Quilting 101: Patchworking the Perfect Plot (Even If You’re A Pantser) Workshop


Instructor: Suzanne Johnson

When: October 7, 2013 – November 4, 2013

Cost: $20


If you have any questions, please email them to RWAContemporaryRomance at gmail dot com.


Course Description

Do storyboards, sticky notes, spreadsheets and index cards give you hives? Does your manuscript wander in circles–yet you’re afraid a detailed outline will suck the heart and soul out of your writing?

All you need is a simple word-processing program to stitch together the perfect quilt of a plot to keep your novel on track and moving in the right direction–while still giving your muse room to play. We’ll use a six-step technique to plot a novel from start to finish, and give you a huge head-start on your first draft (and the dreaded synopsis). This will be a working course! Bring your best idea (the one that’s been bubbling in your brain for six months) or a manuscript that’s wandering in the desert, and we’ll shape it up and get it moving. We’ll also be deconstructing a novel into its outline as part of this class, and I’ve chosen Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me. If you have a chance to read it before the class, it will make the deconstruction more familiar, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Over the course of the month, you’ll put together the perfect quilt, er, novel. Classes will include:

1) Picking the Right Pattern. Just as a quilt uses small pieces that fit together to create a whole, a novel is created of the Big Idea–your overriding storyline–plus several Small Ideas, or subplots.

2) Choosing the Fabric. Your novel can have its pattern, but without the perfect fabrics, you won’t end up with a pretty quilt. In a novel, your characters are your fabrics. At this stage, you’ll decide who your dominant hero (or heroine) will be, identify the secondary lead character, and determine what roles your supporting cast will play.

3) Color Arrangement. Before beginning to stitch, the successful quilter decides how those squares of fabric will be placed to make the most effective use of the pattern. In our novels, this step involves identifying relationships―not just the relationship between a hero and heroine, but between all characters, and between each character and the Big Idea.

4) Basting. Here’s where we really start to have fun. We’ll choose the threads of our story through the relationships we’ve identified and start to think about how to put them together. Each relationship should have a story arc that progresses from start to finish.

5) Piecing the Quilt Top. We’ll take each of our relationship arcs and rearrange them into a single plot arc. At the end of this stage, each person will have a rough sentence outline of a complete novel. This outline will also serve as an easy foundation to writing the dreaded synopsis.

6) Backing, Batting and Binding. A quilt top is beautiful, but unfinished. In this final lesson, participants will go back through their plot arc and begin to flesh out scenes. The “backing and binding” stage can be as simple or as detailed as the author wishes; those who develop a more detailed, fleshed-out plot arc will find themselves well along their way in creating a first draft of their novels.


About the Instructor

Suzanne Johnson is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series with Tor Books. Royal Street and River Road were released in 2012, and Elysian Fields will release on August 13. Under the name Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy paranormal romance series with Montlake Romance (Redemption, Absolution, Omega), and a new “paranormal romantic suspense” serial novel for Montlake, Storm Force, currently available for Kindle and available in print and audio June 18.

A longtime New Orleans resident now living in Auburn, Alabama, Suzanne is also a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction. She is an active member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapters of RWA.

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