How to plan your plot
Very cool concept. I like it. Your visual sketches were perfect to illustrate the ideas 👌
I'm all over the place, but mostly a pantster (though I'll be honest, I had to google what that was) -- for some things I've written over the last half year, I've just had to watch and see where it was going. Thrilling, yes; disorganised, yes 😆
The loom is good though. I think that's probably a bit more where I'm at. Things solidify, but there's many a possible path ahead. The only issue is, for me that forward thread is mostly invisible. I just have to feel it out and feed it in.
I love outlining, but it is positively useless to me. My poor brain numbly but thoroughly believes I've already written the book once I know what it's about. So I use the kind of half-outline bullet point one. And I have to do the Dickens-by-way-of-Hama thing of not knowing more than 1 or 2 pages ahead.
This is similar to how I write, but you've described it much better than I ever have. I recently attempted to produce a full outline before writing, and I found it to be the death of creativity -- for me personally, that is.
I envy those who can fully outline and produce something wonderful, just as I envy those who can start writing with only a general idea and produce something wonderful. But I've always needed some sort of hybrid approach, even if that winds up taking longer overall.
Lovely article and love all the Loki references 🤣 My wife and I started season 2 but decided to go back and rewatch season 1 to reacquaint ourselves so all the talk of sacred storylines and looms is fresh in my mind lol.
The Story Loom is an apt way of describing how I've planned my serial. In the past, I used to pants all the way and rarely managed to finish anything. Plotting out every detail seemed too restrictive (and frankly, boring) for the reasons you stated above. So, I've found myself doing what you've outlined. I have a basic outline in 3 acts with the big milestones thrown in, but the actual paths that lead to those milestones aren't as clearly defined. And frankly, that's led to a far more exciting writing experience.
Case in point, I had originally planned for my characters to go on a journey from location A to location B. In my head, this journey was only going to take 2 or 3 chapters. What I didn't anticipate was the overall journey taking 15 chapters and an entire subplot weaving its way in between them. Admittedly, this did significantly change the main plot, but for the most part those milestones remained. Some of them just had to be pushed further back, some others even brought forward.
But so far, its worked effectively for me and I love it!
This is such a cool concept, and I love the designs! I am a “discover as I go” writer, which is really fun but also means I don’t always finish the stories I start! I’m excited to try your method; I feel like it might be precisely what I need to be able to finish a novel and still have fun with it!
Love the visuals! That’s exactly how I work, too.
Love this illustrated concept so much. I had been implementing this in the past couple years but wasn’t able to articulate what it was or why it was working for me. I particularly enjoy the discovery writing aspect of the possible future story threads because it keeps it fun and interesting for me to write and experience the story while I’m writing it. And the milestone portion is key to keeping the story on track. Brilliant!
Would you mind if I cross-post this to the storyletter audience at some point, Simon?
Things to mull for the future.
I have a tangled web of plot threads. A few important nodes. Know where certain things will go, even if the how remains unclear.
Drafted some tests.
I suppose right now I'm obsessing over whether I'm going to go third person, limited, first person, or do the entire thing via letters and journal/diary/log entries (like, say, "Dracula"), or just screw it and mix and match depending on the scene or viewpoint character and see if readers find that interesting and engrossing, or annoying and intrusive.
I tried pantsing and outlining, but outlining for me is best. I found I had to plug a lot of holes when there was no plan. I love the image of the loom since it’s how I visualize stories. It’s helpful to have now so I can have confident a story will come together. Or unravel completely. Either way I have a sense of what’s coming and can move accordingly.
Are you watching Loki? Your illustrations are very similar to how they portray the Marvel timeline.
I love this, Simon. As it happens, I'm finding more joy and success in my current writing project/experiment (a serialized children's chapter book) in large part because I have adopted a similar approach to the one you describe here. I have been using "interlude" chapters told from a different narrator as sort of milestones that help me to keep the narrative going without totally knowing exactly how it will unfold (leaving room for surprises). I'm having more fun than I ever have before, and I also feel that the serialized format helps me to not overly obsess over weaker episodes. I feel optimistic that I get a fresh start with the next one.
Your three bullet points are exactly he reasons I don't plan. But the thing is, I'd actually quite like to know what I was doing because I'm sure the edits would be a lot smoother.
Your visuals made me think of my own serial, which due to the pseudo fighting game set up has fourteen distinct strands right from the starting line. Everything starts from the prologue, then you have the pick of main character, and each character's story threads through different fights (since it's a fighting game story). And while there's a standard baseline for the structure of each character's story, many of the ones I've done so far have divergences from it.
Even when I made a point of not writing ahead for one character, I go in with an idea of what sort of things will happen for the story overall, the arc and themes, the moments and ideas I want to reach.
Also been trying to outline the planned NaNoWriMo project by writing things out, but maybe it will work better with a different method like this, or one I try to craft myself.
I literally have no concept how people can write jumping about all over the manuscript. The first sentence I write is the opening sentence, and I go from there through to the end. I edit as I go, sure, but in terms of creating the bulk - it goes in order.
Usually I have a vague idea of where I'm headed and meander along until I get there which, remarkably so far, seems to work out. Interestingly, I have a LOT more of this year's NaNoWriMo sketched out in my head than I've ever had previously. I'm looking forward to seeing what that's like as a writer.