Starting a novel can be intimidating. Finishing even more so. It is my hope that this series will help other soon-to-be or wanna-be writers find a place to begin a novel and better yet, empower them to finish. Here you will find all the advice I wish someone would have given me when I first started writing fiction.
The next baby step we are discussing is how to look at the big picture of your plot and then shorten your scope until you get to the details. Now, if you know outlining story details sucks the joy out of writing for you, don’t follow along these exercises. Read along and think about what each of these highlights is in your own story without delving too deep. If you don’t know if plotting will help or hinder your writing, I plead with you to try. Plotting can do for writer’s block what splashing cold water on your face does to sleep. It will pull you out of the slogging, foggy mind of STUCK.
First thing to do is pull out your banner and reread it. Do you feel that stirring of excitement you originally felt when the Shiny New Idea came to you? Do you remember the vision you have for the story? Have you a direction to move the idea forward into STORY? If not, here’s a neat little trick I learned from Janette Rallison at a writing conference recently (though she attributed to Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Author). It’s kind of like a Mad Lib, but with an important purpose:
When _______ (insert Main Character’s name) finds herself in _______ (insert Situation here) she ______ (insert Goal here) but will __________ (insert antagonist or obstacle to goal here) make her ______________ (insert consequence of goal failure here)?
CHARACTER + SITUATION + GOAL + OBSTACLE + DISASTER = A READY TO ROLL STORY!
So did that come easily for you, even if it wasn’t pretty enough to put in a query letter?
If yes, then you are ready to think about the story framework, the structure that holds the words together to make a great experience for the reader. Generally learned like this in grade school:
Have you figured this out for your story too? If not, then time to stew over it, to discover where each major acceleration in the plot should be and where things should slow down a bit. Think about that escalation this week and then next week we will telescope in further with the following structure.
Inciting incident (story hook, attention-getter, or a problem eruption)Plot Point 1 (character’s world turned upside down, their choice to move forward is made)
Plot Point 2 (first big obstacle)
Middle Point (the gear up for serious obstacle confrontation also the joint to hinge on the beginning with the end)
Plot Point 3 (all-is-lost obstacle)
Climax A (lighting the fuse)
Climax B (watching it burn)
Climax C (kaboom!)
Denouement (wind down)
Resolution (satisfying end)
Next up, we will dive into more detail of each item on the list! Happy new (writing) year to all!