Plotting #3: Case Study – How Not To Take Over The World

Missed out on Day 1 of Plotting? Catch up here! There’s also Day 2.

Way, way back when I was a very newbie writer and had never completed more than the very occasional short story, I was part of a critique group on Critique Circle. We went through a stage of doing weekly short story challenges that actually started as a way to teach me specifically how to write short stories, because everything I wrote turned into a giant ramble. (Which is not always a bad thing, but I wanted to learn the short story format too. It was super valuable, and I’m still learning, and I have that awesome queue on Critique Circle to thank for it.) I attempted a few novels, but as is generally the case when you’re still figuring this writing thing out, I never got much further than the end of Act 1, which usually equates to around 20,000 words. I have a lot of act ones sitting around from that time period 😉

I can’t remember which year it was and I’m too lazy or busy or whatever to look it up, but one year, NaNoWriMo fever hit Critique Circle – it hits it every year, but this was the first year I noticed, so it’s probable that this was the end of my first year *on* Critique Circle (in which case we are talking 2007, yay coherent reference points!). If you haven’t heard of it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s now an *inter*national novel writing Thing that happens every November (and now in, like, April and July too, or some such) and the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. For someone who’d never finished more than a short story before and who’d never written more than 20k on any one thing (and that in much longer than a month), it seemed like an insurmountable challenge. I didn’t even know how to PLOT 50,000 words, let alone WRITE them!

Enter the inestimable A. Merc Rustad, who extremely generously donated a plot for my amusement. I came up with the very basic premise, and Merc handed me 25 chapter summaries which, if I wrote 2k for each of them, would net me a 50k novel at the end of November.

Spoiler: I won (meaning I got the 50k), and the novel was terrible.

Also Spoiler: That is NOT the novel you’ll be seeing tomorrow in the plotting video.


Okay so why on earth am I telling you this story if I’m not even going to be talking about that early NaNo book?

Well, I tried editing the story, right–because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you write a novel–only to discover that I’d actually, accidentally, written book 2 in a 3-book series. OOPS. (Alack, this is not the only time I’ve done that, just the first. Oy.) So then in, um, 2009 I think it must have been, I tried for NaNo again and although I didn’t make it, I *did* make it through a sizeable chunk of How Not To Take Over The World, book 1 in that 3-book series (officially abbreviated HNOT). I finished it in the second half of 2010 after writing the first draft of Sanctuary in the first part of the year, and MAN was it FUN. I mean, it was a struggle to finish because for some weird reason Sanctuary, which was the first draft I’d ever flown through, broke my brain and although I forced myself to finish HNOT after that, it was actually yeeeeeears before I was able to write really seriously and quickly again. So bizarre.

Anyway! HNOT was FUN! And beta readers LIKED it! And I even won a comedy contest with some lines from the draft, which was super exciting and validating and all that. Plus, there was a ferret, and the ferret is awesome :3

BUT. The plot was super broken. The MC was a bit off as well, but I pretty much knew how to fix that – I just couldn’t figure out how to fix the plot, because I couldn’t figure out how to structure it. OH LOOK STRUCTURE THAT’S THE THEME OF THE WEEK IT’S ALMOST LIKE THIS WAS PLANNED AH HA.

BUT *BUT*!! Because the Twinny One is a plotting genius, and because I refuse to let go of books once I’m in love with them and thus have been picking at this off and on since I finished it in 2010, we finally, FINALLY found a structural solution earlier this year. And then Life Happened, and I never had a chance to really do anything about it, BUT THEN I went to VISIT LIANA and we PLOTTING THINGS and IT WAS GLORIOUS. (There’s even a song that I’ve promised Twitter, which if I’m feeling brave I might post for you next week.)

So. Tomorrow’s post is the epic 2-hour vid that shows Liana and I fixing the broken plot, and you’ll get to see how the plot ended up fixed. Today, though, the broken plot in all it’s broken glory 🙂

Here’s the plot outline of the original story. There’s one card missing near the end because stitching pics together at midnight is complicated: The missing scene should be right before the card that says Chapter 27, and it’s here.

Some explanations:

THE EYE: This world has a magical field somewhat like a magnetic field surrounding it. The field interacts with the ground at various hotspots around the globe that look like translucent tornados – you can see them best at dawn and dusk. They are pretty much raw power, and in this city, the Council Chambers are built in a ring around them to protect people from accidentally wandering into the Eye and getting decimated. To actually tap into the power of the Eye is unheard of at this point in history.

THE KEY: Deviran (duh-VEER-an) has a magical artefact called the Key that enables the bearer to wield greater than usual power (and do other stuff, but this is the only thing that comes into this story).

EVIL OVERLORD SCHOOL: Is where the story begins. Deviran, the MMC, and Mercury, the FMC, are both students in the process of graduating, as is Chiara, another POV character (the one on the orange post-its that we cut in the video), and Sparky, Mercury’s friend. Each city around the world has its Evil Overlord, but they are mostly scapegoats and tokenistic figureheads these days, pretty much like the British monarchy.

THE DEMONS: There’s something weird going on with the sky in the city – it looks all bulgy and weird-metallicky and there are shapes in it. Some people think it’s just a bizarre magical meteorological thing; others think they are demons who will rain down and wreak havoc. The latter, shockingly enough, are correct. What no one realises until the end, though, is that the demons are actually the tool of a totally mysterious, never-explored villain. Who’s the villain? No clue. What does the villain want? Other than to rain the demons down, I HAVE NO FREAKING CLUE. THIS IS A BROKEN DRAFT AND YOU EXPECT COHERENT ANSWERS??? AH HA HA HA. Ha. Ha ha.

I think that’s all you need to know, but if you have questions let me know and I’ll update this post.

Oh, and because I can, see below for a couple of random snippets from the rough draft of HNOT 😉 Have fun! Tomorrow: FIXING THINGS!!!!!!!


She looked over Sparks’s shoulder. “Oh.” Looks like she wasn’t the only one that had felt the explosion of power: row after row of the translucent violet demons made the street look like the bubble factory had exploded again. Only these bubbles had teeth, and could in all probability kill. “Crap.”

“You could say that.” Sparks stepped around her and pressed against her, back to back again. “So. Any big plans?”

“Er, run?”

“In which direction, precisely?”

Mercury twisted her head around, stomach sinking as she realised they were completely surrounded. “Um, up?”


“We need your assurances that you won’t try to… liberate the Key.” Deviran raised an eyebrow.

Mercury folded her arms across her chest and narrowed her eyes. “And why would I agree to that?”

“Because you’re fundamentally a nice person?” Deviran tried.

Chiara snorted and Mercury had to admit, she had a point. Deviran ought to know better than to try a long shot like that.

“All right,” he said, raising his hands disarmingly. “I can see I’m outnumbered here. Because we need you to, then. Because we’ll make it worth your while.”

Mercury practically felt her face light up, and struggled against it. “Is that so. How, precisely?”

Deviran shrugged. “However you like, within reason.”

“Deviran,” Chiara warned. “I don’t think–”

“Really?” Mercury cut in. “Anything?”

“Within reason.” He leaned forward, meeting her eye, perfectly blank.

“Leave town?”




“Pretend to die and never let anyone see you again?”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *