Tag Archives: plot

Writing Life: Clustering

How many of my loves use clustering as an initial plotting technique?  Anyone?  Well, I’m here to give you as many reasons as I can why you should.

Let’s start with this: clustering empties your brain.  The rules of clustering state that you need to write down ANYTHING that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t connect to anything else.  Write it down, no matter how ridiculous, because you never know when you’ll find that gem that connects points A and C with the ever-elusive B.  It’s like really messy, bullet-point free-writing.

My good friend Coffee over at The Land of Man-Eating Pixies recently posted about something her shop teacher said, and it’s really brilliant.  It’s the ENTIRE reason I swear by clustering (even if he wasn’t talking about clustering =P).

“Your brain is filled with stupid. There’s layers and layers and layers of stupid in your brain. So you have to give yourself fifteen minutes and a couple sheets of paper, and you have to write down every idea that pops into your mind. Even the ones that suck. Because you have to empty out all that stupid and maybe something halfway decent will trickle out. And you’ll be like, ‘WHOA WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? THAT’S ACTUALLY KIND OF GOOD.’ And the only reason you’ll have that halfway decent idea is because you emptied out all the stupid.”

I adore her for sharing this.  You guys need to visit her blog.  MOVING ON.  Yes, you need to empty out all the crappy ideas, because you never know when one crappy idea winds up as an integral part of your hook.

What is clustering?  Let me illustrate.

Messy photography, I apologize.

1.  Color-coded legend!  You don’t have to use highlighter, but I do.  Yellow for settings and locations, pink for characters and character relationships, and orange for groups and organizations.

2.  The actual cluster.  You start by writing a name, an event, a setting, plot point, etc. in the center.  From that center point, you write any connection you can make to it, then you branch off by making connections to the connections.  On the lines that connect them, you can write why their connected, catalysts, necessary information, etc.  Seriously, write ANYTHING that comes to mind.  If it doesn’t connect, don’t connect it.  If you don’t like it later, take it out.  In this way, clustering functions like free-writing; removing any mental blocks you may have between A and B and giving you deeper insight into the connections between characters and events in your story.

3.  Bullet points that detail this and that within the cluster.  If I hit on a point I like, I toss it up in the bullet points.  Sometimes it even turns into a faint starter outline.  It’s handy.

4.  Believe it or not, this is actually part of the original cluster.  It erupted into a detailed plan and layout of the city in which this all takes place.  All I’m missing is the drawing.  It’s easy to get carried away in clustering, after all, and that’s encouraged!  Anything that propels you forward.

Need a better view on each point?  I’m going to leave out number 1, since I think I can assume we all know how to work a legend.  I’ll also add another apology for the poor photography.


3.  (Don’t you love my handwriting?  It’s like someone blindfolded a toddler and handed him a Bic pen.)


Whew.  There we go.  See in 4?  Above the mess of setting details, it’s linked to my cluster.  It all connects somehow or other.  I’m sort of grateful for my crappy photography in the first two pictures.  It keeps some of my details super-secret.  =P

In any case, that’s clustering!

Do you use clustering?  Are there other pre-outline development techniques you prefer?  How do you handle your initial ideas?


Filed under Writing Life

Backed into a Corner

So, I have a slightly embarrassing confession.  I’ve written myself into a plot tangle with Letters from Blackford Hill….  The way I outlined didn’t leave much room to flesh out the characters and scenarios that I want to flesh out, and I feel that if I leave it the way it is, it’s going to take away from the overall story.  Instead of plowing through it blindly, and risking (more) plot holes, I’ve given myself a solution.

Letters from Blackford Hill will be on hiatus through the month of July.

I sincerely apologize to all my spiffy readers.  With Camp NaNoWriMo on the horizon, and an LfBH  hiatus, it will give me plenty of time to give the storyline the attention it deserves.  ALSO, if you want to voice your opinions on where the storyline should go, July would be the time to do so.  I’ll take suggestions into account, and see if I can implement them into the story.  =]  Don’t be shy.

I won’t leave you with nothing to read from G&L!  Once Camp NaNo gets going, I’ll have a link posted to the spiffy new Glass Dragons website.  My Camp NaNo novel will be posted there, bit by bit, probably once or twice a week.

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for updates about LfBH and Glass Dragons!


Filed under Life, Writing

Scrivener for Windows

So, I’m using the beta trial of Scrivener for Windows to set up Glass Dragons, my Camp NaNoWriMo project.  I’ve only had it a couple of days, and I think that it’s going to expire tomorrow (and that’s probably going to kill me), but HOLY COW, HOW did I get along without this software?  It’s so organized and streamlined.  I love it.  I have my character sheets, my setting sketches, my researched webpages, my basic outline, EVERYTHING, all neat and tidy in these folders, under documents.

It has a full screen mode to eliminate distractions!

*Deep breath.*

Okay, I’ve always been against using software as a crutch, but I’m a scatterbrained person.  I’ve tried yWriter and Storybook, but nothing compares to Scrivener.  If you’re working on a long project that requires a lot of organization (and too much crap to remember), this software is invaluable.

Wholly recommended.  Check out Scrivener for Windows!


Filed under Writing

Writing Life: It’s Okay to Take the Stairs

I have a beef with elevators.  Ever since I got stuck in one with my AFJROTC group in a museum in Washington, DC, my relationship with elevators has been love/hate.  On the one hand, you can get to the 15th floor with your legs in tact, without sweat stains, and without your lungs begging you never to put them through that again.  On the other… I got stuck in an elevator.  I don’t think I can be any more clear on that.  Elevators are mechanical, they lurch, and whirr, and when you step off of them, you have this weird, weak-legged feeling.

You’re thinking:  “This is a writing blog, Kit, what’s your point?”

My point is: It’s okay to take the stairs.  The scenic route, the back roads, the winding paths that take you away from the mechanical “gets-you-from-a-to-b” elevators and freeways of writing.

In an elevator, it takes you from the ground floor, to the fifteenth floor.  It doesn’t matter how you’re getting there.  You don’t question what might be on the floors in between…. but those floors between the ground and fifteenth floor are a necessary part of the building’s structure.  They house the elevator shaft that pulls you “from a-to-b.”

There's your destination... don't you care what's between here and there? What if there's a floor housing zombies? Or unicorns?

In your story, the journey is half the fun.  Each leg of your character’s journey should be essential to the plot, like each floor is essential to the building.  The stairs let you peek through doors, explore different floors, give your character the strength and personal growth to be ready for whatever the fifteenth floor holds.  Would you deny him the experience by sticking him in an elevator, passing all kinds of fun things the other floors may contain?  MAYBE HIS DEAD WIFE IS ON THE FIFTH FLOOR!  He’d want to know that, right?  Poor guy.  He really loved her, now he’ll never know, and never grow through his grief.

Let him wonder what's around the next bend... Also, the climb will be great for his thighs.

I got a little off track, I think.  What I’m trying to say is, taking your character from A-to-B is great.  You want him to get there, but not without the trials and tribulations of pulling himself up a long flight of stairs.  Stairs give him doors, which give him choices, which lead to growth, and that growth will give him the means of defeating his greatest obstacle: whatever lies on the fifteenth floor.

So, to recap:

  • Trials and tribulations are important.
  • Sticking your hero on the fifteenth floor from the first will only get him killed.
  • Reading about a character who hasn’t had the time or pain to grow and overcome is a character too boring to invest time in.
  • Stairs are good for the thighs.

Are you pro-stairs or pro-elevator?  What’s your favorite part of your protagonist’s journey?

Flickr photo: Elevator Buttons © iseethelight

Flickr photo: Stairs © Caucas


Filed under Writing Life

Training to Be a Career Author–Writing is More than the Writing (via Kristen Lamb’s Blog)

My writer friends could do with this sage advice. I know it changed my views on my writing methods. Give it a read, you won’t be sorry. =]

Training to Be a Career Author--Writing is More than the Writing Many of you who read this blog desire to be career authors, and kudos to you. It is a fun job and a great time. I used to be in sales. I literally hated my job so much I would throw up on the way to work. Every day I died a little more. This might be shocking, but selling cardboard had little outlet for being creative. I just knew that writing was the life for me. Ah….but how little I really knew. I now have had two successful best-selling books, … Read More

via Kristen Lamb's Blog


Filed under Writing