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NaNoWriMo: Story Prep

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Hello Writers! We are officially ten days away from the start of NaNoWriMo! How are we all feeling? Excited? Stressed? Confident? Nervous? Me too! Based on the vibe here at Kobo, it seems like NaNo participants have fallen into two camps at this point: either prepared and ready to tackle the challenge ahead or completely clueless as to what to write and slightly panicked. I’m currently living in the latter camp, but am working on changing that.

Pretty much everyone who tackles NaNo advises having a solid outline of your project before you begin (of course there are some experienced pantsers out there for whom this does not apply). This outline can vary in depth and complexity — remember, you can’t write any of your book before November so don’t get too in depth! — but laying out your novel beforehand can help you focus on the task at hand each day: writing the dang thing!

Everyone has a different way to prepare, but here are some ways you can get ready to write your novel before November begins!

1.   Plot Outline

Before tackling writing a novel in a month, especially if it’s your first time (re: me), having an idea of what you’re planning to write before you sit down to do it is an excellent idea. Once you’ve decided on your genre and the general idea of your plot (For example: a post-apocalyptic sci-fi about sisters trying to reunite), it’s time to start breaking down your story. How did these sisters get separated? What is keeping them apart? How will they find one another? Answering as many plot related questions as you can before you start writing will make November so much easier! Instead of having to figure out every beat of your story while you’re writing it, you’ll be able to just kick back and bring your story to life.

2.   Chapter Breakdown

If you want to take your outline a step further, you can break down each plot point by chapter. This is a good way to tackle NaNo if your plan is to write a chapter per day. It will also let the future you know precisely what needs to be accomplished each day to move your story along. I was recently listening to an old episode of the KWL podcast, and the author said she likes to write one sentence about what happens in each chapter. This allows her to visualize the pacing of her novel, figure out the flow, spot any plot holes, and build tension appropriately.  

3.   Character Outlines

Now that you know what your story is about, it’s time to figure out who your story is about. Who are these sisters? Why are they important and who is keeping them apart? Do they have friends? What are they like? Getting inside the minds of your characters ahead of time is a great way to learn how they’re going to react to the situations you put them in when you get writing. Maybe one is really stubborn and will fight against every situation you put her in. Maybe one is too eager to please and will find himself agreeing to a bad deal with the wrong person. Or maybe, one is a Sagittarius with a Gemini rising and a Pisces moon and you need to figure out what this means for them.

4.   Research

If you’re planning on writing a novel that takes place in a real location or relies on historical events, it’s a great idea to get the research out of the way ahead of time. Learn the ins and outs of where or when your story takes place – what technology is available? How will your characters dress? — so you can spend less time on Google and more time making your story come to life!

5.   World Building

If you’re writing any sort of genre fiction, world building ahead of time can be extremely helpful. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, world building involves making decisions as to how your fictional world will look and function. For example, if you’re writing a space opera, it’s an opportunity to figure out which galaxy it’s taking place in, or if there are any aliens involved and if so, what they look like and how they act. In a fantasy novel, this would be deciding if magic exists, and how it works, or which mythical creatures exist in your novel, or maybe even drawing a map of your fictional land so you get a sense of the geography (you don’t want to have Mordor to the west for the first half of your novel and then to the east in the second). World building isn’t only for genre fiction – no matter what you’re writing, having a good sense of the world in which your characters are existing is never a bad thing!

These are only a handful of ways to prepare for your NaNoWriMo project and there are plenty more available on the NaNoWriMo website. Like I said before, the more prepared you are before the first of November, the easier it will be to write your novel. Which is why I really need to get started on the planning.

Let us know how you’re preparing for NaNo in the comments!

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