Your PNP, Part Two: Planning & Outlining

Now that you’ve finished the first part of your Pre-NaNo Plan, you’re feeling confident and prepared for National Novel Writing Month.  You know exactly how much time you have to write and you know that you’ll have time to finish your novel.

But do you know what you’ll be writing next month?

The Pitch

Your first step in planning and outlining will be to create a pitch, a very short concept for your NaNo.  Usually, before I start any project, I begin with a pitch.  The concept can change later, but having a pitch to begin with is always a great idea.

Here’s my example pitch for this year’s NaNo, which can be found on my Novel Info page on NaNoWriMo.org:

A slightly eccentric college student buys a mirror at an antique/secondhand store only to find himself sucked in and caught in a strange Victorian-esque world where he most certainly does NOT belong…

The pitch is a one-sentence summary of the entire novel.  While there’s a lot more to this story – for example, the “slightly eccentric college student” has a name and quite a lot of backstory – the pitch is the bare bones of the thing.  It’s also fairly open-ended: ten authors could write ten different novels based on this pitch and come up with ten totally different ideas.

The Outline

Here’s the funny thing about outlines: not all writers need them.

That’s probably a funny way to start this section, but it’s true.  Not all writers need outlines.  Some writers do perfectly fine just going with the flow.  But for those of you who do need to, let’s get down to business.

Your best bet is to make a very general outline of the events of the novel and flesh it out slowly.  What are the major plot arcs?  From there, you can figure out smaller details, such as scenes and subplots.

You can outline as much or as little as you like – there’s no limit and no “right way” to do it.  Personally, I like having a decent-sized outline so I know where I’m going with my plot, especially during NaNo.  Having an outline usually helps me write efficiently, and writing efficiently is pretty much everything during NaNo.

If you don’t like outlines, though, there are indeed alternatives – including the alternative I picked this year.

The Summary

Instead of an outline with bullets and numbers, you may opt instead to write a summary of the novel with all the main plot points explained.  My summary is two hand-written notebook pages long and covers the main body of the story, although it leaves the ending (and quite a bit of detail) for me to flesh out as I write.

Summaries are better for the literary-inclined, as a bulleted or numbered outline will be more visual and less wordy.

Conclusion

The second part of y our PNP focuses on helping you build a skeleton for your NaNo novel.  Once you have a skeleton finished before November begins, you can get to work fleshing it out when you start marathon-writing on November 1.

Writing a pitch, outline, and/or summary can help you reach these goals faster – and you’re less likely to get 100% stuck if you have a loose plan.  Of course, always remain open to change: During NaNo, anything can happen.

Is there anything else writers should do to prepare for National Novel Writing Month?  Leave your ideas and advice below!

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