After nine months of research, angsting, typing, deleting, and typing some more, I’d reached the end. It was my first real, full-length novel. (I say that because everything I’d written prior deserved to land in one place—the trash.) But this one? This one actually had a cohesive plot. More than that, I loved the story and felt as if God had birthed it in my heart and carried it through to resolution.
Grinning, I printed it out and brought it to my husband. “Would you like to read this?”
My handsome, railroader husband stared at the 300+ pages, his eyebrows shooting upward. “All of it?”
Based on his rapidly fluctuating facial expressions, a thousand thoughts flew through his mind. Apparently, Luke 9:23 rose to the surface: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Those married to a writer understand this. Those unpolished, noncohesive manuscripts are the cross they must bear—not only bear, but read, from eye-glossing beginning to migraine-producing end. Then they must find a way to tell their love the brutal truths that will help them grow.
Your timeline’s messed up.
You never closed that plot thread.
Can someone really single-handedly save two-hundred orphans from certain death?
Those were the types of truths my husband told me. In my write-as-I-go fashion, I’d made a mess of pretty near everything due to an unplanned (also known as nonexistent) time-line. Fixing it wouldn’t be easy.
In fact, midway through, I began to wonder if it’d be easier to simply toss the manuscript and start over. I didn’t, but this experience did change the way I wrote my second novel.
Because of that frustrating experience, my inner plotter emerged, and it’s remained ever since.
Plotting begins with the same bones all stories do: an intriguing idea, scene, or character that won’t leave your brain. From here, I normally focus on one character. I determine her lie (I always start with my female characters for some reason), the thing she believes about herself that hinders her from living fully in God’s grace.
Then, I determine her goal, which is usually closely tied to her lie. This is where it gets interesting. Because her goal is based on her lie, when God’s truth replaces her lie, she very well may begin pursuing an entirely new goal. Because I write missional romance, which focuses on characters’ divine calling and their realization and pursuit of that, I will usually also pray over a social issue I believe my character is passionate about.
One they probably aren’t even aware of yet.
Rather, it’s more of a hidden passion, one God crafted into them but their lie, distractions, and false ambitions have kept it hidden from them.
At this stage, a great deal of research and brainstorming is done. Then comes the plotting, which I’ll share more next Monday.
What about you? Do you plot your stories or do you prefer to write as you go? What are some key elements that you include in every novel? What does your pre-writing brainstorming look like?
If you want to see the results of my plotting, you check out my debut novel, currently available for preorder at 26% percent off! If you plan to buy the novel, now’s a great time. Here’s the purchase link:http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-I-Do-Jennifer-Slattery/dp/1596694173/
Here’s the blurb:
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.
Ainsley Meadow’s encounter with a woman, her child, and their abuser sparks a passion that threatens her engagement. Will seeing beyond the present unite her and her fiancé or tear them apart?
Raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignites a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.
Jennifer Slattery is a missional romance novelist with New Hope Publishers. She writes and edits for Christ to the World Ministries, is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com, Internet Cafe Devotions,Inspy Romance, and Jewels of Encouragement, and manages the social media for Takin’ it to the Streets, a ministry that serves Omaha’s working poor and homeless. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in numerous compilations, magazines, and e-zines. Visit her devotional blog,JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud, her editing services website, WordsThatKeep, or connect with her onFacebook or Twitter.