Janet Sumner Johnson
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GPS-ing Our Plots

Oct 27, 2010 Uncategorized 15 comments

Last weekend I went to the beach with my kids. I’d never been there, but I looked it up on-line, plus I got an address to enter into my handy, dandy GPS.

Fortunately I had google-mapped it, because the GPS wanted me to go straight through DC (which EVERYONE knows you avoid if you can). I went around.

But on the way home, I was in no rush. The kids had a movie going, so I thought, why not? Let’s see where the GPS takes me.


A path I NEVER would have taken in a million years. Still, it got me home and it only took 15 extra minutes.

When I started my now-complete novel, I had a plan. The basic chapters laid out. It was to be a short, funny jaunt through fairydom. Apparently my internal GPS had a different idea. All kinds of elements and subplots snuck in there, and the book went a different direction than I had planned.

Was that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Was my first plot-line terrible? I don’t think so either.

That’s what’s so great about writing. Our books can go so many different directions, and it’s all up to us.

How do you decide where to go with a book?


15 Responses to “GPS-ing Our Plots”

  1. Renae says:

    I never know which direction my book is heading until I'm finished. Even then an idea may pop into my head which changes everything.

  2. I outline, but I allow for some flexibility. You never know where a piece of dialogue will take you. Okay, sometimes it ends up getting cut and I'm back where I started with the outline. Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn't stray so far afterall. It would save me the time in the end. 😉

  3. Those sidelines sometimes offer the most telling tidbits about my characters. I don't cut them until I'm in one of the final stages of editing because they help me have a rounded idea of who this person is. I'm also not someone who can handle a detailed outline. It takes away all the joi de vivre. (I take no responsibility for misspelling of French words. My Chinese is much better. LOL)

  4. Joanne says:

    I start with my characters facing an unexpected situation, and in the beginning I rough outline it from there, seeing where the story can go. There are always lots of possibilities, and that outline changes shape as I go.

  5. What a great metaphor, I love it–possibly because I also love random driving. I'm an outliner, but I usually still end up in unexpected places. When I have an idea that involves a big diversion, I'll usually go for a long walk or sleep on it, then try it out if I'm still interested.

  6. Melissa says:

    I go with my gut. It's hard because I have so many spin offs of where it could go – I've actually taken to telling several to my friend as a story and he categorizes each and everyone with a name -verse. It's fun!

  7. havent gotten that far yet with my writing so who knows, probably in a very disorganized way that leaves papers all over my living room floor

  8. Candyland says:

    This is something I'm struggling with RIGHT NOW…so when you find out, fill me in:)

  9. Jen Daiker says:

    I go along for the ride. My MC picks me and then we go on an adventure together… the GPS is all over the world.

  10. I usually don't get to make the decisions. My characters tend to take over!

  11. Great metaphor! I usually write every option that occurs to me – if I`m mid-scene, and I have that thought that says, "Wait, what if SHE said this instead of him? What would that mean?" I make a note, finish the scene as I'm writing it, and then start a new page and rewrite the new idea. That way, I can look at them both and figure out what it means for the rest of the book, and make a decision that way.

  12. thats a really great analogy- we end up at the same place but by a completely different, often more colorful route. Great post!

  13. Super post! I think you have to let your story take you where it wants to go. It's like cake decorating shows…the people who stick to a plan and don't listen to the judges or the theme get stuck and lose…you have to be flexible and see where it leads you. 🙂

  14. Lenny Lee! says:

    hi miss janet! for me it just goes where its going. sometime i gotta back up a little and take a side road and sometime i just go off not knowing which direction im going. but i always end up somewhere that i like.
    …hugs from lenny

  15. Emily says:

    I know exactly what you mean. The story I'm working on right now could have gone in two directions and I wasn't sure which one I should choose. I finally chose the one that would address the themes I was more interested in.

    And thanks for haunting my page! 🙂

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