I was struggling with lining up the events in The Haven in chronological order so they fall into a proper plot mountain and didn’t drag on after the resolution of the major conflict, and I figured out I’d already started working on this and had a file with all the major plot points listed from when I turned Manhunt into The Haven and The Hunt. Thanks, past me! That saved me at least an hour. I still have to use it to reorganize it so it flows better, but I have the tools already, which is nice. At some point I’ll actually get to sit and write something new, but right now I have a lot more formatting and reorganizing work in front of me – entirely for flow and proper plot structure purposes. This has also made me realize I do actually follow some kind of logical structure in my stories, it’s not just a bunch of voices in my head being shoved through sucky situation after sucky situation and occasionally waving swords at each other. I mean, that is what’s happening, but I’m glad that I do actually have some discipline to my craft at the same time, even if it’s usually just an intrinsic, natural thing now.
If you’ve never seen a plot diagram, here’s one I got off the internet. Most diagrams look very similar to this. I first learned about them at the Write On! conference at University of Northern Iowa in like 2002 or 2003. That was after I’d written the first draft of The Dark, Manhunt, and The Streets. They work for both short stories and longer works like novels. Novels obviously usually have more rising action and mini-peaks than short stories, and in general take longer to complete the whole cycle.