When it comes to planning a novel, I am not the happiest peach in the basket.
Usually, I get this absolutely spectacular idea for a story and after scribbling down the basics I start writing away, blissfully happy that I have no idea what's gonna happen next.
You know what's wrong with this way of writing? Absolutely nothing.
This is way I write 335 days of the year.
Just not the 30 days of NaNoWriMo.
I don't like myself during NaNo if I write like this.
During NaNo a little planning goes a loooooooong way.
Every year it seems I end up deciding too late what I'm going to write, and every year I end up with only half an outline. And every year I struggle with the last two weeks, last few thousand words. In December I'm this glorious mess of having written all tangled up with the--"It would have been so much easier if I'd just planned!" syndrome.
So here's a quick run through of all the Plot Points you should outline before you start NaNo. And the sooner the better.
1st Plot Point
1st Pinch Point
2nd Pinch Point
Third Plot Point
Yeah, so what are all of these?
These lovelies are where all the good bad stuff happens. Where things progress from bad to worse. Let me explain:
The Inciting Event
This it the moment your protagonist gets the call to adventure or the first major event of the story. But don't take the word major literally. The Inciting Event can really just be one small tweak in the life of your main character, it is not a drastic change to her way of living. But ultimately, this one moment begins everything. It's the starting place where everything that comes after is a result of it.
For example: In Forever Young the Inciting Event is when Helen is hit by a car and is left in the hospital in a coma they are not sure she will ever come out of, or live through.
The Key Event/1st Plot Point
Sometimes separate, sometimes the same thing, sometimes one right after the other.
The Key Event is where it becomes clear your protagonist can no longer avoid the conflict, this is where it gets personal. The 1st Plot Point is where she recognizes this is where things have gotten so out of whack she can't NOT do something about it.
In Forever Young Daniel decides to be frozen in his friend's machine, and the 1st Plot Point would be when he is discovered by two boys fifty years later.
1st Pinch Point
Your antagonist should be well established by now, but this is where we get to see him or the central conflict show its control over your protagonist and the events of the story. Though a smaller disaster compared to the past and future Plot Points, this still raises the stakes. Meaning, the protagonist now has more to lose than before, and confirms the terror the antagonist or the conflict is spreading.
In Forever Young, it's definitely not a huge Pinch Point, but serves as a wonderful example none the less. Daniel is invited into the home of the two boys who tell him they found the machine in the middle of a junk yard. This is bad because earlier when we saw when Daniel was put to sleep in the machine he was safe with his friend. How did he end up here?
This is significantly bad moment for the protagonist. Where everything changes yet AGAIN. A very, very-very bad moment for him. And up until now everything your character has done has been just a reaction to the story events. This is where your character straightens up and says, "No more." Where they start, literally, taking things into their own hands.
Daniel is devastated when the Harry Finley he meets is not the friend who put him to sleep in the machine, Forever Young.
2nd Pinch Point
Another slight cracking of the knuckles of your antagonist and we see again just how nasty the forces against our protagonist are. But this time it's even worse. The 2nd Pinch Point has got to be another bad moment, greater even than the last pinch point.
While fixing a roof Daniel has an "age-attack" and nearly falls. This is greater than the last Pinch Point because it shows us now that Daniel is not going to be able to stay young, in Forever Young.
Third Plot Point
The beginning of the race to the Climax. Larger in scale than even the Midpoint. It's also the moment where maybe your protagonist is offered the chance to return to his old life. This is where the race begins and never stops until the Climatic Moment. Yet another awful moment for your character.
Daniel has another age attack and begins aging rapidly. The FBI and the military send out APBs for him. His very mortality is being threatened and we're not sure he'll survive.
The big moment you've been waiting all NaNo to write! This is what launches the protagonist into the final confrontation with the antagonist or antagonistic force.
Daniel finds out Helen is still alive and with the help of the two boys, the military chasing them, he races to find her, Forever Young.
The Climatic Moment
The moment which ends it all. The deciding moment where the protagonist wins or fails.
Daniel finds Helen and is reunited with her, Forever Young.
The wrapping up of everything. All the subplots come to a close, and the protagonist either returns to his old life a changed person, or goes onto a new and different life, for better or worse.
Daniel proposes to Helen and they live happily ever after, Forever Young.
I'll be honest, outlining is a lot of thinking, a lot of hard work, a lot of scrapping and rewriting. But it's not as bad as you think. It's a lot of wonderful fun. And if you can plan what happens at each of these points, you'll be so far ahead in NaNo you'll be able to see the end before it's in sight!
Helpful book: Structuring Your Novel, K.M. Weiland
Next week: surprise!