In my September blog, I asked people for ideas of what they would like me to address in my posts on A Slice of Orange. My apologies, but I didnâ€™t use those ideas last month because Iâ€™d just attended the West Hollywood Book Fair and was jazzed about it, so that was what I talked about in my post. But now, hereâ€™s a topic that one of the commenters mentioned in September: plotting. Holly wrote: â€œMy biggest issue is keeping the plot/subplots simple and not too many. It is like ideas pop into my little head and I add them instead of filtering. How do you filter through them to keep the storyline flowing?â€
That can be a problem, Holly. Iâ€™ve found it particularly affects me when Iâ€™m writing some of my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries. Kendra is my alter ego, and she keeps throwing ideas into my mind about whatâ€™s happening in her life while Iâ€™m writing about her.
What I generally do, though, is tell her that I need to stick to the synopsis I always create before I start writing one of her stories. I donâ€™t do detailed outlines or scene lists any longer, but I have found that if I go off on a tangent that isnâ€™t in my original synopsis I generally have to remove it.
Thatâ€™s not to say you canâ€™t save it for another book. I certainly do! Thatâ€™s such a great thing about computers. I always keep lists of ideas in the same folders as the stories Iâ€™m working on. Then, when itâ€™s time to plot the next story and create its synopsis, I generally can pick and choose from ideas Iâ€™ve already jotted down.
Of course, everyone writes differently. Not everyone can work with a synopsis or outline. There are a lot of seat-of-pantsers out there, too–and Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s more difficult for them to ignore new ideas as they crop up.
Another caveat here. (Yes, Iâ€™m also a lawyer, so I use legalese at times!) Even if you are someone who writes a synopsis, outline or scene list first, if something comes to you that you havenâ€™t already included and itâ€™s a real doozy that you think readers will love, you donâ€™t always have to save it for the next book. But think it through before you run with it. It may make what youâ€™re doing a whole lot harder to finish–especially if itâ€™s also interrupted by other ideas!
So–was this helpful? Any other things youâ€™d like for me to address in the future?
Linda O. Johnston is the author of 16 romance novels and several novellas, including a Nocturne Bites that is also in a current print anthology AWAKENING THE BEAST, with more Nocturnes upcoming. She also writes the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime and is also working on the spin-off Pet Rescue series.