Fans of Argent Glass will be happy to discover that I've been plotting the sequel. My readers over on Wattpad convinced me to turn my stand-alone into a series. I ended the story with a hook that begs for more (they say) and though I never intended to write it, the sequel is now in the works.
I've actually been plotting it in my head for a couple months now. Plotting, for me, always starts there. I let an idea percolate for a long time. Some ideas fizzle out while others bubble and burble so much that I suddenly find myself scribbling notes on slips of paper and napkins and the corners of pages in my activity log at work. After a while, the number of notes starts to feel claustrophobic. I find them on my dresser, the dining room table, the kitchen counter, the desk (aka the top of the dogs' kennel - yes they share - they've established rules about who gets to use it when just like my teens do with the Xbox). Eventually, I consolidate my notes into a single pile that then gets organized in OneNote. (Have you seen my OneNote page that talks about using OneNote to edit a novel?)
Once my notes are somewhat organized, I start to see the backbone of the story. I could probably start plotting the storyline from here, but I like to work with a visual, so I sketch the story arc. I use a combination of the Hero's Journey and a prototypical narrative arc. If you aren't familiar, go check out Well-Storied's explanation of the Hero's Journey at https://www.well-storied.com/blog/heros-journey.
You can also find a sample arc that's pretty similar to what I draw at Middle Country Public Library at https://www.mcplibrary.org/story-arc/.
I take a clean sheet of paper and with a pen, draw an arc. Kind of looks like a bell curve but the bell's been struck on the left and it leans to the right. Then I lay out some dotted lines... the inciting moment, the half-way point, the climax, etc.
That's the base. Clean. Fresh. Ready for ideas. Ready for all those slips of paper to be origamied into the full-fledged plot of a story. I use a pencil for the rest of this exercise which can take weeks or even months, and often, is never fully completed because I move to the computer to finish. It’s easier there because, by this point, whole scenes start prickling in my brain and I can dump them into the outline where they fit in.
My paper story arc is usually heavily covered in lead on the left side and middle of the page, where ideas come quickly and easily for me. Since my stories tend to evolve out of dreams, there is often one scene that I know I want in the story. Sometimes it ends up being the inciting incident and other times it's the climax. Discovering how my character got to those points is a matter of asking a lot of questions and writing those answers on the story arc diagram. On the right hand side of the page, though, there’s more white space.
Over the course of whatever amount of time it takes, I keep writing until I get to: some things happen, blah blah blah, and my main character overcomes the challenge/bad guy. Plot complete. Level unlocked.
Sounds good, in theory, but that blah blah blah bit has always been a sticking point. Endings have always evaded me in the process of plotting, and so I've ignored them under the guise of "I will figure it out when I get there" in true pantser fashion.
Well not today, family. This week, a friend of mine, Philip Ide, dropped a post on his Facebook timeline that was a game changer for me. (Go check out Phil. He's working on some sci-fi books and he's amazing. He made this calculator for "calculating the orbital characteristics for any orbit around any gravitational mass" - which makes him crazy smart in my book because I'd never think up such a thing much less actually be able to sit down and create it.
Geeky geeks or geeky sci-fi writers can find the Orbital Calculator on his webpage at https://philip-p-ide.uk/doku.php/blog/articles/software/orbital_calculator
Or go over and chat with him on his Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/authorPhilipIde/
And now back to our regularly scheduled program. The game changer. Here's what Phil posted.
"The story must finish with [the main character] doing something that nobody else can (or will), and which dramatically changes the end."
(Speak up if you know who said that so I can credit them.)
On some level, I knew that. I've extensively studied the craft of writing novels for at least five years now and I'm an avid reader who started a love affair with books the moment my mother introduced me to the library over fifty years ago. But seeing it spelled out this way, at this time, when I've been hung up on creating a dramatic ending for Argent Glass 2 (actual title to be determined), struck some nerve that turned on the ole light bulb.
I don't mean the ending immediately came to me. Remember, that’s not how I work. First, the sentence percolated. I wrote it on the top of a page of hand-written notes related to the story. Then, just as I was conveying the idea to my number one fan (my husband - y'all can fight for the title later)...
BINK! The ending fell right out of my lips.
And, half a second later, another sticky note was covered in scribbles.