The workshop wasn't given by my normal writing group so it was a little nerve-wracking to go among strangers. But it was worth it.
I've always been a "pantser" (short for seat-of-my-pants), intuitively feeling my way through my original stories. For my fan fiction, I was invariably doing a variation or expansion on an existing plot which meant most of the key points were already decided, not to mention all the character biographies.
But for my own fiction, letting myself wander often means missing the point entirely.
She suggested a very simple, but effective, technique. Plot out the whole story using different coloured sticky notes, one per scene: pink for the heroine's point of view, blue for the hero's and another colour for the villain. Then put them all up on a poster board. It's a quick way to see if your story is balanced. If one character disappears too much, then there's a problem. If one character's point of view predominates too much then you should either change it all to their point of view or switch sides for some scenes.
She writes out each subplot on stickies, ensuring that she doesn't lose any subplots. The stickies can then be moved around to appropriate points on the board.
Her point isn't that all this work is necessary. After all, even a wandering novel can be tightened up in rewrites. The point is that all this work helps to write a cleaner, tighter first draft, a must in genre fiction where editors expect two or three books every year.
I was really excited by the workshop and it's making me even more excited for the revision workshop coming up next weekend. I hope it's just as informative and useful.