Although I created these lists to help people plan their novels for NaNoWriMo, the resources are just as useful for non-NaNo novel planning, so feel free to use this info to write lots of novels any time! Enjoy!
Plotting ResourcesA short but growing list for great story planning resources.
- Larry Brooks’ Storyfix.com
- Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog, The Dark Salon
- Roz Morris’ Nail Your Novel blog
- Procrastinating Writers blog
- The Snowflake Method
- Nitz Bitz page with a story structure outline
- My Word Playground by Lynne Marie (Literally Lynne)
- Crawford Killian Advice on Novel Writing (just found this one, but it looks good)
- Tami Moore’s “Best of the Blog” page has links to all her NaNoWriMo plot posts. I suggest starting to read with the post “Outlining Kit.”
Plotting, Step 1
Now for jumping into the plotting. This is actually a multi-step stage, but we won’t be nitpickers just yet, so we’ll call it all Step 1. However, because there are multiple steps to this, you might want to spread them out over a couple of days.
Write down everything you know about the story you want to write. This can be a huge list of things, or it might only be one or two things. Whatever you have is fine.
From that list, write a paragraph describing your story. If you can, write down at least sketchy details for both an opening and an ending. Also, make sure you have at least a little something about your main character. If you also know something about your antagonist and any other important characters, go ahead and put it in there. It doesn’t matter how long this is–if you go on for pages, that’s great. It will just be more material to work with later.
Finally, from your paragraph, write a single sentence that sums up your story. This is sometimes called your elevator pitch sentence, and it will really be helpful later in reminding you exactly what your story is about and what you want to focus on. For this, think of one line movie trailers–they tell you a lot about the story–protagonist, setting, problem, what’s at stake–in a very short space. That’s what we’re aiming for here.
A few resources for writing a single-sentence synopsis:
- Where the Map Ends
- The Snowflake Method (see Step 1)
- Alexandra Sokoloff’s excellend e-book Screenwriting Tricks for Authors
Character soundtracks. For each of your main characters, or any characters you know about already, list their favorite song or songs. The music a person chooses will tell you a lot about them; these lists will tell you a lot about your characters as you write them.
Plotting, Step 2 (30 Things)
Usually I do this with twenty things, but since I’m typing this up while preparing for NaNoWriMo, we’re going with thirty, one for each day of November.
This step is really simple–think up and write down thirty things that might happen in your story. These don’t have to be major things; some minor actions and happenings are still important to the overall story.
Now, don’t go as simple as “Bill wakes up.” But something like “Bill answers the phone and hears an unexpected voice on the line” could work. You might not know just now exactly what he hears, but if you know that somehow him getting this phone call is going to be important, go ahead and write it on your list.
For now, you don’t need to put these in any order. Just get thirty things. If you can, do write down something that can be part of an opening scene and something that can be part of a closing scene. Something that could be part of the climax would be great if you have an idea for it. Also remember that story needs flow, so there should be some really intense things on your list and some things that are smaller and calmer. Give yourself a good mix to work with.
After you get thirty things written down, you can transfer your items to index cards and start playing with the order. If you can’t get thirty things right away, write down as much as you can, and start playing with the order until you start getting a story flow that you like.
These thirty things will give you at least one small scene to write each day in November, and using these as jumping off points every day will lead you to more story elements that you want to add in.
Plotting, Step 3 (Aristotle's Incline)
Now that you’ve had a chance to list some events to put into your story, here’s a wonderful tool to help you organize those events.
To help you figure out what to put where on your outline, I’ve pulled together a few really good resources on story structure:
- The 5 Things You Must Absolutely Know About Your NaNo Novel Before You Start Writing
- Novel Design: Plot Structure (this is a great chart using fairy tales to illustrate the basic Aristotle’s Incline structure)
- The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool You’ll Ever See That Fits On One Page
- 12 Baby Steps to a Complete Story (See #2)
If you have the basic points on the incline figured out, you can write the story and fill in the details as you go. If you have more scenes or events worked out, say the 30 events we worked on in the last Plotting and Scheming installment, you can then rearrange them under the different sections of the incline to work out more of your story.
Really, this info is everything you need to write a complete story–if you know these things about your story, especially if you have a few other events planned to help fill things out, you’re ready to write. Happy NaNoing!
New for NaNoWriMo 2011
- Plot Your Novel in 15 Minutes or Less
- Three Steps to Finishing Your First Novel
- Dan Wells' 7-Point System
- Notes on the 7-Point System