Tag Archives: the story arc

How a monopoly of information drives the arc of the scene #amwriting

NaNoWriMo is in full swing. Many people are discovering that writing is much more work than they realize. Some have fallen by the way already, and others will falter along for a few more days. Then they too will disappear, and their work will lie forgotten until the urge to write resurfaces, like the sneaky shark that creativity is.

However, a few people new to the craft are developing a pPlot-exists-to-reveal-characterassion for the dirty habit of writing every day. They are joining the ranks of the old pros, the people who “do NaNo” every year whether they expect to be published or not.

But all writers begin as readers. As we read, we see an arc to the overall novel consisting of:

  1. Exposition, where we introduce our characters and their situation.
  2. Rising action, where we introduce complications for the protagonist
  3. Climax, the high point of the action, the turning point of the narrative
  4. Falling action, the regrouping, and unfolding of events that will lead to the conclusion
  5. The resolution, in which the protagonist’s problems are resolved, providing the reader with closure.

Scenes are mini stories that support the overall arc. They come together to create the all-encompassing drama that is the novel. The way the narrative unfolds keeps our readers interested until the end of the book. Each scene has a job and must lead to the next. If we do it right, the novel will succeed.

The main difference in the arc of the scene vs. the overall arc of the novel is this: the end of the scene is the platform from which your next scene launches. This means each scene begins at a slightly higher point on the novel’s plot arc than the previous scene, driving the narrative.

876MilanoDuomoIn my mind, novels are like Gothic Cathedrals–arcs of stone supporting other arches until you have a structure that can withstand the centuries. Each scene is a tiny arc that supports and strengthens the construct that is our plot.

These small arcs of action, reaction, and calm push the plot and ensure it doesn’t stall. This tension increases the overall conflict that drives the story.

My writing style in the first stages may be different than yours. I lay down the skeleton of the tale, fleshing out what I can as I go. But there are large gaps in this iteration of the narrative.

So, once the first draft is finished, I flesh out the story with visuals and action. These are things I can’t focus on in the first draft, but I do insert notes to myself, such as:

  • Fend off attack here. Bandits wound Lenn. I don’t know how.

Or my notes might say something like:

  • Contrast tranquil scenery with turbulent emotions here.

plottingLIRF07122020For me, the first draft is always rough, more like a series of events and conversations than a novel. In the second draft, I stitch it all together and fill in the plot holes.

In the first draft, most scenes I write are conversations interspersed with actions. Conversations between our characters should have an arc that supports the cathedral of the novel. They begin, rise to a peak, and ebb.

They inform us of something we must know to understand the forthcoming action. Conversations propel the story forward to the next scene.

A good conversation is about a thing or idea and builds toward some other thing or idea. Dialogue must have a premise and move toward a conclusion of some sort. Otherwise, it’s is a waste of words.

A scene that is all action is confusing if it has no context, no frame. A properly placed conversation can give the reader perspective when there is no silent witness (an omniscient presence). This view is needed to understand the reason for events.

A certain amount of context can arrive through internal monologue. But we don’t want the reader to face a wall of italics. I have two problems with long mental conversations:

  1. Italics are daunting in large chunks.
  2. Internal dialogue is frequently a thinly veiled cover for an info dump.

plot is the frame upon which the themes of a story are supportedPlot points are driven by the characters who have critical knowledge. The fact that some characters are working with limited information creates tension.

This inequality of knowledge is called asymmetric information. We see this all the time in the corporate world.

  • One party in a business transaction has more or superior information compared to another.
  • This individual’s drive and pursuit of pure self-interest can prevent others from entering and competing in an industry or market.
  • This person has the critical knowledge the competitors don’t have.
  • That inequality of information effectively eliminates his competition.

In other words, he has a monopoly and rises to the top.

In literary terms, a monopoly of information creates a crisis. In the novel, a conversation scene should be driven by the fact that one person has knowledge the others need. An idle conversation will bore your reader to tears, so only discuss things that advance the plot.

The reader must get answers at the same time as the other characters, gradually over the length of a novel.

I struggle with this too. Dispersing small but necessary bits of info at just the right moment is tricky. Hopefully, by the end of my second draft, all these bumps will have been smoothed out.

Now that we are a week into NaNoWriMo, I have written 20,000 words into my outline, which is gradually becoming a novel. Already many things have changed from the original plan.

Whether it will be an engaging story for a reader (or not) is something I can’t predict, but I’m enjoying writing it.

The Arc of the Scene

And that is what writing should be about—writing the story you want to read.

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The Story is in the Drama #amwriting

Drama and disaster can and will happen on a wide scale in our real lives. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts—the path of a natural disaster is erratic. Sometimes they miss you, and other times, your home is in their way.

modesitt quote the times we live LIRF11012022Lesser dramas might only touch us on a peripheral level, yet they can affect our sense of security and challenge our values.

On May 18th, 1980, my friends and I watched the eruption of Mt. St. Helens from atop a hill in the middle of nowhere. My children had visited their father for the weekend, so my friends and I planned a fishing trip to a beaver pond in the next county. It was a long drive on narrow, dirt logging roads, but the possibility of trout for supper was just an excuse for a day spent in the deep forest.

We loaded our gear into my boyfriend’s Land Rover and set off at about 5:00 am, all five of us laughing and having a great time. The radio never worked, but the cassette deck played Led Zeppelin, Robin Trower, Genesis, and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow as the soundtrack to our trek through the gorgeous country.

At about 09:00, we came up over the top of a treeless hill. The view was breathtaking, as if all of Lewis County lay before us in springtime glory.

Above it all towered a sight I will never forget, turning the blue sky black.

MSH80_eruption_mount_st_helens_05-18-80-dramatic-edit

Eruption of Mt. St. Helens May 18, 1980 Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Conversations suddenly silenced, and we stopped, turning the engine off. We got out and stared, first at the raging column of dust, rocks, and lightning that dwarfed the mountain and then at each other. Helicopters and airplanes from news agencies and the USGS circled like so many carrion birds. What so many people had thought was just hysteria was true—the mountain had blown.

We never did make it to the beaver pond. The only fish we caught that day were the tuna sandwiches we had packed. Conversations were sober as we picnicked on that hilltop and watched the incredible show.

We had no way of hearing the news, but we knew it was terrible, that some people had died and others had lost everything. We had no idea just how bad it was, that one of our favorite places to fish, the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake, had disappeared along with its cantankerous owner. Harry R. Truman had become famous in the weeks before the eruption for refusing to evacuate.

Toward midafternoon, we returned to Olympia, all of us grateful to have homes to go to. When I turned on the television and found that more than fifty people had lost their lives, I felt devastated for them.

The true story of that day in my life is in disaster contrasted against calm and tranquility.

The story is in the hectic start to the morning, of five friends off on a day trip to go fishing. It is in the peace of the deep woods along those old dirt roads.

640px-St_Helens_before_1980_eruption_horizon_fixedThe camera zooms out and now we see the idyllic serenity of a clear sunny morning on Spirit Lake and Harry doing his morning chores.

This allows us to see what will be lost.

Then disaster strikes. The side of the mountain gives way, and the eruption is on.

Contrast that catastrophe against five people serenely picnicking on a hill, observing the apocalypse as it happens. The drama is in old Harry R. Truman’s stubborn end, and how it didn’t occur to us who watched from a distant hill that we would never rent a boat from him or fish in that lake again.

The bad juxtaposed against the good is the plot, but the experiences of those who witnessed it is the story. Contrast provides drama and texture, turning a wall of “bland” into something worth reading.

Stories of apocalyptic catastrophes resonate because disaster drives humanity to bigger and better things, and those who survive and rise above it become heroes. Readers love the drama of it all.

Disaster isn’t always apocalyptic, though. Dramas regularly happen on what seems an unimportant level to people who have resources. Not everyone has money, and not everyone can surmount the odds. The story is in the battle.

Think about those small daily tragedies people face, deeply personal catastrophes, which only they are experiencing. Love and loss, safety and danger, loyalty and betrayal are the eternal themes of tragedy and resolution. These are the seeds of a good story.

30 days 50000 wordsWe writers must make our words count. We must show our characters in their comfort zone in the moments leading up to the disaster. Not too much of a lead in, but just enough to show what will soon be lost.

Then, we bring on the disaster and attempt to write it logically, so it makes sense.

Contrast is a crucial aspect of worldbuilding and storytelling. In the end, we want readers to think about the story and those characters long after the last paragraph has been read. Drama and resolution are the keys to a great story.

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#NaNoWriMo prep part 4 Plot Arc #amwriting

Today we’re continuing prepping our novel by thinking about the plot, the story our characters inhabit. In post one, we thought about what kind of project we want to write–novel, short stories, poems, memoir, personal essays, etc.

Post two of this series introduced the protagonist(s), so we have an idea of who they are and what they do.

In post three, we explored the setting, so we already know where they are and what their circumstances are.

plot is the frame upon which the themes of a story are supportedNow we’re going to design the conflict by creating a skeleton, a series of guideposts to write to. I write fantasy, but every story is the same, no matter the set dressing: Protagonist A needs something desperately, and Antagonist B stands in their way.

What does the protagonist want? Everyone wants something. The story is in if they acquire it or not. Doubt, uncertainty, the unknown—these nouns comprise the story.

This is where we have to sit and think a bit. Are we writing a murder mystery? A space-opera? A thriller? The story of a girl dealing with bulimia?

Let’s write a historical fiction.

My uncle fought in WWII in Ardennes and was wounded. He never discussed his wartime experiences, but I like to use that battle as my example for plotting. Here in the US, that battle is referred to as the Battle of the Bulge. A book about that battle may be compiled from personal accounts, interviews, photographs, and diaries. But the author must build the events of Ardennes in December 1944 and January 1945 out of words that express memories, opinions, and wishes.

Even though your novel about this battle may explore an Allied soldier’s experiences, in reality, this narrative is a fantasy because the events it explores have disappeared into the mists of a long-ago time. They now exist only in a few places:

  • military archives
  • newspaper accounts
  • history as written by the victors
  • the memories of a dying generation
  • the handwritten diary of the soldier
  • the author’s mind
  • the pages of the book you are constructing
  • the readers’ minds as they are reading

Plot-exists-to-reveal-characterWhere does our soldier’s story begin? We open the story by introducing our characters, showing them in their everyday world, and then we kick into gear with the occurrence of the “inciting incident,” which is the first plot point. That might be their arrival at their first camp in the Ardennes region.

For our soldier, the inciting incident might be the orders that transfer him and his unit to Ardennes. After that, many things will occur before he and his fellow soldiers return home. Each event will range in intensity from the inconvenience of filthy living conditions to the unavoidable confrontation with the horror of war.

We will make a list, a ladder of events that give us landmarks to write to, like a connect-the-dots picture.

First, how long do you plan the book to be? If you plan to write 50,000 words, take that word count and divide it by 4. The first quarter opens our story and introduces the inciting incident. This is the moment of no return, even if our characters still believe they can salvage things.

The following two quarters are the middle of the narrative, exploring the obstacles that our soldier faces. If you are writing a historical novel, your plot will follow the historical calendar of actual events. The Battle of the Bulge was fought between 16 December 1944 and 25 January 1946, and reams of documentation still exist about that terrible month.

117th_Infantry_North_Carolina_NG_at_St._Vith_1945

117th Infantry North Carolina NG at St. Vith.

Your plot arc might include these events, but in chronological order:

  • Initial German assault
  • Attack on the northern shoulder
  • German forces held up
  • Germans advance west
  • German advance halted

Attack in the center: our soldier will either be with the US 30th Infantry Division at the Battle for St. Vith (Americans) or the Meuse River bridges (British 29th Armoured Brigade of 11th Armoured Division). He likely couldn’t be at both unless he was in the US Army Air Force.

  • Attack in the south
  • Allied counteroffensive
  • German counterattack
  • Allies prevail

You will connect those dots. Take each incident and write the scenes that our soldier experiences. You might also write scenes showing the commanders planning the offensives and switch to show the enemy’s plans.

No matter what sort of book you plan to write, this is all you need at first. It’s just a skeleton of the plot. You will write the scenes between these events, connecting them to form a story with an arc to it.

As we write, our soldier’s thoughts and interactions will illuminate and color in the scenes. His encounters, how he saw the enemy—were they people like him or were they faceless—all his emotions will emerge as you write his story.

No matter what genre we are writing in, you must introduce a story-worthy problem, a test that will propel the protagonist to the middle of the book.

300px-SCR-299dooropen

US Army Signal Corps photo of SCR-299 radio set in operation 1942, US Army Signal Corps

This event is the hook. We raise a question and set the protagonist on the trail of the answer. In finding that answer, the protagonist is thrown into the action.

  • If you are writing genre fiction, get to the action quickly.

Drop the protagonist into the soup as soon as possible, even if the conflict is interpersonal. Some books open with a minor hiccup that spirals out of control with each attempt to resolve it. This is the place where the characters are set on the path to their destiny.

Some plots are action and adventure. Other books explore a relationship that changes a character’s life for good or ill, while others detail surviving hardship.

When do the protagonists first realize they’re utterly blocked from achieving their desired goal? Note this event on your outline somewhere in the first quarter. This is the moment our protagonist realizes their problem is much worse than they initially thought.

At this point, they have little information regarding the magnitude of the trouble.

This is where the skeleton list comes in handy for me. Crucial knowledge that affects my characters’ choices, the information they don’t have, should be doled out at the point in the story arc where they need it. If I give all the information in the first 10 pages, there’s no point in reading the book any further—the reader knows it all.

plottingLIRF07122020One thing that I do is make notes that help limit my tendency toward heavy-handed foreshadowing. I try to keep it brief, but what will be enough of a hint, and where should it go?

Subplots will emerge as we begin writing. It’s a good idea to note them on the outline as they come to you. In my opinion, side quests work best if they are presented once the book’s tone and the central crisis have been established. Good subplots are excellent ways of supporting the emotional parts of the story.

Now is the time to read in your genre and let your ideas simmer for a while. If you are writing in a fiction genre, read the bestsellers so you know what kind of plot the reading public is looking for. Don’t worry about inadvertently channeling their ideas—there is no such thing as a story that has never been told.

Whatever you write, you will take it one step further and give it your own spin.


Posts in this series:

#NaNoWriMo prep part 1: Deciding on the Project #amwriting

#NaNoWriMo prep part 2: Character Creation #amwriting

#NaNoWriMo prep part 3: Designing Worlds #amwriting


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:117th Infantry North Carolina NG at St. Vith 1945.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:117th_Infantry_North_Carolina_NG_at_St._Vith_1945.jpg&oldid=661386897 (accessed October 14, 2022).

 

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When your novel is only a novella #amwriting

Sometimes we find that our work-in-progress is not a novel after all. We get to the finish point, and that place might be only at the 40,000-word mark (or less).

WritingCraft_short-storyIn some circles, 40,000 words is a novel, but in fantasy, it is less than half a book.

You could try to stretch the length, but why? If you have nothing of value to add to the tale, it’s better to be known for having written a strong novella than a weak novel.

I’m a wordy writer but sometimes the finished work is shorter than I’d planned–a lot shorter. Then I have to make a decision. I could choose to leave it at the length it is now and have it edited. Or I could try to expand it.

If my beta readers feel the plot lacks substance at that length, I let it rest for a while then come back to it. Then I can see where to add new scenes, events, and conversations to round out the story arc.

Other times, the story is complete, but only about half the length of a novel. Sometimes this happens in the revision process.

In the second draft of any manuscript, I weed out many words and hunt for unnecessary repetitions of information. At that stage, the manuscript will expand and contract. It hurts the novelist in my soul, but the story may only be 35,000 words long when the second draft is complete.

I do a lot of rambling when trying to visualize the story. While I usually do it in a separate document, it often bleeds over into my manuscript. During the editing process, I sometimes find that besides the four chapters that don’t fit the plot anymore, three more chapters mainly deal with background info, and can be condensed into one.

CAUTION INFO DUMP ZONE AHEADA detailed history of everyone’s background isn’t required. As a reader, all we need is a brief mention of historical information in conversation and delivered only when the protagonist needs to know it.

Unfortunately, I sometimes forget to write it out in a separate document.

Once I condense rambling passages, I end up with a scene that moves the story forward.

Some other things to watch for in the second draft are areas where I have repeated myself but with slightly different phrasing. These are hard for me to pick out, but they can be found. I decide which wording I like the best and go with that.

Also, in the first draft, I use a lot of “telling” words and phrases I will later change or cut. I look for active alternatives for words and phrases that weaken the narrative:

  • There was
  • To be

When I change these words to more active phrasing, I sometimes gain a few words in the process as showing requires more words than telling.

But then I lose words in other areas. Again, I’m speaking as a reader here, but when reading conversations especially, it’s good for an author to use contractions. It makes the conversations feel more natural and less formal. It shortens the word count because two words become one: was not becomes wasn’t, has not becomes hasn’t, etc.

Most times, I can cut some words, even entire paragraphs. Often the prose is stronger without them, and these words need no replacement.

In the first draft, I regularly employ what I think of as crutch words. I can lower my word count when I get rid of them. These are overused words that fall out of my head along with the good stuff as I’m sailing along:

  • So (my personal tic)
  • Very (Be wary if you do a global search – don’t press “replace all” as most short words are components of larger words, and ‘very’ is no exception.)
  • That
  • Just
  • Literally

I have learned to be ruthless. Yes, I might have spent three days or even weeks writing a chapter that now must be cut. But even though I try to plot an outline in advance, the arc might change as I write the first draft. New events emerge, and I find better ways to get to the end than what was first planned.

It hurts when a really good chapter no longer fits the story. But maybe it bogs things down when you see it in the overall context. It must go, but that chapter will be saved. With a name change and perhaps a few place-name changes it could be the genesis of a short story.

I save everything I cut in a separate file, as I guarantee I will find a use for it later. I always have a file folder inside each master file labeled “Outtakes.” Those cut pieces often become the core of a new story, a better use for those characters and events.

I have learned to pay close attention to the story arc. Once your first draft is complete, no matter how short or long, measure the story against the blueprint of the story arc.

blueprint-of-the-story-arc

  • How soon does my inciting incident occur? It should be near the front, as this will get the story going and keep the reader involved.
  • How soon does the first pinch point occur? This roadblock will set the tone for the rest of the story.
  • What is happening at the midpoint? Are the events of the middle section moving the protagonist toward their goal? Did the point of no return occur near or just after the midpoint?
  • Where does the third pinch point occur? This event is often a catastrophe, a hint that the protagonist might fail.
  • Is the ending finite, solid, and does it resolve the major problems? Even if this story is one part of a series, we who are passionate about the story we’re reading need firm endings.

Some people think they aren’t a real author if they don’t write a 900-page doorstop.

I tell them that it’s not important to have written a novel. Whether you write poems, short stories, novellas, or 700-page epic fantasies, you are an author.

The Emperor's Soul - Brandon SandersonNovellas hold a special place in my heart. A powerful, well-written novella can be a reading experience that shakes the literary world:

  1. The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson
  2. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
  4. Candide, by Voltaire
  5. Three Blind Mice, by Agatha Christie
  6. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The Time Machine, by H.G, Wells
  8. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  9. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
  10. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  11. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James

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How the Written Universe Works: The Inciting Incident #amwriting

Whether we show it in the prologue or the opening chapter, the first event, the inciting incident, is the one that changes everything and launches the story. The universe that is our story begins expanding at that moment.

the inciting incidentThe first incident has a domino effect. More events occur, pushing the protagonist out of his comfortable life and into danger. Fear of death, fear of loss, fear of financial disaster, fear of losing a loved one—terror is subjective and deeply personal.

I love stories about good people solving terrible problems, but I want them to mean something.

While I have experienced violent situations, I’ve also faced many things that shook my world but didn’t threaten my physical safety.

Arguments and confrontations are chaotic, leaving us wondering what just happened. We want to convey that sense of chaos in writing, but we must consider the reader. Readers want to see the scene and understand what they just read. We must design every action scene to ensure they fit naturally into a narrative from the first incident onwards.

The threat and looming disaster must be made clear to the reader at the outset. Nebulous threats mean nothing in real life, although they cause a lot of stress in our daily lives.

Those vague threats might be the harbinger of what is to come in a book, but they only work if the danger materializes quickly and the roadblocks to happiness soon become apparent.

Resolving disaster is the story. Hold the solution just out of reach for the following ¾ of the narrative. Every time we nearly have it fixed, we don’t, and things get worse.

The arc of the story begins with the first event, the inciting incident. The story’s arc occurs because the characters keep reaching for a resolution but can’t quite grasp it. Every attempt is blocked somehow.

959px-One_Ring_Blender_Render

The One Ring, Peter J. Yost, CC BY-SA 4.0

The characters reap the rewards of minor successes but not the golden ring. Those small rewards keep hope alive and keep the reader involved.

If the first problem was taken care of too quickly, why? What sort of trap was laid, and why did the characters take the bait?

If we do this right, we will move our readers emotionally and they will remain invested in our book.

I mentioned that confrontations are chaotic. It’s our job to control that chaos and make a narrative out of it. Nothing upsets a reader more than a book where the author contradicts something that was said or that happened before.

I choreograph action sequences, which can take a little time. Each character’s reactions must be portrayed in such a way the reader doesn’t say, “He wouldn’t do that.”

In real life, people don’t all react the same way. So, our characters can’t all be superheroes in a fight scene. It’s easy to lose the characters’ individuality in the jumble of actions that a confrontation is.

If your violence is war, go to history and see how battles were waged historically. Any war will do, but let’s say you are writing an account of a soldier’s experiences in modern warfare. Go to the Battle of the Bulgealso known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive.

512px-Western_Front_Ardennes_1944

US Army Center for Military History, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve used this battle as an example before because it was a pivotal point in World War II, and the placement of all the forces on both sides is well documented.

Also, one of my uncles fought and was wounded in that battle. Uncle Don came home with a metal plate in his head. American forces endured most of the attack, suffering their highest casualties of any operation during the war.

But you can look at any historical battle. Just remember that even though your book may explore a real soldier’s experiences, you are still writing a fantasy. The past is just hearsay, stories written by the victors. The future is a rumor that may not happen. The only moment that happens for sure is this moment, that moment you experience now.

Our characters exist in their own now, and the inciting incident kicks off their story. Perhaps the soldier’s inciting incident occurs when they join the army. From that point on, the actions and reactions of our soldiers must be logical even amidst the chaos of battle, or the reader will skip over that scene and possibly put the book down.

We make our characters knowable and likable (or not, as the case may be) through physical actions and conversational interactions. In the early part of the story, each scene should illuminate the characters’ motives. The reader must gain information at the same time as the protagonist does.

toolsHowever, the reader has an edge—they will be offered clues from the antagonists’ side, which the characters don’t know. The antagonist’s actions will affect the plot in the future. Even if the antagonist isn’t an overt enemy at the outset, the readers’ knowledge creates a sense of unease, a subliminal worry that things will go wrong.

Through the first half of the book, subtle foreshadowing is essential. This knowledge raises the stakes, increasing the tension.

Next week, we will look at ways to choreograph confrontations and violent encounters.

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Transitioning from scene to scene #amwriting

In my previous post, I showed how each scene is a small area of focus within a larger story and has an arc of its own. Small arcs hold up a larger arc. These arcs are created by events, and all the arcs form a cathedral-like structure that we call the story arc, which is the outer shell or the novel’s framework.

transitionsBy creating small arcs in the form of scenes, we offer the reader the chance to experience the rise and fall of tension, the life-breath of the novel.

Pacing is created by the way an author links actions and events, stitching them together with quieter scenes: transitions.

Transitions can be fraught with danger for me as a writer because this is where the necessary information, the exposition, is offered to the reader. This is the “how much is too much” moment.

In my first draft, the narrative is sometimes almost entirely exposition. This happens because I am telling myself the story, trying to get the events down before I forget them.

Every narrative has a kind of rhythm. While the characters might be in the midst of chaos, we must ensure there is order in the layout of the narrative.

  • action,
  • processing the action,
  • action again,
  • another connecting/regrouping scene

These “processing” scenes are transitions, moving the plot forward while allowing the reader to make sense of what just happened.

One word that slips into my first draft prose is the word “got.” It is a mental code word that I subconsciously used when laying down the story. This word signifies a small incident to revise in the second draft.

“Got” is on my global search list of “telling words.” The words in the list are signals to me, indications that a scene needs to be reworded to make it a “showing” scene.

Got:” He got the message = he understood.

Code_word_FeltCode words are the author’s first draft multi-tool—a compact tool that combines several individual functions in a single unit. One word, one packet of letters serves many purposes and conveys multiple mental images to the author.

In fact, all passive phrasing is a code. The author’s “subconscious writer” embeds signals in the first draft. It tells the author that the characters are transitioning from one scene to the next. They, or their circumstances, are undergoing a change. Is this change something the reader must know?

Each lull in the action should lead us into a new scene. When transitions are done right, readers won’t notice the narrative moving from one event to the next, as the progression feels natural.

Let’s look at two more code words for transitions:

  • Went
  • Thought

When I see the word “went,” I immediately know someone is going somewhere. It is a transition scene taking the characters to the next event.

I ask myself, “How did they go?” Went can be changed to any number of verbs:

  • walked
  • drove
  • rode
  • took
  • teleported
  • And so on and so on

You get the idea.

We can’t have non-stop action, as that is exhausting to write and more exhausting to read. The characters and the reader both need to process information, so the character arc should be at the forefront during these transitional scenes. That period of relative calm is when you allow your characters’ internal growth to emerge.

We allow the characters to justify the decisions that led to that point and plan their next move, making it believable.

The transition is also where you ratchet up the emotional tension.

We have more options than simply moving the characters from point A to point B, several paths to choose from.

strange thoughtsThought (Introspection):

  • Introspection offers an opportunity for new information to emerge.
  • It opens a window for the reader to see who the characters are and how they react and illuminate their fears and strengths. It shows that they are sentient beings, self-aware.

Keep the moments of mind wandering brief. Go easy if you use italics to set thoughts off. A wall of italics is hard to read, so don’t have your characters “think” too much if you use those.

  • Characters’ thoughts must serve to illuminate their motives at a particular moment in time.
  • In a conversation between two characters, introspection must offer information not previously discussed.
  • Internal monologues should not make our characters all-knowing. It should humanize them and show them as clueless about their flaws and strengths. It should even show they are ignorant of their deepest fears and don’t know how to achieve their goals.

Sometimes we have more than one character with information the reader needs to make sense of the next event.

The key is to avoid “head-hopping.” The best way to avoid confusion is to give a new chapter to each point-of-view character. Head-hopping occurs when an author describes the thoughts of two point-of-view characters within a single scene.

Visual Cues: In my own work, when I come across the word “smile” or other words conveying a facial expression or character’s mood, it sometimes requires a complete re-visualization of the scene. I look for a different way to express my intention, which is a necessary but frustrating aspect of the craft.

Fade-to-black is a time-honored way of moving from one event to the next. However, I don’t like using fade-to-black scene breaks as transitions within a chapter. Why not just start a new chapter once the scene has faded to black?

One of my favorite authors sometimes has chapters of only five or six hundred words, which keeps each character thread truly separate and flowing well. A hard scene break with a new chapter is my preferred way to end a fade-to-black.

Chapter breaks are transitions. As we write, chapter breaks fall naturally at certain places.

Conversations can serve as good transitions that propel the story forward to the next scene. However, they can easily become info dumps. In literary terms, a good conversation is about something we didn’t know and builds toward something we are only beginning to understand.

DangerThat is true of every aspect of a scene—it must reveal something we didn’t know and push the story forward toward something we can’t quite see.

The transition is the most challenging part of the narrative for me to formulate in the first draft. I get stuck, trying to decide what information needs to come out and what should be held back.

The struggle to connect my action scenes into a seamless arc is why writing isn’t the easiest occupation I could have chosen.

But when everything comes together, writing is the most satisfying job I have ever had.

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The Story Arc: delivering backstory #amwriting

Many writers who managed to write the entire story arc of their novel during November are now going back and looking at what they have written. This can be a dangerous moment in the life of your book.

Info DumpIn my last post, I talked about the good and bad aspects of two editing programs that I am familiar with, the things they do and don’t help us identify in our work. One more thing these wonderful programs can’t help us with is identifying bloated backstory.

Walls of fictional history muck up the transitions and flatten the story arc. They block the doors from one scene to the next.

Every story has a past, a present, and hopefully, a future. We write the story of our characters’ present moments, no matter what narrative tense we are using. Each character emerges from our minds with a personality. That personality was formed in some way by an unwritten past.

That history shaped the characters even though it isn’t written, and at first, we don’t consciously think about it. We open a document and start writing—we envision our characters with unique personalities the moment they step onto the first page.

At some point, we realize that a bit of backstory is needed. But how much, and how should we dole it out?

This is where it gets dicey. In the revision process, it’s tempting to inform the reader of this history by placing blocks of information in the first pages. It seems logical: before a reader can understand this thing, they need to know this other thing.

We can provide the reader with the backstory in several ways:

  • In conversation.
  • Memory/flashbacks
  • A brief recap of events

Each of these methods is both good and bad. While a certain amount of backstory is necessary for character and plot building, too much outright telling halts the momentum, freezes the real-time story in its tracks.

The opening paragraphs must be active. The first lines must step onto the stage in a way that feels original, informative, and engaging. The passages that follow must reflect and build upon the tone and cadence of the opening lines.

Before we dump information, we should consider what must be accomplished in each scene and allow the backstory to inform the reader only when it’s necessary to advance the plot.

CAUTION INFO DUMP ZONE AHEADLook at the first scene of your manuscript. Ask yourself three questions.

  1. Who needs to know what?
  2. Why must they know it?
  3. How many words do you intend to devote to it?

Dialogue is the easiest way to dole out information.

It is also a great way to fall into an info dump.

Don’t allow conversations to deteriorate into bloated exposition detailing unimportant fluff just to fill up space.

“Jack, remember when you nearly blew up the ship? Remember how you spent two weeks in the brig?”

“Yes, Jill. That meant you were one gun short to save the day. I almost lost the war for you, but you prevailed. I’m lucky to be your sidekick.”

“Well, Jack, what we’re dealing with this time has nothing to do with that. I’m just pointing out the obvious.”

We’re all familiar with the term ‘flatlined’ as a medical expression indicating the patient has died. A story arc can flatline in two ways:

  • The pauses become halts, long passages of haphazard info dumps that have little to do with the action.
  • The action becomes random, an onslaught of meaningless events that make no sense.

One way to avoid a flatlined story arc is through character interaction. Your characters briefly discuss what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. Then, they bravely muck on to the next event.

Another way is to insert short moments of introspection between the action. Our character’s thoughts offer opportunities for doling out new information essential to the story.

Don’t ramble on, either in conversation or introspection. If you go on for too long, your reader will either skip forward or close the book.

When they are brief but informational, these moments open a window for the reader to see who the characters think they are. Their introspection illuminates their fears and strengths.

It shows that our characters have a sense of self.

The problem with conveying the backstory is that timing and pacing are essential. The moment to mention it in passing is when the character needs that information to make decisions as they go forward. If the character doesn’t need to know it, neither does the reader.

That way, you avoid the dreaded info dump, but the reader can extrapolate the needed backstory.

In the most gripping narratives I have read, character introspection is brief but delivers crucial information. Internal monologues are featured but are kept minimal, only addressing what is essential. They serve to illuminate a character’s motives at a particular moment in time.

So, conversation and introspection are where we only deliver information not previously discussed and that the reader needs to know at that moment. Repetition is monotonous and pads the word count with fluff.

I suggest you don’t stop the action with a prolonged recap of previous adventures. It’s all right to work in a brief mention. However, if the events were detailed in a previous book in that series, the reader will probably be aware of the history. As a reader, I can say that a longwinded rant about things I already know does not keep my interest.

No matter the genre, in all stories, complications create tension, and information is a reward.

A trick I have found for whittling down info dumps is this: look at the word count.

to dole out phrasal verbI look at each conversation and assess how many words are devoted to each character’s statement and response. Then, when I come to a passage that is inching toward a monologue, I ask myself, “what can be cut that won’t affect the flow of the story or gut the logic of the plot?”

Even with all the effort I apply to it, my editor will find places to shave off the unnecessary length.

Sometimes we write brilliantly, and those moments give us hope when we churn out less than stellar prose. Weeding that garden of words is not easy, but readers will be glad you tried.

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#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2 #amwriting

I have developed mad skills at carving out time for writing because I participate in NaNoWriMo every November. As a municipal liaison for the Olympia area, I must get a minimum of 1,667 new words written each day.

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_Novel_in_a_monthI usually do this with a little advance preparation. Then on November 1st, I sit in front of my computer, and using the ideas I have outlined as my prompts, I wing it for at least two hours.

So, where am I in this process? I’m now listing prompts for the middle of my novel, book 2 of a fantasy series.

However, for this series of posts I’m using an exercise from a past seminar on plotting to illustrate how my method works. This is a plot that can be set in any contemporary, paranormal fantasy, or sci-fi world. Change the vehicles from cars to horses and carriages, and it can be placed in a historical world.

Depending on your personal inclination, this could be written as a political thriller or a romance, or a combination of both.

In my last post, we met our protagonist, Dave, an unmarried accountant. We saw him in his usual surroundings, a café he regularly has lunch at. An event occurred, which is the inciting incident. What could possibly have enticed Dave out of his comfort zone? What did he do that was out of character for him? He “paid it forward” and bought a stranger lunch.

  • This act changes his life. It’s the first point of no return, leading to the first crisis.

Dave didn’t know it, but that was the moment he was thrown out of his comfort zone and into the situation, which is the core of the plot.

  • Dave walked toward his office, only a few blocks away, but as he waited for the light to change so he could cross the street, a limousine pulled up alongside him. Four large men in black suits hustled him into the backseat.
  • He was forced at gunpoint onto a plane bound for a foreign nation, handcuffed to a suitcase with no explanation.

Those are the circumstances in which Dave found himself in my last post. 

scienceHow will the next phase of Dave’s story start? That will begin the middle section of the story, and this is what we are going to give a brief outline of.

As I’ve mentioned before, everything that occurs from here until the final page happens because Dave has an objective: he wants to go home.

I suggest we give ourselves a few prompts, all of which center around Dave achieving his objective: to get rid of the suitcase and go back to his job. He wants that desperately. Desire drives the story. Objectives + Risk = Story

  1. A silent guard accompanies Dave.
  2. Dave has been left in possession of his cell phone, but mysteriously, it has no signal.
  3. They arrive at the embassy.
  4. Dave is taken to an interrogation room and questioned about his relationship with the woman he bought lunch for.
  5. Dave discovers that the only key that can remove the handcuffs is in the custody of the mysterious woman who is interrogating him.
  6. The woman leaves the room. While she is out, Dave’s phone lights up with a text message from his boss in Seattle. Because he hasn’t been to work for two days and didn’t call in, he has been fired.
  7. He can’t seem to call out or reply to the message, another mysterious thing.
  8. The interrogator returns, having verified that Dave is who he claims he is. She also seems to know he’s now unemployed.
  9. She offers him a job. All he has to do is babysit the suitcase for two months until a certain agent who is otherwise occupied can claim it.
  10. Dave wants to go home, but he can’t. He’s unemployed and homeless in a foreign country with no luggage, and no money other than his credit cards, which have limits. If he accepts the job, he will be given a work visa, a flat to live in, and a salary.
  11. He needs these things to achieve his deepest desire: to go back to Seattle and get another accounting job, which he can do after fulfilling his part of the bargain.
  12. The wage he is offered is good, significantly so, which makes him nervous. Still, he can see no choice but to accept the job. (The second point of no return, leading to the next crisis.) After all, he’s always wanted to visit (Stockholm? Insert foreign capital here).
  13.  Anyway, how hard can it be to babysit a locked suitcase?

That question must come back to haunt him for the next 40,000 words, and if you list a few prompts, you will take Dave to his ultimate meeting with fate.

Hindrances matter. Add to the list of obstacles as you think of them, as those difficulties are what will force change on the protagonist, keeping him and his story moving forward.

The_Pyramid_Conflict_Tension_PacingIn any story, the crucial underpinnings of conflict, tension, and pacing are bound together. Go too heavily on one aspect of the triangle, and the story fails to engage the reader. By outlining a few important events now, we can add trouble and hitches during the writing process and increase the tension. Pacing will be something to worry about in the second draft—at this point, we just want to get the bones of his adventure down on paper.

Scenes involving conflict are controlled chaos—controlled on the part of the author. Stories that lack conflict are character studies. And perhaps, a character study is what you wish to write, and that is okay too. It’s just a different kind of story, more literary in its approach. Regardless, it will need an arc of some sort to bring change and growth to the protagonist.

The middle is often easiest to write because that is where the action happens. But it can easily be messed up, again with too much detail inserted in dumps. Several more events will follow, all of them leading toward one or more confrontations with the enemy. Without a loose outline, some of these events will be “desperation events.”

  • Killing off random characters
  • Random explosions
  • Yet another gratuitous sex scene

Next week we will plot the conclusion of Dave’s adventure. We’ll also examine the way writing the ending first can inspire beginnings. My 2010 NaNoWriMo novel grew out of what was really the final chapter.


#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 1

This Post: #NaNoPrep, The Story Arc Part 2

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#NaNoPrep, The Story Arc part 1 #amwriting

Today’s post begins a three-part series on the story arc. At this point, I’ve been talking about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, for several weeks. It begins on November 1st, and to sign up, go to www.nanowrimo.org .

WritingCraft_NaNoPrep_Novel_in_a_monthWe know our genre and have written a few paragraphs that describe our characters and who they are the day before the story opens. Also, we know where the story takes place. (To catch up on earlier posts, the list is at the bottom of this article.)

I always feel it’s necessary to have a brief outline of the story arc when I sit down to write. “Pantsing it” is exhilarating, but my years of experience with NaNoWriMo have taught me that when I am winging it for extended lengths of time, I lose track of the plot and go off the rails.

Not having even a loose outline creates a lot more work in the long run. It stalls the momentum if I must stop writing, take the time to analyze where I’m at, and then throw together an outline for the next section. Stopping the flow lowers my NaNoWriMo word count for that day.

For those who are new to writing and are just learning the ropes, turning your idea about a book you’d like to write into a manuscript you would want to read takes a little work.

First, you need to know how to construct a story.

magicEvery reader knows that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They start in a place of relative comfort, and through rising action, they follow the characters through events that change them for better or worse.

However, when a new writer sits down to write a novel in only thirty days with no plan and no idea what they’re going to write, they can easily lose interest and stop writing altogether. Others might force themselves to get their 50,000 words, but have no control of character arcs, setting, or plot. They end up with backstory infodumps and side quests to nowhere. The ending either slowly faints away or is chopped off.

All the infodumps and history can be gotten out of the way before you begin the opening paragraphs on November 1st.

The progression of events from an opening line to a final paragraph is called a story arc. It is called an arc because the action begins at a quiet point, rises to a pitch, and ends at another quiet point.

So, let’s consider the beginning. Now is a good time to write a line or two describing the opening scene, simple prompts for when the real work begins.

Beginnings are the most critical and are easiest to mess up with too much information. All beginnings are comprised of situation, circumstances, and objectives.

  • A good story opens with the main character and introduces their companions (if any). (Circumstances)
  • The antagonist and their cohorts are introduced. (Circumstances)
  • With the introductions out of the way, something occurs that pushes the main character out of their comfort zone. (Situation and Circumstances)
  • That event is called the “inciting incident” and is named that because this occurrence incites all the action that follows. (Objectives)
  • These scenes comprise the first ¼ of the story arc. The beginning ends with the first major incident, where the action kicks into high gear, transitioning to the middle section of the story. (Situation, Circumstances, and Objectives)

strange thoughts 2In your musings, on what day does the serious event occur, the one that changes everything? THAT day is where the story begins, and everything that happens before that moment is backstory and isn’t necessary. A plot outline I have used before as an example is set as a political thriller, but it could easily be a paranormal fantasy, a sci-fi thriller, or a romance.

At the outset of the story, we find our protagonist and see him/her in their normal surroundings. Once we have met them and seen them in their comfort zone, an event occurs which is the inciting incident. This is the first point of no return.

At the outset, Dave, an unmarried accountant, sees a woman from across a café, and through a series of innocent actions on his part, he is caught up in a spy ring. We begin with the protagonist.

  • What could possibly entice Dave out of his comfort zone? What would he spontaneously do that is out of character for him? Perhaps he buys a stranger lunch. This act must change his life.

Because Dave paid for a stranger’s meal, he draws the attention of the people who are following her. They think he must be involved with her, putting him at risk.

That was the inciting incident, the moment that changed everything.

Now, Dave is thrown out of his comfort zone and into the situation, which is the core of the plot.

  • On his way back to his office, a white limousine pulls up alongside him, and four men in black suits hustle him into the backseat. He is forced at gunpoint onto a plane bound for a foreign nation, handcuffed to a suitcase. The only other key that can remove the handcuffs is at the Embassy in the custody of a mysterious woman.

This is the circumstance in which Dave finds himself at the beginning of the story. 

  • How will the next phase of Dave’s story start? That will begin the middle section of the story.

Now we come to the next part of the core of your plot: objective.

  • At this point, our hero just wants to get rid of the suitcase and go back to his job. He wants that desperately. Desire drives the story.

Everything that occurs from here until the final page happens because Dave has an objective: he wants to go home.

However, to counter the enemy, we must decide how to get Dave and his story to the next plot point, which we’ll discuss in the next post.

Those paragraphs are all that is needed as far as an outline for the beginning goes, unless you’re in the mood to go deeper. All we need is an idea of who, what, and where. We’ll discuss how to plot the middle, or the why, in the next post.

WordItOut-word-cloud-4074543If you work at a day job and using the note-taking app on your cellphone to take notes during work hours is frowned on, you can still capture your ideas for the storyboard.

Carry a pocket-sized notebook and pencil and write those ideas down. You can discreetly make notes whenever you have an idea that would work well in your story, and you won’t be noticeably distracted or off-task.

Part 2 of this topic will talk about action and reaction, plotting the middle of the story arc.


#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:

#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story?  (the storyboard)

#NaNoPrep, Setting: Creating the Big Picture

#NaNoPrep, Building Characters

#NaNoPrep, More Character Building

#NaNoPrep, Creating Societies

#NaNoPrep, Designing Science, Magic, and the Paranormal

#NaNoPrep, Terrain and Geography

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections

#NaNoPrep, Construction and Deconstruction

This Post: The Story Arc Part 1

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Structure of the Word-Pond #amwriting

Today we’re winding down my summer blogpost series, The Word-Pond. We’ve explored the myriad aspects of ‘depth,’ the wide inferential layer of Story. Depth isn’t easy to categorize, nor can we point to one aspect and say, “Get this right, and you’ve got a story with depth.”

I’ve described Story as a pond filled with words and discussed the three layers:

Surface: The Literal Layer; the what-you-see-is-what-you-get layer. Characters live, and events happen. These are reflected in the surface of the story. The ways in which we play with the surface layer are by choosing either Realism or Surrealism, or a blend of the two.

Middle: The Inferential Layer, where Inference and Implication come into play. This is an area of unknown quantity filled with cause and effect: the reasons why these lives are portrayed, and why events happened. This is where emotions muddy the waters.

Bottom: The Interpretive Layer. This level is not only foundational; it contains and shapes the story:

  • Themes
  • Commentary
  • Messages
  • Symbolism
  • Archetypes

The words in this pond behave like the waters of a pond in nature. While close scrutiny reveals that the waters of a pond are separated into layers by temperature, salinity, microbial life, or by the sheer weight and pressure of the volume of water, the overall structure is one large, important thing: a hole filled with water.

Without water, a pond is a depression in the ground filled with possibilities only.

In our word pond, the one large thing containing our words is “story.” So now we want to form these layers into a coherent, meaningful story. We need a container for our words, the hole in the ground for the story to flow into.

This container is the story arc.

Many people say they have a book in them, one they’d love to write. They begin, get a chapter or so into it, and lose the thread. They can’t see how to get the story from the beginning, to the crisis, to the resolution.

This is where the skills I’ve developed through my years of participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has paid off.  If you want to write a novel, it’s best to sit down and get that first draft out of you while the story is fresh in your mind. You’ll spend a year or more rewriting it, but if you don’t get the original ideas down while they’re fresh, you’ll lose them.

A story begins with an idea for a character. That character usually comes to me along with a problem. This is the seed from which the story grows.

I sit down and draft a story plan in four acts. First, I tell myself how I believe the story will go. This only takes half an hour and gives me finite plot points to write to. Once I have the four acts, I know where the turning points are, and what should happen at each. This ensures there is an arc to both the overall story and to the characters’ growth.

I’m going to use the original plot idea for a work in progress as my example. My WIP is a short story, 5000 words in length, but you can plot any length of story.

The story: Our Protagonist is a courier, transporting a valuable artifact. This artifact brings her to the attention of the Antagonist who intends to seize it, no matter the cost.

You must know what the surface of the Story looks like before you can explore the depths. A good way to discover what you are writing is to “think out loud.” Divide the story into four acts:

Act 1: the beginning: We show the setting, the protagonist, and the opening situation.

  1. Setting: a village near a crossroads.
  2. The weather is unseasonably cold.
  3. The protagonist is carrying a jewel reputed to enable a mage to control the weather.
  4. The protagonist must travel alone, as her partner was killed.
  5. Unbeknownst to her, a traitor in her employer’s court has designs on the artifact. By possessing it, the Antagonist will have the power to usurp the throne.
  6. She is wary, knowing the danger of traveling alone. She conceals the artifact by sewing it inside her shirt.

Act 2: First plot point: The inciting incident.

  1. The Antagonist’s hired thugs capture her.
  2. She is thrown into prison.
  3. A fellow prisoner has overheard that her partner was murdered to ensure she would be traveling alone.
  4. This fellow prisoner believes he has a plan to enable their escape.
  5. The protagonist isn’t sure she should trust him but refuses to let the artifact fall into the Antagonist’s hands.

Act 3.: Mid-point: We show their dire condition and how they deal with it.

  1. Seeing no other way, our Protagonist agrees to the Sidekick’s plan.
  2. He is on the verge of managing an escape but needs help with one last thing.
  3. By working together for several days, they manage to complete the escape route.
  4. Timing the rotation of their guards is critical to the success of their plan.
  5. Just as they are about to make their escape, the Antagonist makes a surprise visit to the dungeon and roughs up our Protagonist. He batters her physically and mentally, attempting to force her to tell him the whereabouts of the jewel, but she manages to keep her secret. When he leaves, her shirt is torn, but the jewel is still safe.

Act 4: Resolution:

  1. They must wait for another rotation of the guards, giving the Protagonist a chance to rest. She is injured but can still do what she must.
  2. The two make their escape but find themselves emerging near the kennels.
  3. The Sidekick gives the watchdogs the food he had saved for their journey, distracting the dogs and allowing them to escape over the walls.
  4. The Protagonist and the Sidekick manage to keep ahead of their pursuers and arrive back at court, where she delivers the artifact and reveals the identity of the traitor.
  5. The Employer is grateful, and the Protagonist and her Sidekick are all set for another adventure—perhaps a novel.

You have an idea for a story. Take a moment to analyze and plan what needs to be said by what point in the story arc. This method works for me because I’m a linear thinker.

If you know the length of a book or story you intend to write, you know how many words each act should be. Once you have the map, you can get to the nitty-gritty of turning that far-fetched tale of woe into a good story.

As you write each event and connect the dots, the plot will evolve and change. You begin to explore the deeper aspects of the story. Emotions, both expressed and unexpressed, secrets withheld, truths discovered—all these details that emerge as you write will shape how the characters react to each other. In turn, these interactions will alter the shape of the larger story.

This is why we never really know how a story will go, even if we begin with a plan. The plan serves to keep us on track with length and to ensure the action doesn’t stall.

Draft a short plan for a 50,000 word manuscript. 50,000 words is the industry standard for a novel. Write 1,667 words a day that connect those events together, and in thirty days you will have written a 50,000 word first draft of your novel.

To see more of what National Novel Writing Month is all about, go to: www.nanowrimo.org

I am dragon_fangirl there. Look me up and become a writing buddy!

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