[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Kelsey Clayton guest posting on the site today. She’s sharing her foolproof plotting method! Take it away, Kelsey.]
Writing is hands down my favorite thing to do. I personally don’t think there is anything better than creating your own little world. But if I’m being honest, the thing that comes out of my mouth most when working on a new book is, “Books are hard. I don’t wanna.” And it’s true. Books are hard. We’re working with characters who don’t always cooperate, and details you thought were irrelevant can turn into massive plot holes. So, I’m giving you an inside look on how I plan out a book.
The first part of my plotting process actually starts months before I even consider sitting down to write the book. I call it the brainstorming phase. Basically, I take any and all ideas that come to mind and type them in a note in my phone. They could be the best things to ever pop into my mind, or the absolute worst.
Names of songs.
Small sections of dialogue.
Detailed scenes and events.
No matter what they are, they get jotted down.
When it finally comes time to focus on that specific book, I usually take a couple nights to really focus on the brainstorming. Most of the time, that consists of putting in my AirPods, grabbing a glass—or bottle—of wine, and just letting my mind run wild. And trust me when I say, it does run wild.
The next day, when I’m sober and clearheaded, I sort through it. The ideas that are either crazy or totally don’t fit the characters, like letting Jace sleep with Carter’s mom, usually get vetoed at this point. Though, I still keep them in my phone, just in case. Someday I should write a novella that solely consists of all the insane things that didn’t make it to the books.
Now for my favorite part—sticky notes! I have four sections on my wall labeled Beginning, Middle, Ending, and Details. Taking my sticky notes and a black Sharpie, I write down every single idea that made it through phase one, checking each one off as I go.
I wish I could tell you that they’re written in order and neatly organized as they go up on the wall, but I’d be lying. Imagine giving a toddler a bunch of Post-It Notes and permission to stick them on the wall. Also, blindfold said toddler. It looks a little worse than that. Each section is a jumble, and I’m just lucky they’re at least organized into the four sections.
Usually, during the sticky note part of my plotting, I come up with new ideas or fillers that get added into the mix. However, this happens throughout most of my plotting process; I never shut my brain off from new ideas, not even while writing or even editing the book.
Okay, so you’ve got your ideas and you’ve turned them into a jumbled mess of notes on the wall. Perfect. Now is when I calm some of your OCD triggers and tell you that I organize them. I start at the beginning and put them in an order that makes the most sense and sounds the best to me. This is still a mess. Most of the time, I’m moving three full rows of notes just to add one idea to the first few chapters. It’s time-consuming, and my arms hurt by the time I’m done.
This process is also when I find it the easiest to think of fillers. Being able to look at two events, you can brainstorm what would work best to tie those together in a way that flows. I guess you could call it a visual aid.
Once the wall of notes is complete (and pretty, because I used the multicolored ones) it’s time to create a rough outline. Looking at the wall, I’ll let the notes lead me through the events of each chapter. From chapter one to chapter thirty, each one will get a small paragraph about what I want to happen. As a whole, the rough outline briefly describes the book with the main events that happen as well as filler details.
Got your rough outline? Great. Send it to a few trusted friends in your circle. I send it to one of my PAs, my non-book-world best friend, and a couple super-close author pals I’d trust with my life. They tell me what they think, point out any potential plot holes I need to avoid, and warn me about anything they think could risk the likability of the characters.
Finally, I take the rough outline and turn it into a detailed outline with one page per chapter that contains bullet points for each event that happens. Sometimes I do this for the whole book before I even start writing, other times I detail outline a chapter just before I write it. Either way works just fine.
Remember when I said we’re working with characters here? Yeah. Keep in mind that they’re not always going to do what you want them to. For example, in The Rebel, Tessa and Asher hijacked the first half of the book, until they reached the first kiss and realized they had no idea what to do next and handed me back the reins. Thanks a lot, guys. So, always remember that what you plan might not be how it goes.
And then there’s the getting stuck. It happens to the best of us. That’s part of being an author. But it’s never permanent. For me, talking it through with friends is the best way to work it out. Sometimes it takes a couple hours, sometimes a few days, but I always manage to push through.
Most importantly, have fun with it. If you’re not enjoying writing the story, chances are people won’t enjoy reading it. A book is always best when your heart is in it.
You’ve got this!
About the Author:
Kelsey Clayton is an internationally selling author of Contemporary Romance novels. She lives in a small town in Delaware with her husband, two kids, and dog.
She is an avid reader of fall hard romance. She believes that books are the best escape you can find, and that if you feel a range of emotions while reading her stories – she succeeded. She loves writing and is only getting started on this life long journey.
Kelsey likes to keep things in her life simple. Her ideal night is one with sweatpants, a fluffy blanket, cheese fries, and wine. She holds her friends and family close to her heart and would do just about anything to make them happy.
Connect with Kelsey:
Join Kelsey’s Facebook group Kelsey’s Sweet Sinners: http://bit.ly/3poSS03
Stay up to date with Kelsey by joining her mailing list: http://bit.ly/3hcuYlQ
Wreck My Plans by Kelsey Clayton, out now!
My name is Carter Trayland,
And I really screwed up.
I should’ve ended things before they began.
Instead, I wound up in a twisted love triangle,
One that I never wanted to be a part of.
The wrong choice sent my life on a whirlwind.
A woman I forced myself to love is dead.
My best friend was nearly blamed for her murder.
And the one I’ve always wanted, now wants revenge.
Her favorite person is gone, and she thinks it’s my fault.
I’m not about to correct her either.
Not when the reality is so much worse.
She can’t find out the truth of what happened.
Knowing would ruin her in ways I can’t fathom.
If blaming me is her way of coping, I’ll gladly carry that burden.
Because Tyeler Morgan is the one girl I’d protect at all costs.
Wreck My Plans is a standalone and part of the North Haven University series. It deals with sensitive topics that my be triggering to some readers.