Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Plot Plot Plot: Take a Writer to Lunch

I teach next week at Write By The Lake at University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Plot, plot, plot. At first I thought that it was kind of insane for me to teach plot. I mean, it certainly isn't my strong point. But then the more I thought about it, the more I decided that 1. it would help me be a better writer and 2. it's good to have someone who has had to figure it out teach it rather than someone who does it naturally. Take Walter Jon Williams. He plots. He plots easily. He plots in his sleep. That doesn't mean he thinks about how he plots. Au contraire, I believe that for Walter, plotting is like breathing. And imagine you had to teach someone to breath. I on the other hand, would be unable to teach someone how to write depressing fiction.

This didn't stop me from asking people for tips on plotting. I've got lots. But one of the ones I hope to suggest is that people keep in touch with other people from the class, or find a local group. Find someone (like Walter) who is good at this. Take them and maybe one or two other people to lunch, and do what Walter and Daniel Abraham call a plot break. That is, sit down and you're doing this long distance, by IM, I don't know what you do--except that maybe they'll need you later on down the line.

It wouldn't work for everyone. But hey. It would be a godsend for someone writing, say, a mystery.


Blogger Beth Adele Long said...

I completely agree -- most of the time, it's so much better to learn from someone who had to figure it out themselves.

The people I knew at school who intuitively grasped the math and science were never very good at explaining it -- they just couldn't comprehend what the rest of us found so difficult. "See? It's easy." Ha.

I have a notebook full of novel outlines; I used to finish a book and then write out a detailed outline of the novel's action, chapter by chapter. It didn't have an immediate payoff, but I think it helped me begin to see how the plots functioned; sort of like tracing over a drawing by a good artist to see how they did it.

Also, on a completely different tangent, Madison must be lovely in June! We're already baking down here, and the weather in Wisconsin must be a pleasure.

June 12, 2007 8:15 PM  
Blogger dubjay said...

Thank you for the kind words. In fact I =do= plot in my sleep, though when I wake I fail to remember anything save a melancholy sense that yet another novel has somehow slipped away.

I wish I could breathe up a plot right now. Instead I'm experiencing a lot of inchoate ideas ricocheting around the inside of my skull, none of them seeing fit to alight. I have far too many ideas for the story available, and they're all glittering and shiny, but contradictory. Trolls and zepplins; pulp writers and Diana Mitford.

What I need is a kind of fiction writer's philosopher's stone, to turn all this base matter into smooth, creamy gold (though at this point I'll settle for tin).

Good luck with your plots and counterplots.

(This is the second time I've posted more or less the same message. Let's hope Blogger is a little less careless with this one.)

June 12, 2007 10:28 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Walter, maybe you need to take Daniel to lunch? Or are you too far from coming up with something even for that?

June 12, 2007 11:26 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Sit down and...? I think we lost a few words there.

June 13, 2007 10:29 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

You're right. Sit down and brainstorm the plot, is what I should have said.

June 13, 2007 4:15 PM  
Blogger dubjay said...

This will require more than lunch, and probably more than Daniel. I already have a fistload of volunteers, but reconciling all the calendars is always a chore . . .

June 13, 2007 6:02 PM  

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