In the lead up to Nanowrimo I wanted to begin by sharing my prep process to kick off this series. November 1st approaching too soon and you're still not sure what you're going to do? I'm here for you. So, without further ado...
How to plan to write a novel in 30 days (or less)
Or, why you really should be using an outline.
The outline is the backbone construction of your narrative flow. It is a tool that gives a glimpse of your project's underlying form before you start putting in the hard work, and it takes almost no effort at all!
The simplest issues issues can be solved with a small amount of construction.
|artists can be pantsers too... with mixed results|
Step One: establishing the flow
Chances are you already have one of these in mind. What situation sets your protagonist on their journey? What solution will resolve the central conflict?
Whichever you're beginning with, mark it down on your outline. Then you'll need to answer the other; how does your protagonist aim to resolve their situation? Or, what incident drove them to seek that solution?
The trick here is that we don't need details. We're only asking the question of what happens, not why.
Once you've filled out both ends of your outline it should look a little something like this:
|The adventures of Steve, the talking shovel (and also John).|
Take note of how there are no absolutes in the solution. This is important for the next step of establishing your structure and narrative flow. The third aspect of a good outline is the breakdown, or, middle conflict. I will be going into greater depth on this subject later in November, but for now deciding on your middle conflict now will help prevent saggy-middle syndrome.
When placing your middle conflict, you can decide between two options. The most common is to set your middle conflict between the Situation and the Solution. I'm here to tell you there's a better way.
|When the protagonists arrive at their goal and fail, what happens then?|
Now we have the three most important beats of our story, and already we can see the basic flow. This is the first stop on the outlining train, you've already got enough to get an idea of the direction you're going. But for the more analytical outliners, now is the time to delve into the deeper aspects and start laying down the shapes of events within the book itself.
Step Two: establishing form and volume
At this stage, I start getting in depth and laying out my chapters. This is a little example from my book, Guns of Liberty:
|Note: this outline is from an older draft and not representative of the final product!|
Now, let's fill out some of the forms for our example:
Once you've filled out the entire plot line and connected the end with the beginning, you've already got all your chapters naturally laid out and have an idea of the overall form of the book! You can practically see it already.
This is the next jumping off point. I used to start writing here, but now I take it one step further.
Step Three: blocking out the details
During this process it's almost writing draft 0.5. For my 2017 Nanowrimo I experimented with just how far I could push it before it got rediculous, and wrote 26,000 words of planning. Turns out somewhere around 10k is my sweet-spot. This is what allows me to write those 50,000 words so quickly: I've already decided everything that's going to take place in the story, all that's left is to write it!
Here's a little excerpt from my 2015 Nano project: the satirical sci-fi, Vengeful Intentions.
Warning: first-draft eye-sore ahead
As you can see, the planning is devoid of all description and author voice. Its purpose is merely to lay out the events that take place, and what order they take place.
This is the final step for me before I begin writing, and this small(ish) amount of planning cuts my writing time from scraping out 50,000 in 30 days to 50,000 in 16.
Constructing and outlining is a crucial part of the writing process, whether you are a planner or a pantser. But the most important lesson I'd like to impart is that different writers require different planning methods, and just like no two writers write the same way, no two writers plan the same way. This is only my method, and it took many attempts and experiments to find what worked for me. I encourage you to not take my methods wholesale, but rather to experiment with the aspects that work for you and discard those that do not. Furthermore, if you find one method of planning doesn't work, it does not mean that no planning works at all, and there are many other techniques out there you can try!
But not Snowflake. Snowflake is misery incarnate.
If you would like to see more posts and silly doodles, then join me on November 1st as we delve into starting on the right foot; or, how to nail your premise with the first chapter.