Does this look like a book to you? It will be. About a year ago I sat down and plotted out my adult murder mystery, Babytime on the Border: A Ginger French Mystery.
Plotting is my kryptonite. I tend to write a first draft with an excellent opener and a great ending, but a middle disaster. Now, not my latest WIP, Dragon Scales. That one just flew off my fingers, and flows really well.
But for my first MS (Dragon's Leap), which was also a murder mystery, I spent the bulk of my time rewriting and filling in plot holes because I didn't think, ahead of time, of what all those possible holes could be.
So this time I sat down and figured them out. I plotted out the story, on page, which is on these boards and a bazillion sticky notes. But I also have a writing guide of the events off page, that the reader will never know or see, that were absolutely vital to me to figure out this story.
I have several people carting around a man (who is shot and becomes a body) to several different locations, ending up ultimately in my MC's trunk. It's grimly funny, I promise, but the off-page events that aren't in my MC's POV were just as important to figure out as were the on-page events.
The first board sets out my system of color coding -- a different color sticky for each sub-plot, from the main murder mystery to my MCs internal emotional arc (my other Achilles heel, which I'm tackling head-on here). It begins with the exposition, or introduction, which goes really fast in this one, to the conflict and then it's a hike up the plot mountain, for boards 2, 3 and part of 4 to the climax.
I'm about 16 chapters into drafting and already, I'm changing things, finding ways to take elements I had already woven in and make them grit under my MCs feet, rubbing in the misery and woe. I'm adding chapters when needed, and expounding on a few things I hadn't planned on originally, but having the framework is absolutely vital to writing and finishing -- my goal is to get Babytime written by December this year.
And the last board, board 4, has so few events because, if you can see, the "plot mountain" reaches its peak and there's only one chapter for denouement.
I'm excited to finally get Ginger's story down. Ginger's been rummaging around in my brain since my first NaNoWriMo, back when my kiddos were little, and I wrote a 40,000-word characterization of her, essentially. I had no idea of plot structure then.
Not that Babytime won't need editing; all my writing needs editing and rewriting. But I'm moving that much closer to getting my third WIP under my belt. And it feels great!