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Sharon Ledwith on Planning your Story…

The Plotter vs. Pantser debate continues… I’ve invited Sharon Ledwith, author of the Last Timekeepers Time Travel series and the upcoming Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls series, both for teens. Sharon is a planner, unlike me, so here’s her take:

Here’s the deal. As a writer, I used to struggle with the question of whether I’m a plotter or a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) when it comes to writing a novel. Truth be told, I’m a little of both, but after much contemplation, I find I veer toward being a plotter. Wait…correction, after writing six complete novels, I’ve evolved and discovered the outlining process that works best for me—a STORYBOARD.

storyboard

Yup. Those large, cork bulletin boards Disney used to use when creating an animated feature movie. I’m a visual person, so I like to look at the board filled with a printed plan, mark it up with highlight pens, and chart my way through my novel. I’m also not shy on using plenty of Post-it® notes when an idea or concept pops into my mind that will make a scene or chapter better and stronger.

I find using a storyboard to plan a novel is less stressful, and I get a cleaner first draft at the end. Since I’m writing two book series (The Last Timekeepers and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls), it helps to get all my ducks in a row by knowing where all my characters are heading, and who is the point-of-view character in each book. I do this by using CHARACTER TRACKING SHEETS which logs everything about a character like the color of his or her hair and eyes to what clothes they’re wearing to their talents, wants, and signatures. I place these sheets in a series binder for safe keeping and a quick reference. Like I said, I love visuals! Now before I get right into plotting out my novel chapter by chapter, there’s a little thing called RESEARCH that I must do to give my story a sense of integrity and value. That’s when all those ‘what ifs’ start to bubble in my imagination, and solidify the story.

Once most of the research is done, I begin by creating an outline document with the NAME of the NOVEL, then state the WORKING PITCH (that’s the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what’s at stake’), PREMISE, and SETTING in that order. Next, I write out my MAIN CHARACTERS (beginning with who’s telling the story), the age of each character in the book (they get older as the series unfolds), and maybe an update about them. Then, I write out a list of the GUEST CHARACTERS and include their roles in the story. I follow this information with a bullet list of PROBLEMS, COMPLICATIONS, OBSTACLES, and CHALLENGES the point-of-view character must face that will bring his or her out of their comfort zone, make them suffer, learn a valuable lesson in the process, and grow from the experience.

And then comes the PLOT, broken down into CHAPTERS, with a blurb on what occurs in each chapter. It’s like a road map for me, following the twists and turns, peaks and valleys, that takes my point-of-view character on a scary-wonderful ride through words. I number and name each chapter which helps me keep on track of the story structure and build scenes. Of course nothing is written in stone, that’s why I use those Post-it® notes, and scribble down the sides of my outline if the MUSE inside directs me toward a better direction and destination.

This way of planning a novel is a fairly new process for me, but I’ve found that it keeps me organized and disciplined as a writer. Many authors I know use other methods to outline their novels, so I urge you to experiment with different ways of plotting to help you build a better book. If you think you’re more of a pantser than a plotter, check out this post HERE and see if it resonates with you. If you’re an author, what ways do you plan your story? Would love to read your comments. Cheers and thank you for reading this post! Happy novel planning!

Featured Image -- 243Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE

What’s next for Joshua Pantalleresco?

Joshua Pantalleresco and his series, The Watcher, is our feature for this month! Which means you can pick up either The Watcher or Stormdancer for just $0.99 with the promo code: DRAGON. Just head over to our store. It also means that we’ve invited Joshua here to tell us a little bit about where he’s at and what it’s like to be working on the last installment of a trilogy. Without further ado, here’s Joshua Pantalleresco:

WatcherFront copyWhat’s it like to have a world in your head for years?  Not quite sure where it is going?  How is it going to end?

To that, I answer this:

It’s a dream.  You have these characters that you envision in your head.  You have a savage who dreams of freedom and his world is harsh, cruel and unyeilding.  Life and death only go to the strong.

It sounds very much like our world, yet different.

I love this world in spite of this cruelty.  Struggle is the one thing we all understand.  Every day there are battles we all fight within ourselves.

Yet for all the moments of guilt I had for some of the dangers I put all the characters in, I like the oozes and falling ships and pez dispensers I placed here.  And I loved the characters I have developed over the years that came from the view of the savage.

Kristen is the one I connected with most in the last two books.  With her, I discovered that beneath all her fear there was a real badass.  Her jailbreak in book two is still one of my favorite things I’ve written.  Ever.  But she’s tough, capable and more and more finds confidence in herself.  She is also the character that scares me the most, because she demands nothing but respect.

Will and Nicki I feel have a lot of untold story.  I hope someday if I do come back to this world I tell it.  Without spoiling too much, this is the key I’m leaving in my hands.  Someday they may speak to me like Kristen and The Watcher did.Cover-Final-8by11

But after four years, I owed this world an ending.   How then do I end it?

Revolution?  I wanted something bigger and vaster.

So I thought about the mystery of the Wandering God, and how to tie it with all of the series and I think I came up with an answer.  The biggest theme with this universe is the journey.  Through struggle, through pain, we travel, pieces of us falling bit by bit until we shape ourselves into what we are.   What bigger journey do we find in this life but the one about God?

In one sense this is the most abstract book.  What happens when one listens to a voice in your head?  It’s all a question of faith isn’t it?

And isn’t faith the ultimate journey?

I’m still working on it as of this writing.  I’m editing it, correcting it and just slowly but surely handing it over to the publisher.  We don’t have everything signed, sealed and delivered yet.  This one is going to take the longest to finish.  By that, I mean the editing and final touches.

But to me, the real work is done.  The story is told.

I love them.  I always will.   Will, Nicki, Kristen, and him most of all.   They will always be in my heart.  They took me on a grand journey and I thank them for it.  But for now, the dream is over.   I am thankful for dreaming it.

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Joshua Pantalleresco writes fiction, poetry and comics. He also loves to do interviews. He has written columns for comicbloc and allpulp and currently does so for comicmix. The Watcher is his second book of poetry. He resides in Calgary.

He has a blog you can follow here.