Plot cards

I’m currently at the stage of thinking up a new novel length plot, and for the first time I’m trying it using plot cards.  I reckon that I comfortably write 1000 words a day, so one card is going to represent the amount of stuff I can write in one day.  This means I need 100 cards in order to have material enough to fill a 100K book.

So far, after 3 days of trying to think of stuff, I’ve got 29 cards, and already the thing is looking more like a kind of intimately focussed quest story, instead of the big epic magical shoot-em-up I thought it was going to be.

It’s an unusual method for me – normally I start at the beginning of a book and work logically through to the end, putting in the steps that have to happen as I go along.  With the cards I can go “ooh, I’d love a scene where X happens”, write it down, and then have to shuffle things around to see where I can fit it in.  I strongly hope that this will result in a plot which takes some unpredictable swerves and contains unexpected coolnesses.  I sometimes think that being too linear in plotting makes things predictable.

But at least it means that I know where I’m going!  At the moment, I think I have an opening third that I was not expecting myself, and two thirds where I still have no idea what will happen.  Still, I guess that’s not bad going for three days.  Maybe another week will see me in possession of a whole plot and ready to start writing again.

Anyone here with experience in plotting in scene cards?  How do you use such an apparently random method while making sure you have rising tension and rising stakes?

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Mac Perry
12 years ago

I struggle with plot cards. I tend to write things as they progress, but then I will go back and delete information that I revealed too early, or manipulate earlier chapters to divert the predictability of the plot line. Although getting in the practice of creating tables for a story arch has helped me enormously. I think it might be a visual thing…what shape and form helps you to hold a bunch of ideas in your head at once?

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