Determination: Potty-training and Plotting

hippo (700x549)

That’s me: a rhinoceros with a dream.

Well, two really.

The past six weeks I’ve had two momentous projects: potty-training and plotting. Neither task is for the faint of heart. Both require blood, sweat and tears to see through.

In a previous post I mentioned how my daughter, at seventeen months, signaled she was ready for potty-training. I wasn’t. But I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity. Potty-training ready toddlers are like race horses out of the starting gate. When the gate is thrown up, signaling a go, you better jump and grab on, or you have to wait until the horses makes it around the track back to the starting gate. And I don’t know of very many horses that would race around the track to say, “Please sit me on the little toilet, so I can go potty.”

It’s definitely been an uphill battle.

We’ve done Pull-Ups then panties then Pull-Ups then panties. I’ve ran countless miles in a fifty foot radius just in trips to the bathroom. I’ve spent hours watching her for potty signals, and every other word that comes out of my mouth is either “potty,” “poopy,” “toilet,” or “panties.” Even if I am talking to someone besides my daughter–which has led to some pretty hilarious and awkward conversations.

During all of this, I have been plotting an adult urban fantasy.

I got the idea right before I went to the Romantic Times Booklover Conference 2013 back in May (which I highly recommend). The more I thought about it the more I loved it. I literally can’t wait to get back to work on it. With this book I felt that I needed to do something I had never done before: plot.

Okay, I had plotted before, but I got the feeling that with this book I needed to do the plotting equivalent of Sylvester Stallone on steroids. Urban fantasy usually has large fantasy worlds, and I had come to understand that I had to have time to explore the world and characters before I could start the first draft.

Which is really intimidating.

It raises a lot of questions:

  • How do I know when I’m done?
  • Is there too much plotting?
  • Is there too little plotting
  • Am I plotting too slow? Too fast?
  • How well do I need to know my characters before I can write them?
  • Does pounding your head against your computer count as plotting?
  • What if I’m not a plotter and I’m killing my story?!

Plotting can be intense (even sans potting toddler), and a lot of people avoid it.

For some people, it’s just not their style. It can kill their creative drive by taking the fun out finding out what is going to happen next. For others…it’s psychologically and emotionally painful.

Fiction writing is creation, birth, making something out of nothing. Plotting by definition is asking questions and wanting specific answers about that nothing that hasn’t been created yet. An exercise that can cause anxiety, pain and doubt in the creator because…

In the beginning, there are no answers.

In the beginning, there is only chaos.

A chaos not dissimilar from the early stages of potty-training. Both start out with no decerable pattern, no signs of progress or signals that you are even on the right path. Each child potty-trains differently and each writer plots differently. And that’s the sucky part. There is no one way for either task. No guidepost to lead you successfully were you want to go and reassure you are on the right path.

And that is where determination comes in.

Every time I fall and swear I can’t get up and take my daughter on one more trip to the little toilet or figure out my character’s motivation for lopping off the head of a six headed monster…

I do.

And sometimes it hurts. And sometimes it sucks. And sometimes I feel stupid for even trying.

But I do it any way.

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.

-Colin Powell

And you know why?

Because. yesterday, my daughter started telling me when she needed to go potty.

Because my plot is starting to come together and feel whole and interesting.

Because a rhinoceros can become a unicorn. The rhinoceros’s just has to want it bad enough.

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13 thoughts on “Determination: Potty-training and Plotting

  1. We’re potty training at our house too, only with a stubborn 3-year-old and just a couple of weeks left to pull it off before preschool starts. If we fail, they won’t take him and he’ll miss his first year of preschool, and with his language delays, I don’t want that to happen. But we’re getting there. We can do it!

    I’m a fan of plotting, but it definitely has its challenges and drawbacks. It’s hard to even guess at the answers to any of your questions, but I’ll take a crack at “How do I know when I’m done?” If you’re like me, then you’ll continue plotting as you write, filling in details you can’t imagine just yet. So the questions is when you’re ready to begin writing specific scenes. When you know how the story ends, and you have your overall structure planned out enough to feel confident that a given scene belongs in the story, and you know what purpose that scene serves in advancing your story and what plot/emotional/character/worldbuilding/etc. moments you need to achieve in that scene, then you’re ready to write. That scene, at least. You can always mix it up, writing scenes as you imagine them and then doing more plotting.

    Knowing your characters well before you write is a huge plus, but sometimes you can’t really get to know them until you begin writing. Naturally then you have to go back and rewrite some of the early stuff where you hadn’t really found their voice, but sometimes that’s the only way.

    Keep going, and enjoy the excitement about your story. You can get there. Hippos unite!

    • Fantastic advice, Sharon. I will probably refer back to your post often as a reminder as I plot, especially since I think you are a fantastic plotter. (I guess “fantastic” is my word for today :-)) Wow, Potty-training with a deadline, and I thought I had it tough with my DD being so young. Potting Mothers Unite!!

  2. Loved the share with potty training woes. A friend said yesterday, she’s have problems with her almost three-year-old daughter who has really ‘determined’ days in which she just ‘forgets’ all she’s learned up to that point. Just when you think you have it under control! Good Luck.

    For writing, “What Sharon Said LOL” She put it beautifully. I’m not an extensive plotter, but I’d think once you got the basic logistics worked out, and the general outline of the story, start writing so you take advantage of your enthusiasm. If I plot too much, I get burned out. Plus, once the writing starts, the story seems to take its own path anyway. As you get into the book, you’ll find twists and turns–and character revelation (as Sharon said)-that will have you making adjustments. That’s part of the fun of writing LOL. Have fun with it.

    • Barbara, that’s some of the frustration with potty-training. Some days chicken some days feathers. I think your right about taking “advantage of your enthusiasm.” I’ll have to get that tattooed somewhere. 🙂

  3. I am years away from the potty training stage, but it certainly brought back memories. Good luck and happy plotting.
    I have always seen the unicorn in you.

  4. What a fun post. I so do not miss the potty training days. I remember trying just after Amy was one and her doctor said to wait until she was two because she’d understand more. Viola! It worked.Good luck.

    I can see why you’d need to plot with urban fantasy and world building. I’m a panster, though. I do know the beginning and ending of my novels and prepare detailed character sheets. The characters take over after that.

    • That sounds like great advice on the potty training. Every time I think to wait and give her more time to mature, she makes a leap in the potty-training.

  5. I’m feeling a little glad about the fact that I don’t have a child yet, and I really pitty my sister because my nephew is about to enter that stage.
    I really liked your post. 🙂 I don’t really know whether I’m plotter or pantser, but I know plotting helps me a lot when I get stuck somewhere in the middle. Making a little plan, thinking of all the things that could happen next and what they might lead to… it’s fun then and it gets the creative juice flowing again. Also, sometimes it helped to just know what happens in the end, but not know the middle. That doesn’t take all the fun out of discovering what happens next as a pantser, but it’s a direction to write to. And if I never end up there in the end, it doesn’t matter either.

    • It sounds like you know your process, and that is all that matters. Kudos. Kids are a lot of work, but they expand your creativity and vision like nothing else. Plus, kids can heighten your drive to succeed. Thanks for the comment!!

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