As I have mentioned, I'm coming off of a long writing dry spell. One of my long term goals over the years has been to write a novel. I've attempted to start and gotten bogged down quite a few times. Over the last few months the idea that there has to be a better way has continually come to mind. I consider myself a character-based writer. I think up characters. I write about characters. I explore them inside and out and get to know them like I know my best friends. And then I start trying to plot around them and I get totally lost. I get halfway through a novel and am so confused I can't remember where I was going in the first place. There has to be a better way. I need plotting help!
I own a book that I bought a number of years ago called The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray. I have browsed through it a few times over the years, but never actually sat down and worked through it until recently. I also subscribe to a blog by Randy Ingermanson (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/index.php) that I feel always has some fantastic information and help for fiction writers. Both Ray and Ingermanson offer a design process to use before beginning the novel and I've finally come to the conclusion that I need to employ just that type of process if I'm ever going to make sense of this whole plotting thing. Ray has you start with character sketches based on strangers in public places. Ingermanson has you start with a basic plot synopsis boiled down to a sentence. Both agree that it is well worth it to do extensive plotting and synopsis work on the novel before you ever start writing the first draft. One way or the other, I feel that the idea of the advance design process is the Better Way that I've been looking for all along. So...here goes nothing. By choosing to learn a new way of novel writing I will gain, if nothing else, a new perspective on this craft that I have chosen as a way of life.
For those interested in more information on these methods, here is the info. Randy Ingermanson devotes a page on his website to his process called the Snowflake Method. You can look at it here: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php Be sure to check out all of the other great information that he gives away on his website and blog as well. Robert J. Ray's original edition of The Weekend Novelist is no longer in print and from what I've read in the reviews at Amazon, the second edition (with a co-author) is not nearly as worth the investment. You can, however, still purchase used first editions on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Weekend-Novelist-Dynamic-52-week-Finished/dp/B001DF9HM8/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233178099&sr=1-4) For a great review of this book check out http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue26/bookreview.htm