Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

Tips, Epiphanies and Thoughts on Writing a Novel ~ NaNoWriMo

Okay, it’s NaNoWrimo and my arms, neck and head hurt from marathon writing sessions. I have to catch up once upon a timebecause I lost a week due to a family death. Still sad but marching on.…

So, since Friday I’ve been thrashing my keyboard (30,000 words) and suddenly had the epiphany that I’ve learned a thing or two since my first novel, Return To Sender was published last year. I’ve learned that I’m not a full-time ‘pantser’ as Larry Brooks calls them, but a ‘planner’, and that with planning from day one I am moving much faster than I did on my first novel. I’m a convert to Larry Brooks way of writing a novel and am confident that once I survive NaNo I will have a much better story than if I just pantsed (no idea how to spell that and too tired to care) it.  By identifying things like the first plot point or the critical ‘inciting incident’ it’s far easier to create my story around those vital elements rather than just stumbling along and hoping my story makes sense.

Like this morning; in trying to identify which pivotal moment was actually my inciting incident I realized it was not all the noisy action, pithy dialogue or other active moments in the story, no, it was in one quiet moment when my protagonist sees a man from his past. Why? Because when he sees him it changes every decision my protagonist makes from that point forward. That quiet moment alters his life and there is no going back once he’s seen him. The stakes skyrocket. My protagonist’s life and his child’s life are now at great risk. That’s what an inciting incident does. It can be a fist fight, an explosion or a familiar face in the crowd, as long as it alters everything for your protagonist.

On another note; one writing tool (for screenwriters & novelist) that helps me greatly is that as I write I fill in my beat sheet (outline, cut-to, or whatever you call it), Filling it in as I write is MUCH easier and far more effective than going back after I finish writing an entire novel and starting from scratch. Below is a great example, THE BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET from Save The Cat. This can help you stay on track with your story.

Here’s the excerpt from Tim Stout’s blog.

THE BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET (aka BS2)

Opening Image – A visual that represents the struggle & tone of the story. A snapshot of the main character’s problem, before the adventure begins.

Set-up – Expand on the “before” snapshot. Present the main character’s world as it is, and what is missing in their life.

Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. Usually, it is spoken to the main character or in their presence, but they don’t understand the truth…not until they have some personal experience and context to support it.

Catalyst – The moment where life as it is changes. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster onboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The “before” world is no more, change is underway.

Debate – But change is scary and for a moment, or a brief number of moments, the main character doubts the journey they must take. Can I face this challenge? Do I have what it takes? Should I go at all? It is the last chance for the hero to chicken out.

Break Into Two (Choosing Act Two) – The main character makes a choice and the journey begins. We leave the “Thesis” world and enter the upside-down, opposite world of Act Two.

B Story – This is when there’s a discussion about the Theme – the nugget of truth. Usually, this discussion is between the main character and the love interest. So, the B Story is usually called the “love story”.

The Promise of the Premise – This is the fun part of the story. This is when Craig Thompson’s relationship with Raina blooms, when Indiana Jones tries to beat the Nazis to the Lost Ark, when the detective finds the most clues and dodges the most bullets. This is when the main character explores the new world and the audience is entertained by the premise they have been promised.

Midpoint – Dependent upon the story, this moment is when everything is “great” or everything is “awful”. The main character either gets everything they think they want (“great”) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (“awful”). But not everything we think we want is what we actually need in the end.

Bad Guys Close In – Doubt, jealousy, fear, foes both physical and emotional regroup to defeat the main character’s goal, and the main character’s “great”/“awful” situation disintegrates.

All is Lost – The opposite moment from the Midpoint: “awful”/“great”. The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning. The initial goal now looks even more impossible than before. And here, something or someone dies. It can be physical or emotional, but the death of something old makes way for something new to be born.

Dark Night of the Soul – The main character hits bottom, and wallows in hopelessness. The Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord? moment. Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. But, you must fall completely before you can pick yourself back up and try again.

41HHiRRusVL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Break Into Three (Choosing Act Three) – Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again.

Finale – This time around, the main character incorporates the Theme – the nugget of truth that now makes sense to them – into their fight for the goal because they have experience from the A Story and context from the B Story. Act Three is about Synthesis!

Final Image – opposite of Opening Image, proving, visually, that a change has occurred within the character.

THE END

 

SO, back to thrashing my keyboard. Happy writing all. More later.

 

 

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4 comments on “Tips, Epiphanies and Thoughts on Writing a Novel ~ NaNoWriMo

  1. Behind the Story
    November 18, 2015

    I’m trying to use the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet on my second novel. Like you, I straddle the fence. There’s too much I don’t know for me to plan the whole thing. The ideas bubble up when they’re ready.

    • Mindy
      November 18, 2015

      Bubbling up is good! I like to find ‘tools’ that guide me when I need to reign in my story. This is a good one. But no ‘one’ thing works for everybody, and everybody needs to find their own way.

  2. Kay
    November 17, 2015

    Being a planner and a plotter by nature, transitioning to pantser in the best NaNo I ever did really woke me up. I wrote endlessly, stuff bubbled up and really made the novel better, words flowed, ideas popped, and for a first draft I was thenceforth a Pantser. Sure, I’ll plot and plan and beat sheet with the best of ’em in the 2nd through 143rd drafts, but for a NaNo, pantser I shall forever be!

    • Mindy
      November 17, 2015

      I think we have to do a bit of both. I straddle the fence tween ‘pantser’ and ‘planner’ now and am the better for it. Keep writing. Mindy

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