#NaNoWriMo 2011, Post 4, 21 days to go! Plots and outlines.

10 Oct

So, we are crossing the 3 week line today, time to panic not about getting to the right word count on time but to create a workable plot/outline. The NaNoWriMo hastag (#NaNoWriMo) is getting full of people stressing out by now and it’s lovely to know I’m not the only one freaking out.

So, my story is starting to come along, I’ve tried two ways to get the story outline down to paper but neither have done more than entertain me about how I always need to be difficult in everything I do. A bad habit of mine. So I’ll fall back on my own way of outlining and I’ll try to show how I do this with some pictures, it’s not hard, and possibly not even weird but it just very paper intensive.

First things first.
You need a plot to be able to actually outline your story. Plot being the events that make up a story. Which might as well be the hardest thing of all. For a plot you usually need a genre (or two) and some character(-ish things) running through your head. Though it is not unheard of to first come op with a global plot before making real characters and then creating the real plot.
Plots like “A meets B, falls in love, get in trouble, work through trouble, they live happily ever after”, work okay for a global plot, before creating A and B and what kind of trouble they are getting into.
I asked my friends for some ideas and one of them came up with “cute boy 1 meets cute boy 2, they don’t know they fall in love with each other, they confess, they have a lot of hot sex” (not actual quote), I fought this plot for a while since it basically is the plot for my main work Black Sheep (without the sex part, but with a lot of drama), but I succumbed and this is now actually part of my plot… AGAIN… Not my most brilliant idea to put in but it works and I kind of need a happier subplot to counteract for the real drama part of my plot.

So, plots, they can be really hard and complicated or really easy and leave a lot of freedom. It’s up to you how hard you make the problems your protagonist needs to overcome to come out at the end of the book. I just picked up a book about the 7 basic plots (The seven basic plots, why we tell stories by Christopher Booker). The book is HUUUUUUGE but it looks like it will be interesting. I might do an update on plots in the future after I finish this book.

Hopefully you have some idea as to what your plot is before you move onto the outlining and structuring part of the pre-work. I find this one of the most nerve wrecking but also one of the most fun parts, you can play around with your story without getting in trouble and having to boot 6k of words later on in the book. So, I said I tried 2 ways of outlining.

The first one was Hollie Listles Notecarding, which was fun but did not work for me. The idea is that you cut your word count up into how many scenes you want (things that happen) before you divide the amount of scenes across the amount of characters you want to use as narrators. Then you write scenes for each narrator before sorting them out into the order you want them to be in. Stack them up neatly and you should have a decent idea how to get from one scene to the next until you finish the story. SHOULD! This is how far I got.

My problem is with the dividing of the words into scenes and then spreading them across the narrators. I am too much of a control freak to first divide into scenes before going onto the part of who does what, especially as I still didn’t have all of my sub-plots done, or even the finale of my main plot (still not done that…)

So I tried a second approach, the Nine Grid Plan (original source unknown, this version is by CA Marshall). You divide a piece of paper so it has nine squares and then fill out critical plot points in each box. Sounds easy enough doesn’t it? I thought so too at the beginning, until I realised how hard this is when dealing with multiple narrators, since the different narrators all have their own sub plots which are important for the main plot I’d possibly need 3 or 4 of these pieces of paper and then I’d need to find a way to fill these out to form a main plot. I need 3d paper for that, sadly that is not invented yet so I will need to do it with 2d paper. This is a picture of my attempt at this method.

See how only 1, 3 and 6 have something in them? That is because I started at 3, went to 1 and then when I went on to do 6 I found out I was missing clues as to how some of the in between parts are supposed to fit. Too much 2d needed 3d.

So then I went to one of the things I usually do when plotting and outlining. I will call it Paperwaste from now on. Since it involves a lot of paper and even more ink and paper when you get further down the line. Most of my work starts out with one or two global ideas as to what my (sub) plots will be and who are involved in it.

As you can see each column will go down the plot that that duo will have to go through, they won’t be lined up properly yet across columns but they are in chronological order because I just need the story out before assigning scenes or chapters to each of the characters. This is sometimes the hardest part as I often am still in the middle of planning some (sub) plots while working on this. As you can see only one column is filled, the second one I started but haven’t finished. This is all work from last night and I haven’t worked on it since I figured out some plot parts right before bed and during the day.

From here on out I will use the planning of Black Sheep Part 2 to show how I did this as I haven’t gotten to this stage yet with my NaNo project, I will show stuff that I haven’t put online yet but see it as a sneak preview, they will be online soon anyway.

The second part of the outlining involves plotting how each scene then gets transferred to each chapter. *NOTE: Scenes for me mean short pieces within a chapter, they are usually one paragraph long (though might be longer), they are the building stones a chapter is built on.* This does take a bit of a leap but I’ll explain why I go this small this fast. My story is usually put together of multiple story arcs and within that I will have multiple scenes floating through my head. When I have decided on the amount of scenes each chapter will have (usually 2 or 3 for a chapter of 1k words) I then write down which scenes will go where in the story.

As you can see in the picture I do not always fill out each scene in the list, I might end up having one chapter with only blank space because I know there should be one but I need the surrounding ones worked out before I can plan it, or I simply couldn’t be bothered with it because it was not part of the main plot. I always make a lot of notes on these outlines; word counts, dates, changing scenes, narratives, sometimes a bit more description, etc.

The next stage is the most paper intensive, especially when trying to work fast as I did with Black Sheep. If I have scenes that I have already written out I will put them inside the outline leaving the description lines for the scenes that need to be done. If I handwrite scenes I type them out and print off new copies for each time I work on it, as I said before, quite paper intensive sometimes, but it will keep me away from the computer and obsessively checking Facebook and Twitter. If I type out scenes I will only print off when multiple chapters are finished or when I change to hand writing.

And that is it. I repeat the last step to infinity (or well, until the book is done). This gives me the most control over the story and where all the elements of it will go.

Also this is what a piece of my handwritten work looks like.

At the beginning of each line I put the word count I reach at the end of the line and just keep counting. As you can see, line 1 has 13 words, I then count on and the last word on line 2 is 28, the last word on line 3 is 40, etc. I have found that this for me is the easiest way of counting. Because I only write down the last counted word I can keep track of my word count even when I am in the middle of a scene. No complex maths, and to make it easier, I only count till 100, after that I do put the multiple of 100 on the count but don’t actually count it in my head, keeps counting nice and easy.

How do you outline, do you use a method you learned or do you have your own method? (Also, I’m jealous at those of you who don’t outline and cans till make NaNo. 😉 )

I think this is enough for one day. Hopefully I can share a blurb or something more interesting next time.

Keep Writing!


(PS, this post is just over 1666 words long, I wrote it in about 2 hours. NaNo seems doable to me.)

Old NaNoWriMo 2011 posts:

It’s almost October, which means almost almost NaNoWriMo time! (about what NaNoWriMo is)

NaNo 2011, Post 1, 34 days to go! (My plan on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo and writers tip: Focus Writer)

NaNo 2011, Post 2, 31 days to go! (More on my plan and writers tip: NaNo adoption forum)

NaNo 2011, Post 3, 23 days to go! (Word counts, Tips & Tricks and writers tip: yWriter)


Posted by on October 10, 2011 in NaNoWriMo, writing


3 responses to “#NaNoWriMo 2011, Post 4, 21 days to go! Plots and outlines.

  1. hpquarterlife

    October 11, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I usually do a rough outline about key points in the story. Then go through each of the characters and do a quick bio of what I know or want to say about them. I like the notecard method because sometimes a scene pops into my head and I can just write it down and stick it in the story later, but a rough outline works for me.

    This is the first time I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, so I’m excited. My other stuff is on my blog Quarterlife Stories. I’m just winging it, so wish me luck and good luck to you too

    • Kia Zi Shiru

      October 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

      Thank you for your reply. Good luck on your nano 🙂 I’m still in the process of getting the actual stories together as I found I don’t have 3 but possibly 4 story lines… So trying to get my head around them all 😛


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