Bottom line- Tiffany's epiphany is this: An idea does not = a plot.
There, I said it. It seems like a DUH-no-brainer kind of thing, but it wasn't until a couple of days ago that I was able to realize what was wrong with the books that I've written or been in the process of writing. Up until then, the definition of a plot was: a small piece or area of ground: a burial plot. Which is where I dug myself and my book into every time I wrote like that.
And get this my epiphany occurred while I was in the middle of teaching 4th graders a lesson on plot - of all things.
So, when the other teachers on my team and I discussed how we were going to teach plot, I thought about how it would make sense for me to teach plot through writing. Because DUH! You have to have a plot to write. Right? (Of course I didn't stop to think about my lack of such an important thing in my stories at that moment). It made perfect sense for me to teach my students plot by telling them how real-live authors plot out their own books. So, I turned to the most genius and kid-friendly plot visual I knew of courtesy of the One and Only: Jamie Harrington. She created what she calls the storysaurus to plot out her stories. It's basically brilliant. And who doesn't like dinosaurs?
Between the storysaurus and Shannon Messenger's outlining pattern, along with a couple of other online resources, my students and I reverse-map plotted The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (An AH-May-zing book, I might add). I drew a giant dinosaur on the board, and then wrote the main focus of each chapter on a sticky note and placed it on the dinosaur's back (you know, like the plates on a dinosaur's back). We then figured out what the starting point was, the inciting incident, the conflicts/crisis that contribute to the rising action, the moment of hopelessness, the actual climax, and then the falling action and resolution. It went amazingly well.
I even went as far as to show them how they could use a storysaurus to plot out their own narrative stories that they have to write, pointing out that each paragraph contributes to the climax and then leads to the resolution.
It's so simple.
Yet, as I stared at that storysaurus after school, I realized, OhmygoshIamatotalandcompleteidiot! It's right there! My huge and most ridiculous problem: I DON'T HAVE A PLOT! Nor did I have a plot for the first book that is collecting dust on a shelf, that will never see the light of day again. That's where I went wrong.
I was missing some of the major elements of a plot because I was a total pantser. I didn't plan it out. I let the ideas write themselves. The words would flow from my mind and my fingers would type and I would just go along. But then, I would find myself in a corner or in the middle of a burial plot. And I wouldn't know how to get out of it, and I'd go into panic mode, and then put the book away and declare myself a Professional Reader who will never ever become a professional writer. A very vicious cycle that guarantees a lot more panicking than actual writing. I don't like that panicky feeling.
Then, I had a huge brain storm session with my loverlies Tina and Kristen, which helped me so much. I now have a plot. I know my plot. I can write my book. It's so simple, it's stupid. Well, not really. The plotting almost made me lose my mind all day yesterday, and I basically walked around like a zombie without a single coherent thought until I worked it all out in my mind. Considering that yesterday was a school day, I can tell you another honest truth: my classroom did not get much accomplished during my Brain Spasms (AKA WHAT IS MY PLOT?) but when it finally came, the feeling was one of sweet satisfaction. And when I was given the thumbs up by my critters, I was in Plot Heaven.
I also got a great tip from my critters to watch The Plot Whisperer which solidified everything I had in my mind.
So there you have it.
I was a pantser.
I am no longer.
I am now a plotter.
And maybe, just maybe, I will have a complete book that is worthy of being shown to someone soon.