When a pimp gettin’ writer’s block
Plot it like it’s hot
Plot it like it’s hot
Plot it like it’s hot
When your MC gettin’ attitude
Drop it in the plot
Drop it in the plot
Drop it in the plot
Wow. I’m so sorry. I’m not even going to finish that. I thought that would be funny, and it’s not. Please accept my most humble apologies and this picture of my son with Snoop Dogg for your inconvenience.
And don’t tell him I did that. Neither Snoop nor my son. ***Edited to add: if you’re viewing this on your phone, I’m sorry it’s sideways. Someone help a sister with mobile WordPress, for the love of God!
Being a talented writer is a great thing. You can’t learn talent; it’s something you’re born with. You just get words. You can string them together like a pearl necklace and smile proudly when people gawk at the masterpiece draped across your collarbones. You can whip them in the air like the Fourth of July. Maybe let a tear slip down your face as crowds gather to watch them crackle and rain down in fiery wisps of color.
So you take this talent of yours and you create characters and force them to interact. You craft witty dialogue and you describe pristine scenery, but you soon realize that these characters are intricate and the reader needs to know what makes them tick and why they react the way they do. So you write more scenes about something that happened to the character a long time ago, or current events of that time period so that we the readers understand how vital this situation is, and you throw in some really ornate words and sharp verbiage for us to enjoy as we read these chapters that have nothing to do with the storyline.
And then you don’t understand why people are cringing during your beta reads, sending it back to you with a “meh,” or a “you’re a really great writer, but…”
You didn’t plot.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you don’t understand how to plot and structure properly, your books will be as popular as my rap parodies. Luckily, learning these concepts isn’t something you have to be born with. You can do it for free right here:
The first time I heard about the plot clock, I spent $300 on a weekend seminar that changed my life. You are getting this treasure trove for free! All you have to do is sign up for Joyce’s mailing list (she doesn’t send many emails; in fact, she’s the only subscription I wish would send more) and you will immediately be able to access her hour-and-a-half seminar on plotting. DO THIS! Get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine (depending on the time of day, if you’re into protocol—otherwise just grab the wine bottle) and dedicate 90 minutes of your life to learning how to save yourself from hours and hours of rewrites and frustrations and money down the drain to editors who tell you to learn the eff how to plot!
::steps off soap box and whispers in angelic voice:: Eh-hem. For the record, I would never tell you to learn the eff how to plot. I’d be way fucking nicer. ::steps back onto soap box::
Too many of my clients send me partials, and I’m about halfway into the book before I am finally getting an idea of what the story is about. But guess what I do know? The main character’s entire life story. And I tell them this (because I’m not taking people’s money to pat them on the head and tell them what a great book they have and how it’s perfect), and the response is always the same:
“But I really want the reader to know how my MC got into this predicament and why they are the way they are.”
And my advice:
You know the current fad joke where someone asks about something uncomfortable and you respond with, “See, what happened there was…” and then everyone laughs and laughs? Don’t do that in your story. If you have a paragraph that begins with, “It all started when…” delete it. You’re telling. Not showing.
Enough with the show and tell crap. I’m going to briefly summarize the plot clock. There is a lot more crucial detail on the video, so don’t let reading this blog replace watching the webinar. To plot a story, you’re going to divide it into four parts or acts:
Act 1: The Ordinary World
The book begins with your character in her normal life. Her routine, her relationships, her daily struggles. Then something happens that causes a little ripple to this routine. That is called the Inciting Incident. If you’re writing a romance, maybe your MC is a married nurse and a new doctor transfers to her hospital and starts flirting with her. Or perhaps your MC receives a job offer in another state. If you’re writing a mystery or thriller, perhaps she notices she’s being followed. It doesn’t have to be huge and mind-altering, just something to shake up her daily humdrum.
Then we come to the transition between acts 1 and 2, which is the Binding Point. This is where your MC is taken from her ordinary world and placed in an unfamiliar world (this should have been foreshadowed in the Inciting Incident). Examples for the three scenarios mentioned above:
1.) Your married MC decides to give her phone number to the relentless doctor.
2.) She accepts the job offer in another state.
3.) In the thriller, she gets kidnapped by the stalker.
She doesn’t always have to choose to put herself in the binding point; sometimes she is forced into it. It all depends on your story and genre. The binding point should happen roughly ¼ of the way through your manuscript.
Act 2: Trials & Challenges Failed
Your MC is now in a new, unfamiliar world. She doesn’t have the ability (the experience, the knowledge, etc.) to survive in it; therefore, she continues to fail each thing she tries.
1.) Now she’s juggling this affair between her husband and the doctor and she’s neglecting her children, doing poorly at her job, feeling guilty for lying to her husband.
2.) She moves out of state to the new job and is having a hard time adjusting to the new city, hates her new co-workers, can’t learn the job quickly enough, misses her old friends, starts doing drugs.
3.) She keeps trying to escape her kidnapper and he keeps catching her and torturing her physically and psychologically.
No matter what she does to try to fix her situation, she’s always failing.
Down, down, down.
This brings us to the Low Point. This is where all seems lost.
1.) Her husband discovers she’s cheating and wants a divorce.
2.) She gets fired from this new job for coming in high, maybe gets arrested.
3.) The kidnapper catches her in an elaborate escape act and he punishes her by doing something to her that has always been her worst nightmare.
Whatever the situation, she has hit rock bottom. This is roughly the mid-point of your story.
Act 3: Trials and Challenges Passed
Shortly after the Low Point should be the Changing Point. While the low point is an external situation that we watch play out, this is an internal change within the MC, wherein she realizes that she has to change in order to survive. She’s not the same girl we saw in acts 1 and 2 – she’s stronger now, and things start picking back up for her. She’s being rewarded for her efforts.
1.) She calls it off with the doctor and tries to reconcile with her husband.
2.) She stops doing drugs and finds another job that consequentially pays more.
3.) She starts scheming up a long term plot that may or may not allow her to escape from her kidnapper, possibly using a little psychology of her own.
Things are looking good for our MC, right? Wrong.
Act 4: The Turning Point
This comes ¾ through the book, and is the twist that throws us off and makes us say WTF!!!! The Low Point seems like a birthday party compared to this. This is where everything that she has become is being tested:
1.) She finds out her husband has been cheating on her all along, and has impregnated the next door neighbor.
2.) It turns out this new job is a money laundering cover-up, and a huge drug bust ensues, and with a drug possession on her record, she has to prove she’s had no part of this.
3.) She finally executes the long-term plot to outsmart her kidnapper and escape.
This will segue into the climax. Now we’re going to see what this bitch is truly made of.
1.) What does she do when her husband’s mistress dies during labor, and his bastard child is born with brain issues, and the doctor she just dumped is the best neurologist in the state?
2.) What happens when the authorities are convinced she’s involved in the drug scandals, but the only proof of her innocence lies in her ex—her old drug dealer—who is angry with her?
3.) And the million dollar question—can the hostage successfully outsmart her captor and make it home alive?
The answers to those questions are up to you—the author. Take the readers for the ride of their lives!
Now we can breathe, and we enter the closing part of the book, the Denouement. This wraps up any loose ends the reader may have about any character or even a subplot. Now our MC is in her new ordinary world, because she is a changed woman starting over. And now your plot comes full circle.
And I totally made those scenarios up on the fly; please don’t judge.
So try taking your story and plugging it into all these points on the plot clock. And please note that these are just GUIDELINES! You’re not going to get an F- if your story doesn’t fit perfectly into each point—there are many successful authors who have never even heard of this—but if you’re new to writing novels and having trouble plotting your story, give it a whirl. You certainly can’t go wrong with being pointed in the right direction.
This is obviously a very high overview of the plot clock. There are many more details involved—including a great exercise called threading—that you’d only learn if you
Watched the freakin’ webinar.
Watch it like it’s hot
Watch it like…