Wednesday Writing Exercise: Donald Maass’s Plotting Exercise

Breathe new life into your WIP with this plotting exercise from Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

First, tear a sheet of paper into fifteen pieces. On the first five pieces, write down the names of characters from your project, both major and secondary. On the next five, list five actions or events that take place in the story. Finally, name five settings from the story.

Now, arrange the slips of paper into three piles and randomly draw one element from each group. Perhaps you will find a character present at plot turn you hadn’t considered, or an event occurring in a place you hadn’t thought of. However strange the makeup of the scene, try writing it and see what emerges.

When I tried this, many of my combinations lined up pretty logically—in fact, the mix of Rebekka + secrets revealed + hospital is exactly how I imagined this scene would take place. Others would take more work: Atticus (the piano teacher) + piano competition (so far, so good!) + barn (d’oh!). Once you’ve drawn your elements randomly, go ahead and rearrange them to see if any more inspirational combos materialize.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Wednesday Writing Exercise: Donald Maass’s Plotting Exercise

  1. This sounds like a great exercise! I don’t want to use it on my first draft because I want to get the thing done, but that book has plenty of great ideas that I plan to use on my second draft and beyond. Yes, both the book and workbook are sitting on my bookshelf, patiently awaiting me.

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  3. This is one I’d like to use for my second novel, or even a short-story — oh, now I have an idea! Thanks!

  4. Pingback: lunch hour links for writers – 9/30/09 « helluo librorum

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