted to know why this and why that. Back to work! (sound of lash being whipped)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The Plan is probably something I don't convey as well either. The goal for all five of my fiction pieces it to find peace, but since they are a 'slice of life' as my husband calls them, that might not be enough for some readers.

Boonie S said...

You're missing the mark completely for me with your pictures. Can we males have a little more of your bathtub titillation please.

Have a nice day, Boonie

Lisa said...

Hang on. I have to go reread a few thousand words!

jenny milchman said...

Hart, in a word, this is why my first novel reached 13 drafts, and my last 8. Your post made me shiver.

Christopher S. Ledbetter said...

I'm a total plotter. I can't fly bty the seat of my pants... too nerve wracking! Anyhoo, in terms of *forecasting* I just wrote a post on this, talking about giving the reader a promise, however subtle or slight the presentation of it is. But the promise leads the reader by the hand through the book. I'm by no means a master, but I think the advice is spot on.

Best of luck, Hart.

LTM said...

you are an awesome writer--now amp up that tension, girl~ :D xoxo <3

((hugs))

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I hear ya! I just finished Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, and I thought it was a masterful example of how to add those layers of suspense and plot that draw the read and the characters through the story. I learned a lot from it, just by reading and enjoying the novel.

Good luck with your project!!

Holly Ruggiero said...

You know I've actually read books like that before. I've read ¾’s of it and still wonder what it is about. But it is intriguing so I stay with it. Then at the end I say - "OH!"

"You know, there was a time I would never admit to not knowing what I was doing" - best line ever.

Hart Johnson said...

Jan-so great to have a reader help so much, eh? Though I loved Rock Walker! Maybe though, as a writer, i spotted clues your reader friend didn't.

Diane-I think those self growth things can definitely look different.

Boonie-you're a nut!

Lisa-wait, what?

Chris-I will have to go check that out, as it is perfect timing!

Leigh--what? I'm tense! Wait... that's not what you mean, is it? yeah yeah...

Nicole-great to have a recommendation for doing it well!

Hart Johnson said...

Holly-you snuck in there! You know, I don't mind a book like that EITHER, and I get annoyed if it is too heavy-handed, but I think that patience thing puts us in a minority.

Steel Magnolia said...

Hart! You continue to amaze me with your brilliant concepts, your writing style ... and your ideas which seem to keep coming day afeter day. Always a great read. Always provacative. Keep on, keepin' on, darlin'. Cheers!

Carolyn Abiad said...

I think it's impossible to get all the foreshadowing in on the first round. Those little scenes come to me as I reread my work. Subtle setting clues need some outright obvious events to pull them together. Subtle I'm good at...obvious needs some work so it doesn't turn into ridiculous. :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I think every day I learn more about what I *don't* know! It's a daunting business! You're doing great, though. :)

Talli Roland said...

Oh ugh, story plans. UGH. Half the time I can't even figure out the next sentence! :) I think I need me a teacher, too.

Helena said...

I know whatcha mean about not being clear enough -- a reader of my own novel pointed out something in my plot I THOUGHT was perfectly clear, but it turned out to be as clear as pea soup.

Maybe while plotting your stories you're letting yourself get distracted by all these pictures of naked men and... Oh yes, that last one is very nice. What were we talking about?

Hart Johnson said...

SM (You're S&M on purpose, aren't you? teehee)--thank you so much!

Carolyn-I'm so relieved to not be alone here... though I definitely had less clue about how to go about it.

Elizabeth-Thank you! I'm relieved you are still learning, too! (erm... meaning I'm relieved to not be alone in feeling like I'm 'not there yet')

Talli-I think he can be scheduled!

Helena-It's so hard, isn't it!? We know what we know... how can everyone else not SEE!? teehee

Mary Vaughn said...

I feel your pain! There are times I think I've made things "perfectly clear,"too clear in fact. Then a reader will come back to me with something totally different.

For me, it's about going back. Rereading and listening to my readers is part of how I learn.

Hart Johnson said...

Mary-I did TOO clear on my last book. I had 3 rounds of editing before it finally stopped being obvious who my killer was...

Carol Kilgore said...

Yes, I get this. I rock along for a while, then learn something new. Even things I already knew take on new meaning. And I wonder what else I don't know. It's a continual process. I don't know if I'll ever master it enough to be good.

Ciara said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. One question, am I really expected to focus on the substance of the post with the man candy watching me? He is my type of guy. Clean cut and muscular. :)

Raquel Byrnes said...

I know a mystery writer that has no idea who the killer is at the end of her book and then goes back and inserts scenes that are foreshadowing or clues. She is a panster too. Hmmm....
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Julie Musil said...

Oh, how true this is! When a critique partner is confused, I know I must dive back in and make the story make sense. Yes, it's humbling, and yes, I doubt myself ALL THE TIME. Thankfully we can pool our collective wisdom and help each other out.