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Quick and Dirty Outlining for NaNoWriMo

Quick and Dirty Outlining for NaNoWriMo

In a retro SF setting, Derick and Tina are freelance archaeologists. He’s a veteran soldier but she’s a poor little rich girl who thinks it’s all an adventure…

(I was going to blog about stuff related to Swords Versus Tanks (so about swords and tanks, mostly) but I’m busy editing Episode 3 (“Pyramid of Blood”) and NaNoWriMo is here…)

The writing process is always a cycle of trial and error, call it “create and tinker.” Humans are better at problem solving than inventing in a vacuum. No surprise, then, that the real story building usually happens in the tinker phase. Unfortunately, most new thoughts apply to characters and plot, e.g. we look at the scene we just wrote and realize it would be better with ninjas, and if the main character lacked her right foot. Sure we can write the rest of the book as if that were now true, but as the changes accrue, most of our first draft becomes condemned, which seems… inefficient. This is why I like outlining.

Now I think the optimum outlining system helps you engage with different levels of your story, hence my book Storyteller Tools: Outline from vision to finished novel without losing the magic. Alas, since NaNoWriMo is now on us, you’re probably feeling too twitchy to read it or anything like it!

So, here instead is a hacked-down approach that should still help…

First, Review Your Objectives

Your aim is to produce a 50,000 word novel in a month. Allowing an average of 5K words a chapter, that means a mere 10 chapters. Each chapter comprises 1 big scene or 2 regular scenes.

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NaNoWriMo is coming!

NaNoWriMo is coming!

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I wrote a book on all this…

Like Winter, NaNoWriMo is coming and aspiring writers are even now planning to do a Frazetta on the whole business of writing a novel. This is great — momentum is all — but it’s way too easy to grind to a halt or lose time going round in circles trying to reinvent the wheel.

I wrote a book on all this, but some of my previous blog entries might also help you avoid dead ends and rampage through your novel to the very end — I promise you both an affirming and life changing experience.

So, here they are in digest form:

Some Writing Advice That’s Mostly Useless (And Why): The following writing advice is mostly useless — “Work on your motivation,” “Revise, revise, revise,” “Have a chaotic life,” “Just write,” “Know grammar and critical terms,” “Practice skills in isolation.”

World Building Historical Fiction using Military Thinking: Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of research or worldbuilding. Instead use a layered approach, focussing your world building  as you descend from Strategic (villas exist and can be raided for supplies), through Operational (this villa sits on this ground amidst these fields), to Tactical (here is the ground plan of the villa and here are the people guarding it) level.

NaNoWriMo: How to “Pants” Through Your Novel like a Rampaging Panzer Division in 1940 France (and Why You Should): If you subscribe to the “Just Write” approach, then — seriously — just write. Switch off your spell checker, don’t edit or tinker, and if you need to add something to the story, just make a note and move on. You can mop up later.

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