Getting Organized: Plot Monster, Part 1

This is the second in a series of blogs about getting organized so I can finish two projects I have completed first drafts for (one a novella, one a full-length novel).
Wondering about the origins of this series? Read this blog: Getting Organized.
And here's the first part: Tracking Characters

I wasn't joking last week when I used the term "Plot Monster" - just in case you thought I was.
Plot points have turned out to be so monstrous in my novel as to split this discussion into two parts (I'll update this blog to link to the second part when it goes up).

What I've discovered about plots in writing a novel is that primary plots can be tricky, and they're not helped when a writer starts throwing secondary plots into the mix with them.
Seconday plots can, and do, greatly enhance the journey the primary plot takes a reader on, but if the writer throws them in because they can...
Well, it drags the entire story down.

When I first started thinking about how to organize my projects in a way that is helpful in finding primary and secondary plots as well as tracking down characters, I became stumped.
I knew sticky notes would be in my inner circle of friends for this task, but were they going to be alone-
Or would they be joined by a new friend?

The answer to that is a resounding yes.
I realized quickly that because it has been a while since I have read through these stories, I would have to go back and reread them in order to identify what happens.
If I was already going to do that, I might as well make an outline of each part.
Then I can better determine which events are part of the primary plot, which are secondary, and mark them with sticky notes accordingly.

Remember how I said I try to find a use for everything, and especially paper?
Those two binders in the picture are mine (plus a third I have packed away somewhere at the moment), and they are full of blank paper.
Blank, college rule lined paper.
At the end of a semester in school (or end of a school year), when I knew I would never again use  the remaining pages of the notebooks I took lecture notes in, I tore those pages out.
Then I put them in one of the binders (and hole-punched them, if necessary).

Now, I'm using a few of those pages to outline events, and to make a few notes on:

setting(s) - I'll be covering this in about 2 weeks
characters - more on these notes in a future blog

You'll notice that each part will have its own set of these pages, and that I used different colors of ink for each set.
Right now, I have these pages in front of the part they correspond to (to make it easier to mark plot points later), but they will end up together eventually.
When that time comes, the differences in color of ink (and different sets) are to signal their correspondence to different parts.
I haven't gone so far as to assign ink colors to different parts of the novel, and if there is any pattern as to the colors, it is just a matter of which color I picked up when I moved on to the next part.

Thoughts on the process:

This week, I didn't just have trouble deciding how to get organized with my plots.
I had trouble implementing.
That trouble did not come from lack of supplies, because I have plenty of paper, and plenty of sticky notes.
It came from that crazy thing we do called living.

Sometimes things happen that hit you like a semi and leave you barely breathing on the road, trying to get yourself back up.
And sometimes nothing like that happens, but you get distracted.
Most of the time, I am somewhere in the middle, but this week has taken me back towards the distracted end of the scale.
It's why I haven't finished what I've been talking about today on my novel, much less on my novella.

Maybe I am being a bit too hard on myself.
Maybe I set an overly ambitious goal to be finished with the plot monster in my novel this week.
I could sit and wallow in that, and throw my hands up in the air in surrender.
I could give up, and walk away...

Or I can look at the fact that I still got something accomplished this week.
I can also take some time over the rest of the weekend to reevaluate how much time it is taking me to engage in battle with the plot monster, and make more realistic goals for next week.
Then, when I do succeed, I can celebrate more enthusiastically.

At the end of the day, this "getting organized" isn't just about getting these stories polished and ready for mass consumption.
I've realized that it's also about being disciplined, which I will elaborate on why that is true for me at a later date (maybe next week if the plot monster still isn't tamed).

That means - keep your eye out for the second half of


where I'll talk about finishing the outlines and marking where in the story they appear.