It’s October, which means NaNoWriMo planning is well underway for lots of people internationally. If you’re considering taking part, I’d definitely recommend it. It can feel extremely overwhelming, but the reward at the end of it makes it so worth it.
When it came to planning NaNoWriMo in my first year, I wanted to know everything I could before I got stuck in. That involved reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos, hoping someone would have the key to make it easier for me.
These videos and blog posts definitely helped me, but they also left me a little bit confused. There were so many NaNoWriMo planning methods that I didn’t know which one I wanted to follow.
This will be the third year I take part in NaNoWriMo. I’ve established that NaNoWriMo planning is extremely important, but I’ve also found a method that works for me. It’s the same method that helped me to write 50,000 words in just 10 days.
What is that method? A NaNoWriMo writing notebook!
I wasn’t the first to discover this NaNoWriMo planning method. I’ve also discovered that everyone uses them slightly differently, adapting them to meet their needs. With that being said, I thought I’d share how I use my writing notebook down below.
I’ve created title pages for my novels since I started NaNoWriMo, so it seemed only fitting to print them out and include them in my writing notebook. While it’s obvious that my editing skills are nothing special, it’s nice to have something that a published book would have to motivate me. I ended up entering one Camp NaNo (events that occur in April and July) without a book cover, so this is definitely a contributor to my success!
Plot and Chapter Outline
This next section is where I do the majority of my planning, so it makes sense that it takes the longest amount of time to explain. I like to have this as my first section as it means my novel planning is as accessible as it can be.
The first thing I include in this section is an overall summary of the novel I’m writing. This tends to be one or two a4 pages explaining the general plot of the story. I find this is helpful when it comes to breaking the novel down further, into chapters, and also helps me realise where I’m going when I get stuck halfway through a novel.
The second part in this section, a new addition to my notebook this year, is the 5-point-method. You’ll probably know what I’m talking about if I mention the mountain method: beginning, build-up, climax, resolution and ending. I’d dismissed this method until this year as it’s something I learned in primary school, but it’s been crucial in creating a strong ending this year. They’ve always been my weakest point, so knowing I have an ending I’m happy with before I’ve started writing is a great confidence booster.
The final part of this section is my chapter outline, where I break the overall summary into chapter guidelines. I don’t make the notes for each chapter more than a few sentences, but it’s great guidance when I’m struggling with good old writer’s block and need to know where I’m going. I think this is where my roots in winging it show, though, as I’m constantly noting changes on the pages throughout the month!
I think researching is such an overlooked part of novel writing. In order to portray things accurately, especially if you’re writing a contemporary novel, research is crucial. Obviously, it depends on the topic you’re writing about and your knowledge beforehand, but I couldn’t be without a section dedicated to researching.
I like to use this section to jot down information I think I’ll need when writing my novel, but it also comes in handy during the month. If I’m writing a scene while I’m really in the flow of writing, for example, I’ll write down my question to research later and carry on with what I’m doing. That way I can edit it later that evening if I’m inaccurate in my knowledge, or during a second draft, without disrupting my productivity.
The next section, my main character section, includes everything I need to know about the faces that pop up most regularly in my novel. This year, that includes five characters: my protagonist, antagonist, my protagonist’s brother, and the brother’s children. I’ll use this section to write down the crucial information about these characters, like their names, motives, and character flaws.
I think my novels are very character driven instead of plot driven, if that makes sense, so having my characters available at a glance is so handy! It also gives me somewhere to brainstorm the ways the characters change and/or grow throughout my novel.
Every writer has those small characters who pop up every once in a while that you don’t need to know everything about, right? In NaNoWriMo, it’s easy for these additional characters to get forgotten about as you struggle to keep up with the word counts. To combat that, this year I’ve decided to add an ‘additional characters’ section to my notebook. In here, I will list the name of the character, their age, and anything else I might need to know about them. It’s never more than a few sentences, or a paragraph, at most.
Bullet Journal & Word Count Tracker
The final part of my NaNoWriMo is my bullet journal and word count tracker section. Last year, I set this out very much like a bullet journal, with different spreads and everything. This year, however, I’ve decided to scrap the bullet journal section and stick to the word count section. With having to write 50,000 words in a month, making things look pretty was the last thing I had time for.
With that being said, this section still gets a lot of use throughout NaNoWriMo. As well as writing down my word count each day, I’ll also write down how I achieved those words. This may include 30 minute timers, 10 minute sprints, or competitions with other NaNoWriMo-ers. I often join in with writing threads over on the NaNoWriMo forums which are really useful when you’re struggling with motivation. It holds me accountable even when the last thing I want to be doing is writing.
In addition to this…
As well as writing in my writing notebook, I also brainstorm a lot of my ideas on my NaNoWriMo Pinterest board. I’ve made a lot of changes to my novels through planning on Pinterest, and discovered things about my characters I didn’t even know before! It’s also a good way of envisioning what you want your character to look like, and can even help to develop the language you’ll use when describing them.
Do you have a writing notebook, or some other way of planning your novels for NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below!
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