NaNoWriMo 2019: Story Planning

A little less than a week ago, I made myself sit down and think about what it was I wanted to do for this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. There were a few different options. One: I could use it as an opportunity to explore another major story that is happening in the world of my main project. Two: I have a second story that I’m slowly trying to parce out, and this could be an opportunity to give it legs. But with my main project nearly finished, finally, I wanted to do something a little less serious. I wanted to write a story just for the sake of writing it, with zero expectations of it ever getting published.

So I went with option three: something completely new, unlike anything I’ve written before. I didn’t really have much to go on besides that, something that was almost whimsical or child-like, similar to the Chronicles of Narnia or the Hobbit. But I began pulling up old, quarter-baked story ideas, tossed them into a blender, and saw what came out. Here’s what it left me: my main characters would be two young children, with a Yggdrasil-esque (Norse tree of life) idea of multiple worlds.

Now, the question, as always, is how to plot a story to its fullest. If you recall, from February through May, for my writing tips posts, I went at length about a writing worksheet that I’d used to develop a few story ideas that I’d had. The problem is–dare I admit it?–I am a pantser at heart. However much I hate the term, I can’t deny that being so careful and organized with planning a story made me quickly lose interest in those stories. I still hold that it may be useful for some, and it remained at least partially useful for myself, because I took some elements from it to help plot my story for this NaNoWriMo.

Breaking open one of the few completely-unused notebooks that I had lying around, I grabbed a pen and wrote an abstract. This gave me something of a framework to help me determine the major conflicts. It was short, about a paragraph long, and introduced my characters and the ultimate threat they will have to face by the end of it.

Next it was a matter of breaking down that plot, so when November finally hits, I have a detailed blueprint about what’s going to happen. It is something of a draft zero–which is when you write out everything you want to happen in the story, going into as much or little detail as you like. It’s not long enough or fleshed out enough to be considered a first draft, especially since I write mine without any dialogue and very little in emotion or personal character motivation. It’s pretty much all just plot points, though written out, and broken down into chapters where it looks like there’s a good space for a break.

As for the structure of my notebook? It’s not a bullet journal, per se, but of course NaNoWriMo prepping is more than just deciding the story. A lot of it is plot-related, but not all. Each page of my notebook is headlined and page-numbered. So while I’m currently on page 7 of my plotting, there’s a few pages interspersed regarding why the threat is a threat in the first place (e.g. world-building concept, pg 1), what my antagonist’s motives are (e.g. character motives, pg 1), and a few random additions to the potential cast (e.g. character list additions, pg 1).

The additions allow, first and foremost, for me to put down important additions to the novel as a whole, but secondly, the additions propel the plot forward at times when I get stuck. So I’m always working on it. And there’s just something about writing it out like some SparkNotes chapter-by-chapter summary that makes it really easy to plan things out.

Anyway, that’s how I’m planning my NaNoWriMo project this year. With any luck, it’ll give you some inspiration for your own prepping. Next week I’ll discuss the big character traits that I feel should be known before writing begins, and what traits should/can be discovered along the way. Happy planning!

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