A planning party is a group of writers who need to do plotting or planning and don't want to wade through the muddy trenches of outlines and character motivation alone. So they get together, once a month, to chat with each other. Ideas are bounced and questions are asked and answered.
Do I have to use the questions?
Nope! It's just something for you to use when you want to plan or plot with a little bit of prodding. The questions aren't always straightforward (usually none of the "What is your MC like?" types) and help you delve a little deeper.
Where is this party happening?
On our Discord Server! But feel free to use this thread to bounce ideas off of each other as well.
When is the next planning party?
The next planning party is scheduled for February 18th, 2019. It'll run in chat from 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm EST.
In honor of erin 's birthday, we had an editing party (her favorite aspect of writing) in the Discord. Here are the questions. The format is a little different because of the nature of editing. Feel free to answer these questions here, in your own thread, or anywhere! Some are reusable for the entirety of your editing journey.
Q1.[ P ]Summarize how your MC has changed for the better (or worse) through their ordeal in your current draft. Is this going to change for the next draft?
Q2. [R] What is your main focus on your revision - plot, characterization, just the grammar/wording etc? How are you going to really focus in on this in the coming month?
Q3. [E] Choose one page of your writing right now and look for words that might be repeated in close succession. What are some good alternate words you could use there? (For example: repeating ‘really’ more than once could be changed by using stronger adjectives)
Q4.[ P ] Look at your antagonist’s current motivation to do what they are doing as the enemy of your MC in their quest. Is this a cliched reason? Is it a valid reason? Was the motivation obvious enough to come across or does it need to be tweaked in the rewrite?
Q5. [R] Are there any characters you're thinking of adding/removing in your revision? If so, which ones?
Q6. [E] Look at your current word count and how it is split between chapters. Are they all similar in length? Do you have some chapters much longer than others? Is there a stylistic reason for this (to make the reader feel a certain way) or something to even out?
Q7.[ P ] If we follow The Hero's Journey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero's_journey) , your MC is going from the known into the unknown - the ordinary into the extraordinary. Can you pinpoint that moment in your writing?
Q8. [R] Think about the scenes building up to your novel’s climax. Is the tension there? The “life or death" (so to speak) situation? How could you inject more excitement and tension into those moments?
Q9. [E] Using a word cloud website (such as www.wordclouds.com/), put a few chapters through and see if you have used some words far too many times. Or just make it pretty and share with us!
Because we are in editing month, we're going to do some more editing parties! Next week returns to a normal planning party.
[C] - Characterization [W] - World-Building
[ P ]- Plot
Q1. [C] Your MC is the character that is going to hook your reader. It's their arc that really moves with the story. So it is most important that your MC is in-character at all times.
So identify how your MC reacts in the following type of situation. Use this as a guide to evaluate each scene where your MC experiences an extreme emotion.
Angry/Frustrated: Surprised/Shocked: In Love: Happy/Overjoyed: Stressed/Anxious:
Q2. [W] Look at your very first scene and, without using what you know and just what you read, list three important things about your world/setting that you've relayed there.
Q3.[ P ] What are the scenes that lead up to your story’s climax? Is there a proper build up? Is there tension in each scene until it spills over?
Q4. [C] What is your character's goal for the novel? And is your character proactive about this goal? What does he do to help achieve this goal? What does he do to delay or prevent this goal?
Q5. [W] What sort of technology/magic is used in your world? Is it consistent with the time period? Are your magical rules set in place? Do your research and list the available technology for your setting. Or write down your magical rules and keep consistent.
Q6.[ P ] Think of your first plot twist. What scenes foreshadow it? What character actions may hint at it?
Q7. [C] Take two characters that are similar. Are their voices distinct? How do they differ? Are they both necessary to be in the novel or can they be combined?
Q8. [W] Think of your character’s bedroom. It may not show up in the novel, so think of a room they spend a lot of time in. Write down:
One thing on the wall: One thing on the floor: One thing on the ceiling:
And why each is important.
Q9.[ P ] The best place to start a story, in some opinions, is in media res, or the middle of the action. Where does your story start? If not in the middle, does it still hook where it is?
Bonus Question: Check your plot very quickly. Does every mini-climax/resolution lead directly to the next problem to solve?
Here are the questions from the planning party in our WriYe Discord Chat from today. Feel free to answer them here, in a plotting document, or anywhere!
Q1. If your character leaves their home for the duration of the story, what has changed when they get back? If your character does not leave during the story, does a significant change in the setting occur?
Q2. Take your main plot. How can things get worse for your character before they resolve it?
Q3. What is your MC's most distinctive feature? Does this play a role in the novel or have some sort of significance?
Q4. If you distill your plot into a one word lesson, what is it? Examples: Mercy, Selflessness, Acceptance
Q5. Look at the ordeals your character is about to face. Which is the worst physically? Mentally?
Q6. If you were to date your MC, what personality trait would you find the most annoying?
Q7. Take your MC's hometown. What is something amazing there that a visitor or passerby may not notice?
Q8. What inspired you to write this novel (if you remember)? Are there common aspects of this one to other novels you've written? What makes this one unique?
Q9. Why does your MC's love interest/best friend/sidekick decide to join your MC in their journey (Whether that is an epic journey or a relationship)?
Q10. What location in your setting is off-limits/bad/dangerous? Why?
Because we are in editing month, we're going to do yet another editing party! There will be one more next week, which I am trying to devise as a line edits sort of game. But we'll see. No tags today; free for all questions.
Q1. Consider the POV of the novel. What is the experience you want the reader to have? Did your POV achieve this? Is it close enough? Far enough? Did you take advantage of all the benefits of the POV?
Q2.Are the lengths of your sentences/paragraphs varied? Do you have that white space that is so coveted?
Q3. Think about the scene of your hero's return (or the scene where s/he does not return). What in the scene carries the excitement for the reader? What emotion are you trying to convey?
Q4. Assuming this is the novel you have been using for Edit Hike, what darling was the hardest to murder? (A "darling" in this case is any part of your story that you loved but is unnecessary - scene, character, dialogue, etc.)
Q5. If your next step is to look for a Critique Partner/Beta/Publish/Post Online, write up a 3 paragraph (max) blurb which gets to the heart of your novel and also grabs the reader.
Q6. Now do the above in one sentence.
Q7. What is your MC's first thought during the Call to Action or Inciting Incident?
Q8. Your setting needs to hook in the reader, even if it's based on Earth. What is the place you can visualize the best? Tell us about it.
Q9. What three items in your antagonist's home speaks to them as a character?
Q10. What is the first memory a secondary character has of the MC?
Here are the questions from the very last planning party for editing month! There may be more later on in the year but we'll see.
Q1. In many ways a character changes both externally and internally during their progression through the story. I asked once before about how they changed, now let's break it down to how your MC changes in these three beats (suggested by Chuck Wendig):
Physical: Emotional: Social:
Q2. What is one of the main subplots in your novel? What chapter is it resolved in (or percentage of the story)? Or is this an ongoing subplot for your series? If so, what novel is it planned to stop in?
Q3. Does your MC have a hobby or skill that plays into the story? An example: if you have a FMC who really enjoys rock-climbing, does her ability to scale walls appear? Or maybe the confidence in the face of dangerous situations she gained from rock-climbing?
Q4. Language develops differently across the worlds, even in countries that have the same base language. Dialects, accents and even slang can all be different when you cross a boundary line. Do characters in your cast have different languages? If they all speak the same language, are the specific slang words or dialects that only one character has (which may or may not confuse the others)?
Q5. If this book is part of a series: What parts of the plot are you leaving open for the following books? What is the main single-book plot you are tying up?
If this book is a standalone: Are there any questions you're going to leave to your reader to decide or are you going to package it all with a bow for them?
Q6. Where your characters grow up and the sociopolitical enviornment surrounding them affect who they are as characters. Think of your antagonist. What in their childhood hometown could have affected the way they see the world?
Q7. What is your MC's greatest flaw? What is your antagonist's/villain's greatest strength?
Q8. Take the place where most of the action occurs (or, if this is a journey, pick one of your favorites). Does the weather and climate cause any problems? Does it alter the sort of actions that your MC might do? Does it affect what they wear, what they decide to do that day, or delay them from something important?
Q9. Let's get literary. Most novels have a theme that appears during the narrative(main idea, such as Fear, Loneliness etc.). What is yours?
And, to help build that theme, most novels have motifs (recurring images, symbols, or ideas) that reinstate and explain the theme (such as white doves and the theme of peace). Do you have any in your novel now that you've gone through it?
Q10. Did you have fun during editing month? Are there skills you developed that you hadn't used before now? Is there something appealing about the process of fixing what you've written?
Today's surprise planning party focused on series. There's also a standalone option for you people who are able to do that whole "being concise" thing. (Jealous).
Every question will have a series option or a [SA] stand-alone option.
Q1. Look at your overarching plot. What type of series does it fit into and why?
- Dynamic - A series of events and troubles happen to a person or group of people. Each novel in the series tends to have its own arc with a lingering, unfinished plot arc carrying through the novels. The characters undergo some sort of change during the progress.
- Static - A series of events and troubles happen to a person or group of people. Each novel in the series tends to have its own arc without a larger plot arc carrying through (though there may be a constant antagonist). The characters may remain the same through the novels.
- Anthology - The connection between these are not a central main character or central plot, but some other element. All books can stand on their own with their own plot arcs and do not need to be read in a chronological order to make sense. Some characters may be used in every novel, but it is not following the single adventures of one.
[SA] Look at your novel's plot and judge it against the Jungian-influenced Seven Basic Plots (whether or not you ascribe to them fully). Which one fits your novel best and why? It doesn't need to be a jigsaw fit.
Q2. What is the main plot thread that will remain unknotted until the end of the series? For those anthology series writers, what is the connecting thread that makes all of your novels into a series?
[SA] How does the last plot thread of your novel get knotted? Or do you leave it open, just in case?
Q3. Do your different novels vary in setting? Does each novel get their own or do your characters travel throughout each one?
[SA] Do you have one permanent setting or is your character going to a destination in your novel? If they reach that destination, do they return?
Q4. and [SA] How have you developed your Character Bible. Is it digital? Handwritten? With or without character pictures?
Q5. Look at your plot notes and draw out a basic plot line with the big points (battles, births, deaths, tragedies, joys, etc.). How many novels do you reasonably have plotting for based on that outline? If you are an anthology series writer, draw out a basic chronology of your novels and do the same (even if they can be read out of order).
[SA] Draw the same basic plot line as described above. Is everything tied up by the end? Do you have any lingering threads that need closing - or their own novel? How will you close them?
Q6. and [SA] Though we follow the MC because their story is the most interesting, your secondary characters have to be interesting as well. And just like your MC, they shouldn't be morally good or bad but instead grey. What one thing would tempt your favorite secondary character away from assisting the MC?(Anthology series writers, choose just one novel for this one.)
Q7. What novel does your character's worst trial to overcome appear in? Is it the main plot of that book or just part of it?
[SA] What chapter does your worst trial appear in? How do the repercussions work out over the next few chapters? (Anthology series writers, this one is for you too)
Q8. When series get long, characters may come and go in the novels to keep the plot lines and atmosphere fresh. Look at the middle book in your series (or close to middle if you have an even number). Which one character is introduced and which one character leaves? (If applicable)
[Anthology Series] Do you reintroduce characters from other novels in the series among books they are not MCs in?
[SA] Does a character leave permanently in your novel? How far into the novel does this happen?
Q9. and [SA] Every story has subplots which are tricky to track. On that plot outline from before, note which points are subplot points, or write them in in a different color. Note where they start, who they involve and where they end (either in chapters or book number). Which is the one that seems to influence the main plot the most? Remember, it should support the main plot and not stand alone.
Q10. Do you have titles for all the novels in your series? Do they have meaning? Do you have a series title? What is it and why is it that title?
[SA] Why did you title the book the way you have? Even if this is not its final title.
Time to step out of our planning box and do some handwritten adventures! I had two attachments in chat that can be found here and the picture is attached below! The Writer's Statement was used as our introduction this time.
Q1. Write out a chapter summary of your first chapter, or the next chapter you're intending to write. It could be as long a page or as short as a sentence.
Q2. Sketch a quick map of where your main character is during an important scene in the novel. Add in any relevant details so when you get there, you make sure not to fall prey to "white room" syndrome.
Q3. Mimic your MC's signature on the page. Leave half a page then sign your main antagonist's name. Do they look very different? Note the differences and why they may be that way. (It could speak to some deep characterization)
Q4. (Stealing this from DIY MFA and tweaking it)
Draw a mountain. At the top, draw a flag which is the goal your MC wishes to achieve. Then, starting at the top and going down, draw "base camps" your character must reach in order to achieve that goal. For example:
Flag: Slaying the Dragon Closest Base Camp to Flag: Reaching Dragon's Lair Next Closest: Finding Magic Sword Next Closest: Acquiring Support/Party Members ... Farthest: Dragon Destroys Town
Q5. I put a picture of a heart up a few days ago. If you printed that, feel free to use it! Otherwise, draw a heart and then draw a line down the middle. On one side, write all of your fears and negative thoughts about your writing - the process, the prose, how people will react, etc. Then on the other, write down all the hopes and good things - what you like, how people respond, why you do what you do, etc.
Keep that heart accessible because as the year goes on, you should add more to the hopes/good things side until it bursts through onto the other!
Here is a list of questions that were asked in the WriYe Discord Chat during our May 27th planning party. Feel free to answer them here, in a plotting document, or anywhere!
Q1. If your story ended the way your antagonist wanted (whether it be a sentient antagonist or not), what would happen to your MC?
Q2. Pick a side character you enjoy writing. What one relationship is most important to them and how does this affect their decisions?
Q3. Focus on the love interest of your MC (if you do not have one, focus on your MC's best friend). If you were to ask them honestly how they wanted the end of the story to happen, what would it be? Does it differ from the MC's ideal?
Q4. Could your inciting incident have happened to any other character in your cast? Why or why not?
Q5. Say your novel/story became famous enough for people to want to write fanfiction of it. What is the one non-canon pairing you would secretly want to read? What is the one you would not understand at all?
Q6. If you follow some traditional story structures, there seems to be a "mentor" sort of character that imparts necessary wisdom to the MC. Does your story have one? Who is it? If not, how did your MC find the knowledge?
Q7. Say you get the urge, years down the road, to write a sequel story/novel/series about the next generation of your characters. Whose family would you follow and why?
Q8. What is the character progression of your antagonist's sidekick (if there is one)? If there is not, what is the progression of your least favorite side character?
Q9. What were your MC's parents like? Did they do something specific to alter his/her development?
Q10. If your story was to switch to the POV of your antagonist (or least favorite side character), what would the new title be?
3 Main Character Archetypes 3 Antagonist Archetypes (non-corporeal is allowed) 3 Titles 3 Themes 3 Subplots
Choose the title from your three that interests you most and put three stars next to it. Then choose the title that seems most like your style and put one star next to it. (or come up with these right now!)
Next, look at your MC list and your villain list. Which set would best fit the most interesting title? Which one would best fit the Typical You title?
(they can be repeating but not the set! By which I mean you can have MC 2 for both but not MC 2/Villain 3 for both)
Now that we've thought of two different story seeds, let's delve closer into both before we cultivate just one. Plots may have started forming in your mind, but we're going to still till the soil.
We also chose 3 themes. Which one fits best with which novel seed? How would it tie into your villain's purpose? Your MC's motivation?
If none fit, can you think of a new one now?
Before we abandon that last title, do a quick evaluation of the best:
MC Villain Theme
After this one, we're going to narrow our focus!
Sorry to do this to you, but put aside two of the seeds. Store them for another time. Now we're going to prep and plant just one.
Choose the novel that calls the most to you with ideas. If you have two, flip a coin.
Write up a very basic pitch/synopsis - think just a few lines, no need for great detail - to start giving you an idea of main plot.
Now that we have a general idea of plot, and how our MC and Villain play into it, we need to bulk up the fledgling plant with a trellis, allowing it to grow and fork.
Look at those subplots you chose. Do any fit in? How would they parallel the main plot? How would they affect your MC?
Does this mean bringing in a side character? Yes? I hope so because they're coming up.
Okay, we have: title, MC, Villain, Synopsis, Subplot.
How can we hinge that on just two characters? Flowering plots need multiple buds! So let's add some.
Think of a character type that would work with your MC to achieve their goals.
Then think of another character type to work alongside the villain (or to be taking advantage of the politics/society/fear of nature, whatever if it is non-corporeal).
So now our little flowers have some buds.
Let's focus in on our main character once more before we move to more structural support. We have our plot and our theme for the MC, as well as their archetype. There's a few more things we can find out by tying all of these things together and they are:
And then, the big one that drives part of the plot:
Character Arc (how your character changes as a person, if they do. If your character is not a dynamic but a stationary one, why so?)
Now that we know the character's arc, we can tie that into a vague plot. There are a few important points in most plots that really need to be focused. Those are:
The Inciting Incident/Call to Action Crossing the Threshold The Big Battle/Climax
Just a few words is good enough for now. Just brainstorming, remember.
Wait. We need names.
MC Antagonist Character on MC Side Character on Antagonist's Side Kingdom/Land/City Any relevant groups, religions, rebel,e tc.
Like the MC, the Antagonist (or a character on the opposite side) will most likely go through a character arc as well. They may have gone through one already and we are facing what they are now instead of what they once were. So, like before...
Plants get repeat visitors in the form of birds and insects. Themes, in our case, usually get repeated exposure via symbols and/or moments in the plot. These motifs are sometimes noticeable, sometimes not, in writing.
Just list a few things now that remind you of your theme. They could be:
Colors Items Flowers Jewelry
(For example: a necklace the character wears and she always grabs it for strength with a theme of "Self-Love")
Looks like our plants are ready to flourish. So far we've:
Titled Made characters Figured out a basic plot Figured out at least one subplot Figured out how the character arc moves Figured out our main plot points that should be hit Added a theme and motifs
And now we just have one last thing to do...
How does your story end? What is the ideal ending that your MC wants? And what is the ideal ending that the plot and theme call for? Can you find a balance of both? Can you twist your plot a little to see if, maybe, just maybe, the MC can get what they want?
Before we begin, you have to choose a platform: digital or physical. This could dictate what you're include because of either the larger space of a digital binder or the more restricted space of a physical binder (or, if you have a huge binder, not so restricted).
Game 1: What's in a Binder?
Think of the type of binder you want to work on today. We've been saying series but that's a loose interpretation. You can do:
- Novel: Just one story that is either all-encompassing or one that you just would like to have its own place. - Series: All the information for the books in a series in one place. - World-building: Perhaps not so much focused on books or series, but the world that they reside in. You can include every novel that is in that universe in one place.
While doing this... - Does your series have a name? - Does your world have a name? - Do you want a specific image to tie them all together or just use the separate images per book?
Game 2: Create Your Own Checklist
Now that you know what the binder is about, you have to decide what you absolutely need inside of the binder. Here are a few suggestions:
But the possibilities are endless! Make yourself a checklist - whether to include in the binder as a reminder or just on a piece of scrap paper is up to you! - and get ready for...
Game 3: Sections, Sections, Sections
Do you have binder dividers (or, if digital, different files)? You will.
Look at your checklist. It might be helpful to divide them into main categories and divide them. How it's done, again, is up to you and your novel(s).
Are you going chronologically? Setting-related? Series-related (if this is a multi-series binder)? Do you want a world-building section and then specifics about novels? Do you want to just include it all and use post-it flags to mark off different types of files as they get added?
If digital, are we using hyperlinks or other connecting links to easy switch back and forth?
Game 4: Applying the Paint
Before we get into the nitty gritty, here is the fun last part. If you are anything like me, your series and novels tend to give you an aesthetic. So you may want to reflect that in your binder if you're feeling artsy (or even if not).
What colors remind you of the novels? What pictures?
Do you have a preferred font for everything in the binder?
Can you draw or will you mark off things as "Do this later" and find pictures online that remind you of your novel? If so, share a few with us now!
Game 5: Designing Templates
Not absolutely necessary, but it may be helpful to have a go-to format for things such as characters, specific settings, or other repetitious categories. So things like character sheets or place description sheets might be something you want to work on.
You can find some online (and I will include links) or you could design some of your own! Use a program, use your pen and paper, use a tablet... Just have fun!
Game 6: Work, Work, Work, Work,Work
Now that we have the basics of a binder set up, we have to do one last thing: start to fill it out!
Take six of your categories and assign them a number from 1-6. We're going to use a random dice roller (I will roll the dice for all) and for 15 minutes, we'll work on that specific section, filling in what we can. At the end, we'll share results and do it all over again.
There will be four of these timed "sprints" and then the mini-games are all over! You're free to hang out in here and talk about series, worlds, stories, whatever you'd like as we finish up the party.