Wow! In preparation for a workshop I’m going to take on plotting, I’ve been working on what’s called a book map. This exercise maps a draft scene by scene in order to show how the plot moves, where characters exit and enter, and how they develop.
Why break the book down into scenes? Mainly because a scene is the basic building block for the novel. String scenes together artfully like a string of pearls and your novel will have a dynamic inner structure. On the other hand, if there are lots of scenes where nothing much happens either plot wise or in terms of character development and your story will seem to limp and sag along.
Creating this map is no picnic: It takes concentration and it’s time consuming. But I can already see some benefits from charting out the scene by scene action of my story. It’s clear that some scenes seem a bit weak, while others seem overloaded with action — a better balance may make my novel stronger.
From what I understand, there are different ways to build book maps, but I suspect they all use scenes as the basic unit. I also think this can be a useful approach in rewriting a chapter that doesn’t seem to be working. If you chart the way the chapter flows from scene to scene, you might see where you’re off track.
If you want to give this a try, you can probably find detailed instructions for book mapping on line. But here are a few tips based on the approach I’m using: Create a “master format” or template for mapping each scene that includes: the chapter number, the scene number, and the page number of your draft. Then write a paragraph describing the action in the scene. Next, sum up that action in one sentence. Then identify the change that takes place in the scene. You can also note things like: conflict, key action points, and emotional highlights for each scene.
I hope all this work I’m doing pushes me forward. Write on!