Saturday, August 11, 2012

Each One Teach One Interview: Megan Shepherd YA Gothic writer Part II: PLOT MAPPING

This is our second week hearing from YA novelist Megan Shephard!  If you don’t know her name yet, you soon will! Check out last week’s writermorphosis blog post here  to read her great tips on writing YA trilogies.  Megan has two YA trilogies coming out from Harcourt Publishing, and her first book in the first series, “THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER” has already been optioned for film! Megan is currently writing both trilogies at the same time, and it's amazing to me how she keeps them straight!

So, I thought we’d pick her brain a bit this week about how she creates great plots that are selling so many YA novels, and how she keeps her writing organized.

So Megan, last week you shared a bit about how you create an overarching plot for a trilogy, while also remembering that each book needs to have its own plot within it – like the “stand-alone” novel that started your first trilogy, the Madman’s Daughter.

One related question I have is, how do you not get confused when, as your blog says, you are “writing 3 books at a time” – in 2 different trilogies?  How do you keep the characters, “voices,” and plots straight in your mind? J
Good question! This is one reason why I write books so quickly; if I don’t, the details start to slip out of my head. I’d rather spend ten hours a day writing intensely for two months than two hours a day for ten months—after that long, the story just gets too convoluted.

I can manage writing multiple series at the same time because each book is at a different stage. For example, today I just finished reading through the final proofread for MADMAN’S DAUGHTER #1—the last step before it’s published. Yesterday, I sent my editor the rough draft of MADMAN’S DAUGHTER #2 for her edit letter. And this afternoon I’m working on brainstorming and researching for THE CAGE #1.

I also keep very detailed spreadsheets. I’m a highly organized person, which works well for this kind of business! For each book, I keep a spreadsheet with:
Chapter Number
Brief Description
Date/Time of Action
Characters in the Chapter
Subplots in the Chapter

This is essentially a plot map, and also helps me keep track of the changes I make each revision—I update the spreadsheet after each round. Otherwise I think I’d go crazy trying to remember in which draft X-and-Y had happened.

Those are great things for all of us to keep in mind for our own plot maps, Megan. Thanks!  Whether it’s color-coded post it notes carefully stuck to the wall, or a spreadsheet on our computer, each writer definitely needs to have a strategy for managing their plot!

Here are some fun links to visual novel plot maps that some authors have used!

1.) Here's also: J.K. Rowling's Plot Map of Harry Potter Book 5 (or so says the internet). This is actually really helpful for those like me who like seeing how other authors keep track of their plots.

2.) I particularly like this link on "plot maps" because in addition to some wonderfully helpful novel plot map ideas 9At the top of the linked page), it also features a large number of garden plot maps, and even one or two cemetary plot maps! :) So, I'm including it here for the novel plot maps section (click here) but, ha ha ha, all of the plot maps on the site could probably be used in some form of novel plotting - depending what you're writing about.  :)

Ok, back to our interview! Megan, here’s a fun question: If you could have written any book that’s already been written by someone else, what book would it be, and why do you wish you had written it?

I’d have to say STOLEN by Lucy Christopher. It’s a similar premise to the YA psychological thriller manuscript I wrote once, but STOLEN is about a thousand times better. I love everything she does with the setting, mood, romance, and moral ambiguity of that book.

Sounds like a great book, Megan!  I’m sure many readers of this post are now running off to read it!
I’m really looking forward to reading the Madman’s Daughter, as well!
It’s been a pleasure having you here on the blog.  Here’s one final question:

What would you say have been the three most exciting moments for you so far in your writing and publishing journey? J

Well, the most exciting moment was when I got “the call” from my agent, Josh Adams, offering representation. I had only submitted the manuscript the day before, so I was totally unprepared for such a quick response. I was at my day job and hid in my boss’s office most of the rest of the day because I was so stunned and excited I couldn’t even think about my regular work. Josh loved the manuscript as much as I did, and his enthusiasm made me realize my publishing dream might be closer than I thought!

Two other great moments were calling my parents to tell them THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER had sold (as booksellers, they were ecstatic), and going to New York to meet my editor and the HarperCollins team for the first time. I felt like a real writer!

Those are three wonderful-sounding moments in a line up of what I’m sure will be many more!  I’m glad to see that sharing the news with your parents made the list! J Our families are often our most ardent supporters, and the ones who read our first manuscripts when we were new to the profession and still had so very much to learn! 

I want to include on final link on this interview.  This is a wondeful blog post that Megan recently wrote about what it REALLY takes to be a successful writer.  For all of the writers out there I would recommend that if you don't read anything else today, DO READ THIS:  Attitude Makes the Writer.  It's the most inspiring and truthful blog post for writers that I've read in a long, long time.
Thanks, Megan, for letting me share it here!
- Janelle


Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Janelle & MEgan. Loved the idea of the spreadsheet- would never have thought o that. ANd thanks for the other plot links too! Megan, I'm excited for you!

Liz Hollar said...


Great information about plot clocks and tracking stories. Also, thanks for posting the Harry Potter plot spreadsheet. Fascinating.

Liz Hollar said...


Great information about plot clocks and tracking stories. Also, thanks for posting the Harry Potter plot spreadsheet. Fascinating.

Liz Hollar said...


Great information about plot clocks and tracking stories. Also, thanks for posting the Harry Potter plot spreadsheet. Fascinating.

Linda A. said...

Thanks for reposting this. I didn't get to it earlier. I love this series and I try to read them all. You're providing a great service here! Thanks Megan for the article on attitude and plotting organization.