Pinning a plot

This morning I pinned half of my manuscript’s 156 chapter titles to design boards. I’m really hoping my cut and paste exercise exemplifies what success-guru Tim Ferriss calls, ‘taking weaknesses and turning them into competitive advantages’ — but I’m not sure, for you know, the Time Waster has a lot of guile at her disposal.

I am a visual/kinetic thinker with ADD — making me long on intuition and creativity and short on finishing and organizing skills. The one is as glorious as the other is treacherous. Some days all I can ask myself is — what good are these creative gifts if I don’t finish a fucking thing?

In college when I had a paper due, I got busy rearranging the furniture. Although the tactic took up a fair amount of time, it wasn’t pure procrastination — some important visual and kinetic organizing was taking place. I couldn’t explain it then and can’t explain it now, but it still makes total sense. Maybe pinning a plot to a design board operates with the same inexplicable logic?

With 156 chapters committed to word files, plus another 50+ scenes typed up and housed in word files I call, Silos One through Five, plus stacks and stacks of notebooks holding scenes that have not yet been typed up, plus stray pieces of paper notating important revisions arising from ongoing research — I am way past the point where my pea brain can easily remember, study, or evaluate what I’ve got here.

After a week away, it can be hard to get back in and for this reason, I turned to colored pencils. Anything involving colored pencils can’t be that bad, right? I added quick stripes of color to the chapter titles: Melody — green; Saffron — orange (naturally); Eliza — purple; omniscient narrator — blue; Mo — yellow paper. I love tricking the Time Waster with a wily maneuver of my own.

I’m pretty sure the plot-pinning on design boards does not constitute procrastination, but writing this post does, so let me share two very brief and immediate confirmations — and then, back to it! Each column tracks a character — Saffron on the left, Melody in the middle, and Eliza on the right. If you’re invested in Melody’s character, you will be disappointed and if you take umbrage at the amount of content devoted to the only white main character (Eliza), then you will be annoyed. I want to carry my readers along, not disappoint or annoy them! I have ideas about how to fix this.

The exercise also confirmed that I have too many many opening scenes, one of them coming at about chapter 25. This cannot stand. Some movie reviewer lambasted the most recent Batman movie for having seven opening scenes and I really took note of the critique at the time because I had a hunch it applied here. How to fix this problem is less obvious, but I suspect it will involved ruthless editing.

May you also turn your weaknesses into strengths this week — and, if you have a notion of how to do so, or how you’ve done so, I’d love to hear about it. 

7 thoughts on “Pinning a plot

  1. Mo Crow

    looks like a great way to get an overview together for the first draft, go Dee! I tried writing a book once… I everything I knew about unicorns (this was the 70’s after all, so perhaps I can be forgiven for the pipe dreams)… it ended up being about 500 words…

  2. Michelle in NYC

    Useful prep if you ask me. Meanwhile, it’s possible you have more than one book here. That’s something to think about while you continue. Hey, maybe it’s even a triptych!

    1. deemallon

      Ha! I’ve wondered about there being more than one book here (or, as you know, no book at all!). It seems incumbent upon me to finish what I’ve got and then let someone else think about that, if it gets that far.

  3. RainSluice

    Hey cool! I’ve organized my bigger projects this way (kinda very like your pinning up of plot characters) for years… whether a term paper, a multiuser parallel processing database design or a collage. I haven’t found a better way. If this link (below) works you’ll be able to see my latest example. I was trying to figure out how to organize a typical day of teaching ih making and art in the same “space” . What I actually end up doing often has little do with the process of seeing all the different thought-lables laid out or pinned up. This served as a right brain dump that just settled my anxiety somehow so that I could think more clearly afterward.

    1. deemallon

      I found your flickr stream — the boards are very similar! Not surprised that an artist such as yourself would also find this a useful technique.


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