Tuesday, November 1, 2011
NaNoWriMo: And the next plot point is...
So. Even though I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, I couldn't let November 1st go by without addressing what would be causing me by far the most grief, were I doing NaNo.
It's never been my strong suit. I love characters and thoughts and dialog and description and scenarios, but putting those all together into a novel-length cohesive story is tough for me. I've talked about this before in various ways, but its definitely worth talking about again.
Let's say the first segment of my MS is plot points A-G. The way my mind works, I get the major plot points--A, D, G--down okay. But hitting B, C, E, and F along the way sometimes gets me stuck, even though I know they need to be there. Does that make sense? It's like crossing a river on stepping stones, and finding the smaller steps between the bigger, more obvious boulders is tricky.
This can cause problems during NaNo for people like me, who don't have the luxury of a long time to think things through and search and search for that tiny needed step. And its a problem for me in general, so I could really use your ideas.
I have come up with a few things. When I'm starting an idea, I start with a very basic outline with those more major, A, D, G points. I come up with as many plot points as I can just within the story in my head, but it still ends up fairly sparse. Then I start a kind of accumulation process. I start a list. I go through my old creative writing notebooks, see what ideas they can give me. I stare at my bookshelf and try and think what major plot points from my favorites could maybe give me ideas for something in my story. I take that list and integrate it with the outline and flesh it out a little more. Then I go through and see if I can spot any holes and try and fill those in. By then I've hopefully got something workable and its time to start.
Inevitably, though, new things are discovered as the story unfolds, more holes are uncovered, new ideas pop. Then the outline changes and you're left without a step, without an E where you thought there was one.
That is where I get stuck. That is the biggest problem I have personally so far encountered in the novel-writing process. After a period of thinking and agonizing I generally find a way to get myself unstuck, but if I could get your advice to make my unsticking a lot more stable and graceful, so I don't feel like I'm flopping my way to the next boulder, that would be great.
So what do you do? How do you get from A to D? I mean, some people--the "pantsers"--write whole novels just one step at a time, feeling their way forward with their characters, with only the vaguest notions of where they're going if any at all. It's that exact "feeling your way forward" process that I could use help with.
So. For my and the NaNo-ers sake. Help?