Preparing for NaNoWriMo is easier said than done, because it all depends on only one thing—a thing that can break you or make you even before November 1st arrives. It is quite simple.
If I’m being honest, writing has been one of the most challenging endeavors of my life. Not because the end product is hopefully a good book, but because of the learning process attached to it (a learning process that, in truth, will never end).
Writing is a lifetime struggle that will test your will power and commitment every day.
I’ve spent many years learning about writing, compiling short stories, poems, and book drafts, only publishing a fraction of what I have, and through it all (though I am no expert), I’ve come across many different types of advise and approaches to writing. With these different styles in mind, and choosing only what I feel has helped me the most, I’ve come up with a list of steps to create a usable outline that then I can translate into a usable draft—and since National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner…why not make it a challenge?
Let’s go all in on Preptober and see where it takes us. You can see every day’s challenge below, each with additional links and helpful info to help you complete it. A list of all the sources I used to create this prep list will be at the end of the post, so you can go even deeper in your learning.
NaNoWriMo Prep Challenge
Day 1: Concept, Premise & Designing Principle
- Check out this amazing post by K.M. Weiland using one of my all-time favorite movies, Edge of Tomorrow, to explain the differences between concept and premise.
- To fully understand what the designing principle of a story is, John Truby shared his slideshow notes here.
- Keep in mind that to be effective you will have to go back to this day’s challenge often throughout the month, thinking through and ensuring your premise is perfect by November 1st.
Day 2: Logline & Tagline
- Read How and Why to Write a Logline and a Tagline for Your Book by Shaunta Grimes.
- Also, take some time to review your Concept, Premise & design Principle (see Day 1). Hone it to perfection!
Day 3: Character Sketch (The Hero, Heroine, or Heroes)
- Here are 9 introductory steps from wikiHow to get you started on how to create a sketch for each of your characters (Day 3 – Day 6).
- Go into more detail with this template from Columbia Fiction Foundry.
Day 4: Character Sketch (The Opponent or Opponents)
Day 5: Character Sketch (The Allies)
Day 6: Character Sketch (Fake-Allies & Fake-Opponents)
Day 7: World Building (Land, people, natural settings, technology, systems, magic rules, weather, man-made spaces, seasons, etc.)
- Each story’s world will be unique, but if you’re interested in learning how a pro does it, here is Cassandra Clare talking to Sarah Enni in her Podcast, First Draft, about how she keeps track of her world building.
Day 8: Seven-point Outline (Hook & Resolution)
- I came across these videos from a writing class given by Dan Wells many years ago. They are old and the music unappealing. But his lessons and techniques are golden, so I recommend you watch all of them. He doesn’t approach his outline in a chronological order as I have done, but we writers must do what works for us. So feel free to modify the daily challenges in this section as you see fit. Warning: It is a 5-part video series. But you can watch them throughout the week as you work through each structure point.
Day 9: Seven-point Outline (Plot Turn 1/Conflict Introduction)
Day 10: Seven-point Outline (Pinch Point 1-Apply Pressure)
Day 11: Seven-point Outline (Mid-pint: Reaction to Action)
Day 12: Seven-point Outline (Plot Turn 2/The Power is in You)
Day 13: Seven-point Outline (Pinch Point 2-Jaws of Defeat)
Day 14: Order of Events (Trial/Fail Cycles)
- If you haven’t watched Dan Well’s videos, definitely check out part 4 of the video series where he talks specifically about trial/fail cycles and why you need them.
Day 15: Main Point of Chapters in Act I
- Even though a 3-act approach is very simplistic. For the purposes of logistic I am calling them that. They just make it easier to focus on a specific section if you were to cut the book in thirds. For these steps, simply jot down a bullet list of every main event in each chapter, like you would do if you were creating a chapter flash card. You will use this flashcard to develop your scenes in more detail later on.
Day 16: Main Point of Chapters in Act II
Day 17: Main Point of Chapters in Act III
Day 18-21: Scene Outlines (Act I)
- K.M. Weiland has a great post on How to Write a Scene Outline You Can Use here. You can also read the rest of her NaNoWriMo prep series here.
- If you want to go more in depth, and if you’re familiar with John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story, you know about the scene weave already. But if you don’t know what that is, you can get started here, here, and here. Also, here. I really recommend you get his book if you want to learn his entire process for crafting a story from beginning to end, and take your time working through his steps. It is a very educational process. You can watch the full interview about his book here.
Day 22-25: Scene Outlines (Act II)
Day 26-29: Scene Outlines (Act III)
Day 30: Catch Up Day (because we all need one)
- If you are caught up, go back to your Day 1 challenge, or, if you feel pretty comfortable with that, look into any other elements you would like to add to your story: symbolisms, moral themes, etc.
- Plan for success! Take some time to find your NaNo writing buddies.
Day 31: Celebration (share your progress with others—me included, tag fellow writers and NaNo buddies, and get excited about tomorrow!)
All right, that’s it for the NaNoWriMo Prep Challenge. Good luck next month, and be sure to keep me in the loop. Also, feel free to slow down and use these steps for outlining anytime you want, not only for NaNoWriMo.
For more in depth study of the writing craft, check out the content provided by my favorite sources for this challenge:
- John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story
- K.M. Weiland’s blog HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors
- Sarah Enni’s Podcast, First Draft
- Dan Well’s Seven-point Structure Videos (5-parts)