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Filling in the Plotting Blanks

Thanks to everyone who contributed to past posts!

I want to talk about what is involved in “filling in the blanks” when plotting a story.  Having been an elementary teacher for so many years, and knowing how much my students liked “filling in the blanks” instead of writing essay answers, I longed for a way to do that when plotting a story or a novel.  When I learned about the three-act structure, it helped tremendously, but I still had to rely on my mind to tell me, “What happens next?”

Then, I heard about the Hero’s Journey, but the question remained.  Then, Ridley Pearson talked about writing scene descriptions on index cards for his best-sellers, and I realized he was, in essence, filling in blanks in his plot.  By combining all three methods on plotting boards, I created blanks I could fill–first the 12 steps of the Journey.  Then, after moving those filled blanks to the three-act structure, I filled in the blanks around them in the structure.  Once all the blanks had been filled, the plot was done–along with the first draft of the synopsis!

Can a novel actually be planned by “filling in blanks?”  YES!!!  And the Hero’s Journey tells us what goes in the blanks.

Writers who have heard me talk about this combination of methods have said the new method was “revolutionary!”  A revolution is simply a new way of circling the same facts.  And that’s what FILL-IN-THE-BLANK PLOTTING is.  A new way of looking at an old challenge.

If you have another way of plotting that works for you, please share it here!  Perhaps, as happened in my experience, a new way of circling the task of planning a story may be born!

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Your book came yesterday! I’m going to work your method to plot out my current WIP called Swamp Sleuth! Hope it makes the process a little easier! I may give up the plot outline in the process, Linda, and if so, I will confess!! But I’ll give it an honest effort. Of course, my giving up has to do with the way my brain is wired….! LOL

    Sylvia

    June 12, 2010
  2. Also, putting a link to your blog on my blog roll at http://www.sylviadickeysmithbooks.wordpress.com

    June 12, 2010
    • lindag22 #

      Cool! Thanks!

      Linda

      June 12, 2010
  3. lindag22 #

    Thanks for buying the book, Sylvia! If you’ll use the bulletin boards and index cards, I think you’ll find the method really helpful. Those who have told me they tried to follow this method “in their heads” usually gave up on trying to keep up with everything. The plotting boards are the KEY to this method!

    Can’t wait to hear if it works for you!

    Linda

    June 12, 2010
  4. jamessabata #

    I completely love your book and found it to be of the utmost help. I’ve been contemplating this novel in my head for quite a while, and when I plugged it into the process described in Fill-In-The-Blanks Plotting, I was instantly able to see where the holes were in my plot and why certain things weren’t working out. The book instantly became more clear in my mind (and on my boards) and I was able to see where I left a sub-plot out for almost four chapters and where things were happening out of chronological order. Using the boards, it was really simplistic to move things around. I ended up writing a scene-by-scene summary of the entire novel that was around 25,000 words. I’m now writing the first draft of the novel as a whole and it’s become ridiculously easy to finish it. I am forever in your debt. 🙂

    I’ve been preaching the greatness of this method to my friends who are also writers. I really do think this method can “revolutionize” the way the writer’s mind works.

    June 13, 2010
  5. lindag22 #

    You’ve made my day! I’m so glad PLOTTING was so useful to you! Hurray!!!!

    Let me know how the book goes. What I love about using plotting boards is being able to move the cards around during the writing of the book, when unknown scenes or events occur. That’s the flexibility of the method–being able to adjust the content of each chapter as the writing progresses, and adjusting the synopsis accordingly.

    THANKS for letting me know about your experience!

    Wonderful!

    Linda

    June 13, 2010
  6. I wish I could remember where I heard about your book but I am so thankful I did. I had a sagging book and was growing more discouraged. I’d tried the Hero’s Journey. I’d tried the Three Act Structure. I even had the idea of trying to get them to fit together. Never seemed to work for me.

    I see why, now. I was trying to keep it organized on paper. If only I had thought to do it with cards. After getting your book, and my initial ‘du’oh’ moment, I immediately trotted out my trusty index cards and set to work.

    I can see from my own initial experience using it that it’s a technique that can’t be beat.

    Your book is tight, informative and simple to follow. It’s not filled with extraneous information. All I needed was right there. Thank you so much for writing it!

    October 5, 2011
    • lindag22 #

      Thanks so much for letting me know that my plotting methods worked so well for you! Like you, I had a really difficult time keeping up with everything on paper. And writing a synopsis was a bigger task than I could handle. Once I started using my plotting boards, so I could SEE the various parts of my plot, it was so much easier to fill in all the blanks and write the synopsis! I really appreciate your wonderful comments!

      October 5, 2011
  7. Diane #

    I have half a library of books on craft and added this one by mistake. And what a grand mistake it was! This, and no other, book has synthesized my thoughts, clarified the plot lines, and allowed me to fall into glaring holes in the story that has been running around in my head for months now. It’s provided a framework on which I can work. My story now makes sense. Kudos to you in spades!
    Thanks ever so for taking the time to put this little book together. While it is small in size, it is ever so large in scope.

    February 2, 2012
    • lindag22 #

      Thanks, Diane! A comment like yours makes my day! I could’ve written that same comment when I first realized I could put the Hero’s Journey, the three-act structure, and my plotting boards together and actually SEE my plot and manipulate it on a wall instead of having to deal with a written synopsis. At this time, I’m plotting a new novel and without my plotting boards and the Journey and Structure, I’m not sure that would be possible for the book I’m envisioning. I’m so glad my book is helping you! Thanks for letting me know!

      February 2, 2012

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