NaNoWriMo and the Story Grid

November approaches. I've seen a ton of advice from numerous writers on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. My favorite source so far? The most recent episode of The Story Grid podcast, where Shawn Coyne waxes eloquently on this topic.

Just a brief digression on The Story Grid. In his years of working as an editor, Shawn Coyne created this system to figure out what makes books work. He ended up writing a book about it, and now he appears on a weekly podcast, along with Tim Grahl, where they analyze writing and explain why it does or does not work. I have learned a great deal from this podcast.  I also have the book, but it is not written for my brain or maybe it's just that I'm not a visual learner. I have tried to read it three times, and I keep putting it down. I blame the graphs.

Anyway, I love this episode because it's helpful to writers who want to knock out a 50,000-word first draft in the month of November, and it's also great advice for novelists at any time.  Coyne had me at hello because he uses Charlotte's Web as his example in this episode. He advises his listeners to pick a genre before starting your project. In order to figure that out, he suggests that you think about what you love to read and use one of those books as your model. (For Kate and the Horses, I thought about Charlotte's Web and Harriet the Spy.) He then recommends that you read the book again and pick out scenes that feel important to you. He stated that those are most likely obligatory scenes of your genre, and so you would need to make sure they find their way into your story. For example, if you're writing a romantic comedy, you need a "meet cute" scene. You need a "romantic moment" and a "break-up due to misunderstandings" scene. You need a scene where the best friend gives the protagonist timely advice. You need a scene where the protagonist unceremoniously dumps the caddish romantic rival. And you need that final scene where the protagonist is running to the train station or through the airport, so that she can tell her romantic soulmate that she finally understands. Fade out on the embrace.

In this episode, Coyne inspired me. I listened to his words while I walked up a country road, and I wanted to hear everything, and I wanted to run home and work on my book. I hope it motivates you, too.