Pre-NaNo Process

NaNoWriMo participants are usually divided into two categories: the planners and the pantsers. The former like to have all their ducks in a row before heading off into the great unknown of a new story, and the latter work by the seat of their pants with little or no planning because they like the adrenaline rush that accompanies a looming deadline. (Then you have the “plantsers,” who do a mix of both.)

For the most part, I’m a planner, although I don’t go to a great extreme with it. The way I see it, planning is supposed to get you excited about the story, so you don’t want to put so many details into your plan that you’ve basically already written the story and leave yourself no room for surprises.

I start by writing a bunch of ideas in my big notebook, which is sadly almost out of pages (but it’s lasted for more than 3 years, which is longer than I can say for any other notebook… but I digress).

Behold... the worst handwriting in the world!
Behold… the worst handwriting in the world!

I ask myself questions about what the characters are doing and what they ought to do to move the plot of the series forward. I do a “casting call” in which I consider all of my characters and determine who needs “air time” or whose backstory needs to be developed, and from there I get my list of five main characters. (Why five? I don’t know. It’s not consciously planned that way, but every story I’ve written in the past 10 years has revolved around five core characters.)

Then (a few days or a week later) I type the ideas into the computer so I can get them organized. This often results in more questions about the plot and the characters, so I highlight all the questions so that I can hopefully answer them as I write the actual story.

Ah, something that's actually legible!
Ah, something that’s actually legible!

Another week or two after that, I write a two- or three-sentence summary of the first 10 scenes or so. I don’t plan the story much beyond that because I know my characters well enough to be assured that they will take over and essentially do the writing for me if I don’t pressure them too much.

So I got as far as knowing that my WiP for NaNo 2016 will be (tentatively) titled ELIZA and will feature Rachel, Eliza (obviously), Adrian, Aeron, and Murray. Adrian and Eliza are relatively new characters, so it’ll be fun to get to know them better, figure out what they want, make them struggle, and destroy their lives. 🙂

Do you plan? If so, how do you plan?

5 thoughts on “Pre-NaNo Process”

  1. I spend a lot of time with characters, conflict, and that first scene or chapter. I’m also pulling together a bunch of little notes, some that I’ll use and many that I’ll throw out either because they don’t fit or they get boring. I have no plan. I’m always surprised. Sometimes I have a vague ending in mind, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Such is the case with my current document, roughly 3000 words, and a few might even be the right words. I always surprise myself with that first draft, because at some point the characters write it for me. In this case, I need more supporting characters. I expect to meet them in either the real or imaginary world in November. There’s room for one or more of them to step forward into being a main character if he feels like it. (Could be she, but it’s a football novel, so I assume he.)

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  2. I tend to plan in quarters. I’ll basically divide my story into four acts and plant out the first act and then write it. From that i can plan out the second act and so on. I spend a lot of time letting characters, themes, etc marinate in my mind.

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