IN A FIX Launch Week: How To Keep Track of Complex Plots

Wahoo! It’s In a Fix week! I’m so excited to celebrate Deb Linda’s launch—and can’t believe that when we first met, none of us Debs had books in the world and now we can all hold copies in our hands. We’ve grown up so fast!

After getting to know Linda over the past year, I thought it was especially fun to read In A Fix because it felt just… so…. Linda. Only she could come up with this fun story, and give it not one but two men for me to crush on. So here, goes: One writerly question and one, well, less writerly.

Writers often say that they sit down to write one story and the final result ends up being something totally different. How much of this story did you have plotted out in your head when you started, and how much wrote itself on the page? The story is so complicated–so many exciting twists and turns!–that, while reading, I kept asking myself how you came up with it all and kept it all straight!. I was quite amazed that one person could create that whole world. 

Also, I have to ask — who would you choose? Mark or Billy??

Thank you, Rachel!

I’m a dedicated pantser–I can’t outline worth beans, so I really didn’t plot out anything in advance. I knew what Ciel’s ability was, but until she started talking I had no idea what the story would be.

In a way, writing is like interactive reading for me–I sit in front of my laptop, think of what I’d like to see there on the screen if I were reading instead of writing, and then I type it. I start at the beginning–chapter one, paragraph one, line one–and keep going until the end. (Linear Linda, that’s me.) Not that I don’t go back and change things if necessary–I do. Sometimes something will happen later in the book that means what I wrote earlier won’t work, and I’m not so rigid that I refuse alterations.

My plots do tend to get a bit complicated. I think my subconscious is sadistic (or would that be masochistic?)–it enjoys writing me into corners and then watching me squirm to get out of them. Have to say, some of my favorite scenes were born from the panic of “Oh, my God, why did I make that happen? What am I going to do now?” Of course, when it comes to getting your characters out of those situations, it helps to have set a precedent for a certain amount of *cough* wackiness early in the book. That way, your options are wide open.

As for how I kept it all straight … well, spiral notebooks help. And, in the manuscript itself, brackets with notes to myself, like [You’re gonna want to remember you did this!] and [You have to address this again later!] and [You better come up with a good explanation for how this works!], only in red. And then I go back and remove the bracketed portions as I take care of whatever they’re addressing.

Re: the Mark or Billy question … well, it kind of depends on my mood. Just like sometimes I’ll crave a full-bodied red wine and a steak, and sometimes a light and fizzy champagne with strawberries. Why choose if you don’t have to? *grin*

So true, Linda. Who needs one hunky dreamboat when she can have two? And thanks for the specifics re: the brackets in red. I love being able to visualize what other writers’ manuscripts look like.

Readers out there — trust me — you’ll want to escape into this story. Find your copy of In A Fix asap!

And all week Deb Linda is giving away signed ARCs of IN A FIX to one of our commenters (US and Canada only, please) so be sure and leave a comment to today’s post to be in the running! Tell us: How do you keep track of complex plots when writing? Or when reading, for that matter?

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17 thoughts on “IN A FIX Launch Week: How To Keep Track of Complex Plots

  1. I’m the first to comment today. Yay me. I love this post because yesterday I asked a follow up question and this post answers it. Even though that can’t have been planned out in advance. And I love the answer! Dedicated pantser – interactive reading. I’m going to stop worrying so much about structure.

    • How fortuitous. *grin* I just saw your follow-up question on yesterday’s post, and thought, perfect! I’ve already written the answer.

      Re structure: Sometimes, if you give it a little space, your subconscious will do a lot of the work for you. You can always go back and straighten out the edges in subsequent drafts, if needed.

  2. Like I was saying (er, more like gushing) in my launch post, I was so impressed by Linda’s ability to keep so many plots—and auras!!–in check so that the transitions were seamless. Great question, Rachel!

    Linda, I too am a bracket-lover. I do that very same thing–I’ll put in bold (or highlight) right after a sentence in a draft as I write to remind myself of an upcoming plot point OR to go back and revisit a theme for a certain character to make sure I insert a good reveal earlier…

    And why choose, indeed?? 😉

  3. i too love knowing what other writers’ manuscripts look like. i’ve done the bracket thing and put the words in all caps, but RED. now there’s an idea. a very helpful idea.

    as you know, Linda, i was part of an ARC tour, but i had to send it on! and yet, this week, with all this talk about mark and billy, i’m ready to bring those boys back into my life! 9/4 can’t come fast enough!

  4. Now I know who I am!!!!!! I’m Linear Linda!!!! And all along I thought I was Panster Poppins LOL!

    You had me at in…

    “In a way, writing is like interactive reading for me–I sit in front of my laptop, think of what I’d like to see there on the screen if I were reading instead of writing, and then I type it. I start at the beginning–chapter one, paragraph one, line one–and keep going until the end. (Linear Linda, that’s me.) Not that I don’t go back and change things if necessary–I do. Sometimes something will happen later in the book that means what I wrote earlier won’t work, and I’m not so rigid that I refuse alterations.”

  5. I bow down to your skill with complicated plots, Linda. I’m a linear pantser, too, but I also have a lot of trouble with complicated plots (just ask my husband who has to explain movies to me) so I tend to avoid them. You did a great job with all your balls in the air and yeah, it was totally seamless. Fun and skilled- you’re the whole package!

    • Dang it. Now you have me blushing again. Thanks! 🙂

      Funny thing is, I suck at “complicated” in real life.

  6. We write almost the same way! I’m linear too – I start at the beginning and go straight through to “the end” – though I confess I’m a hybrid plotter/pantser now, because I have to outline my mysteries before I write them.

    (I have a masochistic subconscious too, by the way! Keeps things interesting, doesn’t it? Gotta love those “whoah…how do I get out of THIS one” moments.)

    Thanks for sharing about your process. It’s really neat to hear the nuts and bolts of how you write.

  7. Speaking of the masochistic subconscious – mine is evil! EVIL I tell you. And you know what? I can choose between those two men. I’m a Billy fan. Was from the beginning.

    • There ARE a lot of Billy fans among the early readers. But I’m finding Mark also has a devoted following, too. Taste in men is a funny thing. 😉

  8. When I’m reading a complex story I usually jot down a few key words that will help me remember later when I’m reviewing the book. Usually, I do pretty well with keeping up with a complex plot because I stop when something confuses me and go back to re-read before I continue.

    I like how Linda describes her writing method. It sounds like she loves challenging herself when writing. 🙂

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