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How to Easily Outline Your NaNoWriMo Novel During Preptober

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Once summer is over, November always seems to approach quickly. It’s easy to let NaNoWriMo sneak up on you. Then on October 31st, you have no clue what you’re going to write about!

For some people, that’s why NaNoWriMo is fun. Jumping into a story you know nothing about is thrilling. And you’ll figure it out along the way, right?

. . . Right.

Even if you’re a panster, getting yourself an outline can drastically improve your chances of winning NaNoWriMo—and of writing a better story. You don’t have to have every scene planned out, but knowing the general direction of your story (and how it ends) can really help you out!

So this year, let’s outline our NaNoWriMo novels—even if it’s just the bare bones of our story’s structure. How, you might ask? Keep reading to find out!

How to Create a Simple NaNoWriMo Novel Outline

First thing’s first—the base of your story. It’s not your setting, and it’s not your plot. The base of your story is your characters.

As I asked in my NaNoWriMo Survival Guide, is a good story something that happens to a character, or a character that takes action to be the story?

That’s right. A character-driven story will be so. much. better.

So to outline your NaNoWriMo novel, we need to start with your characters. Try answering these questions:

  • What’s your character’s biggest fear?

  • What’s your character’s biggest desire?

  • What makes your character lovable/relatable/hateable?

I’d also recommend taking a look at this character arc resource before you start your NaNoWriMo prep.

How to Organize Your NaNoWriMo Novel Outline

I personally write + organize my novels in Scrivener. The program has a nice little template to help things go smoothly, along with character and setting sheets. But you can organize your novel in a NaNoWriMo bullet journal, in a Word document, or in a notebook. Here's a general idea of what my novel outline might look like (I usually use the 3 Act Structure):

RELATED: NaNoWriMo Survival Guide + Kit

Act One

Opening Scene/Narrative Hook:

  • Introduce character in a way that makes readers like (or dislike) them

  • Introduce character’s normal world, along with character’s unfulfilled desires and what’s holding them back

Inciting Incident:

  • Something happens that disrupts the character’s normal world

  • Character reacts, either to change things or to run away

First Plot Point:

  • The moment the character makes the full commitment to whatever the inciting incident has called them to

  • Character struggles with fears or a lie they believe about themselves/others/the world

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The Lazy Writer's Guide to Outlining for NaNoWriMo during Preptober

Act Two

Rising Action:

  • Your character makes steps toward achieving their goal, but they fail, quite possibly due to their own shortcomings, fears, or beliefs

  • Your character fights against the antagonist, who’s probably in the lead and causing your main character to react instead of think proactively

  • Your character begins to see the light (begins to see that their fears/beliefs are wrong)

Midpoint/Second Plot Point:

  • This is the biggest part of your novel so far, in which your character comes face to face with your antagonist, only to realize that they need to do something to get ahead

  • Your character has begun to see the light, along with the threat your antagonist poses, so this is when they switch to change for the better—because there’s no other option

Post-Midpoint Rising Action:

  • Your character comes up with a game plan to defeat the antagonist

  • Your character makes a small step toward their goals

  • Your character continues to grow, but they’re still struggling with their fear/misbelief

RELATED: Top Writing Courses for Fiction Writers

Act Three:

Character’s Darkest Moment:

  • Right after that small step toward their goals in Act 2, your character faces their biggest defeat yet

  • They’re forced to face their fear/misbelief that’s been hindering them throughout the whole story

  • The release of the repression of the truth your character has been avoiding motivates them to finish defeating the antagonist

Bright highlighters on a pink background | How to Prep for NaNoWriMo during Preptober

The Climax:

  • Your character’s new revelation gives them the strength they need to get through to the end

  • Fighting the antagonist isn’t easy, but it concludes your character’s arc—and their growth is put into action

  • If this is one book in a series, a smaller antagonistic force is defeated, but not the main antagonist of the entire story

The Resolution:

  • Your character is alive and better, due to the fear/misbelief they left behind

  • Instead of going back to how things were, the character begins to live life in a new way

And that’s it! All you have to do to outline your NaNoWriMo novel is fill in those bullet points with your own ideas and plot points. My one piece of advice to you? Make sure that the main three plot points are all caused by your main character’s actions—or lack of action. This will help them to grow as they see how much their fear/misbelief is holding them back.

Of course, the bullet points above will happen over different scenes, but they’re not the only scenes your book will have. These are just the defining moments of your character’s journey. In between them will be scenes dedicated to theme, subplots (which should all tie together in the end), your supporting character’s development, and making your setting/characters relatable, lovable, and believable.

Want more NaNoWriMo inspiration? Check out my NaNoWriMo Survival Guide and grab your free NaNoWriMo Survival Kit below: It includes 30 days of writing prompts/tips/quotes, a NaNoWriMo calendar, and some other extra goodies.

Pin this to your NaNoWriMo or Writing board!

How to Outline for NaNoWriMo the Simple Way
How to Outline for NaNoWriMo - Preptober tips for easily outlining your novel