Is the Map Upside Down? A ROW80 check-in


Any chronic plotters out there?

*Raises hand*

image via wikimedia commons
image via wikimedia commons

When I plan a story, I make outlines, and outlines of outlines. I color-code, draw story arcs, reorder scenes, and so on.

Maybe it’s an occupational hazard for mystery writers, because we have to plant the clues, the red-herrings, and the obstacles. We need to know “whodunnit” (or at least, “who-coulda-dunnit”) ahead of time.

Yet inevitably, during the fever of the first draft as I’m doing dastardly things to my characters, I end up chasing them down rabbit holes of their own creation. Honest, the critters can really get away from you.

So I go with it, play around with the ideas that spring up during the writing process, and see what will happen. It’s sort of a plotter/pantser hybrid. It’s fun, and I’ve gotten terrific ideas from it.

That doesn’t sound bad so far, right?

Ah, but then we have to edit draft #1. That bad boy barely resembles the well-behaved outline Little Miss Historical Writer originally came up with. Neener-neener.

What’s a plotter to do when her creation goes rogue? I’ll tell you what I did in a minute. It’s time for my ROW80 check-in!

ROW80So, how did I do this week?

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! The blog tour seems to be going strong. This past week, mystery writer Nancy Lauzon threw a Book Shower for me (instead of a bouncing baby, it’s a new book), and I guest-posted at mystery writer Margot Kinberg’s place about the modern film portrayals of Dr. Watson. Lots of fun!

2. Send out three new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).

Actually, I sent out 30! I decided to check my email list of people who had said they were a) going to read my novel; b) started my novel; or c) finished my novel. I sent individual and small group requests, crafted toward the people in question, explained the problem, and made my request. I’ve received very supportive and positive feedback, so I don’t think I’ve offended anyone. I was hesitant to do it for that very reason. So I’m taking this off my goal list, and will just keep my eyes open and ask when appropriate.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.


4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post two weeks ago about 19th century sledding. I’m still getting the hang of it. I was originally shooting for another SocialIn post in mid-February, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. We’ll see.

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

Okay, so we’re back to the topic of dealing with my sprawling first draft. My answer? A reverse outline (or perhaps more accurately, a flowchart). I’ve been going scene by scene through my first draft and condensing each into a tagline, a “who” and a “why,” and color-coding it according to my plot/subplot story lines. This way, I’ll get a big picture look at it once again, and see where the dead ends are. I’m nearly done writing the excerpts, then will lay it all out on a big board.

No, my story doesn’t look like this, but you get the idea.

That’s it from second-draft-land. How do you get a big picture perspective when things get complicated? (this applies to anyone, not just writers). I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,


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9 thoughts on “Is the Map Upside Down? A ROW80 check-in”

  1. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    Kathy – I admire your determination to set and reach author goals. Even if it gets complicated and muddled sometimes, not having goals is even more chaotic. I’m glad you’ve been making progress.

  2. Amy KennedyAmy Kennedy

    I’m not doing ROW80 this go around, but boy are you doing great! I haven’t done the color coding/plot/subplot before, but I’ve done the scene by scene by what the heck is happening here? thing! But I know you’ll pull it together.

  3. Jenny HansenJenny Hansen

    I’ve been using the color coding in Scrivener lately and it’s making a huge difference. It allows me to see who has scenes, plus I divide the book up by acts at the end so I can see what scenes are happening where. It’s been a huge help.

    I’m so impressed with you that you’re keeping up your ROW80!! And I can’t wait to hang out with you at the end of the month. 🙂

  4. PatriciaPatricia

    Oh my – so many people I know are into graphs, charts, powerpoint slide shows, ledgers, spreadsheets and other whatnot. I feel like a freak because those things make me cringe. Not that I’m not a good map reader, cuz I am, and I rarely get lost, but maps and writing don’t equate for me.

    I’m glad you found something that works for you. The color coding may be the only thing I can identify with. I said “may.”

    Congratulations on your goals this week! Keep it up.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  1. winter and ROW80

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