National Novel Writing Month Planning

Hello, Escapists!

Amidst being busy with school and different Speech Communications projects, baking cookies for my co-workers, and trying to finish the forth Harry Potter book, I am back with another post about NaNo. A few people showed interest in trying NaNo this year, which totally elated me! The more people we can get to climb aboard this ship, the better! I did notice, though, that most didn’t know what to do about plotting, outlining, or wrangling up various ideas in general.

So here I am with my attempt to help the cause.

First of all, it is never to late to begin planning for NaNo. We do have 40 more days before November 1st, people! …excuse me a moment.

*aside to herself* 40 DAYS AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Ahem. As I said, it isn’t too late. Most people don’t start their planning until the last two weeks of October! In fact, Chris Baty himself suggests you leave yourself a week to plan, then jump into the challenge headfirst. Remember, NaNoWriMo is about writing as much as you can, as fast as you can. There is no quality, only quantity. Quality is for December and beyond. The goal is to write a novel and have the finish product: the skeleton of an idea that you are welcome to spend making pretty…after November. For a lot of people, National Novel Writing Month is a whole 30 days of motivation and deadlines that they normally wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s the push to get them to write. In my case, I probably wouldn’t be tackling a novel with such fervor at the moment if I didn’t have NaNoWriMo to back me up.

However, if you do want to start planning, I suggest you start now. There are two sorts out there: plotters and pantsers. You are free to choose which you would like to be.

Pantsers are people who only figure out the minimal amount for their novel preparation. They might sketch a very loose outline, figure out the main characteristics of their characters, and grab a starting point for their novel, but that’s it. Pansters are people who want to step into NaNo and a shroud of mystery. They embrace the fog and the uncertainty; they love being blind and leaving room for something to jump out of the darkness and surprise them. Only the pressure of the deadline and what little they know keeps them going.

Plotters, on the other hand, are people (like me) who cannot dive in with so little information. Plotters write detailed outlines, figure out character back stories and subplots and descriptions, and sketch out the plot down to a T. They enjoy the deadline and the competition without having to worry about getting lost. At every point they know exactly where they want to be, what should be happening, and what is to come. There is very little room for surprise…but even then the story never quite behaves how it should. Everyone knows that.

As I said, I am a plotter. I’ve never been a pantser, because I know I would get lost, then confused, then frustrated. I like knowing where I am and what should be happening (though what should be happening doesn’t always, you know, happen). I have been plotting out my November story idea since June, and it is miserable to wait another 40 days to start it.

Being miserable does build character though, or so I’ve heard.

I blame Calvin & Hobbes.

Up to this point, then, I’ve written a 4 page outline (I write in very small print, so that’s quite a bit), loads of character information, a few tries at different POVs, thoughts on various different plot points, character development, and etcetera. If I recall correctly, last time I counted I’d written over 35 pages, front to back, of story information for this November. In fact, I’m to the point where I know I shouldn’t plot anymore or risk becoming completely bored of the idea. The mere notion of becoming bored with it seems outrageous right now, but I am determined to write at least 85% of this novel during November and I don’t want to ruin that.

So my suggestion for those who want to do NaNo is this: find an idea you like, any idea, that you would be willing to commit a month of insanity to. Make sure you are smitten with the idea  — you’re stuck with it for a whole 30 days (if not longer, depending on if you finish it or not, and then if you like it so much you want to spend a few more months editing it). Writing is like having a baby, after all. It’s a good, long process. Once you’ve picked out your plot, sit down with an open document or a notebook and start jotting down random information about it.  Are you a pantser who would rather only know the basics? Or are you a plotter who needs to know every little detail? These things will really determine how much time you will need to spend on preparing during the next 40 days.

No matter which you choose to be, make sure you tend to your noveling plans at least a few hours a week. Get the idea stuck in your head and cement it there. Know what you want and why you are going into NaNo before you jump in feet first. National Novel Writing Month is definitely exciting, but at least have an idea where you are going (no matter if you enjoy the fog or not), because the last thing any of us want is to have 20k down with 30k to go . . . and then realize it’s just not going to work out.

Some Other Random Advice:

  • Get ahead in the first week. If you want to reach 50k, the goal is 1,667 words/day, but really during the first week you might want to try doubling that if possible. The first week is the week that usually runs the smoothest. The next two are definitely harder. Plus, you want to leave room during November for sick days, lazy days, and various outings.
  • Stock up on candy and caffeine! I cannot stress this enough. There is nothing more empowering than knowing a Kit Kat bar awaits you at the end of the next 600 words, and there is nothing more motivating than a sip of fresh hot chocolate with whipped cream between sentences.
  • Set aside a time each day for writing. If you can hook into a schedule and use that time for writing every day, you are less likely to procrastinate and get behind. For myself, I’ve set aside the time from 7-9am to write, and I’ve told myself that if I don’t write the quota during these two hours every day, I’ve lost my chance for the day to write because I have other things I need to do for the rest of my alert hours (school, chores, work, etc). This will hopefully keep me writing and keep me from sleeping in.
  • Get involved in the NaNo forum community! Maybe even here, too, depending on how many people are crazy enough to try writing a novel in a month. c: The caffeine and the deadline are good motivators, but the true motivation is the encouragement you’ll get from all the people who are writing like fire alongside of you. There is nothing more exciting, and competitive, than trying to reach the same goal with thousands of other people who know, perfectly, of the pain and joy you feel.

Also, to end, if you have a plot or even a random scratch idea floating around inside your head, try to flesh it out! Think about at work, in the shower, at midnight by the light of a candle. Listen to music and pick out songs that seem to match the mood and feeling of the plot. Get into the heads of your characters. NaNo is exciting because for about two months, it really encourages the awesome feeling of writing and insanity. Go wild, Escapists. During Oct & Nov, you are given leave to just.go.wild.

Until next time, my fellow novelists (and readers),


3 thoughts on “National Novel Writing Month Planning

  1. I'm way excited for NaNoWriMo :) I never plan too far ahead. I'll have a vague idea for the entire year but I don't start the actual planning until the last week or even a few days before. It's called procrastination :D But those are super good tips, I use every one of those ever year.Pay attention to these tips, New NaNoers, they might save your NaNoLife :D

  2. I don't fit into either of the catagories! I'd like to think of myself as a plotter, but that's not right. If I plot, I lose the idea. It's that simple. There's one thing that absolutely make the idea go bye-bye. Giving my characters names. Doing that before October 31st is like novel-sucide. I think I'm going to think up an idea and abruptly abandon it. Then, I'll come back to it when the last week of October smiles down on us all. Hopefully that works. Because nothing else has worked.

  3. Ktlemonhead -Sorry! I'm not exactly sure what more advice I could give about plotting for NaNo. It's kind of a "jump in and see what crazy hectic insanity happens during the next 30 days, and hope to God you don't go off the deep end before December makes its grand appearance". Sounds like since you don't enjoy plotting, you might be more of a pantser. My description of pantser doesn't have to be straight on. Everyone is different.Sounds like your idea is the best bet, then. Just let it brew at the back of your mind for a bit. And who knows, maybe another idea will lash out at you and surprise you! There's still a good 37 days left before all literary hell breaks loose!Above all, just remember to have fun. If you aren't having fun with NaNo, it probably isn't worth the pains.Thank you for your comment!-Anna

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