For the first time since my first NaNoWriMo in November 2008, I will be doing a heavy amount of planning before the first official day of writing begins this year. I have a lot going on, and I’m stressed and overwhelmed just thinking about writing a 50,000-word book. I’m looking forward to it. I just can’t go into it without a plan.
Many of you may not be planners when it comes to novel writing. But I want to encourage you to at least try planning a few things out before November 1 hits.
You might start writing and feel like you know where your story is going, like you’d prefer to just see how things go and make things up as you write. And this might work for the first few days, even for the first week or two. But I can pretty much guarantee there will come a point when you get stuck. Your brain will run out of fuel. You will try, and really struggle, to keep the story moving forward.
I’m not saying you have to outline every single detail before you write about it. Even I’m not planning on going that far. But even if you have an idea in your head of where your book starts, climaxes and ends, it really does help to write it down. For one, it’s a huge motivator. You’re not writing the story – yet – but jotting down a rough outline makes you wish you were. For another, it gives you a safety net. It’s not final – you can change anything you want to as you write. But having an endpoint is a lot easier, even if you don’t know exactly how you are going to get there.
Excuses will always be a problem – no matter how long you’ve been writing, your brain will always try coming up with things that are more pressing and worthy of your attention than getting your 1,667 words in for the day. Having a plan makes it easier to shove those excuses aside and write anyway, despite them. For me, there’s a point in my story I can’t wait to get to – and I can’t get to it unless I write what comes before it, if I do write in chronological order. Finding motivation within the story progression itself is extremely beneficial on days you just don’t want to write.
Don’t know how to start planning things out? Check out my tips for planning a novel without outlining. And for those of you who’ve been waiting for it, my guide to creating character sketches is coming to you for next week’s NaNo prep. Get ready!
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.