Recently, I used a foolscap method to plot the entirety of my book. This was cribbed from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art which isn’t only a guide on creativity and writing, but also getting out of your own way in life a lot of the time. Though I didn’t use the Big Chief tablet itself, I did use an Excel spreadsheet, which is more akin to the method Heller used for Catch-22.
Here’s a copy I borrowed from the interwebs for reference. As you can tell, it isn’t anything more than a spreadsheet with all the plot points listed in bite sized chunks. Since my handwriting is awful, you’re probably a seasoned teacher if you can decipher any of this. Believe me, I can hardly read some of it, which means that when I transfer it to electronic format, I get to be even more creative! (Because I have to make stuff up that I cannot decipher).
So, you can imagine if I did an entire foolscap of this, it would just look like one of those Magic Eye posters and instead of seeing the plot and connections, I would wind up seeing a sailboat or the spaceshuttle emerge from the collection of squiggles and lines. This is what years of disuse and arthritis do to your penmanship, kids!
Onto my point, sometimes, regardless of all the motivation, inspiration, time on my hands, and black inky squiggles, sometimes I need a minute to just let the ideas percolate and collect, redistribute, marinate…and I must be getting hungry with all the food descriptors here. So, lately, I have let the plot sit in its little boxes and I have been writing some flashback chapters.
When I wrote Song of the Cinder, I kinda danced with a formula, or really it’s what happened. For most chapters something happened, there were chapters which mirrored them that were flashbacks. It was a good way for me to keep the story fresh as well as delve into the history of the world and characters as I went along. Sometimes a chapter would break and the juxtaposition of what had happened would be revealed in either a flashback, dream sequence, or a POV shift of the past. I have steered clear from dream sequences lately though. In literary devices, dreams are too literal and reliable. Real dreams aren’t like that at all.
Dreams are usually crazy and non-sequitur. That’s why people roll their eyes usually when you want to tell them about a really cool dream you’ve had. By the time the accountant that is a giant squirrel shows up and demands you order him a pizza from Shakeys, you start to realize just how crazy it all sounds. But in books, dreams might as well be video evidence and treated as Truth.
But sometimes you can just take a chapter and write it as something separate from the events that are contained in the main plot. It’s a nice diversion and actually something I have always enjoyed as a reader.
So, I’ve been working on flashback chapters. The story is progressing and if I decide to get rid of the flashbacks, at least the rest of the story is infused with a tincture of what those chapters contained to give it life and flavor.