How to Prep for Nano in One Day

Camp Nano

This is as much for you folks as it is for me.

I’m currently in day two of migraine-induced fog, so please excuse me for any strange grammar or anything. The show must go on!

Step One: Characters

I already have my characters, but if you don’t, this is where you start. You need names; goals, motivations, and conflicts (GMC); two word descriptor (adjective and noun); and basic personality. If the character is going to be your point of view, you also need their voice.

So, easiest ways to do this in one day:

Seventh Sanctum.

Seriously. Warning: do not get caught up in the wonderful randomness. You don’t have time. Just go to the names generator and click on a few. Generate some names. Remember: you can go back and change them later.

While I could do an entire post on GMC (and there’s already a book about it), here’s the short version: what does your character want to obtain by the end of the book, why do they want it, and what’s in their way. You should write a GMC for each character, including your villain. If you have time, do both an internal and an external GMC for them. If you don’t (and if you’re just now plotting, you don’t) just stick with external. Internal is something you can write in later or will blossom naturally.

Two word descriptors are important for the next step. You’ve got some basic direction for this character already, so slap a descriptive adjective in front of a noun. Acceptable: saucy painter. Unacceptable: rotten meatbag. See how easy this is?

I can already hear the whining. “But Dahnya, I don’t have my plot yet! How do I know who the characters are?” Shush your mouth. Characters are the driving force for all novels (even plot driven – SHOCK!) so get to know them. You’ll be torturing these pretties in less than 24 hours. You need to get to know them pretty darn fast.

Okay. Personality. Personality should be easy once you know what motivates them and what their descriptors are. If you are still having trouble putting a personality to them, move on for now. Their personality should come to you during plotting.

Example: I just generated two names – Esaril and Izaziub.

Esaril is an angel who is still in training. Her goal is that she wants to graduate and become a full fledged angel. Her motivation is that none of the angels in her family have ever graduated and she wants to be the one to prove her family’s worth. The conflict is that Izaziub is her teacher, but he hates her father – so he’s bound to flunk her just on principle. My words for Esaril are “determined student.” Her personality is the solid rock that survives the storm; she’s always cleaning up after her family because she has to. 

Izaziub has been teaching for years. His goal is to finish out this term without too much trouble so he can finally retire. His motivation is that he’s tired of watching hopeful trainees go out and die in the Angel-Demon wars. The conflict is that he has too much respect for himself to just pass all his students, especially when one of them is his greatest failure’s offspring. My words for Izaziub are “bitter curmudgeon.” His personality is the worn out teacher who just can’t see the good anymore; he refuses to think that any one student will make a difference.

Step Two: Basic Plot Elements

Pants or plot, I don’t care. You need to know where this story is going so you don’t spend 50,000 words stumbling all over yourself.

To make Nano plotting fun and easy, we’re going to (modified) snowflake.

To snowflake, you usually spend hours or days expanding on your story until it’s wonderful. We don’t have that time.

So think for five minutes. Dream up some plot that involves all the characters you created.

Example: A determined student must graduate and become a full-fledged angel to save her friend, but her teacher is a bitter curmudgeon who not only doesn’t believe in her, but is willing to flunk her just because of her lineage.

I don’t know where that part about saving her friend came from, but spicy! I like it!

Okay. So we’ve got the sentence. Next, expand that into a paragraph. You can use your character names now.

Example: The final semester of angel training school has come, but Esaril is pretty sure she’s not going to graduate this year. And if she doesn’t graduate this year, Artut will die. Esaril has done everything she can to save her friend, but only a true angel could go into the thick of the Angel-Demon war and collect a prisoner. And none of the full-fledged angels want to risk it for a lowly trainee. Everything was going great until Esaril realized who her teacher was this term. Izaziub hates her family, and most directly, her father. There’s a whole story there that no one will talk about; Esaril has to uncover the transgressions and make them right, all while turning her homework in on time. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Demons have decided to start killing off captives at random. Will they murder Artut before Esaril can make everything better?

I’m starting to like this plot. It’s a little strange, a little unconventional, and very YA.

But I don’t write YA. So if someone wants it, take it. You’re taking the easy way out, but whatever.

Anyway, here’s where I stop the snowflake. We don’t have time for more. Moving on.

Step Three: Advanced Plotting

So, this is where I take my plot and make my note cards. First thing I do is some math. If I write #1k1hr write and if I plan for 2,000 words a day, I can finish my Nanowrimo novel in 25 days. There are 24 week days in August. I’m pretty sure I can coax another 2k words out somewhere.

So, I’m going to make 25 chapters with two scenes in each. This means I’ll have 50 scenes, each with about 1,000 words. That’s really light for me (usually my scenes are about 5,000 on average) but it means that I’ll have plenty of places to go in fill in the rough spots when Nano is over.

So, how do I advance plot for Nano? Line-for-scene. I write a sentence (like I did for my snowflake plot) for every scene. What is it going to be about. Who’s there. Who’s my point of view. I write them on 3X5 index cards (also called note cards), but you could write them on sticky notes, in Scrivener, or directly on your walls with crayon for all I care. The point is to get them down.

This words for those who plot or those who pants. All we’re doing is brainstorming places to go.

Make sure you write some tasty scenes. These should be ones that get your blood pumping. A bar fight, a spaceship battle, an undercover mission. The more of these exciting scenes you plot, the more interested you are going to be in your Nano. Remember, after November (or August, for me) you can go back and add the boring stuff. You want the excitement now.

Did you write your scenes in conjunction with your math? Good.

Congratulations – you’ve plotted your Nanowrimo novel!

Now, excuse me while I go plot mine.

How about it folks – was this helpful? How is your Nanowrimo plotting going? Think you’ll be ready in less than 24 hours?

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