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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots

I’ve often called myself a pantster on this blog and confessed that I cannot outline a book I’d want to write. (I can outline a story that sucks … no problem there.) But I’m not really a pantster in the sense that I take off writing with no idea where I’m headed. I generally have several broad plot points in mind, a beginning, a conflict, a few key events, and an ending.
These plot points are the dots in a mysterious picture that will become my first draft. Connecting the dots is the ultimate challenge, and I don’t really see the big picture, including themes, until I’ve connected the last dot and realize, Aha! Now I know what story I was trying to tell. That’s why I always roll right into my second draft without a break. It’s kind of like the real first draft, with the first one being an exploratory venture.
I was stuck this past week, trying to find my way from the current dot to the next one. And worrying about how I’d get to the ones after that. These particular plot points make sense in my tentative summary of the story. They sound really good, in fact. Making them happen – that’s trickier.
A couple of long emails with CP Marcy Hatch reassured me that the emotional state of my main characters was in the right place for what I needed them to do. I’ve still got a new character with important backstory that I haven’t found a place to fit in, and a plot thread that hasn’t wormed its way thoroughly into the main action, even though my gut says it has to be here.
This book is particularly tricky to write because it’s the third in the series. I know my main characters well, but I have to put them under a great deal of stress, testing their loyalty to each other in ways that make me uncomfortable. This book could be the end of the series, or – if the publisher picks up the option for two more – it could be the midpoint. That puzzled me in my initial planning, but now I know what has to happen in this book. Regardless of whether this is the end or only just the middle, certain things must happen.
So, I’m currently fumbling my way toward the next dot like I’m playing Blindman’s Bluff or Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

What are you currently working on?

14 Responses to Connecting the Dots

  1. Good luck figuring it out. There’s a lot of pressure for the third book, which could be the end of the story, to end with a bang. I’m like you. I have to know some of the key points but can’t outline.

    I’m very slowly working on an urban fantasy. Hard to find time for myself these days to sit and write, even on the weekends. Sigh.

  2. Jemi Fraser says:

    I hope you find your next dot soon! My ‘planning’ is similar to yours. I tried making more of an outline this time – I think I have 100 words or so in it 🙂

  3. I love the approach of drawing out the plot points like that actually 🙂

  4. This makes a lot of sense to me. Sometimes I have the plot point and know ‘what’ needs to happen on all levels with the characters and their emotions and the plot itself. But finding a scene that accomplishes everything in one perfectly-timed fell swoop is like working on an intricate jigsaw puzzle.

  5. Oh, that’s tough, not knowing if it’s the ending of the series or the mid point!!!

  6. You’ve basically just described the way I write (with main plot points in tow before I start) and my current emotional state….is the direction this book taking the way I want it to go? Ack!!! I need a lot of quiet thought on this one.

  7. Listen to Marcy – she knows what she’s talking about!

  8. Mina Burrows says:

    Okay I laughed when I saw the dot drawing. I know how that feels. That’s like two novels I’ve been working on that I haven’t finished. Maybe I should try the dots. Hmmm….

  9. Angela Brown says:

    I am currently in the middle of the waiting game after having 2 agents already give me two thumbs down on a story I’m querying and waiting to see what happens with the other 2 plus I’m prepping for the release of my Neverlove follow up while I still have an older idea constantly nagging my brain and a new one that has been rather loud.
    And I’m getting ready for my first author’s event in two weeks.
    Yeah, my brain and emotions are rather erratic right now lol!

    Glad you’re working your way through those dots 🙂

  10. J E Oneil says:

    I really think there’s a number of levels between plotting and pantsing. The plot for the project I’m working on looks a lot like that picture up there. The important things are down (mostly). Now I’m pantsing my way in between them.

  11. Tiana Smith says:

    Isn’t it amazing how things in our stories change from our plans? I’m now rewriting my beginning (for the fifteenth time it seems like). Obviously, my outline didn’t really help me there!

  12. And yet, amazingly, it all comes together in the end. =) I just finished the first draft of a book and am smack in the middle of second draft revisions. (You know, the ones where you cringe and wonder how this awfulness ever hit an electronic page.) Actually I’m mildly surprised at how NOT awful this draft is. I might be getting this writing thing down.

    Best of luck with yours!

  13. JJ says:

    Perhaps outlining the plot is the problem. Just write it, and see where it takes you.

  14. Susan Oloier says:

    You know, Dianne, I plot quite a lot out for each of my novels. However, my characters always deviate from what I’ve planned. But I would never be able to work without believing (even in a false sense) where my book is headed. I give you lots of credit for your on-the-fly creativity!