NaNoWriMo Prep – Step 4 – Outline

The final step of my NaNoWriMo prep is to organize all of the ideas I’ve brainstormed for my project. Usually, by the time I’m done with the brainstorm, I already perceive a core line/story I want to follow. I sit down with –you’ve guessed it– The Notebook and start building the linear structure of the story, plucking ideas from the brainstorm as I go.

Though I try to keep the summary of each chapter as short as possible, this simple, high level activity enables me to see some of the key aspects that need to be built in early for later plot points to work well. I make note of them as I go. It’s not elegant, but it bears all the main markers I need for the plot.

This outline also forces me to confront the dreaded middle and make sure I have enough interesting conflicts and major plot points so it doesn’t kill my NaNo. A boring middle part can kill motivation and productivity in a heartbeat.

This story is starting to look neat and orderly.

This story is starting to look neat and orderly.

The first draft of the outline could be the starting point for my NaNo, but I prefer to go one step further and transfer it all on post-its. I do this for several reasons:

  • By using one post-it per chapter, I severely limit the amount of information I can keep. It forces me to get rid of some of the details and only keep the essential.
  • The limited details give me a lot of room to discover the story as I write and fill in the blanks in a variety of ways. That keeps me from feeling like writing scenes is just checking items off a list.
  • Post-its are easy to move around. While I prefer to know where I’m going, I give myself the right to reorganize as I go, depending on how I fill the blanks.
  • Each post-it doesn’t have much importance. It’s not a lot of work or brilliantly written content. This makes it much easier for me to throw away/replace post-its as I go. Much like the ability to reorder, this is a key feature to help me iterate on the initial plan.
  • The plan is right there on the wall. I don’t need to access a special view in my text editor (like the corkboard in Scrivener) and I can read the whole thing in about a minute. This is good for quick check-ups mid-writing sessions.

In the end, after all the lists, steps and iterations, my NaNo novel looks like this:

Seventeen chapters planned. Order, content and number may change.

Seventeen chapters planned. Order, content and number may change.

I put this up on the wall next to my computer last night. Now I’m ready to go!

What does your final plan look like? How detailed do you feel the need to be? Do you feel ready for NaNo?

There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach writing as everyone’s brain works differently. I’ve only shared my way to give you some insight (and maybe inspiration). It took me a few novels to figure out that this was the process that worked best for me.

I’ll see you again soon with updates from the NaNo trenches. 😉

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

2 responses to “NaNoWriMo Prep – Step 4 – Outline

  • How I Write – Evolving Outline | The Writeaholic's Blog

    […] In the original post, I mentioned that one of the reasons why I like using post-its is because they give me great flexibility. As I write the story and uncover new things about the characters, I take post-its out, throw them away, replace them, switch the order; whatever is needed for my outline to reflect the new needs of the story. That’s why the original outline doesn’t have chapter numbers on the post-its. I want to feel like it’s okay to go off road and let the story wander away from the initial plan –because it is okay, needed, even. Most of the time, the plot still heads in the same general direction, and when it doesn’t, that’s alright, too. […]

  • The Almighty To Do List | The Writeaholic's Blog

    […] have been surprised by my productivity and asked how I manage to do so much. Like with my writing (which I plan out on post-its), I find that knowing where I’m going really helps relieve stress and free up space in my […]

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