Monday, April 12, 2010

Knitting a Story

Fascinated, I watched the teacher on TV as she knitted with two different colors of yarn. She carried one color behind her project, while working with the other. How did she keep track of the different threads? It looked like a jumble to me, but the finished product testified of her success.

As a reader, I move with ease through the story. Interwoven with the plot are subplots that keep me turning the pages. As a writer, I sometimes feel like the knitting student bewildered on how to keep the story threads from becoming a hopeless tangle.

I've found separating subplots and characters by chapter breaks makes for a tidy package and a bit of sanity for me and the reader. How do you keep your plots and subplots from knotting?

33 comments:

patti said...

WITH GREAT CARE!!!

What a wonderful analogy!

You are one of my favorite bloggers!!

Hmmm. Notice I've put off the question. I think you are right in outlining chapters really helps the process of keeping strands tidy and in their proper places!

Patti

Karen Lange said...

Been thinking on this very thing in light of an upcoming project. Not sure how I will keep it all straight, but am working with a wonderful friend who has more experience than I do:)

Thanks for sharing!
Blessings and hugs,
Karen

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Patti -

This analogy is a perfect example of getting ideas from everyday life. Thank you for the compliment.

I've tried to outline, plot, or whatever else you want to call it. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool pantser (pun fully intended to go along with analogy)! As I write, I try to separate plot and subplots by chapter.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

Sounds exciting! I can't wait to hear more.

Every project is truly an adventure. Hmm, you just gave me an idea for a post. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Jody Hedlund said...

Sometimes I feel like I have a million little threads going! By the middle they look hopelessly tangled, but having a plot notebook really helps me keep track of them, so that by the end I can wrap it all up neatly!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jody -

I'm great at starting notebooks. Oh, oh - another post idea is multiplying in my brain. Thanks! But, I digress...

I can't wait to read your book and see the results. Remember to carve out a bit of time for an interview. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Jan Cline said...

Hi Susan
Im not sure that I am succeeding at keeping things untangled in my MS. I guess when I put it aside for a while and then go back to it, I'll be more objective. Good analogy!
Have a good week!
Jan

Jessica Nelson said...

Hmmm, so far mine haven't knotted too much, but when they get a little messy I have to step back and look at the whole pic and what I'm doing.
A tricky business. :-)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jan -

I've had to fix a lot during the editing stage. Also, when I wrote the second manuscript in the series, I realized I needed to make some changes to the first one.

With one book, the yarn gets knotted. With a series, it's even more tangled.

Question for everyone: If you're writing a series, how do you manage the flow of information with two plus books?

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

Nice to see you back in the blogosphere!

Giving your brain cells a rest is a great suggestion. I like to run the story through my mind just before I go to sleep. Sometimes the answer comes in my dreams or as I'm waking up.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Sharon Ball said...

I confess, I sometimes get a little lost in the weaving. Like knitting, great analogy by the way, practice is the key.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon -

So true. As we learn more of the mechanics and put them into practice, we get a sense of how a piece is supposed to look.

Thanks for joining the discussion.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I try to take notes as I write. That definitely helps.

Jill Kemerer said...

I write short category romance and have learned to trim most subplots. Single title naturally has more words and more possibilities!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

Welcome home!

Notes are a good idea - one I might be able to manage. LOL!

See you at your place later.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jill -

My books are usually 90,000+ words. It's actually harder to write a shorter book. Every word must count.

Blessings,
Susan :)

L. E. Neighbour said...

eek it's confusing to me too LOL. especially since I'm writing nonfiction right now. It's hard to discuss all the different issues in a subject without getting them all jumbled up. It takes a lot of work, for sure!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi L. E. -

On non-fiction, my biggest challenge is staying within an editor's word count requirement.

When writing devotionals, I have one point. The short word count and general format limit my range.

On longer articles/stories (like Cup of Comfort), I have an overall theme and write to support my conclusions.

Blessings,
Susan :)

sherrinda said...

I did not organize with my first story, but my next one...well, I am going to write a detailed synopsis BEFORE I start so that I will be organized and keep me on track. Maybe it will help the "revision" process too!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sherrinda -

I've tried all kinds of plotting methods, but I'm a pantser at heart. The closest I come to plotting is researching setting, pertinent details, and character traits.

I hope writing a synopsis prior to the book helps you. If you think of it, let us know how it works out.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Nancy said...

I can't do that type of knitting and I do have trouble with more than two subplots. Doing them by chapter does sound like a way to work it.

Emily Ann Benedict said...

True, it is easy to get lost.
I usually have a pretty detailed outline before I start, so that helps me decide if I'm confusing before I even start. :)

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Oh, thanks so much for adding me to your blog list. :) I really appreciate it.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Nancy -

I prefer crocheting. Knitting is too confusing, especially when you accidentally drop a stitch.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Emily Ann -

I admire people who can plot/outline. As a pantser, I find it cramps my style.

Blessings,
Susan :)

kristen said...

Since I'm a SOP writer, it's really hard to plan out my subplots, but once I figure out what they are, if they get tangled I free write in either a journal entry form, or a "I don't know how this fits" complaining form until I figure it out.

Thanks, Susan. Great Post.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

I can relate. While I think about my story as I'm writing, I don't have an outline. Sometimes when I sit down at the computer, I know what scene or what character is on stage next. Other times, I'm winging it.

Have you ever seen an exercise where one writer starts a story, and then others add to it? The process is similar except I'm the only writer (if that makes any sense).

Blessings,
Susan :)

quietspirit said...

Susan:
I don't knit or crochet- I can't get the gauge right. Likewise, I seem to have trouble with subplots. Except in my current Christian story, I am working in a love interest into the story about people trying to start their lives over after being downsized.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your concept sounds interesting and very applicable to many people.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Lily Robinson said...

I agree... great analogy. I have to be super organized with my notes, or I'd lose my way in a heartbeat!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Lily -

Great to see you!

Blessings,
Susan :)

Becky Lange said...

Hi Susan!

Most of my writing doesn't involve major plot development simply because of its brevity, but I enjoyed the analogy. It's so nice to read a story written with skill - as the reader I don't want to have to work too hard to keep everything straight!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Becky -

Thanks for giving us the reader's point of view. If we can't keep things straight in our heads, how will the reader?

Blessings,
Susan :)