Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Plotting to Write Backwards

I generally don't write New Year's Resolutions, but I do look at my typical year-to-year goals and think about whether I'm on track or not. I'm usually re-inspired for a month or two, then fall back into the same routine that gets me through each day.

But this year things are different. I'm not in the query trenches. I have a publisher. An official editor! I can no longer work at my own schedule. I have to *gasp* WAIT for the "Editor's Letter". Sure, I could work on book two, but I already have a fairly clean second draft and I don't dare mess with it too much—only to have plots and themes change after book one is finalized. I have learned this lesson (several times!) and it is far too early for any degree of polish.

So, what to do? I have a spring-cleaning list a mile long, from repairing cracks in the ceilings to replacing outdoor water faucets (that froze and broke the year I started writing). Then there's all that moss on the roof and I should probably pull the refrigerator and stove away from the wall and mop underneath. I think I'll paint each room while I'm at it—maybe do some tile work. You see, the problem is, I have three months before I can expect the Editor's Letter, and it has only been one week. Sigh.

It is true I have a mountain of things that need to be done, but spring-cleaning is not a creative outlet for me (though it is a great time for listening to audio books!). Neither is walking the dog or exercising or keeping busy with things no one will ever notice. My family is sure to complain loudly if I don't get started on a new project... and soon! Before I make my way to their closets....

Still, I resist taking on the task of writing a new novel because I'm obsessive and loyal to the world and characters I already have. It's almost like I'm cheating on them, setting them aside and pouring my heart into something new. But with three months and no real desire to sort through boxes in the attic, I'm pretty sure I can write at least a first draft. Maybe something better! And honestly, I can't wait three months. Yes I can wait for my editor, because that's just the way it is, but I can't stop being a writer. I must move forward.

This time, however, I have a plan! I have learned much from my trials and errors, and I have not forgotten the many helpful critiques I've received. This time, the process will be different. This time, I will write backwards!

I will not wait for this story to smack me in a dream, only to reveal itself through countless revisions and major surgeries. Oh, no. This time, I will pick a genre in advance, and I will write my query letter FIRST.

I will know my theme and have a logline before I start plotting. I will outline every twist and turn, and find all the plot holes before they disrupt any momentum. I will know my characters' quirks and personalities and growth arcs long before their names. Every setting will be as familiar as my own backyard.

I'll make a list of awesome titles, then cleverly make them work while I'm writing. And after all this planning, I'll make sure the query still applies, and that the synopsis is focused and makes perfect sense.

Then, finally, I will open a blank page and let my characters speak for themselves, crossing my toes that they don't rebel against such orchestrated lives, and that they fulfill their destinies as planned in a totally spontaneous way.

If not, I'll have to revise the query. And the synopsis. And probably the character sheets if I want to remember who they really are... Heck! Maybe I'll save all that time and start without a plan!

When you start a new writing project (and someday you will!), what will you do differently?

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