What's the Plan Again?

I’ve talked about James Scott Bell’s LOCK system before and how it’s a fantastic way to plan your story from the 30,000-foot level (or 9,144-metre level for my foreign friends who turn their noses up at the Imperials).

Let’s say you’ve spent a considerable amount of time putting your story summary together. With that behind you, you then get sucked into the world of first and second drafts where, oh my, you discover your robot protagonist was human all along. This changes everything and you wind up stuck, trying to figure out just how to make the story cohesive again.

Why is my story suddenly a jumbled mess now? It was so well planned in the beginning.

At some point, you throw your hands up in frustration and decide the writing time is better spent cleaning up your office.

“What’s this?” you say, coming upon a crumpled Post-it® note. “Oh! It’s that long lost summary that outlined things so nicely.”

Stop here.

Before you make any rash decisions and reach for a lighter, take that Post-it® in one hand and your current draft in the other. You have a decision to make:

1. Stick to the original plan and cut all of those “new and exciting ideas” you discovered.

Your initial plan was brilliant and those side trips you took in your drafts, mere whims that never really contributed anything. You knew what you wanted to say a couple of weeks ago and your brain took you on a detour.

In this case, it’s probably best to get back on the original track and save those detours in another file. They may come in handy for a future story.

2. Revise the original plan based on those same new and exciting ideas.

Wow! The villain with a wig fetish really is better then my old cardboard cutout bad guy.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve discovered more about what you really wanted to say after the first couple of drafts and, therefore, this is the better choice. You just need to take these new ideas into account and start the LOCK process (or whatever you use) over again. This will put things back together in your mind and once again, you’ll have focus.

Does this ever happen to you guys? How do you usually deal with it?

-Phillip

0 thoughts on “What's the Plan Again?

  1. It’s amazing how much I write that will never see the light of day. I’ve rewritten a history countless times, included numerous write ups for races, etc. They get lost, generally, but each rewrite is better, improving upon the original ideas as I’m forced to think them over. After a while I’ll generally do an “office cleaning” day and find my old notes. I’ll compare them, take some of the old and include it, but a lot of the time I write and hide.

    I’ve also found, though, this adds a lot of extra you don’t need. Going through my current story there are as many scenes I want to add as delete. It’ll just make a better read, more concise, and more sensical.

  2. “Revise the original plan” often comes to me after I’ve sent work around to my critique partners. They have the gift of showing me what doesn’t work and offering brilliant suggestions to improve the story. But I never revise right away. I always let the comments settle for a while, and the solution comes to me in time. One of my writing friends once told me that as we revise we should erase our footprints. In other words, revisions often leave barely a trace of the original draft.

  3. I’m the opposite, my stories start out as a “jumbled mess.” 🙂 I throw everything out there and follow no rules. Writing from the heart can be messy, but through the revision process, order begins to take over.

  4. I found recently that in completing the first and second drafts of my WIP, I’ve discovered two parallel storylines emerging, both great, neither of which seem to mesh quite as nicely as I’m wanting them to. So I’m resorting to expert advice, like Martha Alderson’s “The Plot Whisperer,” and James Scott Bell. So far, it’s like taking a car apart and rebuilding it; a messy process, but if you want to know how certain things work, it’s an invaluable process.

  5. Ha. I don’t plan. That’s my strategy. I just sit down and write and write and write and end up throwing out about 75% of it, then write some more until I’m happy with it.

  6. I pretty much always do a first draft on a dictaphone – that way I can tell the dumb ideas because suddenly I feel like an idiot, talking. When I’ve hit the truth, all self consciousness dissolves!

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