Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Dreaded Plot Question--from Rebecca York

Since we’re discussing the dreaded plot, here’s my take on the subject.
My basic fiction method is to come up with an idea. Then I write a short synopsis (which I use to sell the book to an editor.) I then work on fleshing out the synopsis--adding more plot details and more background about the characters. At some point, I usually stop and write two or three chapters. When I write the chapters, I get to know the characters better. Then I go back and work on the synopsis/narrative outline again. When I have the suspense plot and the emotional arc of the story worked out, I start writing the book--and write as fast as I can. When I come up with ideas that were better than the ones in the synopsis, I use them instead of the previous ideas.

I used to take a long time writing a book, then a long time editing and polishing it. I've found that I can shorten the writing process considerably, but I still need to edit extensively.
I found out long ago that not doing a synopsis was a waste of time for me because it meant that I'd have to do a lot of rewriting. It's easier to change a 20-page synopsis than it is to rewrite a 300-page book.

I know some people hate to write a synopsis because it stifles their creativity. They say that if they've worked out the plot, then they're not interested in the story. I ask them how they know if a scene creates the effect they want in the book when they don't know the plot of the book.
I believe that a lot of writers hate working on a synopsis because it's an entirely different skill from actually writing. Some don't do it because their right brain functions much better than their left--and trying to write a synopsis is torture for them.

But I've found that making myself do it is an asset to my writing. If I didn't plot first, there would be no way I could write three or four books a year.

I find it helps to talk about a synopsis with my writing buddies. I might bring a plot to my critique group and get help with it. Or I might call up one of my suspense writer buddies and ask for plot aid. My basic approach is to write down as much as I know about the plot. Then fill in the blanks--or as much of them as I can. I've found that the more I know--the more I WILL know.

I never have everything nailed down. My synopsis might say--and then they escape from the psychotic killer. When I get to that part of the book, I have to stop and think about how they do it. So even with a synopsis, writing for me is like "slow reading." I'm madly writing to find out exactly what happened.

Rebecca York


Michele said...

Sounds complicated but effective.
Whatever you do, it works because I enjoy reading your works.
Thanks for sharing!

Rebecca York said...

It's not complicated. If it were complicated, I wouldn't be doing it!
Thanks for the compliment.

Anonymous said...

Every once and a while, I like to dream about writing a book; the emphasis on every once in a while.

I love your books, just keep pumping them out and never retire.


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