Planning for NaNoWriMo: Part 2 - Outlining Your Novel

We are going to outline your novel today

Everyone operates differently when they write. This is why the brainstorming and pre-production process for each individual varies. In this series, I'll discuss the second step of my planning process to finally overcome NaNoWriMo after my fourth attempt.

If you haven't already, read the introduction to this series, Planning for NaNoRiMo- Part 1: Choosing Your Topic. This way we will be on the same page. Otherwise, I am going to assume that you have sat down and picked what you are going to write about - or have narrowed it down to three different topics.

Now let's get started on how to properly outline for your novel for success!

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #6: Outline the events of your story.

In my first article, the third step of choosing a novel topic was 'focus on your selected topics'.

Think of this as your rough draft for your outline for this week.

My first novel idea is an autobiography. I listed out all the topics I wanted to discuss. Since this is based on my own life, it was easy to write them out in sequential order, but feel free to just jot down the main topics/chapter titles as you think of them.

After writing everything down, I broke down the main topics with subtopics. This way I can figure out whether each chapter I wrote down has ample information to fill up that chapter. If a chapter has too much information, I need to break that down into a more manageable chunk.

As you can see, if you only did a rough outline of your novel ideas, that's okay. The only difference here is that it'll make outlining your novel idea this week a little bit more difficult.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #7: Plan the 'flow' of your novel

You have your bullet points for each of your chapters set up. We'll use my underdeveloped short story Bouquet of Roses as an example so you can follow along and plan with me.

I have the events of her novel following the timeline of a typical high school semester. It has the following:

  • An introduction

  • Two semesters with vacations in between them.

Having this planned out, helps me think of what smaller events will happen within those time frames for my story.

However to make the story worth reading and writing- I need to think about how I will set up the conflict of the story when the rising action will happen to lead up to the climax and then how I will resolve the novel to its hopefully satisfying conclusion.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #8: Rewrite your bullet points of your main chapters.

If you're in a word document, double space so that you'll have ample room to write in between each of your events. Set up your chapters in chronological order and visually see how your novel is going to flow.

Plan where you are going to have your exposition.

This would ideally be somewhere in the beginning of your novel and would be the part where you introduce your reader to your story. This gives your reader context about the world you are putting them in and even about the character that they will be following.

You then may want to plot where you want the call-to-action to occur.

In my case, perhaps there's a big game happening towards the end of the semester that my character Rose needs to prepare herself. Thus this is the introduction of the big conflict of the story. This will vary from story to story, but the importance here is to plot when you want this moment to happen to keep your reader invested in the story after learning about the world and characters.

Next, choose where you want your climax.

Looking at your outline, you can place it anywhere between the half mark to the 3/4 mark of your novel. Don't fuss about the rising action yet since we are just focusing on plotting out our major story points for the novel. This climax should affect the flow of the story and shake it up. In Rose's case, that would be a major obstacle that ruins her plan of participating and winning the big game that she has been looking forward to.

Finally, write down where your resolution is going to take place. How did everything turn out in the end? Are there any loose threads you need to have tied up by now? If so, address them all here.

NANOWRIMO PLANNING TIP #9: Fill in the blanks, connect the dots

Your outline should have rough work-in-progress titles written on it as well as the previously discussed exposition, call-to-action, climax, and resolution on it as well.

Remember I said to double space your word document? Now is when you write down minor events and subplots to fill in those gaps. If there are parts of your story that are missing something, introduce a new character - in my case that might be an exchange student or a substitute teacher to spice up the novel.

The key here is to make sure that you have an outline to follow for your novel so that you know how your novel is going to unfold without taking a random plunge into NaNoWriMo. Do not feel pressured to stick with your roadmap, this novel is still a work-in-progress and you are more than free to change up plot points and story events as you see fit. You should keep a record of your changes on hand so if an idea does not go as planned, you can always go back to previous drafts.

What's the Point of Outlining?

The point of this exercise this week is to plan. As NaNoWriMo is approaching you want to be 100% prepared for any Writer's Blocks or Murphy's Law that will undoubtedly come in and wreck your perfect plan of beating NaNoWriMo. By outlining your novel, you'll be ahead of your competition.

With your outline, regardless of your writing style. Sequential order or skipping around and writing random events, you will always have something to write about. This outline will be your guiding light when you sit down and start typing your 1667 words per day. Not sure what to write? Look at your outline and figure out what parts of your novel you are still missing.

We will discuss one more method of pre-production for NaNoWriMo next week.

Please continue working hard and planning out your novel. Even if it's just 15 minutes this upcoming week, sit down and plan out your novel so you can be prepared for next week's exercise.

We’d also love to hear what your progress is when it comes to outlining your novel. Do you use PowerPoint instead of Microsoft Word? Do you draw on a storyboard? We’d love to know!