NaNoWriMo Prep: The Importance of Planning, Even for Pantsers

October 11, 2016


Dear Pantsers:

I know every instinct is screaming for you to run for the hills. Stick with me. It’s worth it.


It is entirely possible to start NaNoWriMo on November 1st (or later) with no preparation. You can win with a late start. It’s also possible to scale Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen. If you’re a professional with the right physiology and a little luck, you can even survive it.

That doesn’t make it a good idea if you have any other choice. And you, my little writers, do.

But I’m a pantser! I don’t do prep!

And you can choose not to. But why not make something that’s already an incredible feat a little bit easier?

Today, let’s talk about the bare minimum of what you really should have to write a semi-coherent novel by the end of November:

  • A very basic plot. This doesn’t mean: Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. This means: Boy meets girl at club when he’s with another girl. Boy is intrigued by girl and has a friend get in contact with her. Boy convinces girl to date him. Girl finds out boy is technically dating someone else and didn’t tell her… oh, you get the picture.   “A man died. A woman died.” isn’t a plot. “A man died. His wife died of heartbreak.” is.
  • An MC (that’s main character) you know reasonably well. If you took the MC out to eat, what would he order? If you went shopping together, what would she do? The more you know, the more naturally the story will flow.
  • A chosen form of recording your story. Notebook and pen. Computer with Scrivener. Tablet with a notepad app. Dictation machine. A combination of the above. Make sure you have your tools ready.
  • Support. You can find support groups online, in the NaNo forums, or in-person groups. If you’re still at a loss, get one friend to be your accountability partner.
  • A reason. Know why you’re doing it. If you’re just doing it because it sounded like a cool thing to do, then you may do fine. You may also crumble if things go wrong. If you’re doing it because you need to finish a novel (finally?), then you’ll know that you might be putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Knowing the reasons ahead of time can help motivate you when it gets hard.

That’s all you really need. Here’s a few more things that might help:

  • A title. Some books don’t get a title until just before production. Some get a working title. Some titles are intrinsic to the book.
  • A cover. While it’s not necessary, a cover helps motivate. It’s like being able to see the course before you run the race. It doesn’t need to be a professional cover. In fact, it shouldn’t be. But having something visual that means your book to you is a nice motivator.
  • Supporting characters. Again, the better you know your characters, the better your plot can flow.
  • An outline. Unless you are of a very particular mindset and know you can hold the bones of a book in your head, putting something on paper keeps the words flowing. Outlining also serves to let you try out ideas without having to write all 50k words before you figure out that you wrote yourself into a corner.

And, with this, we’re done with generalities. Tomorrow’s post will start on the specifics of working out your plot.

See, pantsers? That wasn’t so painful.

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