Author Loree Lough shared information recently on Smart Plotting (or how to avoid the dreaded sagging middle) at a writers’ meeting I attended recently.
She is a bestselling and award winning author of 105 books and more than 5,000.000 fiction and non-fiction books in circulation, as well as 72 short stories and more than 2,500 articles in print.
The main suggestion I found helpful was that to fill in the middle, you want to start the ending. Give readers hints as to what is coming. Since I am more of a pantser, (writing without a detailed outline), I sometimes do not have a clear picture of the ending so get hung up in the middle of my story. So I found her approach interesting.
|Sophia Prunty had a chance to speak to author Loree Lough|
at a recent writers' meeting.
Cliffhangers are important, she said, because you want at the end of each chapter to have the reader ask “And then what happens?”
She gave everyone copies of a blank Plot Timeline. You can add to it or change it as needed, she said. Using a similar timeline will help you keep track of important details about your hero and heroine, your theme, the season, setting and time period of your story. The Plot Timeline is useful for short stories, scripts and even non-fiction, as well as novels.
The timeline has spaces for chapter information and scenes within each chapter. Plus, she uses tags or symbols to indicate if a scene is a happy one, sad, spiritual, love or exciting. This gives you the opportunity to see if you are including enough of what you planned at a quick glance. As you are reviewing, you can make sure you did not leave something important out.
She gave an example of one of her earlier stories where she had introduced the people who had raised an orphaned girl, but forget to have them later at the girl’s wedding or explain why they weren’t there. So she had to rework the ending.
In Scene One, you want to introduce the character, the season and setting and start the action. You do not want to put everything into that first chapter.
“Jerk their chain. Pump it up,” she said. Readers want more than just a good story. You must have emotion in everything. They want to feel, to understand. Stories are a form of entertainment.
Think of your reader when you are writing, she said. Inform and entertain the reader. In a mystery, there should be sufficient clues that the mystery could be solved but also red herrings to throw people off the track.
If you have writer’s block, do some freestyle writing, Loree suggested. Prompts are good for this. A short period of just writing quickly will help you get back to your novel or short story. We often offer a writing prompt for our critique group and it amazing how many different approaches there are to the same prompt.
Teen Sophia Prunty, who came to the meeting with her grandmother Betty Houck, was pleased with the presentation. “It was fun and very informative. She knew what she was talking about,” she said. “She used examples from her own stories and showed how the process worked for her.”
Sophia is writing a coming-of-age story about teenagers and discussed some of it with Loree, who asked questions and mentioned how the story could go in different directions and how she could give information about her characters by what they did or their reaction to events instead of just saying it.
“It was really good. She used the timeline as a skeleton. Filled that in first and then worked around it.” Sophia said. “She went to the second step in the planning process.”
Sophia said she is trying the National Novel Writing Month challenge (Nanowrimo) for the first time, but is behind because of school and other activities. “But at least I have some of the writing done, more than I would have if I had not tried to do this. I will continue to write more.”
Joelle Jarvis, who is president of the Carroll County Chapter Maryland Writers’ Association, is also participating in Nanowrimo, along with several of the other 17 writers at the meeting. For more information about this annual writing challenge check out www.nanowrimo.com.
Loree’s blog can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org and she can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.