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Plot as Snowfall

May 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Spent some time today working on the plot for a new project. 

This time I'm trying to use notecards from beginning to end.  For other books and projects in the past, I've used whatever technique seemed best for whatever piece of the story I was thinking about at the time.  Milkweed started out on one giant whiteboard, and then I worked on notecards and scraps of paper as I got into the details of each book, act, and chapter.

But this time I want to do it all with one method.  I think the notecards have been a good choice so far.

This morning, I took some time to lay out all the cards on the floor in my dining room.  (I've vowed that I'll never again deprive myself of a place to eat dinner, so writing work never goes on the table.  And the desk in my writing office is too small for this.)  It helped me see all the scenes that are connected to the spine of the story, and all the scenes that are floating off in outer space without having grown the connective tissue that will bind them into the book.

Later I opened the back door to take out the recycling.  And, because this is New Mexico, the wind was gusting with gale-force winds. 

I did eventually find all the cards.  I think.

So who knows what the final plot will be.  It certainly got a good shuffle today.


Steve Halter May 2, 2011 at 9:19 am
Have you ever read any of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone mysteries (A is for Alibi, ...)? Kinsey likes to record case notes on notecards and then shuffle them together to try to see connections that might not be apparent in a linear fashion. So, the wind could be a good thing.
Melinda May 2, 2011 at 11:11 am
It will be like a "Make Your Own Adventure Book". :) I do love the cards though. They really help me when I'm plotting.
DMS May 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm
I recently read a short story that started with the instruction to read a set of scenes in whatever order the reader wanted. Not sure how well that would work for a longer format.
Tengland May 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm
"Let the cards fall where they may." Just type the story from where they fell and send it in. What's the big deal? You're working with only half a deck here, so stop shuffling around and deal with it. You're an ace writer, the diamond in the rough, the heart of the story. Don't let fate club you over the head or jack you around. Here's the straight poop (even though it makes you flush with embarrassment). Um, sorry.
YetiStomper May 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm
Dare I ask what this project is about?
Ian May 3, 2011 at 10:11 pm
No, I've never read any Sue Grafton. That's a neat trick! For the most part I've only read noir detective stories, but Philip Marlowe doesn't use notecards. Cigarettes and rye and sometimes his fists. He'd probably take a sap to the skull a little less frequently if he used notecards.
Ian May 3, 2011 at 10:16 pm
It will be like a "Make Your Own Adventure Book". :) That's it! That's the insight I was missing! That's why this book wasn't coming together-- I need to write it in second person! :-) I recently read a short story that started with the instruction to read a set of scenes in whatever order the reader wanted. Wow, that's actually pretty cool. Did it work? What was the story? I'd love to check that out.
Ian May 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm
Your penchant for punning will only lead to sorrow. I think this might be your record, though. And here I thought it was bad enough at CM when you and Steve starting batting puns back and forth like a badminton shuttlecock. That's not a pun. That's a bad metaphor.
Ian May 3, 2011 at 10:20 pm
Well, I don't want to give too much away just yet. But... you know that upcoming movie, "Cowboys and Aliens?" Well, replace "cowboys" with "robotic ninjas from the future" and "aliens" with "telepathic dinosaurs". That's all I'm saying for now.
DMS May 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm
It's the translation of Yamano Koichi's "Where do the Birds Fly Now?" in the Speculative Japan anthology.
Ian May 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm
That sounds really fascinating. I have to get my hands on it.
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