Pull on Your Big Girl’s Plotting Pants!

Sarah Jasmon continues our series on Finding the Plot.

My agent asked me about book 2 some months before book 1 came out. I gave her an idea of what I wanted to write (based on one of the ideas I submitted when book 1 was commissioned). It was a kind of reworking of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying unfolding in pUnknown.jpegresent day Ireland as an elderly woman is driven from North to South in her coffin, to be buried in her birthplace. I still think it sounds brilliant, and one day I’ll write it. My agent, however, said that maybe I needed a bit more suspense.

So I went away and tried to add more suspense. The action moved to Derbyshire, and involved a marriage breakdown, an abandoned child and a dead grandmother in a freezer. My agent said, ‘too depressing’.

I went back to those submission ideas, and had a go at the second one. I very clearly recall a meeting with my agent and editor where they asked me what the plot was, I told them, and they said, ‘no, that’s a theme. What’s the plot?’ Again and again and again. I wanted to cry. I’d spent at least a month reading different books about plot, had followed the guidelines and filled in the boxes, and I still only had a theme! What more was I supposed to do?

It took another couple of months, a synopsis to which my editor replied, ‘I think you’re more of an organic writer, so maybe now you just need to start writing…’, a writing retreat during which the group loved the opening chapters but the reading of the third one led to a three quarter hour session of them telling me why it didn’t work anymore, and a week-long sulk in which I vowed never to write a-bloody-gain.

Then I pulled on my big girl pants, talked it all over with Graeme Shimmin (who knows plot) and came up with a plan. Which is still holding together. I’m off to meet the retreat writing group again at the end of November. I’m a little nervous, have to say,

Photo credit: Marc Melander

Photo credit: Marc Melander

but with any luck, they’ll think it’s turned out ok…

(Sarah Jasmon, Author of THE SUMMER OF SECRETS (Aug 2015, Black Swan)




3 thoughts on “Pull on Your Big Girl’s Plotting Pants!

  1. Love the frank honesty of your post Sarah… at the very beginning of my 1st draft of 1st novel I’m still trying to make sense of the ideas, stuff and gubbins that are buzzing around and you’re now making me make sure i can (and continue to) define plot from theme… good look with the retreat! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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