Do you have a designing principle?


I’m currently battling with writing an outline, bored of spending my (meagre) writing time chasing plot bunnies through ever-deepening warrens. Going back to outlining is kind of a spiral in itself. But I know that if I don’t crack the premise and outline then I’m going to go round in circles for ever.

I’m reading up though, and enjoying KM Weiland‘s Outlining Your Novel, Libbie Hawker’s Take Your Pants Off, and from there jumping to a text she recommends called The Anatomy of Story, by John Truby. I’ll probably look at Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k again at some point too.

The latter two go into the idea of a Designing Principle. I have just about got my head around it, but now struggling a little to apply it to my own writing. But it’s helping me to realise that some things I really wanted to feature are more part of the designing principle than the plot. There’s a good breakdown of the idea here.

Now to avoid spending too much time getting bogged down in yet another element of structure. But that’s the learning process, I guess?


The small issue of logic


Hands up who else gets ‘synopsis dread’? Writing a pitch line is one thing. “It’s Vanity Fair meets Fight Club in East Grinstead.” I’ve tried so hard to be a plotter – and I believe it’s improved my writing and my process – but still I can’t help veering off on tangents. When you need to write a synopsis for something that still in draft, you start to realise what a big hoary mess it’s become and stripping it back for a coherent synopsis is a terrifying prospect.

In a recent #ukmgchat with Sarah Odedina from Hotkey books, she said the most important thing to remember in writing for a Middle Grade (MG) audience is LOGIC.


I have become reasonably obsessed with this, as I think it’s true. As converted pantser, no matter how hard I try to stick to an outline, it tends to veer off when OOH A PLOT BUNNY crosses my path and I just throw him into the mix regardless.

I’ve realised it’s important to make sure that each scene advances each participating character’s “wants” – that their actions propel them towards whatever it is that they want (to be left alone, to climb Everest, to rob the convenience store, to make the perfect cannoli) every time, regardless of plot bunnies. And I need to see that in front of me.

Scrivener is a great tool but I’d love if it had some sort of timeline (and also an iPad version) so I’m going analog. As suggested by some other SCWBI members, I’ve got a roll of wallpaper, and I’m adding some name labels. Going to make the mother of all timelines, check that the logic and ‘wants’ are king, work out what character ‘knows what when’, as Rachel Aaron suggests in 2k to 10k, and note the plot bunnies that need to be shot and boiled. 

I’ve got Sharpies and I’m not afraid to use them.