Laying Down Pipe

Here’s an interesting post from Joshua Palmatier about his composing process, harkening back to a conversation we were having here at the Tamago a few entries back. I found it interesting. I too have been in that blank spot.

Here’s another interesting post from Ferrett Steinmetz on what he learned at Clarion, just in case you’re thinking of applying.


This time, however, I’m doing it differently. I’m a pantser who is becoming an outliner and planner. Why would I do that? It’s time to learn out to plan out a book before I write it, as some day, I plan to have to do this to sell books. Also, the project I started on this weekend is a 5-book family saga that spans 100 years. I need to know how it all fits together over the entire series.

For the foreseeable future, barring revisions of The Were-humans and line edits on O-Taga-San, I will be planning to write this series. Book 4 needs book 3 to make sense, but the rest of the books stand alone, so it’s a good time investiture for the beginning writer.

I may write some scenes and key pieces to keep myself from going through complete writing withdrawal, but I need diagrams and relationship charts. I need rules for the Binder trials and magic. I need a synopsis of the world and how it functions. In short, I need to lay pipe.

I’m going to put all thisinformation in folders and call them something clever, like the–er–Binder Binders. Well, something more clever than that.

Yesterday I made a birth, death, trial, marriage outline, with a few key plot points around the trials thrown in. I took the sketchy genealogy chart from my writer’s notebook, and I transformed it into a time line. Thanks to Mark McKibben, my web guy, we found a time line software. Right now I have the sample of Bee Docs Timeline 3D, and I plan to buy version 3. It runs about $65. How do I find it?

The Bee Docs Timeline is a tool that was created for history teachers and researchers to show the interrelationships of historical events. It can be used with Quik Time video and pictures, as well as represented 3D on the video screen. This makes it an ideal academic tool for presentations.

It is also used by writers who have very intricate plots, character interactions, and historical influences in their novels. I have found it very useful thus far in pinpointing the important dates in my characters’ lives (birth, death, trial, marriage so far). My next layer will be some of the plot points that Bryon and I discussed in the car while traveling, and then there will be a supporting-character layer and a sub-plot layer, finished by an examination of how real historical events might overlay this thing. And then there will be fill-in and tightening. It seems a very logical grounding.

I don’t think Bee Docs can do everything to lay out my book, but one thing it can do is provide an at-a-glance interaction table between character events, subplots, and historical events. I’m excited about that.


Bryon is very into this story, so he proves to be a solid sounding board as I brainstorm ideas. I’ll also be spending a lot of time this week capturing those ideas and trying to draft an overarching plot. I see one of the things that causes writer’s block already: like all writers, I have those pinnacle moments in my head, but there are dead spaces between pinnacle moments that Pantsers like me don’t think about until we right the text. I’m working on filling in those gaps.

So. This is my experiment in writing smarter. I’ll let you know how it goes.

How do you lay pipe for your work?


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.