Five for Five? Plotting a path to victory

Raise your hand if you knew this post was coming? That's right, in 2 weeks I join the zombie horde of writers, furiously typing purple prose to reach their 50,000 word word goal. I will once again be, a NaNoWriMo novelist. To recap, NaNoWriMo is a month long journey where people around the world attempt to write a complete novel(la) in about 30 days. By the seat of their pants. Some people go into this "competition" with no plot or characters to write about, others like myself, create a loose plot and maybe a character or two before we start writing. Last year, I introduced you to the D*I*Y Planner Story pack and all the goodies that are on those index cards. This year, all year long, I've used the cards to collect plots and snippets for use during NaNo. This year, I'll explain how many multiple brainstorming sessions not only helped me hone in on a plot but helped me create endings and a working outline.

I knew my genre and what elements I wanted to have in my novel before I decided on the plot. I'm returning back to my favorite genre of dark and urban fantasy. My plot in a nutshell focuses around the mishaps of a magical tarot ritual gone awry. So, how'd I get from no plot to that? Well, *looks at clock* it's taken me about 19 days. Nineteen days ago, I wasn't sure if I was going to settle on writing a story based around the character in my head or something else. Her story isn't ready to be told yet. So I sat down with my D*I*Y cards last week and sifted through the ideas, hoping to find something else. Usually there's a plot that snags my attention completely and gives me that zing I need to start dumping time and energy into this wholeheartedly. I didn't find my inspiration off those cards, unfortunately. Although I came up with some good ideas that I can see being turned into some stories. Instead, I trolled through the Adopt-a-Plot forum and grabbed the most appealing ideas and sat down with some friends. Each friend read through my ideas and selected their favorites, based on how well they knew me and my writing style and the ones they thought I could pull off a good novel with. You'd think I would have stopped that I had my plot. But I didn't.

I wanted to rework the idea, some of the things didn't settle with me. Which is fine, after all I didn't write the idea to begin with in the first place. So, I started brainstorming new things for this idea. What could I take out of it and what could I put back in. Again, I went to my group of friends and we talked it out. Maybe the Main Character didn't collect things, but used the object in a ritual? Oooh, now that struck a chord. So then I wrote that idea down. What happens in this ritual? Things go awry and it either leaves the Main Character stranded in unknown lands looking for a way home, or the ritual starts causing strange things to happen in her world. Core idea now firmly set into place, I needed a good way to end this thing.

Once again brainstorming helped. With the same friend, we tried to come up with ideas on how to end the story for both parallel ideas. Every idea, no matter how weird, cliche or off, got written down. In the case of the ritual sending the Main Character to a new world, the story ends when she finds home again. Or chooses to stay and be a member of whatever society she's comfortable in.

By now I have a short description of my plot. Two to three statements that give me an idea I can tell others about. But now the real work starts. I need some outline, some path that will get the story from word one to word 50,000. Which is where outlining comes in. Today, at work, I started generating scenes and points that needed to get covered to help the story along. Do I start the story with the ritual and work from there or do I back things up a bit and set the framework up for why the Main Character needs to do the ritual? What strange events go awry and what order does it happen? All these ideas get tossed into the pot and when I am done with some thoughts, I'll share these ideas with my friends and weed out weak things or take their suggestions and add more in. And when midnight on November 1st hits, I hope to have a rough 15-20 point outline that I can take and complete my novel from.

So let's hear it for NaNoWriMo 2006! Guess you'll have to come back at the end of November to see if whether or not I was able to pull off a seat-of-my-pants miracle of writing my 5th first draft novel. As a result of my writer-ness I'm dubbing next month Reviews Month. It's my ambitious goal this month to prepare some good 'ole fashioned book reviews so you're not too horribly alone without me next month. Got a plot? Going for your first NaNo experience? Feel free to post your ideas and goals and outlines for NaNoWriMo 2006. To all my fellow NaNo'ers out there, I'll see you at your computers next month!

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I'm in for the fifth year too!

But I didn't have to spend nearly as long as you on plot/characters. See, this will be the fifth book in a trilogy....:D

One suggestion: Whatever number of "events" you think you will need to fill out your plot, come up with ideas for at least that number plus fifty per cent more. Come writing time, you might find that you just DON'T WANT to write Event X after all. With plenty of ideas, you can just toss that card and go on to the next event.

Even if you don't dump some ideas, you may find that you are averaging fewer words per event that you estimated, and thus are 'running out of plot.'

Trust me, it's a lot easier to think up new twists and such NOW instead of on Nov.29 when you're still 10 thou words short. :(

Thanks Susan and good luck

Thanks Susan and good luck with yer 5th as well.

Don't worry about me, while it sounds like i may not have a lot... i've got quite a bit more than i write here. I'm pretty good at padding my words by now and have a lot of ideas running around in my head. Last year, i had to cut back on things because the novel was going a bit long. Even though I have a working outline and title, a lot can happen between today and Nov. 1 and I'll be sharing my ideas with lots of people and asking them for their honest opinions.



It's my first year, I have finally taken the plunge. I wimped out big time last year. All the best to you both, and anyone else having a go.

Oh, and yes, great post on how to plot and plan :-)