NaNoWriMo Prep – How I Plan my Novels & Why it Works


Yesterday, I began outlining my novel for this November. I was going to attempt planning through every chapter to the end, something I’d never done before, but something began to feel very wrong as I entered the plotting of chapter two. There was this nagging murmur in the back of my head, and when I ignored it, it began to yell. It certainly got my attention, because it said: if you do this, your writing will be cardboard.

So I stopped immediately. And this morning I backspaced all that I had typed up. I reverted back to my tried and true methods of novel plotting, the same methods that got me through two previous NaNoWriMos. And here is what I did:

  • I created the characters
    Okay, this is kinda obvious, but completely necessary. For the important characters – the point-of-view character, for example – I write out full paragraphs. But that can be draining. So what I used was this fabulous character questionnaire from the people at NaNoWriMo themselves (NaNo Prep: The Official NaNoWriMo Character Questionnaire), and though I didn’t complete the list, I feel I really got to know my character. I copied my answers into a paragraph for my planning document, and I used that as a base to create my other characters.
  • I wrote down all the ideas
    tut-planning-ideasBy “all the ideas,” I really do mean all the ideas. Every. Single. One. Yes, even those this-couldn’t-possibly-happen ideas. Write them down. Keep a list. Cross out the ones you aren’t gonna use, but don’t erase them. You’ll gain a whole lot of inspiration from even just jotting down all these seemingly-random things.
    I’ve attached a screenshot of my original The Undiscovered Tribe planning document so you can get the main gist of it. (Note how many of those ideas never made it into the book!)
  • I picked a plot
    Here’s another obvious one, and I’m not gonna go into too much detail here because I honestly struggle a lot with plot. So I doubt I’d be of much help … 😉
    Once I finally do pick a plot, though, I simply write it down in my planning document and add to it when necessary, usually in the form of a third-person, heavily-detailed synonsis. Easy as pie~ (y’know, besides the obvious struggle of actually creating a plot. If you, too, struggle with plot, try looking up articles online on the subject, or books even.)
  • I made a storyboard on Pinterest
    You’d be surprised at how effective this is. Pin photos of your characters, where they live, quotes that apply to the story or characters, writing prompts you like, random bits of inspiration, etc. Remember that storyboards are supposed to be a bit of a mess, that’s what makes them fun!And, finally:
  • I read books similar to the novel I’m planning
    I find that your writing reflects what you’re currently reading, so this is enormously helpful. Try looking for books that are the same genre as your future novel, books that are written in the same person and/or tense, or books that convey the same mood that you’re trying to write.

I don’t outline any further than that. I decide as I go along, for the most part, also while referencing my idea list. Once I point my characters in the right direction, I let them take over. It’s a simplistic approach to NaNo Prep, and as I’ve used it for the past two years now, it seems pretty foolproof, especially for those who find themselves stuck between Plotting and Pantsing.

But why does it work?

This may just be me, but I really do love a good element of surprise, even in my own writing. It’s like a halfway point between reading a book and writing that same book: you hardly know what’s going to happen next. It keeps me coming back to my writing, just like a someone else’s book would if I’m wondering, what’s gonna happen in the next chapter? This is why I don’t plan chapter by chapter. It’s what I love about writing, and I’m hoping you grow to love it, too!

Good luck with your Prep, Wrimos, and I’ll see you in the next post! 🙂