Some writers are “pantsers,” not “plotters.” Maybe you fall into that group and love NaNoWriMo because you can let the ideas flow freely. I have “pantsed it” on occasion, and it can be liberating.
But sometimes, when writing the first draft, we realize our manuscript has gone way off track and is no longer fun to write. That is where the storyboard and my loose outline become important.
My previous posts in this series talked about the story arc and how having a list of prompts can move the story forward and keep it flowing. We have made a list of prompts that will help us get started. We have a character, we have a world, and we have a situation. My sample outline looks like this:
Now we must plot the finale, the event that will give Dave his greatest desire.
- It’s an ordinary suitcase, one you might find in any budget-friendly chain store. Dave is familiar with clients who try to hide money and realizes he has to think like a crook.
- He purchases a matching suitcase to use as a decoy.
- Dave’s new furniture arrives from the Large Swedish Furniture company.
- He can’t read Swedish directions, but his neighbor, Sophia, does, and she helps him.
- While assembling his furniture, he realizes he has the perfect place to hide the actual suitcase. After Sophia leaves, he puts it in the open space behind the drawers beneath his platform bed.
- With the original suitcase hidden, Dave visits a secondhand bookstore run by his neighbor, Sophia.
- He buys a large number of secondhand books for his apartment, some of which are in bad condition, claiming he loves to read but loves a good bargain more.
- At home, he fills the decoy suitcase with the worn books and hides it in a closet.
- He is barely settled in his new apartment when he is robbed.
- The decoy suitcase is stolen, but all it contains are beat-up copies of the entire Wheel of Time series in English and two out-of-date copies of Accounting for Dummies.
- Dave is kidnapped and threatened with bodily harm.
- He doesn’t crack. Why?
- His neighbor, Sophia, poses as a pizza delivery person and springs him. Surprise! She works for his employer and is his bodyguard.
- The agent Dave is holding the suitcase for turns up dead.
- Dave is handcuffed to the suitcase again, and he and Sophia must hurry to take it to Paris.
- There is a battle at the airport, but they make it onto the airplane.
- Enemy agents are waiting in Paris, but Sophia has mad martial arts skills.
- The suitcase is handed off to the proper authorities.
- Dave is free to go back to Seattle and his old life as an accountant.
- But he is offered a permanent job with his current employer.
- What does Dave choose, security and boredom, or adventure and a bodyguard like Sophia?
The entire outline takes about two pages. You haven’t written the story, but you have given yourself a skeleton upon which you can hang a novel.
Each prompt can (and will) be riffed on or changed from page one, but ultimately, the final battle in Paris and the chase to the embassy will be the goal we are writing to.
If six authors used this outline, you would end up with six completely different novels. Once you begin writing, the creative brain takes over, and what emerges will be unlike anything another author wrote.
By the time you arrive at the end, it might have evolved into an entirely different book than you envisioned at the beginning.
This is because you will be “pantsing it” between the prompts, and anything can happen when you sit down and write whatever enters your mind.
Just make notes of your changes and keep the overall story arc in mind.
Some people (and I am one of them) occasionally find it easier to begin writing a novel by writing the last chapter first. That is how I wrote my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel.
I wrote that final chapter, then asked myself who the characters were, how they had gotten there, and why they were in those circumstances. For that book, I wrote the outline in reverse.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to write a novel.
Every novel is different, has a different genesis, and emerges from the author’s mind with its own personality.
The trick for NaNoWriMo is to get 1,667 new words written every day for 30 consecutive days. At the end of November, you should have 50,000 or more words written, and possibly your entire first draft.
To sign up for National Novel Writing Month, go to www.nanowrimo.org and get your profile started.
#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:
#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story? (the storyboard)