27 index cards

Some months ago a protagonist and a premise presented themselves to me. I noodled around with them, on and off, and even wrote a handful of scenes. Then I stopped, because I had sworn a solemn vow not to write my way through a novel without plot, plan, or road map. I’ve done that before, and it hasn’t worked out well for me.

I had the beginning of my book, and the ending. I knew the two or three Biggest Things that happen in between. Almost all of the second and third acts, though, remained a mystery. I needed structure, causality, escalation.

“One of these days,” I told myself, “I will Grapple.” I resisted the siren call of scenes that seductively appealed to be written. Did they even belong in the book? “Must . . . finish¬† . . . plotting . . . .”

Yesterday afternoon¬† Bonnie shared with me the dining-room table in her family’s Portland house, several hours of her time, and, best of all, her insightful questions and excellent ideas. We did a Taos-style plot break on my book, complete with color-coded cards. And while we did not introduce a shadowy cabal of Norwegian secret agents, we did create a three-act structure that hangs together and will bear weight. Afterward, as she prepared for the red-eye flight home, I copied those index cards into Super Note Card, feeling grateful and excited.

NaNoWri Mo? NaNoWhyNot?