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Preparing for Nanowrimo 2013

With these tips, Nanowrimo can be more fun, flow better, and produce a better final result (though that shouldn’t be a primary concern!).


November is drawing near, and with it, the anxiety and excitement of another month of novel-writing madness.

We all know the ups and downs that comes with writing a novel. So we’ve collected a few tips that can help you get more ups and fewer downs, this November.

Quick examples

If you want to quickly see how these trees can help organize stories, check out these examples:

World Building example
Romeo and Juliet

1. Small and Whole

Have you ever started a Nanowrimo without planning? You start off great, the words fly onto the page. But very quickly, you find that you paint yourself into a corner.

What’s happened is simple. You know roughly who your characters are, and what the situation is. But you have no idea where you want them to end up.

The first tip for Nanowrimo preparation is simple:

Write an extended logline.

A logline is simply a sentence or two describing your setup. But the important point is to extend it so it describes your whole story, not just the beginning.

It must include spoilers!

Only when you have an extended logline, can you start to see your story as a whole. And while it’s still just a few sentences, it’s easy to brainstorm ways of making it better.

Extended Loglines

Logline… extended
Argo: A CIA specialist concocts a covert operation to produce a fake Hollywood movie to rescue six American diplomats during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.Despite resistance from both the CIA and the hostages, and numerous close calls, the hostages are rescued just in the nick of time. The operative is given a medal, but story is kept a secret for years.
more examples…
Loglines from

2. Think “Sketching” not “Planning”

Talking about “planning” and “outlining” can seem like sucking the fun out of Nanowrimo.

But that’s just because those are boring words to describe what you’re doing. In preparing for November, think of yourself as sketching your story, brainstorming, macro-level creativity.

(Planning sounds like it involves rulers & T-squares. etc…)

3. Dig Deeper

Keep trying to find a better story, now while it’s still something small enough to hold in your mind and play with.

Watch this talk on creativity, and the importance of persistence and not going for the first or third “ok” idea that comes to mind. Don’t stop until you’ve fallen in love, twice.

To be creative, you need Time

4. Keep it “blurry”

As much as possible, try to think about the “blurry” big picture rather than the small details. This helps guide you when you’re pounding out your words for the day, without restricting you or painting yourself into a corner.

On the other hand, you might get a great idea for a particular scene. Go ahead and write it out (if you’re using Gingko, you can just add the scene right where it belongs, without leaving your outline). But keep these detailed scenes to a minimum.

5. Cause and Effect, not Sequence

While your story is in this sketching stage, make sure each plot point happens because of, or in spite of, what came before. Matt parker & Trey stone advise that, in a plot summary, everything should be linked with either “therefore” or “but”.


  • Ripley & crew are heading to collect X
  • a distress signal calls them to a planet
  • they land, and find the base abandonded
  • they explore further, and find a series of “eggs”
  • their exploration is cut short when a crew member gets attacked by a “face-hugger”
  • they must go back to the ship.

6. Tools that encourage flow

Want to write your own trees?

“I absolutely love your app… I have been using my tree for Nanowrimo… I got through to it via word of mouth from another writer and I have 2 more people join after I’ve insisted it’s the best way to get the novel juices flowing.” - Ana S., Adelaide, Australia

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