Today is November 15, which means the month is half over and so is NaNoWriMo. If 50,000 words in 30 days is an author’s goal, she needs to be at 25,000 now. Amazingly, I am on track, but how?
The hardest part about being an author, I believe, is figuring out what to write. This need to know is what makes me a plotter rather than a pantser. I enjoy reading craft books about story structure, always seeking a new bit of insight or technique.
In Rachel Aaron’s book 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, she talks about the leap her productivity made when she spent the first five minutes of a writing session jotting down what would happen in the next scene. I also find writing down my notes of what should happen and the characters’ emotions beforehand gives me a path to follow. Lists are fun when you can cross off items as they’re completed. It gives me a good feeling to do the same when writing.
Studying story structure led me to learning about scene structure. Jessica Brody of Save the Cat Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need wrote a very informative blog post about using the story beats within a scene. (See: https://www.jessicabrody.com/2019/10/make-every-single-scene-riveting-the-save-the-cat-chapter-scene-beat-sheet/) This post was eye-opening for me. Ever since reading it, I will sketch out my upcoming scene’s beats according to this approach.
I also used Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure, especially his Sequel set-up to show the emotional response of the point of view character. His emphasis on using one of four possible scene endings helped me to focus the scene’s goal. Because I write romance, my conflicts focus more on the obstacles the characters face internally. They still have external issues, but a romantic conflict is more inward than that of some other genres, such as suspense.
Eventually all this structure caused me to create my own scene template. Below is an example of how I filled out one of my scenes in my NaNoWriMo book. I am careful to give my characters’ names beginning with different letters of the alphabet. When brainstorming, I have only to write down the letter, instead of the whole name.
This template gives me a very clear path of what to write so I can produce my word count. Maybe you will find it helpful in your own writing.