It starts with an idea (plotting)

This year is the first time I’m going to take part in National Novel Writing Month. This means that you try to write a novel of 50.000 words during the thirty days of November. That is a huge challenge for me as you know if you follow this blog, my writing time is limited. I want to try though, because I like the idea and I’ve got nothing to lose. If I only manage to write 30.000 words, I will still have finished half a novel.

I thought this is a great time to write about the way I plot my novels. I know everyone does that differently and every writer has her or his own way, but I also think it’s interesting to see how others do it.

My novels, and I’m sure that’s true for almost everyone else, always start with an idea. Sometimes it’s a character that comes to my mind and that I would like to write about. I’ve heard of authors who tell me their characters really talk to them and I think that’s amazing. It isn’t true for me, though. Most of the time it feels more as if I watch a character while their story unfolds in my head. It feels almost as if I’m reading a scene from a book or watching a small part of a movie and I want to see how it continues, how that character develops. And that’s why I write their story.

At other times it’s not about a character, but a concept that comes to my mind. Out of the blue I ask myself: “What would happen if…” or “It would be exciting to see how people would react, if…” and sometimes that idea also turns into a story. If that is the case, I have to design characters that fit into that situation. I always like developing characters. That is one of my favourite parts of telling a story. Even though I always have trouble finding the right names for them. Sometimes that drives me crazy.

But a character is just a character and an idea is just an idea. To create a story you also need a plot. And that is the point where you find out if your so-called plot bunny has the potential to turn into a story. First, I like to see if there’s a problem or some kind of crisis that my characters have to solve, because that is essential for an interesting story from my point of view. There could be an antagonist, a catastrophe the protagonist has to deal with or it could also be a problem within herself she has to deal with. If I’ve found an incentive for my heroine, I often try to plan with the seven point plot method. You can find it explained here for example:

This method makes sure that I have an ending, which is important for me when I start writing, even though most of the time it changes during the writing process. It still helps me to know what I’m writing towards.

And that is pretty much it for me. I like to leave questions open and I like to find out what happens between my plot points while writing, because I need that element of surprise to have fun writing. I often take notes in a special notebook if I have any ideas about what could happen in my story and I like to flesh out the supporting characters as well before I start writing or while I’m already at it. There will be another article on creating interesting characters soon.

What is your method for planning a story? Are you a plotter (planner) or pantser (writing without knowing the plot and seeing how the story develops)? And will you take part in NaNoWriMo? Let me know, so we can connect.

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