Here are some smart – and painless – tips to get you grounded on plot before you kick off your NaNoWriMo adventure.
Write your elevator pitch. This pithy one-liner will explain the meat of your story in a single sentence. The idea is to sell the reader on the story with the basics: who, what, where, when and especially why. But in the process, you’re also selling yourself on the story, and ensuring that, you know, there will be some semblance of plot involved! Because plot is helpful.
Commit and plan. Once you’ve got the five major elements of your pitch down, you’ll be able to see if your project is sustainable for the format you intend it to take – whether that’s a short story, screenplay, novel or other medium.
Start small! Then let it snowball. I admit, my longest outline was a hefty 40-plus pages. But you don’t have to go that far to get yourself on the road to a happy, fulfilling CampNano experience. Nope, even a skeleton outline will do as long as it keeps the story moving. Here’s what I do to get moving:
- Start with your single sentence elevator pitch.
- Expand that one sentence out into three: beginning, middle, end.
- Expand those three sentences out into three paragraphs for beginning, middle and end, adding details to each section.
- Break those three paragraphs out into multiple paragraphs for each section, adding even more details – and turning those details into potential scenes.
- Group the scenes (and use flash cards if you want to, for easy movement) into paragraphs of action, which then magically become chapters!
- Voila, you should now have a skeleton outline featuring three sections of multiple paragraphs outlining your chapters by beginning, middle and end.
Refine your outline – just like you would the draft. Writing a story, script or novel is like piecing together a puzzle. Not everything will fit just right the first time around – and pieces may be missing. Rework and move things around until it feels stable, doable and, well, right.
Talk it through. Share it with a critique partner or two while you’re working on this outlining stage. I always say two brains are better than one, if they’re the right two brains. And sometimes a pal can articulate the insight or twistiness you’re scratching at but just can’t reach. Plus, having people invested at this early stage will up your accountability for later.
Make a schedule. (And let it slide sometimes.) Having the roadmap – as detailed or bare bones as it may be – will help you plan your time wisely, especially if you want to stick to daily or weekly word count goals. But remember: CampNano is supposed to be fun! Don’t torture yourself if you miss a day or two. (Or ten. Hey, it happens.) And if you’re smart, you’ll build in some room for slacking off here and there. After all, we all need a break sometimes.
Revisit often. As you dig into your Nano project, use your outline as a guide. But remember it’s just a tool to help you along, not the work itself. Things will inevitably change once you start writing. It’s an outline, so nothing is set in stone. If you need to, go back in, twist and tweak as necessary so that it works naturally with the story you’re trying to tell.
I know this much about myself: I’m WAY better at writing than I am at public speaking. So when I heard about a public speaking course for authors at the Highlights Foundation back in May, I jumped on it. The 4-5 days of intensive workshopping ended in an assignment: we had to take what we learned, choose a topic related to our books, and talk about it for one hour to students at schools nearby. […]
We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post for this important announcement. With our fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico in need in the devastating aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the additional challenges of getting water and supplies to the island from the mainland, a bunch of authors, agents, and editors have banded together to create #PubforPR, an online auction to raise funds to provide aid, through donations to Unidos por Puerto Rico and […]
Whoops. We kinda vanished on you. Sorry for the unintended radio silence over these past few weeks while Kelly’s been sick and JJ’s been without a computer! We ask for your patience and understanding for just a little while longer, while we get things in order so that we can pick up recording Pub Crawl on a regular schedule. We miss you guys!
I’m now seven books into my career, with four more contracted through 2020, so this might seem strange for me to say, especially to those of you still trying to break into publishing or just getting started, but I often fantasize about the freedom of writing without contracts or deadlines. Some authors can write and write and write indefinitely without feeling like they need more space for the book they’re working on. And some authors […]