On the NaNoWriMo website, there are forums that make it possible for participants to get help on all kinds of writing-related questions – everything from naming your character (Which is better, Jane or Jayne for my story?), to research-related questions (How far can a Piper Clipper airplane go without stopping?). You can even get help fixing holes in your plot.
I know myself well enough as a writer to know that I am definitely a planner (not a pantser). For the first few days of the challenge I found myself abandoning plans and free-writing, but now that I’m midway into my book, I’m back to planning. But this week I faced a challenge. I wasn’t sure what was actually going to happen in my book — beyond a general series of event.
So I turned to the Plot Doctor thread on the NaNoWriMo site and typed in my query:
I was amazed when a few hours later, four different people had responded with ideas! And the ideas they gave me were so helpful!
Here’s what one person wrote:
The other responses were similar to the one above. As I thought about my plans for my story, it was actually just as helpful to see the ideas I definitely knew I was not going to use, as it was to see ideas I might actually use.
As I thought about each idea, my thought process was something like, “Nope. Not that. BUT this is making me think…”
I’m still working out what Grandpa is hiding from the two sisters. I think it’s going to have something to do with hunting for lost treasure or something very valuable. I haven’t decided yet, and unfortunately, the Plot Doctor can’t really decide for me. That part, I have to do on my own.
Using the Plot Doctor got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Plot Doctor for real life? A person who could just come in and fix the gaps in my own life story, the missing bits. Someone to iron out the parts that don’t make sense, and make it all come together into one, cohesive story arc?
In life, sometimes we get to decide how our story will go. Sometimes we don’t.
In writing, I get to make those decisions. I get to decide just how bad it’s going to get for my characters before things get better. I get to decide how much they need to suffer, or hurt, or how long they need to be lost before they find themselves.