Pre- #NaNoWriMo 2014! How to outline and collect awesome ideas.

NaNo14It’s almost the most awesome time of the year for most writers, or maybe it has already started, seeing as it’s October. Which probably explains why I’ve worked my ass off to get you this beautiful new layout on the website before all the crazy starts.

It’s ALMOST NaNo time!!! This always makes me very excited and giddy. There are so many possibilities in October and then the pressure of performance in November.


For those new to the game NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, it’s a yearly challenge to write a novel (50,000 words) in a month (30 days, the whole of November). It starts on November 1 at 00.00 and ends November 30 at 23.59. Within that time span you have to write all the words from 0 to 50,000.

I love the challenge and I love the companionship that goes on during November.

Many social media places and author hangouts create groups dedicated to encouraging each other during NaNoWriMo and sharing tips and tricks. I like to do the same on my blog, this will be my 3rd year posting tips and tricks and I’ve decided to do something extra this year. Everyone who has participated in NaNoWriMo before can share their tips, tricks, failures and awesome stories during October and November. You can sign up in this form and I’ll send you an interview shortly after. The best thing about this is that authors who have published a book they wrote during NaNo get a spot to showcase it.

My #1 tip to survive NaNo is: “Get connected and become part of a group of people who all participate in NaNoWriMo, this really really helps you to keep focused and to get through all the bad and the good parts. Shared pain and all that.


Okay, we’re 19 days away from the start of NaNoWriMo. This is the best time to start planning or at least thinking about what we’re going to write. I love this part. For my 2011 NaNoWriMo it was around this time that I wrote my synopsis for Disturbed Fate and started outlining it for real, in 2012 it wasn’t until about a week before it started that I really had a grip on my story and was able to start outlining it.


Today I’ll share some ideas on outlining and planning a story, there are many different variations so try what you like and what you don’t like. I do believe plotting and outlining are essential to winning NaNoWriMo. I’ve participated 4 times and I’ve won it twice, the exact two times that I had also planned and outlined well. It helps me to keep focused on where I’m going.


Outlining methods

Notecarding by Holly Lisle. Not my favourite, but I do use something similar with my own methods.

Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. Interesting method for going from very basic ideas for a plot into more and more detail, in the end ending up with a very detailed outline that you can write with. There is also a shorter Hailstorm Approach, which is a fast tracked version of the Snowflake Method.

Paperwaste by me. This method is called that because it uses up quite a bit of paper, but in the end, it gives me a lot of overview of my plot. There are two posts for this, the first one is the technique and the second one is the visual part of it.

There are of course more of them, but these are the ones I know best.


But what if you don’t have a story yet? Don’t worry, here are some ideas for your story.

1. What type of story are you writing? Is it a romance, a mystery, an epic fantasy? Many of these stories have a certain order that things happen in, also sometimes called beat sheets. They are the approximate outline of any story within the genre. They aren’t bad, they’re actually quite good because they can teach you about pacing your story, becoming aware what people would expect for a story to progress like. I’ve found a few of them here they are: Romance,

2. Check out the NaNoWriMo Adoption Society. It’s great to look through all of the lists and pick up a few bits and bobs. Just looking through the list can spark ideas.

3. Check out Holly Lisle’s writing clinics. I’m a huge fan of her “Create a Character Clinic” (also available on Amazon) and her “Create a Plot Clinic” (also available on Amazon) I often use them for my own writing. And if you’re really short on time, you can try out her “Professional Plot Outline” (Amazon), which is largely a short version of the other two courses, but very very short. With these tools, a bit of creativity and some time, you can create some great plots for your story.


On the topic of collecting your ideas and sorting through them, there are two great programs to do this digitally (or use pen, paper and a load of folders, as I usually do):

Scrivener. This is a paid program, though all participants of NaNoWriMo can get the trial version that runs until the 7th of December, which is plenty of time to learn the program and then save it after NaNo is done. Also, everyone who wins NaNo gets a 50% off coupon (very awesome) and everyone else can use a 20% off coupon. I love working with the program, I use it a lot for my writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

yWriter. yWriter is a free program, it shares many similarities for use with Scrivener, though they are very very different. yWriter is simplistic in its design but has a lot more features than Scrivener, not everyone likes that. It’s great if you need to keep track of a lot of things and story lines at the same time though.


Okay, that is it for my first pre-NaNo post!!





For those who have participated before, don’t forget to sign up to share your knowledge on the blog, to everyone else, good luck!

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