National Novel Writing Month is upon us once again. Two years ago, I discovered this phenomena and introduced it to my class. I was greeted with open-mouthed shock, but they all went on to write a novel in thirty days. As did I. Over the next two years, I revised and rewrote that novel, polishing it until it shone. Now I await its publication.
But November looms, and November is not about basking in the success of a completed novel. It’s about cranking out the sequel. I am more than a little terrified, since I don’t think I will have the luxury of two years of revising to polish this one. I envision legions of fans demanding the sequel by next summer. I’m sure I will be inundated by their requests!
So I must plan carefully. The idea of outlining the book and assigning a chapter to each of my students crossed my mind (while I was under the influence of mild panic), but I rejected it. My students are too eager to write their own novels! So, like I did two years ago, I worked through the character planning with them, planning the three main characters in excruciating detail. But characters are no good alone. I need to give that protagonist something he wants more than anything. Then I need to give my antagonist a reason to get in the way. Then I need a role for the sidekick. It has to make sense. And it has to be a minimum of 50,000 words. (more if I want it to be closer to publishable)
So what goes into a good NaNo plot? (Good being defined as potential for a lot of words) It needs a solid beginning, middle, and end. And it needs to have the potential to add more scenes to make the word count, if necessary.
One way to do this is to write the EPIC QUEST. Introduce the protagonist and his sidekick in the beginning. Set the world (setting, time period), and write the inciting event that sends our hero on the quest for…the Jewel of Youth, the Fountain of Power, the Triforce of Everlasting Beauty…whatever object he must have or the world ends. This is a good plot because you have a built-in climax when the protagonist struggles to achieve the item once he/she reaches it. You also have a built-in ending when the hero triumphantly returns. In between, a myriad of possiblities for adding scenes exists as the protagonist makes his/her way to the item and back.
Another option is to write the TWISTED PLOT. In this one, you have multiple characters, each with their own story arc, interacting in a story that has an overall arc of its own. For example, On a Wing and a Dare is about a town that is striving to save its herd of winged horses. The horses are poisoned and begin to die, so they must save the horses and find out how they were poisoned. The protagonist, Emma, assists in that effort, but she has her own arc, too. She doesn’t want to become a rider in her father’s barn as tradition demands. She wants to ride a winged horse in a rival barn. Her boyfriend, Evan, is a junior rider in that rival barn. He wants to be a leader, to have his own barn with riders that look up to him. Evan’s brother, Davyd, is in love with Emma. Davyd is scheduled to become a rider with Emma, but he is secretly afraid of heights. Then there is Tristan, Lady Margery, and Lord Farley, all with their own arc, weaving into the overall story about the horses. Complicated, but lots of words.
I’m sure there are other ways to organize a NaNo plot. I know you have story ideas. What organizational device are you going to use to make sure you meet your word goal?
On my Kindle: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (which, by the way, started out as a NaNo novel)