• Kacen Callender

WIP: Color Coded Plot

Things have been very busy in an enormously exciting way (King and the Dragonflies is a National Book Awards finalist, and I have a few upcoming, unannounced project deadlines that I've been plugging away at)—but I wanted to be sure to post a quick update. This week, I want to share a tip for a technique that I love using while I'm figuring out the bones of my plot.

A little about my plotting strategy first: Usually, I try to figure out the plot of a book with a general sense of what I think should happen, any scenes I've imagined or would be excited to write, and then I plug plot beats into beat sheets, like Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, or check the morality of character's inner journeys against some beat sheets of Anatomy of Story. (Another recent fav is Romancing the Beat!)

From there, I fill in holes that would make sense—that I've forgotten, or fall flat in the initial outline. The part that always, always gets me is the final quarter, and I love the organization of STC—it really helps me figure out how to slow down the ending so that it feels satisfying and earned.

But, for the specific technique I love, I also break down the specific scenes that will happen in each beat by conflict, and then color code those conflicts in the Word doc using the highlighter feature. It's similar to people who use their walls and color index cards, but my ADHD brain would not be able to handle index cards—my apartment would be a mess. Having the plot in one Word doc helps me focus, and it also helps me easily see where different holes might be—if there's a whole lot of blue and green for plot threads A and B for quite a few beats but not a lot of yellow for plot thread C, I can see I've started to drop that thread, and need to figure out how to weave it back in. On the other hand, it's also helpful to see when not to place a specific plot thread/conflict, because of everything else happening around it.

I've put this page in super small so that it's hopefully too difficult to read (the notes I keep for myself can be embarrassing—I've written a "don't be this corny while actually writing" note somewhere in here)—but hopefully it's enough to get the point. The light blue thread is meant to be very sporadic throughout the plot, but I can see that, right beneath that, the darker aqua-blue might be a little overrepresented in comparison to the other threads, especially the light green, so now I have a good sense of what my plot edit might be.

(Edit: turns out the other image was, of course, easy to read—so I've replaced it with the below. 🙃)

That's all for this week—told you it was a quick post. 😉

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