Vulnerability and Working through Plot

Here’s a thing that I don’t think is said enough. It’s a truth I tried to impart to each of my students during my time teaching and it’s a truth I remind myself of everyday. Here it is: just because you don’t do something the same way as everyone else, doesn’t mean you can’t do it and it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

It’s a really vulnerable place to be to admit that I don’t know something or that I don’t understand something enough to work through a problem. BUT the worst thing I can do in those situations is refuse to admit I don’t know how to do something. In working MS:D and MS:TS I knew I needed to go back to the very basics of plotting and use some kind of plotting structure to untangle the story line of each manuscript. Now, I base my story structure and planning off of the three act structure for every story I write. It’s the most basic story structuring I know and what I’m most comfortable with. I am at the point now that I want to use a more detailed structuring when I go to write a story though and to that end I’ve started looking at the different plotting methods. And here is where my vulnerability could have stopped me in my tracks and kept me from growing and learning. I was having a hard time understanding or knowing what and how all of the different plotting methods worked together. Somehow in my mind I was thinking that I needed to know and use the different plotting methods I’d started researching (seven point plot structure, hero’s journey, save the cat 15 beat method) all at the same time. I thought that if I couldn’t break my story down by each of these methods backwards and forwards congruently, I wasn’t good at plotting. Friends, when I tell you if I hadn’t admitted in my brain at that moment, ‘you need to do some research on what you’re assuming about plotting’, I wouldn’t be in a very great place right now. Instead, I allowed myself to admit that I needed to do some research and then I realized, no. I don’t need to know and use them all because they are all different methods to get to the same result. All of them are about plotting out the trajectory of a story. A writer isn’t a good plotter because they know and use the language or the method of every plotting method. A writer is a good plotter because they find which plotting method works the best for them and use it effectively. BIG sigh of relief and understanding. I share this because I know how hard it is to admit that I don’t understand something. My strength and my ability to become more intelligent and grow as a human being happens in my ability to be vulnerable. It’s not comfortable and it’s harder some days to let myself go to that place. Every time I do though, I come out a stronger writer, friend, mother, partner, and human on the other side.

So, last week, I spent a lot of time getting vulnerable. I played around in Plottr which is a new to me piece of software and tried to figure out how the templates worked and how to use it. Once I figured out that all of the plotting methods I’d played with were different methods to reach the same point, I had to do some serious thinking about which method I was most comfortable with. I really liked this worksheet called How to Outline Your Novel with Save the Cat! by Savannah Gilbo. I’d also played with the traditional Hero’s Journey plotting and the basic seven point plot structure. What I decided is that I’m really comfortable with the worksheet by Savannah Gilbo. I used it to start working in Plottr and diving into MS:D. I made chapter cards and entered those. Now that I can see the entire story, I need to assess the storyline and figure out where all of the holes are. It’s going to be an involved process and I’m excited to dig in.

What plotting method do you use for your stories? Do you favor one method over another? In case you haven’t been told today, you are more than enough.

Happy Writing!

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