Plot Your Novel: Day 1

Today is the first day of the Plot Your Novel in Five Days challenge. It’s a free workshop, with a new 15-minute lesson posted each morning, each one assigning a task to move your plot forward. I’m hoping the structure will help me move forward with the book I’ve been outlining.

Today’s assignment asked us to consider three questions:

  1. What Is Your Story Question? This is the question that your reader is reading your book to find the answer to, the question that keeps the pages turning.
  2. What Does Your Protagonist Want? This question has two parts. First, what External Goal does your character want to achieve more than anything else? And second, What is the character’s Internal Motivation for wanting to achieve that goal?
  3. What Forces Your Character To Take this Journey Right Now? This is the Inciting Incident that starts the clock ticking and makes it imperative that your character act now.

We were supposed to post our answer to the second question on the Facebook page, and comment on some other people’s answers. I was a little disappointed that our comments are supposed to be pats on the back, rather than actual critiques. Hearing honest feedback would be more helpful than being told how great we’re doing. But we’re on only the first lesson, so maybe that will change as the week goes on.

Of course, I’ve been writing plots for years, but I’ve felt so stumped lately on several manuscripts, and keep writing myself into holes or tangling the plot up into knots. In the last book I was working on, my writer’s group helped me to see that the plot did not need the big space battle I was having so much writing, but that a quieter, outsmarting of the bad guys on the planet’s surface would work much better for the story. They were absolutely right. Unfortunately, I realized after trying to work it out along those lines that the publisher would never buy that story. I ended up putting it aside, at least for now.

But today’s session was helpful, for the book I am now outlining. The discussion of The Inciting Incident was nothing new to me, but something about the way it was expressed made me decide at present, I don’t have a clear enough moment that ups the ante and makes action inevitable. It was easy to see what change was needed, so I’ll be reworking that part of my outline to add some urgency.

I’ll be interested to see what tomorrow’s lesson entails.

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