Writing the Middle Grade Novel: From Start to Finish: Part Two
In Part 1 of this 3-part article, you learned how to start your novel. Now here are some tips and tricks for plotting and writing your novel.
1. When plotting your novel, start from the end and go back to the beginning.. Where do you want your main character to end up at the end of the story? What will this character have achieved and how will it have changed at the end of the story?
Think of a big climactic event for your novel and create a “ticking clock” so that your main character must solve the general problem of the story before time runs out (things must happen quickly so that you can keep dramatic tension throughout the story).
2. Write your book cover flap copy – just a paragraph or two that lets the reader know what the story will be about. By summarizing this, YOU too will have a better idea of EXACTLY what your story is about.
3. Next, find out all the steps your main character will need to get to the end. First, where does your character start? What do you want more than anything? What happens next to turn things around a bit and make it a bit more difficult for your main character to get what he wants?
Four. Turn your plot into a chapter outline. Try to start with a 12-chapter outline, although your story may end up having more than 12 chapters. But 12 chapters keep it manageable at first. This will also help you create your story in 3 acts of 4 chapters each.
5. As you create your outline, keep the plot triangle in mind. Introduce your characters and the setting in the lower left of the triangle. Then create a rising action as you develop problems for your main character (your story begins to move up the triangle in this way). All of these problems lead to the climax of your story (which is at the top of the triangle). In general, plan the climax for chapter 10 or 11 of the story, then solve everything in the final chapter or so.
6. For each chapter, think about what MUST happen to bring your main character closer to the climax and end of the story. You’ll think of more complications brought on by the antagonist or other external events as you do so, so don’t worry about having all of this in place right from the start.
7. As you describe, think in terms of the scenes you can create for each chapter. Plan 1-3 different scenes per chapter, for the most part. Think of your main character. Based on what he or she is like, how can you use other characters to create an interesting subplot? At the medium grade, you don’t want too many subplots and they should be pretty simple.
Follow these tips to create a compelling plot for your story and avoid falling out of the way! Then read Part 3 of How to Write the Middle Grade Novel: Cover to Cover, with tips for finishing your manuscript.