A Plotter’s Paradise
Posted on March 4, 2018
The San Francisco North and East Bay region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators had asked me to teach a workshop on plot for their Contra Costa County Meeting in Walnut Creek. Sixty people signed up, all children’s writers eager to hone their writing skills and improve their craft. Now, I love teaching, but when the room is filled with people who simply love what they are doing, people who are dedicated to and persevering in their dream to become better writers, my heart leaps. Yesterday was such a joyful day.
I set out to show how plot structure formats — and there are so many out there that a web search brings you 3.000.000 results in 0.76 seconds! — can serve as a revision technique and help a writer find the holes in a plot. Go for the one that speaks most to you, I told these writers. The one that speaks most to me is Blake Snyder’s 15 beats as conveyed in his acclaimed SAVE THE CAT! book. It’s an essential part of my revision process. Of course, when I start a new project I always have Aristotle’s Three Acts structure with its key plot moments hovering overhead, but I try not to pay too much attention to it as to not impede the organic flow of my story. Only after I typed THE END do I invite what I call Aristotle’s Cat in and let her have a go at my manuscript. Is the cat done, then I’ll pull up a blank document and start all over again.
Why no cutting and pasting? Because fixing plot holes almost always dramatically changes my story. It changes my characters, it changes their words and actions, their responses to the words and actions of the other characters. Cutting and pasting not only allows for inconsistencies and discrepancies, it also makes it too easy for me to leave in those darlings that need to be killed.
Anyway, I love teaching. I love writing. I LOVE teaching writing. Here’s some pictures of A PLOTTER’S PARADISE: