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Countdown to NaNo: The Plot

The plot is just a bribe to keep them reading.   –Kurt Vonnegot

What happens next? It’s the question that keeps many of us reading a book into the wee hours of the morning. It is also the question that you want your readers to be asking of your book. That’s why you need a plot. According to National Novel Writing Month founder Chris Baty, a plot is simply the movement of your characters through time and space.

Where do you get a plot? There are plenty of books that will teach you how to plot a novel. Some of my favorites are Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich and How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey. And of course, I have a chapter in my new book about plotting: Write-A-Thon.

But for the purposes of NaNoWriMo, you might want to steal the plot structure from another book. Now wait—don’t freak out—I am not saying steal the plot. Earlier this week, you jotted down your favorite books, and the features of a novel you like. Looking at how these books are structured and steal the structure. You’ll put in your own plot points.

Once you know the plot structure, create a list of scenes for your novel. For each scene include a who, what, when, where, and how. Don’t worry if this is not a complete list. Though you probably need a detailed blueprint to build a house, you do not need a detailed outline to write a novel. If you can get enough scenes down to help you write through the first week or so of NaNo, you will have an easier time.

Finally, put together a one sentence tagline or pitch for your book that follows this formula: “In this [genre], [main character or characters] [does _____].”

For example, a writer might say this about the novel Dr. Death by Jonathan Kellerman: In this mystery novel, Detective Milo Sturgis and child psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware must find out who killed Dr. Eldon Mate Death before the killer strikes again.

Keep this plot pitch near your desk while you write. It can help you to stay on course while you write. If you are wondering what happens next or if you want to include a scene, you can always look at the pitch and ask: how does this scene work into the overall goal for the book?



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