October 24, 2011

Nanowrimo: Plan Ahead - by Patricia

Patricia is an awesome writer, an old friend, and a new blogger. She's just started Swimming in Words, but her posts are both fun and informative. If you've got time, please stop by her blog and check it out.


Nanowrimo: Plan Ahead by Patricia

A couple of weeks ago, when Lori asked me if I'd like to guest post for her, I was super excited but at the same time, at a bit of a loss as to what to write. But then with NaNo WriMo so close and me trying to fit time in to do my planning, I decided to focus on that.

For me NaNo WriMo is a good time to be strict with myself and get the writing out. Everything else, all the fine tuning, I'll have time to do it after my first draft is done. At the end of the day, there's no editing if there's no story to edit. Planning ahead is the way to go!

Now, everyone works differently and I'm the type of person who, when I write, not only needs to know what my end goal is (even if this end goal changes later on), I also need to have a word count in mind. It doesn't have to be super detailed to begin with, just something basic works.

I jotted down my idea, then tried to flesh it out a bit just with the little specific scenes and characters that are already in my head. They don't amount to much yet, but it helps with the rest of my planning. I start from the beginning by answering a question from Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Navakovich:

What do your characters treasure?
1. Basic values – what they treasure most
2. What happens when these are threatened?

This gets me thinking about my main character, the things she values and what she's willing to fight for, what she'll do when those things are under threat. It helps me decide the path that my MC will start out on. Makes a nice kick start!

With that, I can move onto my next stage, which is the 8 Point Story Arc.

The 8 Point Story Arc fits into most of the stories we've read or watched, and it helps you structure your own story. It goes like this:

1. Stasis (or routine)
2. Trigger (or inciting incident)
3. Quest
4. Surprise (or complication)
5. Critical choice
6. Climax
7. Reversal
8. Resolution

The thing is, at this point my main character, and maybe her closest friends, are all I have so I work entirely off of them, which is why the question about my MC's values is a helpful one. It gives me the start I need for the 8 PSA. Based on her history and keeping it as brief as possible, I start going through the points and jotting down something for each one, trying to get them to feed off of one
another. It doesn't always work and even if it does, chances are it could end up changing completely, but I do end up with a basic outline to follow for when I begin to go into more detail in the outline.

You can find some good, clear examples of how the 8 PSA works over here at parafantasy.

And then last but not least! I round up my basic plan with fractal planning!

This is where knowing my word count comes in. For this new novel I'm planning, I'd like the end result to be 75-80k. Because NaNo WriMo's word count is 50k and that's hard enough, I'll be working to that instead and then see what happens during the editing process.

The reason why I need to work to a word count from the beginning is because it helps me split my time and figure out how much I'll be able to get done each day. Like the majority of people doing NaNo WriMo, I'm going to have the crazy task of fitting in all this writing around my working days and other chores. Knowing my word count helps me stay a bit more in control while still letting me focus on just writing. It also helps because I'm used to working in scenes (not scenes and sequels, more along the lines of a screenplay scene), so if I know the word count, I can figure out possible chapters and then fit stuff in.

So! Fractal planning! Basically, you've got your total word count (50k) and then you break your story up into three acts: beginning, middle and end. The middle is usually double the word count of both your beginning and end.

I end up with:

Beginning – 12.5k
Middle – 25k
End – 12.5k

And then I break those down too:

Beginning, B – 3,125 / M – 6250 / E – 3,125
Middle, B – 6,250 / M – 12,500 / E – 6,250
End, B – 3,125 / M – 6,250 / E – 3,125

And then I break down the remaining 12.5k and 6,250, until I end up with all of them about 3,125 words. It probably sounds like a bit of a dragged out process, and there are plenty of simpler ways to work out your story. This just happens to work for me. Because then, if I turn that 3,125 into a chapter word count, I end up with:

ACT 1 – Beginning, 4 chapters
ACT 2 – Middle, 8 chapters
ACT 3 – End, 4 chapters
Total: 16 chapters

That's by no means anything concrete, but this is what I'll work towards and fit my 8 PSA into. Chances are each of these chapters will grow to about 3.5 – 4.5k but it's something that can be worked out later. For now though, this, is a lot easier to work into my routine.

So why the completely unnecessary roundabout way of doing this? It helps me focus and makes me feel more in control of the process once I actually enter the madness of NaNo WriMo on the 1st November. From now until then, I'll even have the chance to do small basic outlines for my chapters too!

Well, that's pretty much it. There's still an entire week to get yourself in order and make the most of it. The more you prepare, the better the chance there is of you having a novel come 30th November.

Good luck to any fellow Nanoers and to anyone about to start a new novel too!

My NaNo Page


Have a great week, guys! ♥

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