I’ve done this before – and didn’t realize it actually needs to be a ‘thing,’ a part of my regular writing ‘process.’
Most of the time, my plotting assigns all kinds of details to scenes, leaving the actual writing to when I get that far in the list of scenes, as I work one at a time until it’s finished.
So I can concentrate on writing one scene, one little visual polished bit, at a time, knowing that the scene will fit into the story like a jewel into a necklace.
But a scene can be too small an entity to work with when the story arc needs several scenes to tell a part of the story, during which point of view will shift in each scene (I stick religiously to a single pov per scene), but the story will continue, and, if I’m skillful enough, the reader won’t notice the patchwork quilt squares, but only the whole.
IF my plotting is good enough initially, and thought out in enough detail, I can trundle along, scene by scene, and the bits will connect.
But when the plotting was changed in the great 2007 reorganization?
Then I was forced to make some large decisions and some fine grained decisions about what would go where of all the bits in the story, and some of those details were tentatively assigned to a scene, or a point of view character, and I knew I would have to rearrange some of the bits when I got there.
I’ve done the several-scene roadmap idea more than once before. The first three chapters of Purgatory, for example, are all about the Night Talk show where two of the main characters meet in New York, while the third main character watches the show from Los Angeles.
So I’ve worked with the concept before, that plotting can have arcs even within the larger story, but I never stopped to formalize that for myself.
It’s a lot of work
I think of it as fractal in nature: pick a scope – sentence, paragraph, beat, scene,… and plot first, then write – and the dialogue will happen, the interior monologues will support it, because we all know where we’re going, together.
Sometimes a film director will allow actors to improvise – but it is always within the director’s (and the script’s) larger vision of the whole. Within that whole, individual pieces can be executed in many ways, but all have to serve the story. Or they will have to be expunged (kill your darlings) from the final product, which will otherwise be a mess.
But for extreme plotters like I am, breaking up the process, and doing the structure solidly FIRST, allows me to just write when I get there, to listen to the characters in my mind, and write down what they say, because I’ve given them the setup – and the writing part of my brain seems to have a mind of its own.
Back to my skyscraper analogy
Get the plumbing and the elevators and the water lines and the steel structure right first – or the sewage from the 29th floor won’t proceed to the treatment plant, and the first time someone flushes up there won’t be pretty for those on the 28th floor.
But after that, interior walls may have some variation (as long as they aren’t load-bearing), so that one floor can have a large open conference room where the floor directly above has offices or apartments. That is my roadmap idea. Within the plan for a whole building, there can be individual floor designs – followed by the decorating (writing) of the individual rooms which is the ultimate purpose of the skyscraper – interior spaces of all kinds and sizes within the plan.
Sometimes I can plan a whole building at a time, others a floor at a go, sometimes just one room, and sometimes a perfect grouping of furniture before the fireplace where we will sit and talk.
And the roadmap part?
Think of the roadmap as linear, while the floorplan of a skyscraper’s floor is 2D, and the building itself is 3D.
The ROADMAP allows you to visit every room on each floor – in a particular order, the one chosen by the storyteller.
Think of it: the last time you let a Real Estate Agent show you a dwelling, did they arrange your tour so you ended up in the perfect room? The one the agent knew would close the deal?
The ROADMAP is how I get you where I want you, the Reader, to go.
I work and plan and think and manipulate – so you will say wow.
The whole idea is to tell the story for YOUR pleasure – and for that you have to let me be dramatic, and show you everything in an order I hope you will like.
Just when you think your writing process is a lock – there’s something more to write ABOUT it. For me, it’s one more thing nailed down that I won’t forget to do because my brain isn’t working.
It’s an interesting way to work, with a limited brain as my tool.