How I turned an idea into an outline


With NaNoWriMo around the corner, I thought I might show you how I plotted my novel.

This is the story structure I used:

  • 0% inciting incident
  • 0%-20% introduction in the world, ends with a point of no return
  • 20% first plot point: the hero receives his marching orders
  • 20%-50% response to the first plot point
  • 35% first pinch point: reminder of the nature of the antagonistic force
  • 50% midpoint: big fat plot twist that changes the hero’s AND reader’s experience
  • 50%-80% attack: the stakes are higher now
  • 65% second pinch point: again reminding the reader of the antagonistic forces at hand
  • 80%
    second plot point: the final injection of new information into the
    story to give the hero everything she needs to become the primary
    catalyst in the story’s conclusion (no new information past this point)
  • 80%-100% resolution + final conflict + return home

didn’t make this up. I think it’s by Larry Brooks, if The Internet
informs me correctly. Fun Fact: once you pay attention to it, you’ll see
this structure everywhere. Just take a look at any Harry Potter book,
for example.

These points are the “bones” of my story. Next, I decided what “flesh” to put on them.

I simply made a list of things I like to read about:

  • Books about books and libraries
  • Magic
  • Quirky characters
  • Intelligent, fast-paced and sometimes silly

So, I combined this list and the structure points into a story that makes sense.
Because I don’t want to spoil my plot / I am still to shy about my wip,
I will make up a new plot for this post, so I can show you.

  • 0%:
    The hero does something magical without knowing how she did it. She
    discards it, because everybody knows it can’t have been real.
  • 0%-20%:
    We see the daily life of the hero: she is unhappy because all she wants
    to do is read, but she is not allowed to. She reads in the dead of
    night and is punished for it by her evil stepcousin. She finds a book on
  • 20% It all clicks together: she can do magic!
  • 20%-50%
    The daily life for the hero changes. Instead of reading all night, she
    practices magic. She now loves books even more. She has little victories
    over her evil stepcousin, but hasn’t won yet.
  • 35% The evil stepcousin finds out that she can do magic and takes away the magic book.
  • 50% She discovers she can do magic without the book.
  • 50%-80%
    The hero is not the only one who is bullied by the evil stepcousin. Her
    younger cousin is a victim as well, and he doesn’t have magic to defend
    himself. The stakes are raised, this is bigger than herself now. The
    younger cousin also wants to read, so they have several bonding moments
    over reading.
  • 65% The evil stepcousin hurts the younger cousin, he’s in a coma now.
  • 80% The hero discovers the evil stepcousin could do all these evil things because he knows magic too.
  • 80%-100%
    The hero confronts the evil stepcousin, fights him off, nearly loses
    but wins in the end. He gives up and releases his power over the younger
    cousin who wakes up from the coma.

It’s not the most
genius plot ever, but I literally made this up in minutes. So can you!
And imagine the genius plot you can come up with if you spend more than a
few minutes on it.

Then I calculated how many scenes I need in which part of the story.
My wip is a YA or 12+ book, so I want it to contain about 75,000 words
in total. I want my scenes to be around 1,000 words long to keep it
snappy, so I need 75 scenes.

Scene number 1 (0%) is the
inciting incident, scene number 15 (20%) is the first plot point, scene
number 26 (35%) is the first pinch point, scene number 37 (50%) is the
midpoint, scene number 49 (65%) is the second pinch point, scene number
60 (80%) is the second plot point and scene 75 (100%) is the last scene.

Some sidenotes on the 1,000-word scenes:

  • That’s
    more of a vague rule of thumb than a strict rule. If your scene needs
    to be longer or shorter, make it longer or shorter of course. My wip has
    some 2,300-word scenes as well.
  • Having 1,000-word scenes does
    not mean I have 1,000-word chapters, that would be really short. I will
    divide my novel into chapters after I’m finished writing my first draft.
  • For
    NaNoWriMo, maybe you could write scenes of 1,667 words, so you do one
    scene per day. A 50,000-word novel has 30 scenes of 1,667 words.
    Inciting incident is at scene 1, first plot point at scene 6, first
    pinch point at scene 11, midpoint at scene 15, second pinch point at
    scene 20, second plot point at scene 24 and scene 30 is your last scene.

    That’s just an idea, you got to see what works for you.

Then I made up in one sentence what will happen in every scene.
For example: “They meet the dragon and he sends them on a sidequest.”
Now my outline consists of 75 one-sentence scenes. This way, I prevent
the problem of the sagging middle and other pacing problems and I still
get to surprise myself when writing.

From those one-sentence scenes, I flesh out every scene into a first draft, using the process I described in my post How I never have to face an empty page when I write.

And that’s my first draft! I hope everything is clear. Feel free to ask me questions if it isn’t.

gonna tag a few people I admire, who I hope are interested. If you
aren’t, feel free to ignore me, or message me to take you off my tag
list. If you would like to be added to my writing advice tag list, let
me know.

Keep reading

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