In my September blog, I asked people for ideas of what they would like me to address in my posts on A Slice of Orange. My apologies, but I didn’t use those ideas last month because I’d just attended the West Hollywood Book Fair and was jazzed about it, so that was what I talked about in my post.
But now, here’s a topic that one of the commenters mentioned in September: plotting. Holly wrote: “My biggest issue is keeping the plot/subplots simple and not too many. It is like ideas pop into my little head and I add them instead of filtering. How do you filter through them to keep the storyline flowing?”
That can be a problem, Holly. I’ve found it particularly affects me when I’m writing some of my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries. Kendra is my alter ego, and she keeps throwing ideas into my mind about what’s happening in her life while I’m writing about her.
What I generally do, though, is tell her that I need to stick to the synopsis I always create before I start writing one of her stories. I don’t do detailed outlines or scene lists any longer, but I have found that if I go off on a tangent that isn’t in my original synopsis I generally have to remove it.
That’s not to say you can’t save it for another book. I certainly do! That’s such a great thing about computers. I always keep lists of ideas in the same folders as the stories I’m working on. Then, when it’s time to plot the next story and create its synopsis, I generally can pick and choose from ideas I’ve already jotted down.
Of course, everyone writes differently. Not everyone can work with a synopsis or outline. There are a lot of seat-of-pantsers out there, too--and I’m sure it’s more difficult for them to ignore new ideas as they crop up.
Another caveat here. (Yes, I’m also a lawyer, so I use legalese at times!) Even if you are someone who writes a synopsis, outline or scene list first, if something comes to you that you haven’t already included and it’s a real doozy that you think readers will love, you don’t always have to save it for the next book. But think it through before you run with it. It may make what you’re doing a whole lot harder to finish--especially if it’s also interrupted by other ideas!
So--was this helpful? Any other things you’d like for me to address in the future?
Linda O. Johnston
Linda O. Johnston is the author of 16 romance novels and several novellas, including a Nocturne Bites that is also in a current print anthology AWAKENING THE BEAST, with more Nocturnes upcoming. She also writes the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime and is also working on the spin-off Pet Rescue series.