In less than a month, us writing junkies will be beginning the trek towards our NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) word limit. So, for novelists, October is essentially National Novel Planning Month (NaNoPlaMo?).
So, how to begin. How to begin.
Common sense would say that we begin with an idea, but often a writer’s urge to write does not include a brilliant idea for the writing. Silly Muse.
So, what if you don’t have an idea? Well, rather than banging your head against a immovable object, take some time to brainstorm what stories you are drawn to right now. Do you find yourself addicted anything Super Hero-ish, or counting the minutes until American Horror story? Reflect on what you are enjoying, or waiting for, and plot a story that uses those aspects. Or, play the ‘what if game’ in your own life and plot where different major choices would have taken you, exaggerate to your hearts content. Plot a story about this version of yourself that took that different road. You can plot as many stories as it takes until you find that one you think is up to the NaNoWriMo challenge.
Brilliant idea in hand, Your real work begins: plotting and diagraming.
There are many different methods for diagraming your story idea. Common ways are on index cards, poster board, plain notebook paper, drawing, or even using verbal recordings. These methods are specific to each person. Choose one, or a combination, that fits your style. I use large pieces of poster board, one for each diagram.
There are plenty of things to diagram in every story. Some people will only diagram the plot; however, others will plot each chapter. I typically diagram three aspects of my story: storyline, setting, and the main character.
My first diagram is a storyline chart. I put all of my scenes on a line, paying close attention to the raising and lowering of tension. When the tension is raised in a scene the line goes up; if it goes down the line does too. This helps to visualize the ups and downs of your story. This is the life line of your story. For most stories, it will constantly raise, with the occasional lowering to give readers processing time. This can be great to ensure the story does not fall flat.
My second diagram focuses on setting. This is essential if you are creating a world, rather than using real life; However, even if you are using you own city as a setting, diagraming the setting is a great way to help yourself see how everything fits together. Diagram anything you can think of: weather, political happenings, social trends, average lifestyle, education system, and anything the could remotely be seen in by story. Most of this information will not make it in your novel, but you can never have too much information. Characters may not care if their city is under severe drought conditions but these conditions would effect everyone in the city politically, environmentally, or even socially.
My third diagram focuses on getting to know the protagonist: past, present, dreams, dislikes, likes, social dynamic, and even food allergies. I want to know everything about my character. This allows me to better portray characteristics, reactions, and actions. Like the setting diagram, most of what I diagram will not end up in the story, but it will help you portray a more realistic character.
However you diagram your story, paying attention to the story line, the scene, and the protagonist’s characteristics will help you see your story in better detail. It will ensure the consistency of the story and help keep your character’s personalities and actions realistic. Remember, have fun while plotting! Stories often reinvent themselves and you should never feel tied to any aspect of your story. If the story changes as you write it just make note of your changes for future reference. Plotting aspects of your story is to help visualize but never to restrict. Be flexible and enjoy the process!
Want more? Here are some interesting Internet Finds to Help you organize and plot your thoughts.
http://annieneugebauer.com/the-organized-writer-2/ – Awesome Free worksheets for almost anything a novelist could want.
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/09/14/25-ways-to-plot-plan-and-prep-your-story/ – Loads of information about plotting your novel.