Keeping the Plots Straight

As I work on book #2 of the Svatura series – Hyacinth – I am discovering how tricky it is to keep all the plots straight. Every series of books that I’ve considered to be great has usually incorporated multiple plot lines. There’s always the main plot line. But then there are several subplot lines that are introduced at various points throughout the books and then followed through until all the plot lines wrap up beautifully together in the final book. When it’s done well it can often be my favorite aspect of the series. As a writer it is a goal of mine to do this well.

Obviously I can’t reveal all my plot lines here and now – that would be telling. I can tell you that I have worked out most of the subplots from a high level. There’s a few ideas I’m still noodling on – plays on some really interesting folklore I ran across that fits perfectly into my concept. The details of these subplots will come out as I write – a more organic process for me. But I’ve got the ideas!

Here’s what’s tricky… Recording these subplots in a way that makes it easy (or maybe efficient is a better word) for me to make sure all my ideas mesh and flow well and determine when in the series is the best time to hint at, allude to, fully introduce, follow in detail, and then close out each plot line.

In addition, it’ll take me a while to write the books. I want to make sure that I incorporate all my ideas to the best of my ability. So once again, recording the key points in a way that allows me to track the plots easily is imperative. Especially since the details shift and change as I learn more about the characters, plots, etc. as I write them out.

I’m a spreadsheet addict. It comes from my Clark Kent day job of business analysis where I live in spreadsheets all day long. At the moment I’m using this simple tool to break each plot line down by pivotal points and where in which book that point happens. But I’m not satisfied. It’s still not keeping up with the ideas in my head which are currently pouring out of me. It’s also difficult to see how any plots cross and interact and how they impact certain characters.

I’m thinking of doing some kind of board on a wall in my office with bubbles of text and colored string to connect it all together. But then I’d take so much time making and remaking it I wouldn’t be writing. So I guess that’s not practical. (But man wouldn’t it look awesome?) Maybe there’s a software (free preferably) out there that would help do something similar for me. I’ll poke around.

Fellow authors – any suggestions? How do you keep up with this in your head? Any tools you use?

5 comments

  1. Hi, Abigail. You have a very nice blog!

    I really enjoyed Blue Violet and am looking forward to the sequel! I love your characters and what an exciting action plot!

    I haven't tried this software called Storybook yet, but it seems to meet your specifications:
    http://www.novelist.ch/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=53

    There is a free version and a more advanced “pro” version for $35.

    I think I may give that free version a try myself. It sounds good.

    I'm writing a trilogy, with my co-author and daughter, Marie August. We've been using a laboriously constructed timeline in Word as well as other documents created in Excel to keep track of characters and plot. But I can see how a searchable, interconnected program would be really helpful. Your idea of a big poster or bulletin board or white board with a diagram of the plot works for a lot of authors, too, as a means of spatially visualizing plot from on high, so to speak.

    Like

  2. Hi Kate!

    I'm thrilled that you liked Blue Violet! I love it when I find out someone connected with my story and my characters. 🙂

    Thanks for the tip on Storybook. I'll took a peek and will definitely play with it and see if it helps me.

    I think it's great that you co-write with your daughter. I would love to do that with my mother, but my genre's not her sytle. 🙂 I'll have to check out your trilogy!

    Like

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