Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Get the most from NaNoWriMo -- Invent your story line

With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) just a couple of weeks away, it's time to shift your preparations into high gear. As we've discussed in previous blogs, our goal is simple--get the most from the 30 days of NaNoWriMo by writing a quality draft and writing less cr*p!

Using the Improved Writing Process found in Novelist's Boot Camp and taught in our Novelist's Boot Camp workshops, so far you've changed your way of thinking about writing a novel and adopted a Novelist's Mindset. You've listed what you love to read and what you love about those kinds of books. Then you built your novel's cast--the primary or main characters of your story.

As a side note, we have Novelist's Boot Camp workshops scheduled in Houston in October and near Cincinnati in November. It's not too late to register for either of these, but act fast as we're about filled up!

Now it's time to build your Comprehensive Concept. The Comprehensive Concept takes the idea of a "book idea" or "story idea" to the next level. There are five elements to the Comprehensive Concept, and although this blog provides them in the form of a list, the diagrams on Storytellerroad lay these elements out in the form of a circle, so you can start anywhere and move in any direction.

Your Comprehensive Concept is the keystone of your novel's foundation. Here are the elements you'll need to find for that keystone:

Find your path -- your genre, or in the case of Romance or Mystery (and several others), your sub-genre
Find your hero/heroine -- your lead character or characters
Find your opponent -- the main opposition to your lead character(s), who will work tirelessly to get them to fail
Find your macro setting -- the major time and place where your novel takes place, such as "Paris, spring of 1940," or "New York City, present day."
Find your story line-- a story line for a novel includes a hero or heroine trying to obtain a story objective (and often an emotional objective) in the face of opposition. In other words, someone doing things to get something they want with someone else trying to stop them. "A princess lives in a fair castle" isn't a story line. "A cowboy rides the range" is not a story line. " A monster terrorizes a small town" is not a story line. "A woman overcomes past abuse" is not a story line. All of these lack one thing or another -- clear human or human-like opposition, a story objective, or a hero or heroine. Of course, a story line must be genre appropriate--in mysteries murders get solved, in military thrillers the enemy gets defeated, and so on. Note that in Romances, while the "story" is about two people falling in love, the "story line" needs to have a tangible goal or story objective.

Building a strong Comprehensive Concept is hard work, but necessary to have that strong keystone on which to build your foundation. The good news is that you can play with each of the elements, asking "what if?' you changed the setting, story line, genre, and so on. This creative process will make you more creative.

Spend a few days in trial and error building your Comprehensive Concept. You'll know when it's right.

Next time, we'll move on and de-mystify that scariest of all novel-writing activities--plotting.

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