Plotting in Reverse

Recently, I hit a point in the WIP where I wasn’t quite able to visualize where I was going next… and the next morning, I went on vacation for a few days, to a part of the country where the wildfire smoke was even thicker than friends, and friends were plentiful. My sinuses rebelled, and brain refused to be creative even as my highly expensive masks designed for just such a purpose (Not Kung Flu Ju-ju specials) struggled and clogged with particulate matter.

We left just ahead of a haboob, and took a couple days getting home. (When the blowing dirt is so thick we have the fog lights on in the middle of the afternoon, and have slowed to twenty miles an hour on a four-lane divided highway… even “recirc” doesn’t keep the dust out of the cabin.)

Strangely enough, when I got home and finally slept in my own bed, my brain didn’t immediately pick up where it left off on the WIP with full burst of creativity. Funny that, eh? So, time for plotting in reverse!

See, I may be a pantser, but I have studied plotting, enough to know what it should look like. And when I get a little stuck, one of the options is printing out the WIP (the brain does editing better with a format change), and then going through what I’ve written so far, writing down what the plot has been, what threats and opportunities have been presented in each chapter,  who the viewpoint character was, what their motivations have been / are changing to. What problems got solved, what new problems were created, and what complications arose.

This also reveals a whole list of potential Chekov’s guns, that I then note down, and go “Huh! That’s so going to be showing up later. When? What is going to happen to make that happen?”

As I compile the plot, I rarely even get all the way to the end before my brain is going “We haven’t seen X in a while, and they’re going to be dealing with This Complication, and That Smoking Gun is going to come up at the worst time…” And then my brain comes online, and goes “It’ll go like… Nah! This will happen instead!”

(It also gives this dyslexic a chance to find and fix typos. Of course, being dyslexic, the number of typos I then introduce while fixing is… *sigh*.)

It’ll be a while before this WIP is out – so if you want to read something just released that contains a friend’s story, MonaLisa Foster was just published in Men In Uniform: A Steamy Romance Anthology!


10 thoughts on “Plotting in Reverse

  1. You sound so organized! My mush-for-brains just flounders around, until I’m desperate enough to drag out the Hero’s Journey to see how many points I’ve missed (so far) or worse, check the six basic plots and stare at the list until I decide if sin-and-redemption, boy-meets-girl, or Impersonation is the main story, and the rest are sub threads. Oh wait . . . there’s an awful lot of coming-of-age in there . . .

  2. The above method of dealing with “where do I go from here” makes a lot of sense.

    What doesn’t make sense is the title of that anthology, since the focus is on changing the preposition.

  3. I like the idea of looking for Chekov’s gun. I leave those things lying around all over the place. ~:D Sometimes it takes a couple more books before they come back.

      1. My problem with random Chekov’s guns lying around is that new characters have a tendency to wander into the story, pick them up and wave them around. Then I have to go back and recheck the details of whatever thing it is.

  4. You’re very organized. I have to go back and forth, rereading what I’ve written and eventually, I come back around to mentioning whatever it was that showed up. My goodness, but you are organized.

  5. Nice approach, and that explains why you were mumbling to yourself a lot at the get together… 🙂

  6. I do the backwards thing…printing it out and then figuring out what’s going on. I started doing that with academic articles because even there I kept losing track of where I’d been and where I was going.

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