Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Plan for NaNoWriMo, part 3: Bubble Maps

Hi! Last week I shared one of my favorite tricks for planning a story, drawing. I'm happy to have heard from several people that they've tried this and found it useful.

This next strategy, like the drawing, should enable you to plan your story without your internal editor getting in the way. It has various names; I call it bubble-mapping. Over the course of a novel I'll usually make about 100 bubble maps-- about 25 of them at the planning stage.

Here's what one looks like:

This is one of about 20 bubblemaps I did about the Bonemaster (an evil wizard in the Jinx trilogy) over the course of writing the three books. There was a lot I had to find out about the Bonemaster, so I kept asking myself questions about him. (The different colors are color codes I assigned to different characters or aspects of the plot. This is optional. More about colors next week.)

Let's build a bubble map from the ground up. Start out with the central idea of your story... the thing you want to write about. Ask yourself 4 questions about it:

These questions are just examples. You can make up different questions if you like. Answer each question with whatever pops into your head:

Don't think too hard! Just let it flow.

For every answer, try to expand with more information or more questions as they occur to you:

Keep going till you run out of space on the paper. By that time you should have discovered some interesting points that you want to explore further.

Pick one of these points, take another piece of paper, and start a new bubble map:

The new bubble-map in this example is based on a question from the old bubble-map. ("Constitution?")

Note the question "When?" in the new bubble-map. I'm already wondering whether this story takes place before the election, and is about Silvia's run (scamper?) for the White House, or whether it takes place after the election, when Silvia's won in a landslide and the Secret Service has to outwit enemy cats and owls. Is this a story about an election, about a constitutional crisis, about one mouse's struggle to change the world, or about an alternative USA in which a mouse is president?

This was something I didn't think about till I started bubbling. I can make more bubble-maps to explore it, but I won't really worry about it till the next step of the process, which we'll look at next week.

Watch this space!

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