Are You Ready for NaNoWriMo? To Outline or Not

2:03 pm - by anitamumm

shutterstock_225367318Happy Halloween, Word Café readers!

With apologies for a necessary blogging hiatus, I’m back with a vengeance just in time for NaNoWriMo. I’m excited to kick off a series geared to that awesome event, but if this isn’t your year to participate, never fear. I aim to make the content useful for authors at whatever stage of the writing process you find yourself.

Today, I’ll focus on strategies for preparing to dive into that exhilarating first step of novel writing. Have you got your outline ready? Or are you dead-set against that kind of formal planning?  Regardless of which writing style you go with, some type of targeted brainstorming and planning is indispensable; it’s just a matter of which kind gets you stoked. Here is a list of helpful resources to give you a boost and help you decide which camp you fit into.

For those who like to outline (and helpful tips for those who don’t): An excellent guide to outlining by Kiki Sullivan, debut author of THE DOLLS, a thriller set in Louisiana. Kiki guides you through outlining an already published novel as a template for planning your own book. This guide to outlining includes sketching out of key scenes, with lists of questions to help you through the process and spark ideas. This article from Writers Digest presents informal outlining as a way to avoid dead ends and frustration—a good argument during time-crunched NaNoWriMo!

For those who prefer Seat of the Pants spontaneity—“pantsers” (and a jolt of creativity for those who don’t): This article from the New York Book Editors blog argues for the writing process as art, where the science of outlining may get in the way of unfettered inspiration. The take-away: just write! Bestselling author Steven James gives a helpful list for looking at the novel writing process with fresh eyes and plenty of flexibility. This is an article from author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford. It offers a bit of a compromise, with helpful prompts for planning the core of your story, whether you decide to make an outline or not.

Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser, wear your badge with pride as you charge into this amazing adventure! I look forward to sharing the NaNoWriMo journey with you here on Word Café.

Do you use a different method for preparing to write your novel? Please share any helpful strategies here!


<a href="" class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">rung2diotimasladder</a>

Definitely a "pantser" for the 1st draft, but I often outline in-between if things start getting crazy. I believe "Water for Elephants" was a product of NaNoWriMo? How's that for inspiration!

October 31, 2014


<a href="" class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Anita Mumm</a>

Wow, I hadn’t realized that about Water for Elephants. That is awesome inspiration for sure! I like your approach of outlining only as needed–sounds like a good way to stay on track without compromising your creativity. Here are some more success stories from NaNoWriMo:

November 1, 2014



I'm a natural pantser, but I'm going to try at least a loose outline for my next novel. I think a road map of some kind will keep me from wandering off into the woods--or at least get me back on track when I do!

November 5, 2014


<a href="" class="url" rel="ugc external nofollow">Anita Mumm</a>

Good point, Elissa! Wandering a bit can be a good way to explore possibilities, but a loose outline will help you maintain a lifeline in case you get too far off track. Good luck!

November 8, 2014