Why Plotting Stinks

on November 17, 2005

Natalie, Karin and I met for a weekend of brainstorming and wine. Practically at gunpoint, Karin MADE me plot out my option book.

It was a story I’d been thinking about for awhile. Black market pharmaceuticals, mass murder, and a truly narcisstic villain with a God complex. I really didn’t know the hero, but I had a good grasp of the heroine’s backstory, why she did what she did, what haunted her, etc. Everything was pretty vague except for the opening scene, which took place in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains, north of Lake Tahoe, and basically was a bunch of dead bodies in an apparent mass suicide which, my smart and industrious heroine quickly figures out was a mass murder.

Okay, that’s pretty much all I knew. By the end of the torture, er, brainstorming, er, plotting party, I knew my hero, had excellent ideas about my villain (thanks Nat!) and had a great plot. I wrote up the synopsis quickly — eight pages! — and then realized there was no way I could write the book.

It felt artificial, planned, phony. And I knew the ending. Even though Karin tells me I don’t have to follow the synopsis, I still felt gypped. Sort of like when someone tells you whodunnit in a murder mystery before you finish chapter one.

So I emailed my agent and told her I didn’t want to write that book for the option, and I was going to send her another synopsis. I did. It was five pages double spaced (one of which was backstory) and very vague and I can’t WAIT to find out what happens. I am so excited to write this story. It’s about a topic I’m very interested in, the hero was a character in a previous novel, and I can’t wait to find out what makes the heroine tick.

So plotting be damned. I’m never doing it again. I tried, I failed, it’s time to bury that sorry attempt to turn me into a quasi-plotter. I’m hopeless.

But I can’t wait for the next “brainstorming” party–I’ll bring the wine, and we’ll talk about everyone elses books.