Saturday, April 18, 2009

Plotting is Like a GPS System

Jenn here.

With all the talk on Missy's post about a GPS, it got my mind to thinking, besides the fact that my hubby also wants another one to replace the one he broke about 4 weeks ago. Plotting is like a GPS system.

When I used to write by the the seat of my pants, I felt like I needed a GPS to navigate my way through my manuscript. Usually this feeling occurred around the sagging middle. This is where I'd lose my focus. I knew where I wanted to go and how I wanted to end the story, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. This would cause me spurts of writer's block.

I would pace, brainstorm with people, divert my attention with movies, music and other activities. Then frustration would set in, the business of life from my job and family would start to crowd in on me, and I felt annoyed more than usual because I wanted to blame these other things for getting in the way of my writing--when really, it was me.

It wasn't writer's block. It wasn't me losing my writing muse. It wasn't that God didn't want me to do this or that I hadn't been called to write. I needed a new method of writing. I needed a plotting system. I had already attended Carolyn Greene's workshops on the "Book Doctor" and Debra Dixon's classes on "GMC: Goals, Motivation & Conflict", but I had not put any of this knowledge to practice.

It was during the sagging middle of one of my manuscripts where I began to start plotting. I sat down and created a character sketch, and you know what? I discovered new things about my characters I hadn't known. I went back to ch 1 even though it was already written, and wrote a distinct GMC chart/outline for each scene, each chapter. The creative juices kicked in and my internal GPS system now had a new charged batttery, just as if I was writing by the seat of my pants. I wrote as much detail as I needed for each scene while it was fresh on my mind. My GPS kept flowing, showing me which plot twist road to turn on next, what motivation I needed to prompt my characters into which behavior to raise the conflict. My GPS kept me going until I'd filled in the whole story for the entire novel.

I saved the trip. I had my very own map for each pit stop I needed to make when I had to go to work, take my daughter to swim practice, write out household bills, attend a family event, or go to church. When I needed to come back to my story, I opened my saved trip, reviewed my notes, refreshed my mind and perspective and my GPS once again put me on my path.

If you are a seat of the pants writer and struggling with a sagging middle, writer's block, or you're a plotter who is plotted out, I suggest a new GPS system.


  1. Hello. My name is Mindy and I'm a SOP writer. Like you, Jenn, I get lost, wondering which direction I need to go. Also like you, I think I'm about to change. Just like a GPS would give me step-by-step directions, plotting would give me scene-by-scene directions. I'd always know where I'm going.

    Yep, that sounds like exactly what I need to do.

  2. Hello. My name is Christy and I'm a confused/unorganized writer. I want to be a plotter and try to be but I am still an SOP in some aspects.

    Thanks for this post Jenn, you've described me to a "T" except you conquered your challenge! I think I can conquer my problems!

  3. Hello. My name is Lindi an I'm a SOP writer--but I know there is hope. I was in the Deb Dixon workshop just yesterday. She did GMC in the am and The Hero's Journey in the afternoon. What I realizaed is that I automatically follow the Hero's Journey. Most of us do. But as she was going over the 12 step program (yes, 12) I followed along with my wip and I was moving right along. I'm between steps 9-10 and I know how the ending is. So I really thought my book was a mess, but it seems it's not so much of a mess. I just need to finish it and start revising.I'm sure there'll be a lot of work to do but the bones are there. I was thrilled to find this out. So I'll use the plotting tools AFTER I'm done writing...Mindy--don't try to be something you're not--you're probably doing just fine--Debbie G asked about you--
    Christy is was good seeing you.

  4. Oh my goodness. I'm a plotter in the midst of SOTP's writers! :)

    I use charts and all kinds of fun things to get ready to write. Then as I write, I'm constantly planning ahead, making choices, trying to figure out what needs to happen next (or making sure what I have planned will still work).

    My problem is that the farther I get, the harder it is to remember everything and keep it straight. So I was thrilled with a blog guest post (by author Paula Roe) on the Seekerville blog the other day. She teaches how to use a document map. This is my next project, to figure out how to use it! If you're interested, it's and the post was on Friday, April 17.