Some of you may have seen my Plot Wall on Twitter and some of you have already asked questions. I should explain that this is actually a reverse plot since I wrote the manuscript organically. (The first time I didn’t plot in advance.) Recently, I was hung up for a couple of months & just could not figure out what was wrong & why I couldn’t write. Then it struck me that I didn’t plot this story. I had no roadmap. It was time to go old school on this bitchy manuscript.
This is my process for laying out scenes (using the 4 Act story structure) so I can see everything at a glance while I revise. All the cards on the wall are color coded. I tried to coordinate index card colors with Post It colors. It’s as close as I can get it. I color coordinated it to help me see the action/reaction cycle of each scene’s climax. I only did the climaxes because I don’t have enough wall space to micromanage all the action/reaction cycles. Believe me, I could’ve really micromanaged all of it and it could be much bigger than it is. LOL
Before we begin, here are a couple of resources I found helpful. If you struggle with the action/reaction cycle check out: C.S. Lakin’s website https://www.livewritethrive.com My friend signed up for her Emotional Mastery For Fiction Writers Course and found it very useful. I will eventually save enough to take her course too. Scenes need structure and if you struggle with structuring your scenes, might I suggest “How to Structure Scenes” by K.M. Weiland https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-to-structure-scenes/
Now that the starting flag is out are you ready to go? I’ll ease out the throttle, give it some gas, and get this motorcycle rumbling down the track. (Thanks for the analogy, Nytrix. I hope you still love me after I get done torturing you.)
On my door, I have things I must remember as I’m plotting. I have cheat sheets I borrowed from a website (sorry can’t remember which one & I forgot to bookmark it) as well as my color codes and my beat sheets from Jami Gold. And of course, can’t do much without my supplies.
Or my important notes.
Since I had the story already, the first thing I did after I set up my Acts was break the chapters into major scenes and then I wrote a super short synopsis for each scene. I do this stage on white index cards. Eventually, they’ll be covered with a color-coded break down of the climax for each scene. I said it earlier, I could seriously break it down further if I had space, but I’m currently doing that in Scrivener.
The color-coding chart on my door is separated into Main Plot, Subplot, & Flags. Yellow stickies with lines are all the changes I want to make as I revise, but you can easily tweak any of this to fit how you work. The index cards & the stickies I tried to keep as coordinated as possible. Both the main plot & the subplot have the same exact coding since my colors are close enough. Flags have their own codes. I didn’t really use them much though so you can probably delete this step.
If you’re plotting the story before you work on it, then you probably won’t know the action/reaction cycle yet, but since this is a reverse plot, I can find the steps in what’s already written. As I go through my manuscript, I break the scene climax down into its bare bones Action/Reaction cycle.
Once I get all the scene synopses into each act and start my climax breakdowns, you can see already where the thin places are located.
For those plotting an unwritten manuscript, you can use a different coding system for instance: yellow could be what you want to happen; pink could be twists; they could even be for different POVs if you’re writing a multiple point of view story.
Because things can fall off the wall, I also tape them together and write the scene number on the cards in case of catastrophe. When all the Acts are charted, you can see where I need to trim and give it a little umph. For some reason I get hour glass plots instead of a muffin top when I pants.
There are so many different ways to fit the color coding to your writing process. The possibilities are endless. Hope you enjoyed your pit stop in my small corner of the internet. Now open the throttle to your imagination & plot or reverse plot that next manuscript.