Friday, October 23, 2009

Unraveling Competing Plot Lines

For many months now, whenever I work on the plotting problems of the JASPER novel, it seems no matter what question I answer, there are always other questions that remain unanswered. Usually, once you get to a certain point, you reach critical mass and things start coming together. One answer automatically suggests several other answers. Not so here. Why?

It turns out the cause was hiding in plain sight: I added plot twists when I was writing, to make the story richer and more interesting, and less predictable. However, these competing threads were never properly laid out, never planned in their entirety so they would work together over the course of the entire novel. Any one of them makes sense at any given point -- the point at which the half-baked plot idea was conceived and thrown into the mix. The result is competing plot lines, rather than complementary plot lines. Hence, the revision work has been a lot like a Greek hero fighting a multi-headed Greek monster -- knock off one attacker and another one strikes.


At least now I see the source of the confusion. To help resolve this, ONCE and FOR ALL, which is the only way stories ever get finished, I resorted to some basic plotting maneuvers. I separated out the distinct plot lines, wrote out a short list of the major events for each plot line, from the POV of whichever character was closest to each plot line (the originator of that thread of action), and then I considered what/how/if the various plot lines complement each other. In other words, I've been doing what I should have done at the outset.

This has helped tremendously. I'm not done with it yet but I've made good progress. This approach has helped simplify the story and clarify competing character goals ("competing" in the sense that they could belong to different stories).

So, when the confusion gets to be too much, here's a good rule of thumb: break it down to its constituent parts, and work with smaller, more focused pieces. Establish the priorities, favor whichever plot line presents itself as the main plot line, and work in the others in a way that is helpful. Don't try to be a hero and take everything on all at once when all you need to do is divide and conquer. Take things on in sequence, one at a time, and you'll make your way. Or, to put it another way, don't mistake a lemon for a lemming.

Hero: 1
Hydra: 0

Blessed be the conquerors who persevere,


P.S. By way of background, remember that I usually plan my stories in great detail. JASPER was one story that I didn't plan. I just jumped in, wanting to unfetter my creativity after many months of intense, constrained, directed effort on other novels. It was good to loosen up, but I'm paying for it now. Hopefully the repair work is about done, and I'll be able to rewrite and edit as needed to finish this gem of a story before the holidays.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm Plotting Again . . . .

Yes, I'm plotting again! Gearing up for the next major push on the JASPER novel. I have solved several plot problems, but am still wrestling with the details at the end of the novel.

As soon as I finish this plotting work, I'll get back to writing / re-writing toward a completed second draft. The key is to keep it simple.

I'm excited about this story!


PS -- Still Reading!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Web Site Closing

Just a quick note to let visitors to my site know that I am closing my web site, which has been hosted on Geocities for over two years now. The reason for this is the fact that Geocities itself is closing. It was taken over by Yahoo some time ago, and Yahoo has decided to close Geocities and migrate accounts over to their regular (PAID) web hosting services. I had a paid account at Geocities, but instead of just migrating my site over to the new Yahoo version, I've decided it's time to close it entirely and re-open it elsewhere at a later date. This will allow me to either:

A) find a free service for a simple web site, which is all I had on Geocities and frankly all I really need; or

B) find a paid service that offers features I feel like paying for, in case I launch a more robust site (which has always been my goal, but I never have the time to build one since my priority is writing!).

Regardless of the route I take, I will migrate THE GAY MAN'S GUIDE TO WRITING FANTASY FICTION to the new web site and will let you know once it's available again.

Anyhoo, just letting y'all know what's up. My blogs on Blogger will continue without interruption, unless Blogger is also taken over by Yahoo and then I'll be looking for a new blog site! (haha)

Until soon,


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Still Reading!

Just a quick update so visitors to my blog will know I'm still blogging! A month has passed since my last posting. Hard to imagine. I'm still reading, with a heavier emphasis on the non-fiction stuff, history and culture. I'm just beginning to read another book of writing advice, which looks promising. It features sample manuscript pages with editing notes handwritten on them. I'll be interested to see how the type of editing they encourage compares with the editing I do on my own work. I have sure learned a lot about editing over the past couple of years.

Most importantly, I'm now turning my thoughts back to my own work and will gear up to return to my own projects in the coming weeks. I need to make another round of revisions on the JASPER novel, some of which will be extensive in the later chapters, but then hopefully it'll be finished. It's a very exciting story, one I feel has real potential. And then I'll get back to the CHASM novel, which is more ambitious in scope. (Note: these aren't the real titles, just the labels I use to refer to these stories in my blog. The real titles are much cooler and more marketable).

The Creative Break has done me a world of good, expanding my knowledge and filling me with ideas and inspiration.

Happy Autumn,