5 Things to Consider Before Writing a NaNoWriMo Outline

The annual National Novel Writing Month (November) is only a few weeks away.  If you haven’t started on your outline for the event, then you’re in luck!  I’ve narrowed down the five most important things you should think about before you start work on it.

  1. Overkill – I’m sure you have a germ of a story floating around in your mind, and that is what you should use before you get started.  Spend a little time making a list of things that naturally progress from the germ so that you flesh out the idea fully. Then go a step further.  Let the ideas unfold even if they don’t go together, kind of like word association, until you fill pages and pages.  It should look like your brain just exploded onto the page, but you can organize the mess into a working outline.
  2. Character Bios – Make sure you spend a majority of your time fleshing out the characters, writing their back story, and generally plotting out their motivation going all the way back to birth.  Give them large, medium and small goals.  Give them hair and eye color, all the physical features in detail.  This way you can refer back to these notes as you write your novel.
  3. Villains and Foils – Create character bios for the villains in the novel, and if you want tips on how to do that, check out my article I wrote on that forever ago “Hubris: How to Write Great Villains Into Your Novel“.  You should also write in a few foils for your main characters.  These are characters that have traits that mirror the main characters and thereby shine a light on the traits of your main characters.  I also wrote a handy article about this here.
  4. Major Story Arc – Create a believable story arc that we will call the main arc.  Plot out the novel using your brainstorming session from number one and make sure to blend in all the character goals for your main characters.  Don’t worry if some of them never reach their goals.  It’s ok if the minor ones don’t, but not ok if the major ones don’t make it to their goal.  People like to see the main character make it, even if their goal was a secret one that they didn’t originally plan to reach.
  5. Minor Story Arcs – Make sure there are several minor story arcs.  You can use the goals of the minor characters for this or take your major characters on a tangential journey for a bit as long as it doesn’t detract from the main action of the story.  These minor story arcs are great if they are a trial of some type that grows the main character in some way.

For more tips, you can check out what I believe J.R.R. Tolkien had to say about writing novels and also several other articles about writing.  Just search for them in the handy search bar to the right!

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

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