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Thursday, March 19, 2009

the 14 week novel - week two: plot, planning and organization

Do you have your novel idea (from last week’s assignment)? I have two. This week’s assignment will help me to see which one I’m ready to write. How about you? Are you ready for the next step?

Here is the assignment for week #2: Plot, plan and organize your novel.

A few questions to think on before we start writing next week:
Who is your main character (MC)?
What does your MC want, need, desire?
What do they try to help them achieve that?
Who or what thwarts their attempt?
What do they try next?
What stops them this time?
Will they get what they want in the end, or will they grow/change to not want it?
Does your character want more than one thing?
Do the things that the MC wants conflict with each other?
Is your MC struggling against another person, nature, or herself?
What is the MC’s secret? Does it cause inner or outer conflict?
Is the MC on the journey by themselves, or do they have a friend, boyfriend, group?
What role (if any) does the MC’s family play in your story?
Why does the MC need to tell this particular story about their life?
What is the emotional journey or tone of the story?

Keep asking yourself questions until you know where you need to start your story and have a general idea of where you are going to go.

To outline, or not to outline, that is the question: You don’t have to outline. However, if you’ve never outlined or are having trouble finishing a novel, consider trying it. You never know what will work for you until you try it. I’ve never been an outliner. After completing novels without plots and a bazillion false starts, I’m going to try outlining. It will be a very loose outline, with lots of room to have fun. ;)

Quotes for this week (from NY SCBWI 2007):
(There are) “no guarantees that you will be good. If you don’t dare failure or mediocrity, you will never be a writer!” – Katherine Patterson

“Writers are very private people who run around naked in public.” – Katherine Patterson

“What matters is turning the page.” – Brian Selznick (talking about FORTUNATELY by Remy Charlip)

“You write out of your subconscious hauntings.” – Susan Cooper

“One of your jobs is to persevere.” – Mac McCool

“Writing a novel is not like fixing the toilet. It’s more like falling in love, and nobody knows what they are doing.” – Ann Brashares

Links for this week:
* A most amazing video of Alley Carter’s Q&A at a book signing. She talks about the difference between premise and plot (in the middle of Part 1, when talking about Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy). This was hugely helpful for me to think about plot vs. premise. It may be one of the most helpful bits of writing info ever (for me - I hope it’s helpful to you too).

* Editor Cheryl Klein wrote a great post, “A Character-Based View of Plot,” which is good for people that find characters easier than plot (me!). Cheryl has also given talks about plot, which she’s posted on her website.

* Agent Nathan Bransford asks, “What Do Your Characters Want?” and follows up with a post On Conflict.

* And, because sometimes you just need a laugh, Justine Larbalestier wrote the post, “How to write a novel,” and a follow up, which I love, “How To Write A Novel (the true version).” Her first post was written in response to Maureen Johnson’s great post, “HOW TO WRITE A BOOK.” Enjoy!