I wanted to write a NaNoWriMo this year (2014) and began with great enthusiasm using an old science fiction idea from 1972. Unfortunately, I bogged down on Nov 7 at approx. 9100 words with a great idea, a handful of unlikely characters in similar but varied troubles, and a static situation… but I didn’t have a plot.
I flailed around for a few days, adding a few words here and there, changing others, but not making any forward progress. When I was a week behind the word quota of almost 12,000, I gave up the idea of doing the story as a NaNoWriMo project. Instead, I dove into the libraries, my own writing library and the public libraries, and read everything I could find on plot and plotting. The bottom line: plot derives from conflict. I had no conflict. What to do? What to do? (Wring hands here.)
Today is Nov 26. I awoke at 4am this morning knowing what the story is about. It’s essentially a dystopian escape story: people trapped in the future (I already knew that), some 400+ years in the future, on an island created by sea level rise, the remnants of civilization in desperate straits, populations depleted and demoralized by disease, pollution, resource wars… and those in control are afraid that the cyrogens’ ideas will cause revolution. They are kept isolated from the world on their island. What they do about their situation is the story I can now dig into and begin to write.
The characters will remain, but the situation has evolved now that I know they are on an island. I need a protagonist, though he/she won’t have a square jaw and wear a white hat. He/she is a victim like the rest, but will be the leader who changes the situation for all. I’m off to the races. The slog now begins. This is the writing process & how it works.