Monday, October 22, 2007

Flexibility and Plotting

We woke up to a blanket of First Snow on Sunday morning. Before it stopped, we had about 7 1/2 inches. Golf courses will be packed tomorrow, and our temperatures will hit the mid-seventies by Wednesday. In the Colorado Rockies, spring teases us into summer, and fall teases us into winter.

You learn to be flexible.

As a reader, I'm flexible enough to read other genres--and enjoy them--but I tend to gravitate to suspense. Nothin' wrong with that. On the downside, I'm kind of a fickle fan. If an author disappoints me, it's hard to pick up another of their books--regardless of how many I've enjoyed in the past. KSF. (Kinda Sorta Flexible).

A new author, in any genre, is often one a friend has recommended. Even better is when I find an author new to me because of a review I agreed to write. I feel like I've mined a golden nugget. Flexibility. And let's face it, we can read a lot faster than our favorite authors can write. Flexibility means always having something in your TBR (To Be Read) pile. My private stash. {sigh}

But what about as a suspense novelist?

Do you stick to the plan or let the story take you somewhere different? How flexible are you? What about if it means trashing a lot of what you've written?

I confess--initially I go back to the KSF mode. I try to think of a way to keep at least some of what I have and incorporate the new direction.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Flexibility.

Suspense novelists need to plot--at least a little bit. You need to have a strong sense of the elements of your story, the plots points, and the ending. Some novelists plot in great detail (I think they would make fine engineers), and some not at all. (We'll talk more about the different "styles" of plotting later.)

But, once again--suspense novelists need to plot--at least a little bit. Colleen Coble plots three or four chapters ahead. She has the basics of her story in mind, but plotting more than that would ruin the fun.


It's all better with friends.


  1. I would love to outline, I really would. I get these great books telling me how. But I start plotting then I hear characters talking and I have to stop and write until I hit a blank. Then I start plotting again.

    I'm sure those who outline first have less rewriting. It's a good thing I like rewriting.

  2. I agree with rewriting, Sharon. That's where I build depth, and I love that part. The basic story is done, but during the rewrites, I find I also make some changes (improvements, I think) to the plot.

    Cheers to those of us who are combo writers! LOL.

  3. I have to write the first three chapters and then I start plotting.

    I'm pretty forgiving in my reading as long as the story is good ... forgiving until I get to the end. It better leave me satisfied :)And I keep tally of things as I read... sort of like notches in the handle of my pistol. :) If I reach the last word of a book and there are loose ends dangling, I don't read that author again no matter who raves about her. Yeah, I realize I'm probably missing out on some great reads as authors grow in their craft, but wow! books are sooooooooooo expensive these days. :) I really fret when I buy a book that turns out to be a disappointment. :(

    One of my biggest fears is that I will write one of those 'bad' books with dangling threads. LOL

    BTW, great blog you have here!

  4. Thanks for the nice comment, Jess.

    I am so with you on bad endings. I will never forget one book in particular. The author had me the whole way. Fabulous. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, this helicopter showed up and people died. HUH? To this day, I'm not sure who actually wrote that last scene. It felt like someone other than the original writer, or else it was written under some kind of pressure.

    We should come up with something lighthearted about dangling threads, sagging middles and disappointing endings. A country song, maybe? LOL.