Friday Five: Things I Learned This Week While Plotting

Tuesday, I got back to plotting the YA historical. I’d gotten on a roll while on vacation, and I know all too well how, if you don’t jump back on the wheel relatively soon, it’ll go flat and be that much harder to get spinning again. So I took a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon, and I worked. Those big chunks of time are magic, as I’m remembering, and I felt like I got to new points of understanding for my story and for how I like to plot.

A few things to share:

  1. Sometimes, sitting and staring actually works. Along with actually letting your brain roam at least loosely over the story possibilities.
  2. The system of assigning a +/- or a -/+ to a scene card makes you think about a) the fact that story is action and change, together b) which direction you want your hero’s pattern of failure & success to shift in each individual scene, and c) what you’re going to make happen to cause that shift.
  3. There really is a story reason for every action or event. Be patient and look for that reason (see #1 above). Believe me, you will know when something feels forced, coincidental, or unbelievable. And you’ll know, as you move things around and look at possible causes and connections, when it all makes sense and works.
  4. This whole Act I, Act II (in two parts), Act III thing is pretty cool. When you move a scene from one Act to the other, you can feel the shift in balance, weight, and power of that moment, the whole story. Once again, I’m remembering how much I worship structure.
  5. I really do like Scrivener scene cards more than paper index cards. I can jot down all my notes and thoughts, without any space limitations. I can do that jotting by typing, which means I can actually read what I’ve written. I can cut and paste and delete, without inked-up scribbles making the whole card a useless piece of confusion. And I can work with Scrivener’s color-coding, without having to recopy and tear up a card every time I decide that it’s Red, for Daniel’s storyline, instead of bright blue, for Abe’s.


  1. Good for you! I’m beginning to think I really must try Scrivener. And I must get back to reading Save the Cat and really work through it.


    • beckylevine says:

      Save the Cat is really helping me, Beth. It’s still a bit vague on that dratted middle, but I think the work I did with Maass’ Breakout Novel first has given me some ideas for that. Where STC is making a difference (I THINK!) is with the balance of the ups and downs. I wasn’t too sure about his Fun and Games section, until I read his breakdown of MISS CONGENIALTY and then watched the movie and then also reread FLYGIRL (Sherrie L. Smith). That book really nailed it all for me–yes, things are tense and risky in those chapters, but…OMG, SHE GETS TO FLY! And I realized that’s the overall juice of those chapters–the joy of flying and taking those risks…it IS fun & games, at a big level. And there I am, rambling on again…


  2. wow, this is one I have to come back to. Like the plus\’s and minuses, but I am still struggling with Scrivener. have found the note cards, but not using them-i\’m sure- as they should be used. If only I would take the time to REALLY understand the tutorial, but I want to know it NOW. Anyway, thanks for this post. I\’m impressed that you are working, writing & blogging! Happy Birthday!


    • beckylevine says:

      I was struggling with the note cards until I started using them in conjunction with the SAVE THE CAT acts–I think I needed a structure to put them into. Good luck!


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