As soon as I heard that Diana Kimpton had written a book about plotting, I went straight to Amazon and bought myself a copy. As I read it I felt as if this book had been written for me. I have found it hugely inspiring and I highly recommend it.
I am delighted that Diana has written a post for this blog and everyone who comments will go into a draw to win a signed copy of Plots and Plotting. The winner of the book will be announced on Sunday, 1st July.
Now over to Diana!
When I first became a writer, I struggled to write anything longer than a picture book or short story. I was so bad that my first attempt at a novel was rejected for having a weak plot and a flat ending. I was devastated by that comment so I dived into books on story structure in an attempt to learn to plot.
After lots of study, I could recognize inciting incidents, pick out turning points and have a good stab at analysing the hero's journey. I could even spot what was wrong with some of the bad films and books I came across. But that didn't help me create my own plots, because story analysis is a completely different skill from story creation. However hard you study a finished book or film, you can't tell how the ideas came together in the writer's mind.
In response to the advice often given to writers, I tried creating characters and seeing where they would go. But mine packed up and left in chapter 3 because the story was so boring. Then I tried working out a chapter by chapter breakdown. But that acted like a straightjacket on my creativity and resulted in the bad novel I mentioned in the first paragraph.
Finally I discovered step outlining: a technique that freed my creativity and took me from rejection to selling a million copies of my books. It lets me start with any scene in my story and work backwards or forwards from there to create my plot. I usually work out a complete step outline before I start writing as that minimises the number of drafts I have to do. But sometimes I start writing earlier and use the step outline to help with the rewriting or I use a stop and start technique of plot, write, plot, write. There is no right way to work and no set rules. Step outlining gives you the freedom to find a way of plotting that works for you and your story.
My methods have worked so well for me that I decided to pass them on to other writers. But when I started writing Plots and Plotting, my test readers asked for examples to help them see how my ideas work in action. That created a problem. I couldn't use other people's books because I didn't know how their writers created them, and I couldn't use my own books either because I couldn't remember exactly how I worked out their plots. In the end, I decided to demonstrate step-outlining live by developing a brand new story as I wrote - revealing all my mistakes, changes of mind and occasional flashes of inspiration in the process. I don't know if I'll ever turn that plot into a novel, but I've enjoyed providing an insight into how a writer's mind works and the feedback I've had from readers suggest they enjoy it too.
I've noticed that this blog has lots of photos of dogs. I don't have one so I thought you'd like to see a photo of my horse instead. He gets a mention in the book because I bought a horse to help with my research for There Must Be Horses. (Well that was my excuse anyway).
Diana Kimpton is the author of more than 40 books, including her successful Pony-Mad Princess series. She writes for adults as well as children and many of her books have been translated into other languages. You can find out more about her at www.dianakimpton.co.uk