You’re not done with the drafting process until you nail all these milestone scenes. Nor are you done with the story planning phase until all these milestones are clear to you.
If you use your drafts as exploratory vehicles for that purpose, you condemn them to a major rewrite. Because every milestone requires a setup, and many require foreshadowing, neither of which is possible until you know where you’re headed.
For example, if you’re writing along with no real clue as to what will happen at your Midpoint, trusting that when you get there it will be self-evident, there’s no way to foreshadow it or set it up. At least, not until the next draft. Which you can avoid, or at least make easier, if you plan all this out beforehand.
Outline or no outline, the creation of your story’s milestones is the most important element of the storytelling process. More so, in fact, than the actual words on the page.
While I do advocate pre-draft outlining, and in light of the fact that the more you know about story milestones the more likely you’ll be to think about them before you begin writing, I realize that it’s not for everybody. Especially outlining, which is only one way to plan a story. What I am suggesting for both story planners and organic drafters is a grasp of story structure built around a handful of key milestone scenes. The more you know about those scenes and how to connect them with bridging narrative — at whatever point you know it — the closer you’ll be to writing a draft solid enough to be submitted.
Here’s the truth about organic writing: It’s just story planning by another name. By writing drafts without a narrative or character goal, you are using your drafts as an exploratory phase or tool. In other words, you are applying the act of drafting toward the planning of your story. The reason it’s actually more a planning activity than an actual writing activity true, it’s all “writing” in a general way of speaking — is that you absolutely will need to start over, or at least revise it to the extent you might as well start over. You can begin writing a draft that stands a chance of working until you know the plan, which includes a clear vision for these five story milestones at a minimum. Anything prior to that
— be it a draft, an outline, or a pad of yellow sticky notes affixed to your refrigerator door — is just story planning by another name.
When and how you come to identify and link those milestones during the process is completely up to you.
And if you’re wondering where the examples from The Da Vinci Code are, they’re coining. In the following chapters we’ll look closer at each of the milestones, and I’ll reference how — and where — Dan Brown did it.
The excerpt is retrieved from the book ‘Story Engineering’