Ever since Christine Rimmer guest blogged with us last year about her plotting group,
I’ve been intrigued by the idea. The basics of Christine’s plotting group are this: five writers get together twice a year for a weekend of plotting in Las Vegas. About a week before their scheduled rendezvous, each writer sends to the other members of the group whatever she has on two of her stories. Sometimes it’s pretty bare boned; a conflict, a character or two. Sometimes more details have already been worked out. Plotting sessions usually last between 30 and 90 minutes. They are double-taped so nothing is lost. The owner of the story always leads the discussion, and if it starts going in a direction she doesn’t want it to go, she leads it back. Every writer leaves with 2 stories fully plotted.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to head to Vegas twice a year (I’d be happy with once this decade) and I’m separated from my writing buddies by the vastness of Canadian geography. So we came up with a creative alternative; the instant messaging plotting party.
I started by inviting three writing friends to my party. I would have loved to invite all my writing friends, but unfortunately it likely would have been unmanageable in IM form. As it was, suggestions were thrown at me at such a fast and furious pace that was often difficult to keep up with the three of them. More on that later.
We decided on a date and time when we’d all be available and about a week before the date I sent my plotters what I knew about the story so far. I had a rough outline and I had the hero’s backstory. As well I did some research on the time period and talked a little about that. Unfortunately, I had almost nothing about the heroine.
So the night arrived and I was a little unsure how to start. I began by asking them the questions I had about my story and also asking them what story questions they had. Soon the comments were flying. Ideas for the sticky plot points I couldn’t seem to see my way through were suggested. No idea was rejected out of hand; we discussed the viability of a number of situations. The heroines’s backstory and her possible motivations and conflicts were thrashed out. Possibilties I hadn’t considered emerged. As we threw out ideas we fed off each other’s energy and more ideas were generated.
By the time we finished a couple of hours later (the time just flew!) I had a pretty decent plot worked out. A couple of us saved the chat using that feature in MSN so I could take a look at it later. When BIAW rolled around I was ready to take off.
The best thing was that we’d all had a blast. It was so much fun to get together and throw around ideas. It would have been fabulous to do this in person; members of SRW have plotted stories together and it is great fun. But given our situations, instant messaging was the next best thing. How did people write before computers and the Internet?
The plot party confirmed for me that I had a viable story idea and a good conflict. It was important for me to work out the plot, motivations and conflicts before I started rather than trying to “fix” them later (as I usually do). It’s still my story and I can take it where I want it to go, either using some of the suggestions I’ve been given or striking out in a new direction. But I feel more confident about it now.
My friends have promised to read my work once it’s done and I look forward to their input. We’ve also promised to get together again when someone else needs help plotting her book. I’m hoping we can make this party a regular event!
Have you ever participated in a plotting group, either live-and-in-person or through your computer? Would you participate if you had the chance or do you prefer to go it alone?