Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Plotting with Beat Sheets

on August 20, 2012

Last spring, I took Anastasia Suen’s on-line Writing the Chapter Book Class. In the class, I learned a lot about plotting and structuring a chapter book. One of the plotting techniques that I studied was the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. The beat sheet breaks a story into 15 parts. There is more than just the “dark night of the soul” and the mid-point moments. The Blake Snyder Beat sheet also includes focus on the opening and closing images (they should be opposites), as well as the B story (a love story of some sort–can include best friend stories in children’s stories).

You can find the Beat Sheet with definitions here

This month, I’ve been using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet to help with a revision of my current work-in-progress–a middle grade novel entitled, GRANDDAD’S TOYS.  I’ve done a lot of character work with GRANDADS TOYS. And I’ve done a lot of free-writing on the story.  But, when I sat down to read my manuscript draft, I said, “Lots of interesting characters here, but not much plot!”

In my first two books, STAINED GLASS SUMMER and WEAVING MAGIC, I spent a lot of time on trying to figure out plot. I muddled around in characters for years. But, for GRANDAD’S TOYS, I’d like to hope I’ve gotten a little bit smarter about my writing process and plotting. And this time, I took a lesson from my chapter book writing.

In July, I used the Beat Sheet to write and polish the first in a chapter book series which is now on submission. Chapter books have to be tight in the plot with a strong character voice. When I was working on my chapter book, the beat sheet made it easy for me to adjust the plot in an outline, rather than writing drafts and drafts of interesting characters who weren’t doing anything.

So, when I realized GRANDAD’S TOYS was lacking in plot, I pulled out the Beat Sheet and outlined a plot. In my draft manuscript, I had three large events which take place in the story. I used those events and then gave them structure with the Beat Sheet. Now, when I sit down to revise my manuscript, I have a map to follow.

If plotting is a challenge, I’d highly recommend the Beat Sheet and Blake Snyder’s popular book, SAVE THE CAT! THE LAST BOOK ON SCREENWRITING THAT YOU’LL EVER NEED.

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