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5 Resources To Help You Plan Your NaNoWriMo Novel

by Jennifer on October 13, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

In 18 more days, NaNoWriMo-ers will take to their computers and furiously write 1,667 words a day in hopes of reaching 50,000 words in 30 days. But in order to be completely ready to write your novel on November 1, you need to have a plan.

And that plan had better contain the five things you need to know about your NaNo novel before you start writing.

More About Story Planning
Planning out an entire story from start to finish may seem like too much pre-work and not enough creativity. But truth be told, it’s actually the opposite.

The more you know about your story ahead of time, the more license you have to be creative, especially when you start writing.

When you know what your five major story milestone moments are (and to review again, these moments are: the hook, the First Plot Point (FPP), the MidPoint, the Second Plot Point (SPP) and the resolution), you have a map. You’ll know all the “stops” you need to make and what needs to happen in each part of your story in order to get you to your story milestones.

Example: If the FPP of your story is a woman waking up from a coma to realize a year has passed her by and her then-boyfriend is now dating her sister, it’s easy to figure out everything that must happen prior to the FPP in order to make it happen and work in context to the rest of the story.

So, continuing with the same example, here’s a list of some things that would have to occur in part one of your story (everything that happens prior to the FPP being revealed):

  • Introduce the main character
  • Introduce her boyfriend
  • Introduce her sister
  • Show the relationship between the boyfriend and main character
  • Show the relationship between the sister and main character
  • Show the relationship between the boyfriend and the sister
  • Show where the main character is in her life currently (prior to the FPP)
  • Set up the story’s stakes (what the main character has to lose, essentially)
  • Set up the event that causes her to go into a coma

You get the picture.

Knowing what you’re writing toward makes it much easier to plan your story then it does if you’re pantsing it and you figure out your FPP while you’re writing.

And just to illustrate my point, if you were to pants your novel and not figure out what your FPP is until you start writing, you’d then have to go back and re-write the entire first part of your novel in order for it all to be set up for your FPP.

But—when you plan ahead—you know what you’re writing toward and you know exactly what needs to happen to get you from Point A to Point B.

See the difference?

Some Resources to Get You Started
You still have almost three weeks before NaNoWriMo begins. That means there is plenty of time for you to put together a solid story plan. One that will make you fully ready to write a novel in 30 days.

Here are some recommended resources to get you started on your story planning journey:

  • Larry Brooks’ Story Structure Series—This series gives you in-depth
    information on each of your five story milestones and addresses how to make them work in your story. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m a huge supporter and fan of Larry Brooks. The guy knows his shit and tells it like it is. You won’t find any sugar-coating in his posts, just good ‘ol information on what your story must contain in order for it to work.
  • Story Structure—Demystified—This is Brooks’ eBook on the same subject as his series I mentioned above. The only difference is the eBook contains even more information to help you understand story structure and plan out your novel. It’s worth every penny and I highly recommend every NaNoWriMo-er read it before attempting this year’s event.
  • Holly Lisle’s Professional Plot Outline—At the very least, I recommend reading a copy of this mini-guide. While it won’t help you plan the kind of detail Brooks’ series and eBook will, it will at least get you thinking about the plot of your novel.
  • Index cards—Yes, the kind you buy at the grocery store or Walmart. Index cards are one of the most effective story planning tools because they allow you to write your scenes out and then easily move things around when you need to. Post-Its also work well for this.
  • Deconstructing “An Education”—Brooks’ has taken the movie “An Education” and deconstructed it to explain, in detail, how to put a story together. This series is a must-read for anyone who wants an example of story structure in action.

What planning tools are you using to get your story ready for NaNoWriMo? Please share in the comments section below.

And be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss any  pre-NaNoWriMo prep.

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. For more great writing tips, articles and information, follow her on Twitter.

**I’m part of a NaNoWriMo blog chain. Check it out for even more great tips and information.

Note: The link to Story Structure—Demystified is an affiliate link. If you purchase the book, Procrastinating Writers will make a couple bucks. Thanks for your support.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Knuxchan October 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Thank you! This is a great article with a wealth of information. I think all of us are getting mentally (and physically) prepared for NaNoWriMo, and these are excellent posts that will provide us all with guidance on how to go about tackling the 50k challenge 🙂

2 jblan October 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm

@Knuxchan You’re welcome. There’s lots more to come. Next week I’m tackling characters and the week after I’ll be covering getting yourself and your schedule ready to write.

3 Claudie A. October 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Yaay, characters for next week! Not that I actually have problems with characters, or a rather complete outline done already… But I still love these posts! This isn’t how I did it, and I think looking into new ways to organise your novels can only help.

4 Megs October 15, 2010 at 9:53 am

Another awesome tool for nano is a new counter: http://nano.davidsgale.com/. This allows you to easily weight and track your days around life in the month.

5 Megs October 15, 2010 at 9:54 am

I keep trying index cards and then promptly going back to notebooks and computers.

6 Angela Perry October 15, 2010 at 11:05 am

Thanks for the links! I’d also recommend Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. I first discovered it during NaNoWriMo a few years ago, and I have used it ever since.


7 Lela Gwenn October 15, 2010 at 11:09 am

Ah yes, the run up to insanity begins with a flurry of organization… yano, cyz organized insanity is the best kind! 🙂

8 Anonymous August 9, 2012 at 10:04 pm

What will happen if you start writing before nanowrimo even starts and give that to them? They wont know and you’ll win? Can anyone do that?

9 Jennifer August 10, 2012 at 7:43 am

Starting to write before NaNo begins is against the rules. That’s not to say you can’t do it anyways, but you wouldn’t be being authentic or doing the challenge the way everyone else is. But as you said, no one would know if you write it ahead of time. Since you don’t get anything from “winning” NaNo other than a couple freebie downloads, a sense of accomplishment and a novel draft it really doesn’t make sense to cheat.

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