How I Lost My Pants: Plotting Murder, Mayhem, and (sometimes) Magic (Pt 3)

Last week I talked about what to do when–despite all your best-laid plans–you get stuck in a quagmire. Plot-wise, I mean. If you missed it you can catch up HERE.

This week, as promised. We’re using ALL THE MARKERS!!!

Okay, deep breath. Whew!dreamstimelarge_31882417

I love art supplies even though, seriously, I’m the worst artist in the world. I can’t even draw a straight line, which can be rather problematic. In fact, my “artistic talents” are limited to art journaling which requires that I please no one but myself and have only the level of ability for the wicked application of a whole lot of glitter. But still, I love paints and markers and Washi tape and all the other goodies (and yes, I’ve got a closet full of the stuff). So at some point in my journal plotting I decided to make my journal more FUN! And also, somewhere, there was a method to my madness. I haven’t gone full out art journal with my plotting journal (waaaay too much time and work), but I have added a splash of color here and there.

So, I’m going to get page by page specific using my first Viola Roberts book, The Corpse in the Cabana. Let’s take it a page at a time.

  1. Overall Story Idea – This is a brief chapter or two about the characters and the plot. Just the general idea that’s been floating about in my head. It’s very boring. Regular old ink. Though sometimes I jazz it up by putting a Washi tape  (colorful Japanese masking tape) border around it. Just for fun.
  2. Main Character – As you can see below, I used colored markers for her name so it stands out (as if I’d forget it) AND for emphasis on important information about her character. If you’ve read the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries, you know she’s obsessed with blackberry bourbon. And, as you can no doubt tell, it took me awhile to decide on that particular drink. So when I did, I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget. Hence the markers! I love these Prismacolor markers. They write well, have strong color, and don’t get all weird and gunky or faded. Plus they’re not horribly expensive. You can probably also tell I’m obsessed with Melissa McCarthy! 😉

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    Character Page for Viola Roberts

3. Other Characters – I always include photos for other major characters (such as the delicious Lucas and BFF Cheryl). They usually get different colored markers from the MC, but this was my first major outing with markers so things got…weird (so did Lucas’s name which changed about twenty times). Minor characters get write-ups (because I have the worst memory ever), but no images or fancy markers. Usually. Things change. I’m the boss of me. I can do what I want. (And you can too!) I always include pertinent information for consistency, especially for recurring characters.


4. Notes – I tend to include a page (or three) of notes after the characters. In CITC, I included questions that needed answers down the road. Things like… How is the victim killed?  Erm, yeah. Kind of important in a mystery! Again, this page(s) is often framed at least partially in Washi tape. Mostly because I have a Washi tape addiction. But also because it makes it easier to find within the journal. I can add notes whenever I need to, and check them off when I’ve answered the question.

5. Chapters – This is where the actual plotting happens. Story plot AND character arch. I just sort of throw it all in the mix because that’s how my brain works. It’s pretty lineal most of the time. But NOT always. (More on that in a minute.) Below you’ll see my “outline” for Chapter Two of CITC. I like to use one color marker for the chapter number (easy to see), a regular black pen for the outline, and then a colored marker or pen (or both) for notes I add later or things that need changed (like the victim’s name which changed from Casidy to Natasha at some random point in the rewrites). I write this, as I said, mostly in a linear fashion, but SOMETIMES I only have part of the book. So I outline what I know and leave the rest of the chapters blank to fill in later (after brainstorming as mentioned in last week’s post).

You may ask, “How do you know for sure that information will fall in that specific chapter? How can you know that many chapters need added?” The answer is I DON’T! And you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER. I just take a marker, scribble out that two and make it a three. Or whatever. The outline is merely a road map. There are LOTS OF OPTIONS to get from Point A to Point B. The outline helps you get there. It isn’t made of concrete. Liberating, don’t you think?


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Chapter Outline

6. Notes for Rewrites – This might, in fact, be THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the entire journal. Because it’s what takes the hot mess that I just spewed on the page (or computer screen) and turns it into the hint of magic to come. YAY, MAGIC!

Now HERE is where I really get crazy with multi-colored markers and pens (My favorite ever color pens are these Schneiders which come in eight different colors and write like a DREAM). You see, as I’m writing I often realize I need to go back and change or add something. Instead of doing it then and there (which can take more time), I jot down a quick note so I can do it in rewrites. That lets me keep going and saves time (more on that next week). This is all done in blue or black ink.

Once the draft is done and I’m ready for rewrites, I’ve got a nice collection of reminders as to what I need to work on. Since I often hop around a lot during rewrites, I tick off each thing as it’s done. Of course that means I need to highlight items that still need added so I don’t miss them (like the green circle below). Other times I have changed some things and need to alter my notes, so I use a different color like red to do that so I can see what is changed (like that first and second point).

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Notes for Rewrites – Looks like a hot mess, doesn’t it?

And there you have it, an in depth look at how I put the whole journal together and use it for plotting, writing, and rewriting. Oh, and the Post-its…Those are used like tabs most of the time (you can see it above as “Audio Book”). It helps me easily find things like the rewrite notes, for instance. Also, sometimes I have little ideas and hints that stick in. I’ve even done plotting boards with them (with varying degrees of success).

Next week: How I sped up my writing and how you can too! In the meantime, you can sign up for my Writing & Publishing Tips newsletter to be notified of future info.



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