The Panster Plots

NaNoWriMo is in less than a month. Less than a month. Last year I went all in, but my process requires revision. It requires throwing out scenes that go the wrong way. I need to let things sit, revisit them, and assess if they work. That’s hard to do during NaNoWriMo, and while I ended up with a finished draft, it was pretty much crap. It ended up in the drawer of things we'd rather forget. This year, I’d like to avoid that. So, I’m staying one step ahead. I’m making a road map, and promising to follow it. Maybe. Fury’ll be so proud.

1. Start with a logline. 

Tape it to your desk, your laptop, your hands.Keep it in your line of sight while you write. Anything that deviates from that logline is unnecessary. Throw it out.

2. Expand. 

Turn your logline to a paragraph, then a page.  Know your rising and falling action. Maybe draw a picture. Write it all on post-its and decorate your walls. That's how I make friends.

3. Use what you know.

If you have a couple scenes in your head, write down the gist of them. Banner has it down to a scienceStick them in your outline. If you use writing software like Scrivener, it's easy to map out.

4. Beat Sheets. 

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey are good resources. Read up on the three act structure. You don’t have to follow them exactly. In fact, don’t follow them exactly. Formulas are great to help guide a story, but follow them too closely and you’ll have a predictable pile of crap.

5. Be flexible

Characters surprise me all the time. If they deviate in a way that blows your mind, let them go. Adjust your outline. Keep writing. Don’t let yourself feel confined. If it screws with your process, find something that doesn't.

I wrote my first outline. Today. It was harder than I expected, but when it was finished I felt the same way I do when I finish a draft: like a boss, like a beast, like I've just taken down the leader of a foreign government. So yeah, good. 
Twenty-six days until NaNoWriMo. Pencils to the ready. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. 

Let’s do this. 


  1. Very helpful. And funny! Score X10

    And I just bought 5 new packs of Post-its. Oh, yeah!

  2. I never seem to write down my outlines. Maybe I should start doing so...?