NaNoPrep #1: Outline or Flatline

Ever since I’d started to write longer stories – for a long time I was saying I can’t write things longer than 1000 words – I knew I was a plotter. I needed an outline.

Partially as a security blanket. I needed something to make me believe I can do this. When I’d signed up for my first BigBang (fandom challenge where you have to write a story with a minimum 20k wordcount), the longest story I wrote up to that point was around 4k. Writing a story five times longer than that seemed almost like an impossible challenge. An outline was one of the few things that helped me believe I can manage it (and I did!).

My outlining process is… hardly a process. 😉 I usually try to figure out the main things first and then fill out the rest. I don’t have to have every scene planned (I end up with a few “?” or “add something here” every time) and it’s usually pretty general, like “The first official date” or “Here comes the fight”. Sometimes it gets me in trouble when I stare at the blank screen and wonder how that first date should go, but in most cases I have something in mind already.

Planning restricts my whining that “I don’t know what to dooooo” to a minimum.

I also know that I write short scenes, so if I have a specific wordcount in mind, I need to plan for so many scenes.

And there’s one more thing: sometimes, staring at the half-filled outline, I get a sudden epiphany, something falls into place or I see the bigger picture, a theme I couldn’t see when I was thinking about specifics.

Something like this happened to me last night when I was outlining my NaNo, and suddenly I’m much more excited about this story. I don’t have a finished outline yet, but I have a purpose to it now. And it feels good.


If you write, do you outline? How do you do that?

NaNo Prep #0: Why Bother?

The clock is ticking for everyone who plans to participate in NaNoWriMo*. November is just around the corner and I can feel excitement building up. 🙂 I still need to write an outline for my story, do some research, and brainstorm with my friends, but I’m slowly moving towards the starting line.

Why bother, you could ask. Why spend the whole month trying to squeeze writing in between every other activity, why not just forget about this challenge and write at my own speed?

Four reasons:

1) It’s a kick in the ass.

Sit down and write. Or stand in line and write, commute and write, sleep and write

Write every moment you can. And a few you can’t.

2) It’s empowering!

My last year’s NaNo story was the longest thing I had ever written up to date and let me tell you, IT FELT GREAT to cross that finish line. It was my first try and there were times when I doubted I could do it. But I proved myself that I can. It’s something I’m proud of. Not surprising I’m back for another round, right?

3) Community

Some of us are lucky enough to have writing support system twelve months out of the year, but even then we’re not always on the same page – I procrastinate when someone else blazes through their epic story, and while I’m pulling my hair out over my character’s stupid choices, my friend spends her weekend reblogging photos of Aaron Tveit on Tumblr.

During November, though? Everyone is writing (between bursts of procrastination on Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., etc.). You can share your success, struggle, wordcount, headcount, whatever you want. And whenever you do, someone will always be there, going through the same thing at the same time.

Bonus: during November you get another platform to procrastinate on: NaNo forum.

4) It requires commitment.

Deadlines fuel me. Fixed, announced in public deadlines are like law.

There’s a reason why, when I decided to try writing a longer story for the first time, I signed up for the bigbang challenge**, and that reason is additional motivation. And believe me, there were days when that was the only motivation that worked.

I wish I was a writer who regularly writes a lot regardless of the calendar or whether or not there’s a challenge involved. But since I’m not (or, better: until I’m not), I use what works.

And NaNo definitely works. 🙂

So, those are my reasons. Have you ever tried NaNo? Do you plan on doing it this year?


* NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, a challenge where you have to write 50k words during the month of November. You can read more about it here:

** BigBang challenge – a fandom challenge where you have to write a complete story (20k words minimum) and collaborate with an artist who creates an artwork for it. There’s a specific time restriction involved, usually the writing part lasts around three months or so. Some rules vary depending on the fandom.