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As you may know, NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) is a challenge for authors to write 50,000 words of a novel during the course of November. While some people decide to jump right in with a new concept they haven’t fleshed out yet, others prefer to have a good, solid outline for their novel. But how to begin?

This is where I come in. This year, I actually planned my novel. Very extensively, I may add, with a full outline and notes, research, character profiles and multiple spreadsheets. I’m extra like that. An outline doesn’t need to be nearly that detailed, but here are some tips to help you get started!

Have Your Characters Ready

Believe me, it’s far easier to start planning a novel when you already have characters in mind. Then you’ll already have at least an idea of what they’ll do during the plot and their roles relative to each other. Is one of them the antagonist turned love interest? Is one of them the lovable side character who will get almost no screen time but more love from your eventual fandom? That’s up to you, of course!

If you don’t already have characters ready, or you have some abstract ideas but no idea how to flesh them out more, I find character questionnaires like this one extremely helpful. Or, if you’re looking for a mixed bag of great ideas and cursed ones, take a look at blogs like tag-oc.

Think of Big-Picture Ideas

Depending on what you already have in mind, this can be the beginning, climax, resolution, even character introductions! And don’t forget, it’s completely okay to skip around in what you plan, just remember that everything can be subject to change depending on what you write to get from Point A to Point B.

Fill in the In-Between

This is really how you get from Point A to Point B. And, in my opinion, it’s one of the hardest parts of outlining and writing. Usually you have an instinctual desire to get to the “good” parts, or the parts you already know will go a certain way, like the climax and resolution. Still, the middle parts are extremely important, especially for novels, since they set up character dynamics and foreshadowing for the plot!

One of my tips here would be to consider how to fill in the in-between to fit the larger events. Does a character get injured at Point A, only to be recovered at Point B? Show the recovery process! Do the characters meet at Point A, and end up as found family at Point B? Show the events that bring them closer together! Things like that, while seeming like filler, are actually very important to any novel.

Not Sure What to Do? No Problem!

It’s absolutely okay if you just have characters and no clue what you want to do with them. I’ve been there many times myself! My best advice is to play around with writing prompts, maybe write some practice interactions between your characters so you can get some writing practice in and get a better understanding of your characters at the same time. Who knows? Maybe a certain interaction will spark an idea you never thought of before!

I hope all of this advice helps, and have a happy NaNoWriMo!

Nina Fichera

Geneseo '24

Nina Fichera is an avid writer and reader, and can often be found writing somewhere (usually in her room) with her trusty journal. She is working towards an English degree, with the hopes of becoming a Creative Writing professor.
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