Sunday, October 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Prep + Story vs Plot

You guys!  We're one month away from NaNoWriMo.  Luckily my writing stuff worked out so well that I have the entire month to prep for it and do the other little things that I want to.  This makes me happy and tells me that the universe wants me to do NaNo again this year. Who am I to say no, right?  Had way too much fun last year anyway.

During the month there will be four main NaNo post, this one the first, one each week.  I'll be looking into what I find important when planning/writing a novel since I'll be doing it for the November novel.  Just so you guys know, I don't give writing advice.  What I do is share how I go about writing my stories and if you find anything helpful, go ahead and use it.  If it makes your life even a little bit easier, great!

So with that out of the way, my first topic is about Story vs Plot. This is an old topic I'm calling up since most of you started following after it was posted, but I've modified and added to it a bit.


Story vs Plot.  It’s a very important distinction to make and I found a nice definition of the two while browsing the net.

A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.
A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.

Now this is a very clinical way, and reminds me of my university translation theory classes, of looking at it, though very accurate.  Writers are emotional creatures in general so I just have to put it in my own words.

In my simpler mind I see story as the tale being told and the plot as the important things that happen within the story and what ties it all together.  On the surface it sounds relatively easy but the tricky and fun part is making your plot, and so your story, interesting and unique enough to grab attention, be entertaining, keep readers hooked, and stand the test of time.  Making the two work together and complement each other is where you’ll have to get things right.

When I write my novels, the three act structure below is a good way to show you my way of doing things.  The only difference between how I write and the image below, I have a huge confrontation/chapter in the middle, another huge one at the end.  When I write, I need to know what happens in the middle so that I have something to work towards.  The other smaller things are just as important but oh how awesome that middle scene is.  It makes me in a hurry to get to it so that I can write it, which helps in getting the novel done quicker(the same for that last few chapters).  The big middle confrontation in my UF is huge.  It was supposed to be the end but it just worked better in the middle and left me with a whole new ending.  I don't mind that so much.

The image below is a better representation of what my writing looks like.  Just mirror the climax to the middle and I think that's almost accurate.  You can read more here: Conflict and Character within Story Structure.  I need something to happen all the time, so my rises are a lot more as well.  At least I hope so. 

When I start plotting, I take a deep, hard look at my idea(this usually happens when I'm driving to and from work with music so loud my mirrors vibrate. What? It works for me. If a thought/idea survives that, it's a keeper for sure) and try to figure out what they want me to do with them.  I'm one of those writers who listen to their characters, not the other way around.  Sure, I make some suggestions (the beginning, middle and end) every now and then.  If they listen and use my suggestions, well that's something completely different.

Something else that's important to me while plotting, I think about the novels I've read or heard about, their ideas, characters, story lines, plot, setting etc, and make sure that what I have in mind for my new novel isn't similar.  There will always be things that remind you of something else, that's fine, but try and put as unique a spin on it as possible.  I know that what I have planned is something completely different and I'm looking forward to exploring it.

With this year's NaNo novel I'm going to try something completely different for me.  I'll be giving the nine grid plan a try while I'm plotting. Don't know how much good it will do me, I'm the worst pantser ever, but I decided now was a good time to try.

So I leave with this question:  Story ideas are plentiful and easy to come by.  What I want to know is where you get your plot from?


  1. the "feel" and setting of my current WIP was inspired by an all time favorite movie of mine. But the plot???? I can't really remember??? (seriously, I'm sitting here racking my brain)
    I guess a combination of my life and people I know? Like one of the characters I created keeps morphing into one of my exboyfriends. I didn't intend that, I had someone else entirely pictured in the beginning but he just keeps becoming my ex so I'm just kind of going w/ it.

    It's so weird that you plot while you drive to and from work with music blaring~ me too! And in the shower!

  2. My plotting happens on the way to/from work too - but on the bus and the train. I like your distinction between the bare bones of story and the artfulness of plot. I'm doing NaNo for the first time this year, so I'll be looking out for your more experienced comments.

  3. Scarlet, I guess I try and look for the kind of plot that would best suit my characters, the one that will challenge them the most and bring out the best and worst in them. I love doing that.

    Beth, so glad to hear you'll be doing NaNo this year. Let me know what your username is over at the site and I'll add you to my buddy list. You're going to love it.

  4. Hmmm....I think I'm with Jani--I start with a character. I figure out what her flaws are and where I want her to develop to, then I figure out steps along the way. Sometimes I'll have a scene pop out of nowhere (usually while driving with the windows down and the music too loud) and I work those in as stopping points along the way. Of course, I've only written two stories so my "usual" isn't all that usual!

    I'll be writing in NaNoWriMo the first time too, so thanks for the helpful posts!

  5. Looks like a lot of our methods cross here and there, Scribbler. Yay for another NaNo buddy!

  6. Love this post! I so love seeing how other writers go about it.

  7. Me too, Heidi, and thanks. I always find it interesting, and if I learn something from them, I'm happy.