So you’ve decided to write a book for NaNoWriMo? There are two main ways to go about this: planning and preparing, or just having a general idea and winging it. And there are different levels of each. It’s kind of like a spectrum. At the very far end there are the people who like to plan out every sentence to the most finite detail (not many people that I know, honestly) and on the opposite end there are the people who don’t even know what they’re writing about (not a lot of people I know on this side either).
I’d like to think I’m somewhere in the middle. I like to plan out the plot with key points and scenes, important settings because you’re definitely going to be writing about those more than once, and character outlines.
So where do you rest?
I honestly think that all people should at least do a little planning, but what’s the right amount for you?
Planning the Plot
When I plan a plot, I like to break it up into beginning, middle, and end.
What are integral moments/scenes in the beginning in order to introduce the characters and set up the conflict?
How do I reach my climax and what road does my main character need to take to get there?
And how do I resolve and wrap up all loose ends?
Ask yourself these questions and you get kind of a broad sense of direction. If you wanted to go even deeper, you could do this chapter by chapter.
I find character outlines very important because it gives you a blueprint for how your character should act, what your character should say, and the motive behind it.
From personal experience, I found that my character outlines tend to focus on mental attributes as opposed to physical attributes because then you have the mindset of your character. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your character to help you get a feel for their personality.
Are they a leader? Why or why not?
In a group project, what role would they play? (E.g. the person who does everything, the person who shows up to the first meeting and doesn’t reappear until the presentation, the bossy one who thinks they’re better than everyone else, the crafty person who makes it look really pretty, etc.)
What is their biggest fear and why?
What is their aspiration?
What is the conflict that drives them to do what they do?
If they were on a deserted island, what would they bring?
I know some of these seem silly, but if you think about them, it actually helps you understand the psychology and personality of your character.
So depending on how much you want to plan, this step could be unnecessary. When planning settings, I usually choose the ones that the character most often inhabits like their house, or maybe the school they attend, the place they work. Places that they’re going to be in the majority of the scenes of your novel.
Usually with planning settings, I just decide the layout of where they are (like the rooms of their house, etc.) and then describe the rooms.
So a setting description may look something like this for me.
Main Character’s House:
Rooms: Kitchen, Bathroom, Main Character’s Bedroom, etc.
Kitchen: Large, open concept with granite counters, cherry cabinets, and a large island in the middle with a stone basin sink. Entrance to the patio in the far right corner. Dishwasher next to the second sink along the back wall…etc.
Obviously that isn’t a complete outline, but it’s only one I made up for an example.
So no matter how much planning you like to do, you can hopefully take this guide and apply it as much or as little to your novel as you like.
Hope this helps! Happy Blogathon and keep on typing.
Thanks for reading!
Julia E. Flowers