Not caught up? No problem!
Welcome back, fellow writers! We’re starting off the third week in October (NaNoWriMo Prep Month) with the third part of my PlaNoWriMo series! In recent weeks, we’ve talked about building that excellent NaNo novel, and we’re going to close out the building phase this week. After all, the best part is the writing! (Also, it’s the worst part.)
Today, we’re talking Risk, Setting, and Resolution. These are the last three stages of my personal preparatory framework for building a novel. *It shouldn’t be viewed as the end-all-be-all method to building your book. There are so many different ways.*
Let’s get started.
Risk is best narrowed down to: what does your character stand to lose? Why is the conflict they’re facing so hard to solve? What is holding them back from fixing everything on Page 1?
When we consume media, we want drama! We want to see people in crazy situations. We want to see how those people overcome those situations, too. We, as readers or watchers or listeners, often use fictional (or historical) references to shape our decision-making. We want to emulate the heroic people willing to lay it all on the line for what they believe.
Part of building convincing and powerful Risk into your story is identifying what your character wants so badly. Good news! You already did that when you brainstormed Desire in the previous installment of this series! Woop!
If you recall, I decided Rhesa’s Desire was twofold: stop big ole machines from eating her home, and retrieve something she’s lost. Inherent in that Desire is the Risk. I don’t want these desires to be easy to fulfill. If they were, the story would be very short and very undramatic. I want them to play against each other. So, what’s the Risk?
Simple: she can’t do both. Either she gets back her something OR she saves her home. (Obviously, this something has to be big enough to warrant such a huge risk.) If she gets her something, her home and everyone she loves will be lost to her forever. If she saves her home, the thing she’s lost will be gone forever. She’ll want to try and do both, but I just won’t let that happen. (Mwahahaha!) Because sacrifice is heroic, and I want Rhesa to be a damn hero.
Now, Setting. I admit, it’s in an awkward place in my established hierarchy. But that’s not without reason. Setting is the place where all this crazy stuff is going to happen, and I think putting it before things like Character and Conflict is detrimental. Why? Well, I think everything in a novel should be pulling its weight and strengthening all the other stuff.
It’s so easy for some writers to just pick a random setting and make the story fit within it. I’m not saying this is a bad idea. But it doesn’t work for me. I’m planning a novel here, and I want to put real effort and thought into everything. Setting is a HUGE piece of a book, and I want it to mean something more than just “this is where the things happen.” No, this is where monumental decisions are made! This is where the forces of good meet the forces of evil! This is where lives are shattered and cities are devoured!
So, how do you pick the right Setting?
Like I keep saying: my method is about interplay. Each part of my constructive process is informed by every part before it. If all that stuff hasn’t made me imagine a good Setting yet, I can always return to the other parts of the process and ask simple questions.
For my story: I know huge machines are going to eat cities. So there’s gotta be cities. But not just fantasy cities of brick and mortar. I want cable lines snapping free and glass shattering and roads splitting. So, big cities. Hell, this is fiction! Bigger than big! I decided to use some of my personal life experience to imagine a super city (I lived in Seoul, South Korea for two years) that spanned a whole nation. One HUGE city, being slowly devoured from the inside by giant, city-eating, crazy machines.
That helps me make notes on what the people and society are like. I don’t need to know everything. A lot of the juicy and interesting details are going to be spur-of-the-moment stuff I put in during the actual writing. But it’s helpful to imagine your Setting in as vivid detail as possible. (I’ve heard of people using Pinterest boards to build catalogs of images that keep their mental image fresh. Pretty cool idea!)
Okay. Well, we have pretty much everything we need to start writing! But there’s one final category. I’ll put a caveat on this and say: you can totally ignore Resolution in your planning stage if you’d like. Some writers prefer not to know how their story is going to end. They want to discover the ending as they go along because it will feel more natural, or because it keeps the excitement alive throughout the project.
For me, that just doesn’t work. I love to discovery write, but I don’t love not knowing where I’m going. When I don’t know the end, it’s hard for me to gauge my progress day-to-day. How close am I to the end? No clue. I know the final act has to be roughly so many words, so should I just write that many words and see if it just comes together?
It’s just not an effective way to complete a project for me personally. But, hey, if you’d prefer not to know the end, go discover your butt off! Do whatever keeps you excited and having fun!
Resolution is how it all wraps up. It’s the end of the driving conflict. It’s the answer to the most important question of the whole story. For my story, the question I’ve identified is: what the hell is Rhesa going to do!? What will she choose as being more important to her? What she had, or what she has?
You don’t have to know every detail of the ending!! In truth, even if you plan it meticulously, you probably still won’t know every detail of the ending!! That is absolutely, totally, 100% okay!
I just like to know the basics. You can write something super simple to keep you on track. Like: Rhesa sacrifices what she was looking for to stop the machines from eating her city. Everyone is super happy and gives her mad high-fives. She is totally stoked on herself.
I don’t know how she does it. I don’t even know what she’s looking for! (Well, I have an idea.) But none of that is the point. The point is: I know she succeeds. That lets me work toward a defined outcome, and tells me where I should throw in some good foreshadowing. All the details are totally subject to change.
But the Resolution isn’t. If you’re going to brainstorm your Resolution and use my method: awesome! Thanks for giving it a try! Just remember: settle on a Resolution and stick to it. If you start moving back and forth on what you want your ending to be, you’re going to start wobbling in your narration. It’s gonna be clunky, there will be more holes than necessary, and you’ll need to revise way more than you’ll already have to.
Remember, the purpose of this series is to help you (and I) finish NaNo! We want to do that with fun and challenge at the forefront! Don’t let yourself be distracted by self-criticism. Just make decisions and go!
Congratulations!! You have officially built a super solid outline for your NaNoWriMo novel! Woah! You’ve now got every bit of reference material you need to draft up the next big hit! That’s so awesome!
Your work isn’t done yet, though. Next week, we’re going to talk about the writing. And, yes, it’s going to be really hard. That’s what the past three weeks have been for, though! To ease the burden and get you through! I promise: the end result (a successfully finished NaNoWriMo!!) is going to be soooo worth it.
I love you all! I really hope this series has been helpful! Stay tuned for the next (and final) installment on 22 October 2017! *It’s not on the 29th because you really should spend a week between planning and writing to just breathe and relax. November’s gonna be hectic!*
Drop me some feedback! Do you love the series? Do you think I’m wack? Help me help you! Like, share, comment, and send me delicious cookies. (For real.)
If you have any questions or you need some help planning your story, feel free to ask me! I’m always available to all my beautiful writing compatriots. We’re in this together!
Thanks for reading! Hope this helps!