When I got a revision request for my third novel that stumped me in some very big ways, I was almost ready to give up. That's when I started making outlines that were too long to fit in a notebook without lots of flipping back and forth. To see them linearly, I taped them to the wall above my couch, where I could see them while I worked. I also started sticking post-its up there, but this was a bad idea because they were an invitation for my cat to climb up there and unstick them. (When I finally moved, there were dozens of post-its behind the couch.)
|Incarnation 1: post-its (Novel 3 plot wall). There are also receipts taped to that wall, where I wrote things down while I was shopping or without my notebook.|
That first plot wall ultimately did not help me. It wasn't until a couple months later, when I had given up on that manuscript, that I had an epiphany that involved cutting the first three chapters...and shortly after everything else. I decided to add in points of view, too, which I could not do without planning.
To rearrange my new scenes and all my new material, I tried using a storyboard.
|Incarnation 2: storyboard (Novel 3 plot wall)|
I eventually gave up on that novel, but it did get me some really nice, encouraging rejections. The storyboard definitely helped me see how my points of view were arranged, and how the plot unfolded between all of them.
When I was working on my fourth novel, revising the ridiculously unorganized and pretty darn bad first draft, I returned to the plot wall. What I learned from my previous plot walls is to plan revisions first. Even still, I did a lot of back tracking as I revised, because sometimes my plan didn't account for things, or I came up with something new to add, or a better way to do something, or encountered a problem I didn't realize was there.
|Incarnation 3: better organization (Novel 4 plot wall)|
This is also when I started printing out my manuscripts.
|Remember me? One revised draft with each chapter printed out and cut up at least three times.|
Finally, finally, I've come up with a better way to do this. (Though not one that kills any fewer trees, I'm sorry to admit.) First I write down all my jumbled notes in a notebook. Pages upon pages of notes for the next draft of my novel. Random ideas. Places where I start with one idea, contradict myself, and go flying off in the opposite direction.
Then I consolidate those notes, discard the ideas that don't work or that I no longer like or that I replaced with something better, and I make my plot wall.
|Incarnation 4: consolidation (Novel 4 plot wall). My wall is also prettier now that I've moved.|
Does anyone else do something like this while writing or revising? If you're a neater person than me (and also friendlier to the poor trees), how do you keep your thoughts organized?