In the Spaghetti

To me, writing a novel is like sitting in the middle of a giant bowl of spaghetti. You’re surrounded by a heaping mass of character arcs and story threads, so you spend much of your time feeling confused and overwhelmed. IMO, this is not only natural, it’s necessary–if you don’t feel confused and overwhelmed at least part of the time, that’s an indication that your novel may be slight.

Every once in a while, though, you’ve got to step back and try to understand what you’re writing so you can get firmer footing that will help you move forward. Every writer has his/her own method of getting this type of footing. Me, I’m an office-supplies freak, so I like to do my planning by hand.

Here are a couple of blog entries that explain the glory of Post-its:

There are as many ways to sort through one’s spaghetti as there are writers. Here is a different, non-Post-it type of organizational thinking from J.K. Rowling:

I do love colored Post-its, but I also have three cats, and they like to play with flapping little papers. My Post-it concoctions are fun, but they never last more than a few hours. The method I tend to fall back on the most is just jotting down my scenes as a brief list. A few words remind me what each scene is, and seeing the whole book laid out is often enough to get my brain in gear. Oddly, I almost never look back to see what the list was. Instead, I make a new list every time confusion stalls me out.

But I’ll try any methods that strike a chord with me, and I will shamelessly tweak and bastardize to suit myself. I’ve used planning ideas derived from systems by Carolyn Coman, Martha Alderson, and others. When it comes to combing out the strands of spaghetti, it’s whatever works at any given moment. So…if you have a link that shows a different method—or a different version of the ones above–please post it in comments. Let’s share our resources!



by | February 7, 2013 · 8:01 am

4 responses to “In the Spaghetti

  1. martineleavitt

    Post-it Notes! I can think of no better way to approach plotting. Thanks, Amanda!

  2. Oh, Amanda, I make lists, too. Somehow they help me distill the gist of a scene and to see what/who is included and what may be lacking. Soon the lists start to resemble a bowl of spaghetti, too…. I’m going to try your post-it notes idea on my list. Thanks!

  3. Ingrid Sundberg has an awesome approach to plotting, but I have yet to try it. I color code the characters and sub-plots and then look to see how they are distributed throughout. Sounds tedious, but it’s very revealing. (Also a nice break from pounding my head against the desk.)

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