Good morning, NaNonites! We’re halfway through October, and you know what that means? NaNoWriMo is CLOSE! Time to give your prep hell!
We’ve already looked at your characters and your world, but today we’re going to look at the one thing that’s going to bring the two together: your plot. This is kinda important and today’s worksheet is a four-page monster, so if you haven’t made tea already do it now 🙂
All good? Then let’s begin!
Your plot is everything, friends. Everything. Without one, your story is going to lack direction, and while it’s been said that a book with a weak plot can be saved if the characters are exceptional, we don’t want to take that risk. Especially during NaNo. Also, the weaker your plot is when you start, the more re-writing you’re going to have to do later, and no one wants that.
The number one reason writers get stuck halfway through their drafts is because they haven’t got a plot, and NaNoWriMo is so not the time for that.
But I don’t mean to scare you or put you off. Honestly, it’s not that bad. It’s because the plot is so important (seriously, tho, not trying to send you running) that I love creating it!
I didn’t always find it easy, though. I mean, your plot is your book! Where do you even start? What do you write down first? How do you make sense of something that doesn’t fudging exist yet?
Today’s worksheet is designed to help you figure out what your book is all about, and what your plot is or could be. It’s the one worksheet that will make sure you don’t get stuck halfway through NaNo. Might sound scary, but this worksheet breaks your plot down into manageable chunks.
And they’re big chunks, friends, so do take your time with this one.
I can’t give you an example of my own work this week because River forbids it, so let’s dive right into the key points:
- Opening – just write down a few lines describing the opening scene – where is your MC? what are they doing? how does it set up the rest of the book? If you already have a great idea for a first line, include that, too!
- Theme – is your book going to be dark? Do you want to make people smile? Are you hoping to inspire people? Your theme is so important and yet it’s often overlooked at this stage, so be sure to include a few lines about your book’s overall theme, and how you hope to achieve it throughout – trust me, this’ll be a great reminder as you write. If your unicorns start pooping rainbows two thirds through November but your theme said something about darkness, you may want to rethink the direction your story has taken or change the theme.
- Character Set-Up – we’ve already looked at your characters, but include them here, anyway – a couple of details, like their name and relation to the MC, will do. You’ve already done all the hard work a couple of weeks ago. (this is a good moment to pat yourself on the back and get a cookie as a reward)
- Catalyst – this is the big event that sets your MC on their journey, and essentially the reason you’re going to have a book. (deep breaths, friends, you’ve got this) This needs to be big enough for your character to decide to leave his old life behind, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the MC’s decision – it’s okay for your MC to be forced into their new role! Acceptance comes later.
- Doubts & Decisions – your character has set out on her journey, but now she’s wondering if she can really do this. Your MC also needs to come to a decision – why does she continue despite her worries? Does she overcome her doubts, or does she decide that her quest is bigger than she is?
- Progression – aka the awkward middle part of your book. Now that your MC has decided to go ahead regardless of their doubts (or with their doubts dead on the ground behind them), how do they, well, proceed? What’s their next step after deciding to do this?
- Side Plot – your plot – the big, main plot – is what moves the story forward, but the side plots are what move your character forward. Quite often this is love, but it could be anything! Just remember – the plot is important to the book, but the side plots are important to your individual characters. I recommend having one side plot for each MC for this very reason.
- Recess – think of this as one big party before everything goes to hell; it’s insane how often this is a wedding! Your characters are about to lose all hope and go through a huge struggle, so this is a good moment to give them a last moment of happiness before you make all their worst fears come true.
- Mid-Point – this is quite literally the mid-point in your book – once your MC gets here, there’s no going back. Your character needs to come to a decision here, and it needs to be a point of no return. For example, your MC could decide that, to defeat evil, he will sacrifice himself, or he could conclude that, no matter how easy it sounds, joining a phone sex line is not the way to get through college and he’ll take the boring but socially acceptable mechanic job instead.
- The Baddies Close In – this is the calm before the storm. Everything was going so well, but your MC has just decided that she won’t back down, and now your antagonist don’t give your MC any other option, either. The bad guys are coming. This is it, friends. The moment your readers have been waiting for.
- All is Lost – Blake Snyder describes this as the part where mentors go to die, because that’s usually what happens here. Someone, or maybe something, your MC has relied on throughout their journey dies, and it sends your MC to a very dark place. It’s also the reason the MC then rallies his troops and gives the bad guys hell. It doesn’t need to be a person. If your MC doesn’t have anyone like that but has drawn strength from the bracelet her father gave her on his deathbed, make sure your MC loses that bracelet in a very dramatic way.
- Doubt – your MC has just lost everything; this is a natural reaction. They are hurting (and hopefully your readers are feeling things right about now, too), and doubt how they can possibly continue now their mentor/bracelet is gone.
- Merge Plots – remember your side plot? Fortunately, you’ll have been developing this throughout the awkward mid section, so merging your side plot with your main plot won’t be a problem 😉
- Finale – dun dun dun DUN! This is it! One side either wins or loses (or makes it look that way, anyway – if you’re writing a series, you do kinda need to leave a few things open). How does your book end? I know this bit is hard for many of us, so be vague if you need to be. I also like to make a note here of where my characters are at the end of the book. Where are they physically? Where are they emotionally? Who are they with?
You may recognise some of these points if you’ve ever read the wonderful book that is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. When I first started writing, his list of beats was a huge help. I’ve adapted his points since then to fit what I need and how I work, so feel free to do the same with mine! If you haven’t read Save the Cat yet, I recommend that you do. It’s humorous as well as educational, which makes it the perfect theory read, if you ask me.
You may remember me saying that your characters and your world are going to develop and grow as you write? The same is true for your plot. If you decide now, in the prep stage, that Jonny is going to break up with Karen halfway through the book but Jonny then decides they give having an open relationship a try, run with it! See where it takes you! Your characters will do this sooner or later, so you may as well get used to it 🙂 You can only do so much – if your characters have other plans, trust their instincts. Prepare, but expect that your characters won’t agree at some point and turn left when you made it quite clear that they are to turn right.
Just like with the previous two weeks, don’t panic if you don’t have all the answers right now. If you don’t know how exactly everything is going to go downhill yet, leave it blank. Quite often the answers will come to you while you do something else. Going for a walk, taking a shower, or doing the dishes are excellent ways of letting your mind wander and hopefully solve these holes while you do other things. Just remember to keep a notebook or app handy. My characters tend to answer whatever is left while I write and yours will probably do the same, so don’t worry.
This thing you’re writing is all about them, after all. You’ve got this, and so have they.
Take a deep breath, do what you can, set the rest aside, and know that you’ve given yourself an excellent start. You’ve got this, NaNonite! I’m with you all the way!
Here’s your free 4-page worksheet:
If you’d like to do a little more, consider signing up to my newsletter – you get a free novel project planner when you do 😉 The sign-up form is underneath this post. Just don’t over-plan, okay? It’s the death of NaNo, friends.
That’s the hard work done! You’ve created your characters, you’ve built your world, and you’ve got the faint outlines of a plot ready to go – it’s time for a bit of fun! Next week we’re going to set our rewards and look at our reading lists. There’s nothing like staying motivated and inspired when you’re putting yourself through NaNo, and that’s precisely what we’ll ensure next week 😉
You’re welcome to join me on the official NaNoWriMo website, too <3
Happy plotting, NaNonite! I’ll see you next week!
How do you plot your book? What are your pitfalls? Which parts worry you? Get yourself another tea, get a cookie, and let’s chat!
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