No, it’s not a Star Trek story, though I am a fan.

I completed the Nanowrimo challenge in November (National Novel Writing Month) and wrote 50,000 words.  It was my second year, and my experience was so much better than last year, thanks to Shawn Coyne and The Story Grid.

In 2017 I started the 50,000 word challenge with a short story. I tacked on scenes without a clear idea of what story I was writing.  I didn’t have much experience of story structure, just the knowing that comes from being a lifelong avid reader. This knowing led me in circles, as I experimented with different styles and genres.  I added action/crime scenes, wrote hints of a love story with almost everyone the protagonist met and added sparkles of memoir when I touched on topics that related to my personal experience growing up.

This spring (2018) I got hooked on the Story Grid Podcast.  It planted the seed that began my exploration into ‘story’ that educated me in a way I didn’t expect.

What really piqued my interest was how easily the hosts were able to talk about story structure and how much their conversations helped Tim Grahl (author) with his first draft.

I binge listened to the podcast, then found the Editor Round Table Podcast and realized there were tons of other ‘story geeks’ out there that understood this language.  Each podcast explored a different genre and answered the six key core questions. I could see how useful this approach was to both the editor and the writer.  The six core questions are:

  1. Whats the genre.
  2. What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre.
  3. Whats the point of view.
  4. What are the objects of desire.
  5. Whats the controlling idea/theme.
  6. What is the beginning hook, the middle build and the ending payoff.

Now these questions may seem intuitively sensible, but when I looked at my 2017 attempt, I couldn’t answer a single one of them.

For 2018 Nanowrimo, I put together a foolscap and decided to write a love story with the controlling idea that – love triumphs when we learn to respect ourselves. I worked on fifteen core scenes, narrowing my focus and as I did that, the story became a fictional account of a young woman trying to find her way in the world as she learned to make better decisions in her personal relationships. Along the way she finds a way to love and respect herself, which she discovers is what was missing all along.

This gave me a framework and I found the challenge easier as I focused on getting those fifteen scenes down on the page. I now have a basic draft to work with and look forward to continuing to fine tune it with the help of the Story Grid principles.

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Photo credit: Tree Langdon, 2018, Myanmar