13 December 2010

Day Thirteen -- 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Eleven

Welcome to Day Thirteen

In order to achieve the best results from this 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month, I advise scrolling down to Day One and working your way back to today. As I have explained earlier, this month is completely different in tone and approach to the process you recently used to complete your project's first draft.

Now, rather than give into the mysterious and mystical process of allowing a story to develop, this month is devoted to a more methodical analyzation of the ideas and scenes you have already processed. Whereas the first draft often relies heavily on faith and patience, this month, we ask you to take what you have created and revise it into a form that is satisfying to a reader.

The magic that came in draft one is for you the writer. What comes in subsequent drafts is for the reader.

Check off what you have accomplished. 

Click on green highlighted plot concepts for further explanations via video:

1) Managing NOT to read your manuscript 

2) Fill out a Character Plot Profile for your protagonist and major secondary characters and antagonist, if a person -- Day One

3) Print a hard copy of your manuscript and insert in a binder (managing NOT to read your manuscript) -- Day Two

4) Made a list of scenes you remember in your story -- either as plot points or just a list of the events themselves -- Day Three

5) List themes touched on in your story -- Day Four

6) Plot the 3 - 7 scenes/event on a Plot Planner -- Day Five

7) Consider how the major scenes/events are linked together through Character Emotional Development and Dramatic Action and Thematic Significance -- Day Five

8) Craft a one-sentence blurb of what your story is really all about -- Day Six and Day Seven

9) Organize your miscellaneous notes --Day Eight

10) Expand the PP to include all the scenes you remember in the End (1/4) -- Day Eight

12) Determine scenes that build-up to the Climax -- Day Ten

Whew! Sounds like a lot. 

I appreciate that some of you are already behind. No worries. Whatever you do this month will be helpful when it comes time for the next rewrite. 

Trust the process and enjoy yourself.

We are now more than 1/3 of the way through the 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month also known as PostNaNoPlotPerfection aka PlotWriMo. Congratulate yourself for sticking with this. 

As the nights grow longer and the days colder, we move deeper into the cave. Light a candle for yourself and one for your story, too. 

This is the time of introspection. Dig deeper into your story. Analyze and re-vision

Before you know it, the new year begins and the days suddenly grow longer. By then, you will be off and running on your next draft, certain of where you are headed and filled with anticipation, excitement, and expectancy...

10 December 2010

Day Ten--3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month

For those of you more literary minded, 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month is not an attempt to establish literary rules and regulations. Far from it. Nor, do we want to rob you of the riches of your minds and souls. Quite the opposite.

In completing the first draft of your screenplay, memoir, or novel, you likely encountered countless ambiguous and difficult elements, all of which, no doubt, spurred you yet closer to finding your true voice of creativity and expression. Yet, even within the catalyst for creative production that we all desire, some structure and guidelines often prove helpful.

The End (final 1/4 of the story) is made up of more than the Climax (which we covered Day Nine). When you followed the assignment for Day Eight, I trust you were able to remember and plot out scenes from this final section besides just the Climax.

Yes, the Climax is the crowning glory and it really deserves more than one day, but it is time to move along.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said at a commencement speech: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

Your job as writer is to connect the dots. And, because you know the future -- the Climax -- you do not need to rely on trust. You can actually connect the dots.

Work backwards from the Climax -- which is the moment when the protagonist finally stands firmly in her power, stands up to her greatest fear or confronts the thing that has beat her up spiritually. The scenes in the final 1/4 of the project lead up to the Climax.

As you see, the line ascends quickly. The scenes you plot here serve primarily to advance the protagonist to the Climax. Nothing new can be introduced, no pontification or philosophizing. The reader does not want the story to end, but they can not stop reading. They have to know what happens. Keep things moving.

Yes, the Climax spotlights the character in full transformation as she demonstrates the necessary new skill or personality, gift or action, but the scenes that build up to the Climax show us the transformation unfolding step-by-step. The reader lives the experience with her. Together the protagonist and reader moves closer and closer to her goal, firmly aware that she had to experience everything she did throughout the entire book to get to this final stage -- the Climax.

Ask yourself -- do the scenes that lead up to the Climax reveal most dramatically her steps toward transformation?

Click on any of the colored links for more information about those particular plot concepts. Enjoy...

09 December 2010

Day Nine-- 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month

Welcome all you dedicated writers committed to your craft! If you're just now joining the  3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month, scroll down to Day One and work your way back.


People who know me are not surprised I start at the End. I've always done things a bit backwards. But, I have three reasons for beginning this way: 

The End never gets the attention the Beginning does. Writers often never even get to the End. They begin to stall out in the Middle of the story and end up running back at the Beginning, over and over again. Or, if they do get to the End, they've lost so much energy for the story, the End is vague and underdeveloped. 

This paradigm echoes in other aspects of real life. Most of us live basically the same story over and over again. If we are brave enough to literally or figuratively leave everything we know (End of the Beginning), by the time things start to get messy -- which they have to in the exotic world of the middle-- we usually give up, turn a blind eye, stick our head's in the sand. We end up back "home," licking our wounds. 

In stories, once the protagonist advances into the Middle of the story toward her goal, she does not have the option of turning back. (Note: there are no rules to writing.)

The protagonist is tough enough to go all the way into hell and face her biggest fear or her worst ordeal (the Crisis in the Middle). After that Crisis, she then makes the journey back to share the gift -- not running home crying, -- returning a victor. Where, in the End she faces the ultimate antagonist at the Climax, which often turns out to be herself. 

(Please note: I'm using two different words to mark two different moments of highest intensity respectively:
Crisis, which occurs in the Middle at about the 3/4 mark in the story
Climax, which occurs in the End (1/4) one scene or chapter before the last page of the entire story)

The Climax is the crowning glory of the entire story and, thus, deserves focused attention.

In real life, a person who suffers a Crisis either goes back to the "tribe" to share her triumph and help others learn from her life, mistakes, awakening -- her Climax. Or, in real life, she can turn away from the challenge and remain unchanged, thus, never reach the Climax. Just because we survive an ordeal does not always mean we are transformed by it. 

In stories, however, the character undergoes a transformation. Therefore, the protagonist must face her greatest antagonist at the Climax in the End, be it an external person or an internal fear.

The Climax determines every scene that comes before or leads up to the Climax. Once you know the Climax, you know exactly which scenes to keep and which scenes you've written that need to be cut or revised so that they point thematically to the Climax.
  • Does the Climax of your story rise to the greatest intensity of the entire story? 
  • Think of your story as energy. Does the Climax deliver an energetic impact?

Some people believe that we incarnate in the world to heal a specific wound but that, at birth, we then forget our task. Most of us spend all of our lives unconscious of this deeper destiny. 

It's the opposite in a story. What happens throughout the story makes it impossible for the protagonist to remain unconscious. The Crisis in the Middle forces the protagonist to consciousness. This gives her the ability to face the greatest challenge of the entire story -- the Climax at the End -- and not only survive, but to triumph. 

The Climax at the End usually hits one scene or, at the most one chapter, from the last page of the project. By then, the protagonist has learned everything she needs to know, scene-by-scene throughout the entire story, to do what she came here to do. 

The End feels inevidable because every scene that comes before the Climax has led the reader scene-by-scene to that very moment.
  • What is your protagonist's true journey? purpose? 
  • What is it that only your protagonist can do? deliver? conquer? overcome? 
  • What is the gift only your character has (granted they have to go through all the trial and challenges throughout the story to get there, but...)? 
  • Why your character?
Keep an open mind. Be loose. Use the information in whatever best serves your writing. My goal here is to help you prepare and make you excited to tackle writing the next draft.

Click on any of the colored links for more information about those particular plot concepts. Enjoy...

08 December 2010

Day Eight--3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month

If you are joining us for the first time, please scroll down to Day One. The reason I do not provide a "hot" link to the post is because doing so will take you only to that day's post and you want to work your way through all past seven posts to catch up.

What we are doing here at the
 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month is dry and analytical compared to the magical and mystical process of writing the first draft. However, processing your story through your intellect and analyzing it wipes away befuddlement and leads to clarity of character goals and motivation which in turn helps to create convincing expression and emotion.

The work we do here, like the plot workshops I teach, is divided between explanation and time for development of the THREE MAJOR PLOT LINES for your individual project. For the sake of convenience, the explanation here gives independent consideration to the dramatic (action), emotional (character development), and thematic aspects of story, but keep in mind that all aspects of a successful writing project must become integrated into the total structure to create its unity, and that achieving this unity is the goal of every writer.

Today is two-pronged:
1) Organize
If you haven't already, print out your manuscript. Do NOT read it. Be sure to include a header on every page with your title in caps / name on the upper left and the page # on the upper right.
Don't worry about spell checking or chapter breaks. just make sure the pages are numbered.

Insert your project into a binder. [Warning: printing manuscript is a snap compared to hole-punching the pages. However, it's important to have the manuscript bound and in one place.]
Divide the total number of pages in the binder by 4. Stick a post-it note at the 1/4 mark and another one at the 3/4 mark.

Put the binder away, for now.

Gather all the extraneous notes you may have generated during the writing of the rough draft that you have not yet integrated into the piece and the notes you have generated thus far during PlotWriMo. Divide the notes and stick them into file folders labeled Beginning (1/4), Middle (1/2), End (1/4). Straighten up your desk. Purge everything you can that you accumulated while writing the rough draft. Put things in order.

You're entering a new phase. Time to cleanse and prepare to step into the next draft.

Pull out your index cards or paper or whatever works for you. Keep the BEGINNING and MIDDLE sections of the Plot Planner you drew earlier. Cut off the End.

Using an entire index card turned horizontal for the END this time, draw a line that travels from nearly the bottom edge steeply to nearly the top edge of the index card and then down.

Write in the scene the hits directly before the CLIMAX and the CLIMAX itself and the Resolution you came up with in your first draft. Plot any other scenes you can remember in the final 1/4 of your draft. Don't look. Just write what comes to you. Give each scene/event a title. Write the scenes above the line in the order of appearance in the story. Write in pencil.

Often in fulfilling either/both assignments, writers find disaster hits. Coffee spills on the manuscript or the index card rips. Perhaps, you stub your toe, break the pencil lead, or yell at the dog for tracking muddy paws across your Plot Planner. If this happens, note the resistance.

Accidents are a rebellion against authority.

Ask yourself: to whom or what am I giving up my authority?

Perhaps you've given your power over to the belief that this stuff is too hard or that you've always hated getting organized and plotting, that you aren't smart enough to get this, or that your story is no good and who is ever going to want read your work anyway? Or, your story is so great you don't need all this added work. Could be, you're racing to get the assignment completed because there are so many other things to get done.

You have the choice to buck up and do the work or mire in the muck.

I vote that you get back into your body and reclaim your power. The work you are doing is important. You deserve the time it takes to get this right.

Hey, it's the holidays. This is suppose to be fun. You're shaking things up. Doing things differently. Or, like one of the few commenters commented earlier -- it can't hurt. Right?

Your story is amazing. You are amazing. Being an artist takes discipline. You are an artist. You can do this....

07 December 2010

Day Seven--3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month

Today, your assignment, if you choose to say yes, is to carry your Plot Planner index cards and a pencil or pen with you everywhere.

I see you standing in line at the post office and the grocery store serenely grateful for the wait because it allows you more time to ponder your story. I see you waiting in the dentist's office or in thick traffic with your eyes up and to the left glazed over as inspiration fills you. I see you unplugging from negative thoughts about not getting enough done and plugging into your story instead.
  • Story is all about character transformation. How has your protagonist been transformed by the Dramatic Action in the story?

  • What is your story really saying? What do all those words you wrote add up to?

  • Your story is a reflection of a truth. Not necessarily true for all time, but true for the story itself, and likely for yourself, too. What is the deeper meaning? The truth beyond the physical?
  • How do the three major plot lines contribute to the overall meaning of the story?
  • How do the secondary plot lines support the major plot line thematically?

  • How do the secondary characters' journeys mirror the protagonist's journey?

  • Does the setting in the ordinary world and the setting in the exotic world support the theme?

  • What elements in the Beginning (1/4) echo back in the End (1/4)
Jot down whatever comes to you on the back of your Plot Planner.

To proclaim 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month in December and not mention the holidays is like standing mute in a room filled with angels and trolls. In our zeal to capture the holidays just right we run ourselves ragged. Part of this impulse is running from the darkness as the days turn shorter and shorter. It echoes back thousands of years to our fear that the failing light would never return without our intervention.

Fitting in writing time becomes more and more impossible as we await the rebirth of the sun and as the year winds down. Instead of fighting what is, I invite you to continue analyzing your stories instead. The work you do this month will make next month's rewrite a breeze.

No writing required.
Think of the work you do this month as your holiday present to yourself. Think of 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month AKA PostNaNoPlotPerfection as your writer's plot guide through the holidays....

Next week we start in on the End of your project (the final 1/4 of the total pages or word count. If you haven't already, write the Climax today. It doesn't matter how vague -- read: inspirational, or how awful -- read: creative, just get something on paper.)


Oh, and remember -- no reading your manuscript. Not yet.....

If you are joining us for the first time, please go to Day One and work your way back. Welcome.
For further information on plot, click on the plot elements highlighted in this post

06 December 2010

Day Six--3rd Annual Plot Writing Month

If you're just joining us for the 3rd Annual PlotWriMo, also known as PostNaNoWriMo, we're about to enter the analyzation phase. 

Wait... before you click away, I admit what we're doing here is not very romantic, especially if you've just emerged from under the spell of creating a new story. Still, what you do here for this month, rather than strip away, actually strengthens and builds your story's vital essence and clears a path for a dynamic rewrite.

Plot Writing Month works best if you start at the beginning. Scroll down to Day One and work your way back.

Use the new information and see it, rather than just read about it. Grab a few 3 X 5 white index cards and colored pens, and transfer the themes you jotted down at the top of the index card. In the main body of the card, draw a tiny PP -- tiny because it only has to fit 7 scenes maximum for now.

Which of the scenes come quickly. With some tweaking and rethinking, do they link together by themes. Don't be surprised if the overall meaning -- that perfect thematic statement -- alludes you. It's there in the story. You just don't know the story well enough to distill a 45,000 word story into one pithy statement. Yet...

It will come. Whatever you focus your attention comes to you.

In the meantime, transfer to the index card with the tiny Plot Planner as many of the seven scenes as you know from yesterday. Continue exploring the themes as they appear.

The Beginning (1/4)
Does the Inciting Incident scene and the End of the Beginning scene, the first and last respectively in the Beginning, fit the criteria? Filled in, the scenes in consideration to the themes generated and paired with the Character Emotional Development plot line, reveal meaning. A shift in the protagonist's motivation rise the stakes of the story and starts a clock ticking.

The Middle (1/2)The Halfway Point and the Crisis fit at the middle of the Middle (1/2) and almost at the end of the Middle (3/4 mark). Determine how to make the Character Emotional Development dark night of the soul cut deeper thematically.

The End (1/4)
The scene before the Climax and the Climax both fall at the End portion of the Plot Planner takes on more meaning thanks to the exploration into the Character Emotional Development plot line in relationship to the theme.

Don't push the theme. It will come. The theme is there whether you figure it out or not. Knowing the thematic significance of what you are writing is the common thread, gives you focus and keeps you on track. Plus, a thematic significance statement comes in handy at those holiday parties when your friends ask you what your story is about...

Your assignment, if you choose to continue: Throughout the week, glance at your cards and ask your story what it means.

The Beginning, Middle, and End interlock with each other. Everything contributes to the whole. Meaning comes from the character's choices.
  • Because of what happens in the Beginning creates what happens in the Middle?
  • Because of what happens in the Middle what comes at the End?
  • Because of what comes at the End, what happens at the Beginning?
  • What in the Beginning foreshadows what comes at the end?
  • The Crisis is a trigger for what new consciousness, self-awareness in the protagonist?
  • The protagonist's actions at the Climax reveals what about the character's transformation?
See what comes. Write it down. Keep your mind open and your thinking fluid. 
For free video information about the plot concepts introduced, click on colored links.

05 December 2010

Day Five--3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month

If you do not have a draft of a story written, follow the steps outlined this month to generate ideas for one now. 

I appreciate how we each desire to be heard and at the same time fear that what we have to say has no meaning. Desire and fear drown out the muse. Do what you must to silence your ego. Listen to your story instead.

Every story has its own unique energy. At the same time, everything around us follows a similar path. We are born, challenged, come to fullness, and die to who we were. Within the greater pattern, a similar version repeats itself innumerable times throughout our lives.

Today, using the scenes/events you generated on Day Three, let the energy of your story alight on the pattern itself with the help of the Universal Story. Below is the template. More information is on Blockbuster Plots for Writers.


Try for all 7 of the following
3 scenes/events At the Least (*)
(Do NOT refer to your manuscript. Use the scenes you generated yesterday. No more than 7.)
  • Scene, moment, conflict, dilemma, loss, fear, etc. that forces protagonist to take immediate action -- Inciting Incident

  • Scene or event that symbolizes the end of what was. The protagonist's goal shifts or takes on greater meaning and turns the story in a new direction, launching the character into the actual story world itself -- End of the Beginning (*)

  • The moment the protagonist consciously makes a total commitment to achieving her goal and does something that signifies she has burned all bridges back and thus can only go forward -- Halfway Point

  • Scene or event that symbolizes an all-is-lost moment --Crisis (*)

  • Scene just before the Climax

  • Scene or event that, just as it looks as if all is permanently lost for the protagonist, she saves the day -- Climax (*)
  • Resolution

Think of these 3-7 scenes/events as energetically holding more meaning and symbolism than the others (remember no more than 7 scenes/events total and no less than 3 scenes/events).

Some of you will be able to hold these 3-7 scenes/events in your head. Others, like me, benefit in 2 ways by actually drawing a Plot Planner (PP) on paper:
  • The task involves larger muscle groups than merely sitting in front of the computer while writing, and pulls you deeper into your body.
  • The visual reminder when affixed to the wall or refrigerator or bathroom mirror will help keep your story in mind all weekend.
Do whatever it takes to firmly imprint in your mind's eye the PP with your own unique 3-7 scenes.

This weekend, mull over how these major scenes/events are linked together in 3 ways:

  • Character Emotional Development (Find this thread on the Character Plot Profile you filled out on Day One under "Character Emotional Development Plotline." Remember, story is about character transformation. Determine how the character transforms and how that process is revealed in your major 3 -7 scenes/events)
  • Thematic significance (Find the thread in the words you generated on Day Three).
Keep asking yourself what your story is trying to convey.
Make a list of ideas while patiently awaiting inspiration.
Search for meaning as you work, play, and prepare for
the descent into the longest night of the year.
By Winter Solstice, I plan to have us to
the Crisis of the story -- an apt time of the year...

If you have not yet finished your draft, do so now. At the very least, write the Climax Part One & Climax Part Two.

If you are just joining us today, please begin on Day One and work your way back here.
(For step-by-step guidance beyond this blog, please refer to Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple, the book, kit or dvds.)

04 December 2010

Day Four--International Plot Writing Month

If you are just joining us here at PlotNaNoPlotPerfection to perfect your plot, welcome! Begin at Day One (you have to scroll down) and work your way here.

Draft #1 represents a leap of faith; you write without worrying about the outcome. Well, perhaps you worry, but if you are following us here, you persevered. Congratulations!

In the Native American tradition, mouse medicine focuses on the attention to detail and runs in about 5- to 6-week cycles. NaNoWriMo writers devote fastidious attention to writing at highly concentrated levels. Like the mouse, when we are in the flow of getting the words on paper, we often neglect other areas.

As you begin winding down, let the words subside and your body return to rest.

Two years ago at this time, on my approach to the Santa Cruz mountains, I spotted a red-tailed hawk at the tip of a redwood tree, like an angel atop a giant Christmas tree. Halfway over the mountain, I cringed as something flew into my peripheral vision. Rather than crash, in a swirl of feathers, the hawk steered clear.

Hawks embody visionary powers and guardianship. I invite you to enter into the realm of expressing a higher vision of your story beyond the word level itself. Stand back. See the bigger picture and allow for new ideas.

  • Continue listing the major events and scenes of your story -- it is not necessary to remember every single scene, just the big plot points for now. Remember, no reading the manuscript itself. The big, important scenes should pop out at you. Later when we work with these events in comparison to what you actually wrote, you will have a better sense of what to cut. Cutting, trimming, paring down the insignificant makes room for the scenes and events that truly drive the story.
  • Start a second list. Write down any and all themes that pop up in each event. Do not strain for these theme ideas. If something comes to you, write it down.
Examples of themes like:


For more plot support, watch the first 17 steps of the video PLOT SERIES: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?

03 December 2010

3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Three

If you are just joining us, welcome! Begin at Day One (you have to scroll down) and work your way here.

Today, make a list in order of all the major scenes or events you remember writing (don't go back into the manuscript to locate the scenes and/or events. Remember: no reading yet).

That's it for today. We are complying the materials we need for the rest of the month.

Consider the importance of the setting (Part 1 of 2) click here.

01 December 2010

3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day Two

For those of you who have not yet finished the 1st draft of your story, keep writing. I encourage you to reach the end. Having written the Climax helps with the work you do here. While you write, follow the steps. One should not interfere with the other but rather compliment each other. (If you haven't started writing and only have an idea for a story, ignore today's prompt and adapt all future suggestions to fit your needs.)

Today is easy. Print out a hard copy of your manuscript. That's it.

As tempting as it is with the manuscript sitting right there in front of you, remember, no reading. Not yet. Let the story sit. Let yourself unplug from the writing side. You are now entering the analytical side.

For those of you who shudder at the thought of structure or run from the concept of plot, I'd like to share Joseph Campbell's words:

"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.

Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to the the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center."

Plot and structure are the jewels. You'll see. Trust the process.

Yesterday, I referred you HERE for added information about the three most important plot lines in every great story using as examples: The Girl with a Golden Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Space Between the Stars by Deborah Santana, click here.

For information about subplots. click here.

**If you're just joining us today, please read the last couple of posts to catch up.