When we write, many times people see the story as pictures. Some people need strict detailed outlines of what is done in each chapter so they can write fully and completely. I am not one of those people. I’ve tried, I end up overplotting and then I can’t write the story, because I’ve taken the joy out of it since my brain considers the story written at this point. So I came up with a way to plot just enough to help me keep on track without overplotting. It’s a builder’s trick called frameworking.
What I do is the framework of a house. I don’t get into various details when I plot. I don’t get into how many outlets are in each room, nor how many windows face east or what kind of furniture is best. To me, that’s too much work that’s for my subconscious and the characters to fill in. What I like is loose frameworking that allows me to keep on target of major events and yet gives me the ease of being able to meander to them, keeping me from being bored that I’ve already written the story by plotting too much. What I use to accomplish this is my chapter plotter.
First– write the blurb of your book. Normally most people know the beginning and how the book will end. They might even know the Black Moment. I usually do. But how do you get from “Once Upon a Time” to “The End” without overplotting yourself to sleep? (Okay, it’s prolly only me, but again–I hate to feel like I’m doing the same thing twice.) I usually allot myself two chapters of buildup with one chapter of consequence. Thus my blurbs are usually about 2-3 paragraphs long, sometimes more, hinting at things to come. I might know more, thus I have what I dub “My Private Blurb.” It’s a longer copy version of the one normally on my ebooks.
How does this work with the buildup and consequences? Chapter one is always dealing with “Meet the characters”. Chapter two is showing them dealing, or not, with the after effects of what tossed them together. Chapter three is usually dealing with an inner or outer conflict for one of the characters or both. Then chapters four and five deal with the fallout of the event and getting back on track, etc. So, it continues the idea of building to a peak, releasing some tension, then taking it higher until you reach the Black Moment, then down towards the end of the story.
Second– I print out my chapter plotter. It has three columns in which I put all the necessary information. In the first is the chapter title and usually a small note of what the chapter is dealing with. I never put more than one or two sentences. I have a tendency to name my chapters for my personal use– like Chapter three might say…”Just when you thought you were getting control– look who comes to visit!” This helps with the description below to keep track of what I plan and who it deals with. In one of my books, the chapter three says, “Facing the fact that the past is still present– Charis and Nate must deal with their contained feelings for each other when another murder happens.” Thus I know what must be covered without overplotting how I get it done.
Third– The second column I use for filling in with what I’ve actually typed up for that chapter– verifying what I planned or how far I veered away. I normally revamp this section to almost relabel the original title name. Example- “Charis and Nate get kinky in the kitchen, then pull away. Later, they talk about the past, deal with issues and when she gets linked to the killer and sees another murder, they work together for the first time without fighting. They kiss and it’s filled with promises of things to come.”
Fourth– The third column is for reminders– laying down the foundation for something that has significance in a chapter later on, a specific detail that needs to be checked for accuracy, anything of significance you need for the rest of the book. This is where you put in about the necklace that needs to be dropped in later chapters because it’s a red herring or about the watch that’s the true indicator of the killer, etc. Things of that nature. Or if you write something you’re not sure is accurate, you note that with the reminder to go google it up or hit the library to make sure it’s accurate as of this current time.
How do you know how many chapters you need? I normally allot 2 chapters to an internal and external GMC for both characters. So if there are similar conflicts for them and one is external, one is internal– I make sure to hit them both in 2 chapters, three at the most. Depending on the length of the story and your normal writing length of chapters– it’ll vary. I normally start at allotting myself 15 chapters and adding from there, depending on my pantster moments.