Conference Challenge #4 – Speed Plotting

It’s Wednesday and you know what that means. Yup, it’s time for another conference challenge! You didn’t think we were stopping at three, did you?

There’s speed dialing.

There’s speed dating.

And there may even be speed skaters who do both.

But, here at As the Eraser Burns we have a whole new take on the speed thing.

We call it Speed Plotting.

Your challenge this week (from Laura’s fertile brain…seriously, what would I do without her?) is to plot as many stories as possible in twenty minutes. Nothing elaborate, no five-page outlines.We’re talking very simple, rough stuff that includes:

  1. Opening introduction
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. Turning Point #1
  4. Turning Point #2
  5. Turning Point #3 – Climax
  6. Conclusion

Before going all out  on this challenge, you may want to warm-up by plotting a book or movie. I picked one of my favorite chick-flicks, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Here is my feeble attempt:

  1. Fashion designer Melanie gets engaged to her wealthy NY politician boyfriend who thinks she is a southern debutante
  2. She is still married to her high school  sweetheart Jake, whom she has been trying to divorce for years
  3. Melanie travels to her working class hometown in Alabama and finally convinces him to sign the divorce papers.
  4. Her fiancee shows up in Alabama and finds out the truth about her past. At first angry, he forgives her.
  5. At their wedding, Melanie learns she is still married to Jake – he signed the papers, but she never did.
  6. Realizing that she is still in love with Jake, she finds him and they are reunited for good.
Of course, there are some delicious subplots that move the story from step one to step six, but these are the basic events that take place…the framework that still needs dry wall, paint, siding, etc. to make it complete.
Now that your brain is warmed-up, you can give a go at the exercise. Here is Laura’s stab at it:
  1. Jamie gets a puppy for her birthday.
  2. The puppy is stolen.
  3. Jamie’s mom buys another puppy, but Jamie can tell it’s not the same one.
  4. A creepy science teacher tells Jamie he saw the puppy at the pound.
  5. Jamie finds out it was his evil science teacher who stole the puppy for a dangerous experiment.
  6. Jamie shows up at the science fair only seconds before his puppy’s brains are turned to mush and saves the day.

Sorry, but I just had to post a cute puppy picture.

Keep it simple and above all else…have fun with it!!  And remember to comment here to let us know that you did the challenge so you can rack up those raffle tickets. There’s a fabulous goodie basket at stake! Feel free to post how many you did and even give one or two examples.

Okay friends, set your timers and start plotting!

And for our illustrators (better late than never, right?)…


Draw two distinctly different characters, showing at least one of them being surprised.

Happy drawing!


Conference Challenge #1 – Voice or Point of View?

Conference Challenge #2 – Why do you love it?

Conference Challeng #3 – Give yourself a WooHoo!


About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Writing & Drawing Exercises. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Conference Challenge #4 – Speed Plotting

  1. Miranda McClain says:

    I plotted 5! Some I may actually start working on, some I am already working on and at least one may never happen.

  2. Sue Poduska says:

    Now I feel like an underachiever. I only did two in the twenty minutes. One, I started in 2009 as a NaNoWriMo project, which quickly deteriorated into rambling and dream sequences. I even started adding middle names to add to the word count. It now has a real plot and some structure. Yay! The other is a new idea which I think could turn into a decent book some day.

    • susanmannix says:

      WooHoo Sue! Number doesn’t matter. What matters is that you did it AND it is a real catalyst for your work. That makes me very happy. :)))

  3. akismet-5abab8018d85b510392f3dfd8c241ea4 says:

    OMG, Sue, you feel like an “underachiever”? You got two plots done in 20 minutes? I can’t bear to think about Miranda’s five plots!

    I am not really sure what the task was. I read the directions, I thought about what they might mean, and I took a shot. Despite my advanced age I have NEVER written a work of fiction (or even an extended work of non-fiction) and I am completely unsure what it means to “plot” a story.

    Beginning to wonder if I’m far enough along to attend the conference at all… I’m in awe of the experience and professionalism in this group.

    The best I could do was what follows, an idea for a sequel to the book I have drafted and hope to get critiqued at the conference. One idea. Not two, not five. Just one.

    1. It was years since Penny had looked in the box. The letters were still there, the tangle of blue knitting was too. She picked up the locket, now dull gray and clouded with black tarnish. She opened it and looked at that face, the dark waves of hair caught in a knot, the serious eyes, the finely arched nose. Her great-grandfather Jamie had been so in love with her. Céline Marchand. Then he had left France, gone home to Massachusetts, and eventually married Helen, the sister of his best friend, his best friend who died in the last few days of the war.
    What had happened to her? Why hadn’t they married? The letters were rich in possibility and tantalizing in their omissions.

    2. Pennington (“Penny”) Spencer has just graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a BA from the Writing Seminars and minors in French and biology. She has a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution that is to begin on September 15. Until then, she has free time and a savings account, and the promise of a roundtrip ticket to anywhere she wants to go. She decides to go to Paris.

    3. Penny uses her grandfather Jamie’s letters to guide her through the Marais district in Paris. She knocks on doors until she finds an elderly woman, Mme. Martine Masson. Mme. Masson remembers the daughter of Rabbi Marchand, whose daughter, Irène married Émile Hahn. They were sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis. But they had a little boy, Maxime.

    4. Penny’s search for this family shattered by deportation, death and the tumult of World War II takes her into the French archives.

    5. Penny discovers a survivor of the Marchand-Hahn family, a boy named René, an artist, just a few years older than herself. He has curly black hair, bright blue eyes, and looks surprisingly like the picture of her grandfather Jamie, the one where he is standing next to his ambulance.

    6. Are they cousins? Do they fall in love? Resolution of some of the questions about what happened in 1918.

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  6. I got 4 stories plotted in the 20 minutes (mostly – kids kept interrupting me, so when the time ran out, I gave myself 2 more minutes to finish the 4th one). Of course, 3 of the stories are related to each other, so that made it easier. I didn’t have to invent new characters for each of those. 🙂

    I’m not going to post these on my blog, like I’ve done for the other challenges, because I’m going to turn them into actual stories (I think), and I’m not ready to share them yet… but I did complete the challenge!

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  11. Joy Heyer says:

    I accomplished the illustration challenge! Excited for tomorrow.

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