NaNoWriMo Prep, 2

Do you have an outline for your novel?

Every one of the 170,000+ participants of NaNoWriMo has their own way of preparing for the crazy month of November. Regarding the actual novel, my checklist includes: 1) A story (which I discussed last week); 2) A title; 3) An outline.

Being that this year will be the fourth novel in a series, I’ve developed a sure-fire process for outlining this particular type of story. Firstly, I know that I will have 10 chapters. Why 10? Because then I have 10, 5,000-word length chapters. Also, because if one follows the daily word goal of writing 1,667 words/day, then that means each chapter takes three days to write. (I must admit that it was not I who came to this realisation on my own, but Kelly.) With this formula in mind, I make my outline.

One of the joys of NaNoWriMo is seat-of-your-pants writing, adventures in prose, and letting the writing run away with you. So it’s best not to have a too detailed outline, in my experience at least. The first thing I do to make an outline is to number a list from 1 to 10, for each of the chapters. Then I write in the main plot points for about where I think they need to take place in the overall novel: for instance, first chapter is always my ‘intro’ chapter, with the protagonist leaving home for one reason or another by the end of the chapter; the last chapter is the ‘resolution’ chapter, so I have to make sure that I’m able to wrap everything up by the second half of the tenth chapter. I usually have a number of small adventures with the large, overarching adventure for my protagonist beginning somewhere in the middle.

Right, so once the major plot points are mapped out, then I have to fill in the rest of the chapters. Here’s my trick to writing a chapter in three days: I plan to have three episodes for each chapter. That way when I sit down to write each day I will always have an idea of what I am going to write about that day — as well as resolving the previous episode and preparing for the next one. This works really well with my knights & quests/fairy tale stories, because that type of story-telling lends itself well to being episodic.

For example, the outline from The Faerie King looked a little like this:

1 – Intro; Andrew’s tale; Silas prepares to leave

2 – Black Knight; Green Knight; rescue a maiden (sort-of)

3 – Selkie; dragon (loses his horse); attacked by knights while sleeping (steals one of their horses)

4 – Giants (loses his horse; held captive); escape

…and so on. As you can see, it is still not a very detailed outline. Sometimes the episode takes up an entire day’s worth of writing, sometimes it spills over into one or more days (such as Silas’s encounter with the giants). The idea is just to get the creative juices flowing when I sit down to do my writing that day, thinking, ‘Right, I have to get Character from X to Z. How am I going to do that?’ I’ve found that this type of planning is detailed enough to ensure that I will have something to write about each day, while still being vague enough for crazy adventures.

What about you? Do you outline before NaNoWriMo? How are you preparing?

NB: I actually do quite a bit more than just novel-planning to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Check back tomorrow for my post on ‘Planning Life during the month of November’.

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Prep, 2

  1. Kristin says:

    I, too, am planning my ‘novel’ (well, my biography-thing). I’m re-reading the few biographies of Macpherson there are (one detailed Victorian, 2 modern crap ones), and I’m trying to come up with an outline. I could just do a linear – cradle to coffin – one, but I’m wondering if I should sort it by ‘great events’. Hmm. Not quite decided yet.

    Good luck with your’s – sounds like it’s all planned!


    • Chera says:

      Hm… I would think that cradle-coffin would be the easiest to write. Then, if you wanted to rearrange it by great events instead, you could do that during the revising stage. Do whichever you think would most likely see you to the finish…

      Did you know that there is a section in the NaNoWriMo forums for ‘NaNoRebels’, people who aren’t writing novels?


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