Plotting...that dreaded "p" word. I decided to ask my AC group how they plot if they do and how they know whether a story is finished or not. I decided to ask this question because everyone writes differently. Some are pantsers who work to an outline, some plot with spreadsheets, etc.
Stage 1: First Draft
For me, I'm a mixture somewhere in the middle. My first drafts are always a crapshoot in the dark as I try to form some kind of a plot. I may not even write scenes in order. I tend to let myself do whatever I want with this first draft. I'll then sew the scenes together. It's really not pretty when I do the first draft. It's a mess and the plot is thin and weak. But, it gives me an idea of the direction I want the story to go in.
Stage 2: Second Draft
This is when I plot. I get out my cue cards (I love neon ones so that you can code the different plots, character growth, or relationship threads and keep track of the balance) and jot down every scene from the first draft. I'll then get on the floor and re-arrange them. This helps me see where plot holes may be that need to be filled. I'll then create the new scenes on new cue cards and insert where needed. Once I have a map, I'll jot down the points on my white board as a list to check off as I go along.
I now start a new document and write from scratch. Oh I'll use the scenes previously written but I'll edit it to make it work in what I plotted. This is where the meat is added to those bones of the story. Now, it starts to feel fleshed out and not quite so sickly.
Stage 3: Crit partners
I've jumped the gun in the past and have had readers go through various drafts before it was ready. To me, I thought, the story had been ready however, but I've learned this year that anytime before the second stage and it isn't. I can do as many "drafts" as I want in the first stage but it won't feel ready. Not until the second stage.
But it's at this point my story will go out to my fabulous crit partners whose insights have helped me so much.
Stage 4: Third Draft
This final stage is the last edits based on the feedback I've received.
How do you know the story is ready?
If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's how to judge my WIP by this feel. I thought, Hunting the Shadows was ready to be published, but it wasn't until I got the awesome feedback of my editor and actually got into the first round of developmental edits that I learned (for me) when my writing was ready.
Check out my friends' sites to see how they create their stories: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster