Let one person offer constructive criticism of my writing and I'm off and running, doubting my ability and fearing I made a fool of myself.
That's what prompted my stinky plotting skills post. Sound familiar? I thought so. Since I'm not the type of person to dig a hole for myself and jump in after I've discovered a new weakness or, worse, embarrassed myself, I launched my campaign.
If my plotting skills are stinky--IF being the operative word--then all I need to do is strengthen them, right? And surely ALL my plotting skills can't be stinky, right? [This is my ego talking. I've learned that the best time to listen to it is when fear is nipping at my heels.]
My campaign lasted one evening and all of the next day: thumbing through reams of notes I've taken on plotting durng the past 20 years--and exhaustive online research. What I came up with is that I had all the knowledge I needed, I just hadn't put it together in a way that worked efficiently for me.
Several published authors included terrific information on their websites and blogs. Their insights touched me in a number of ways, pointing out information I already knew intellectually, but shining perspective in a way that permitted me actually GET it. I compiled an aggregate of information and created for myself a skeleton, an empty outline telling what I need to put where--and when.
The most important message I took with me, however, reinforced one of my personal writing beliefs. Not every writer embraces it but, if you do, don't ever let it go: Plot grows from character. Every single event that occurs in your book or short story MUST stem from the character and his/her emotions, decisions, actions, and conflicts. The two most important questions to ask yourself when you're plotting are: What if? and What next?