Skeletons After Halloween

by Linda O. Johnston

My fellow Writers in Residence always seem to come up with some wonderful writing advice when they blog here. 

Me?  Not so much. 

Oh, I love writing. It’s what I do. And years ago, I used to attempt to learn, and follow, all the rules I could. 

Now, I’m just used to doing it my way–which, yes, does include some rules, at least. 

And what is that way?  Well, first I need to come up with an idea.  What kind of idea? That depends on what I want to write next. These days, that’s nearly always a romantic suspense book or a mystery that is part of, or might become, a series. 

Then what?  Well, I sit in front of my computer and plot. And plan. And more. 

Over my many years of writing I’ve come up with what I call a “plot skeleton.” 

 It has various blanks to fill in, although I don’t always complete everything.  The beginning is just a blank where I put down anything that appears in my head.  From there, I’ll focus on my main characters and write all that comes to mind about them: their backgrounds, what they’re doing now, why they get involved in this story, and what’s likely to happen to them–often putting it into a character arc. 

I also make a list of other characters at the end, though it doesn’t have to be complete. 

Eventually, I get around to my actual plotting part, where I have blanks to fill in that generally follow screenplay plotting: grabber, three acts that are each ended by a plot point, a black moment, climax and ending. Do I follow them all exactly?  No, but having the skeleton there to fill in is a good reminder if I choose to do so.          

And then–I use that screenplay plotting to create the synopsis.  From there, if I need to put together a full proposal, I write the first three chapters. 

Simple? Yes… and no.  But it works for me. 

So Happy Post-Halloween, and my skeleton is still keeping me company!  And if you’re a writer, may you plot the way that works best for you.

Photo by Matthew Schwartz, Unsplash

(Linda O. Johnston's article was posted by Jackie Houchin)

Author: photojaq

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

9 thoughts on “Skeletons After Halloween”

    1. You’re welcome, Bonnie! And one of the best things about it is that I can use portions or ignore them, whatever works for each story.

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  1. Having a bit of a game plan certainly works. And the fact yours is flexible also works. What is interesting is that the class I teach on writing and a book to go with it is called The Anatomy of a Short Story featuring a skeleton as well. Great minds think alike. But it works. Your 50+ books says it sure does. Thanks for giving us something to think about.

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    1. I wasn’t aware of other skeletons in writing, Gayle, but glad it works for others, too. Glad you’re thinking about it–and doing it your own way!

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  2. I love this, Linda. Such a really comprehensive ‘skeleton’ plot for such a complete book. I think I might steal from this. And I’m always surprised at how much you accomplish with your writing. You have been writing so very many books for such a long time – and different genres, too. I don’t know how you get it all done – and I’m really envious! Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Feel free to steal from this, and if you want more info on what I do just let me know. Yep, I’ve been at this for a while, and how I get it done is just to keep on writing. No need to be envious. Everyone’s writing career is different. Thanks for reading and replying!

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  3. Loved hearing how you plan–the plot “skeleton” is great. Somehow, someway, hearing what other writers I respect(you’re in that group(smile)) are doing helps me move forward, even though in much different ways. I guess it’s just a matter of more knowledge is better??? Anyway, very enjoyable post!

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    1. I agree with you. Hearing how other writers do it has always been helpful to me. And I do believe more knowledge is better. You can just pick and choose what works for you. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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