October 16, 2014

Planning for NaNoWriMo

I'll be doing the YWP again this year! My word count goal is currently 25,000 words, although I'll have to see how doable that is since I have a busier schedule than last time. You can check out the page on my WIP if you want to know more about it.

But enough about me- you want to know about how to plan for your novels, don't you?

Well, don't worry! I've got some tips coming!

One of my favorite parts of writing is seeing the characters come alive in my mind- there's a kind of magic to it. Character creation, for me, is a very long process, that starts with a concept and develops in my mind until I feel ready to write it all down.

I've always character questionnaires to be quite fun, so you might want to look around for one you like. Here's a link to one I've found that I liked.

Character story arcs are very important (but also fun!) These are woven in throughout your plot (or at least, that's how I do it). Basically, your character(s) should undergo some change through the novel. Maybe they mature a bit, or learn to trust their friends a bit more, or similar. So write that down.

Another thing that I find handy is to create timelines for my characters- a year by year (or month by month, or whatever) list of the major events in their life and influences on their personality.

Doodling your characters (if you like to draw) is fun as well, and can help clear up the picture in your mind.

Or throw your characters into a random situation, like a sit down dinner, and see what happens.

Basically, whatever works.

Story Arcs

Last year, my creative writing teacher gave me some excellent tips about this magical thing called the 8 Point Story Arc. It's basically eight "points" used to structure to main plot of your novel.

Stasis/ The Normal World
This is what life is like for your main characters before what most people call "the inciting incident". It should basically be a snapshot of day-to-day life for your characters before the action starts. And like a snapshot, it should be short- only a couple of pages at the most.

Trigger/ The Inciting Incident
This is what sets your character on their big adventure- something that the main character can't control. Sort of like Cinderella's fairy godmother.

The Quest
This is simple enough- it's whatever adventure the trigger set off. On your basic story arc, this is one part of the Rising Action.

You may just have one of these, or you may have several. But the important thing is, the reader has to go "I did not see that coming."

Critical Choice
This is where your protagonist(s) make the big choice- the one that decides which direction the rest of your novel goes in. Many times choice is between hard but good or easy but bad. This point is what causes the climax.

The Climax
The highest peak of tension in your story. This event should ideally be caused by your character's critical choice.

The reversal is the end of the critical choice and climax. It should change the status of your characters, like Cinderella going from a peasant to a princess.

The Resolution
This is where the story comes full circle. Any questions the reader had should have been answered by now, and your characters should have undergone some change through the story.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How do you plan to outline? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I've always found characters the most important part of a book - they do tend to drive the story arcs, don't they? Good luck with NaNo this year! xx

    1. I absolutely agree about characters (although I do love plot driven novels too, I prefer writing character driven ones). Thanks, and good luck to you too!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing the 8 Point Story Arc. It seems both helpful and concise, so I could see how it could be a stepping point for delving into some more in-depth plotting.

    1. No problem! I'm glad you found it helpful :) I've used it a lot as a sort of rough outline in the past (especially when I'm rushing to get one done for NaNo and don't have enough time to do a very in-depth one :P)