Tuesday, September 24, 2013

National Novel Writing Month Preparation: The Easiest Outline Ever

National Novel Writing Month is in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It's challenging and fun. I chose to do it a couple of years ago and managed to finish about a week early. I also came out with a very promising rough draft for a new story.

My strategy then was to know my story before November began. I wrote up a general summary, as I always do, and then prepared a simple outline highlighting the main plot and two subplots. I also knew my two main characters' personalities pretty well, having brainstormed for a couple of months ahead of time. The point is, I didn't go into NaNo cold turkey. I had a plan, forged through, and the results were excellent.

I plan on doing NaNo this year, only I've upped my personal stakes. I plan on working on two novels, aiming for 80,000 - 100,000 words. Yes, I'm nuts. Yes, I stand a good chance of failing. Yes, life probably will happen and get in the way. I'm still shooting for the moon.

Anyway ...

What if you aren't naturally an outliner, you want to do NaNo this year, and you want to do some prep work to keep you on course? If outlining isn't your thing, I highly recommend you don't attempt to buck your tendencies by switching courses for NaNo. However, if you want a general guideline, here's the simpliest outline format ever: chapter headings.

I once wrote an entire novel in two weeks using this method. What you do is write up a table of contents for your unwriten novel. Use fun, short sentence descriptions as the chapter titles. Think of the key scenes you want to achieve. Write up this list, brainstorm who your characters are, and then pantser-it from there. If you end up adding chapters as you go, that's great. If you end up changing up a title or two as the story evolves, it's no big deal. The point is to have a general map of the story in order to stay on track and finish it.

Are you going to do NaNo (officially or unofficially) this year? Have you done it before? Have you used any kind of outline or summary before?

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