Outline as Road Map in Planning for NaNoWriMo

Free-For-All Friday: Outline as Road Map in Planning for NaNoWriMo

Hello everyone! As many know, NaNoWriMo starts on Tuesday, Nov 1st, and many of us writerly types are frantically preparing summaries and character sketches and outlines and so forth as we await the NaNo kick-off at midnight.

A couple weeks ago, I thought I was doing well on keeping up with my schoolwork and would have plenty of time to prepare for and do NaNoWriMo.  And then early last week, the semester blew up in my face and things have been pretty crazy around here ever since.  I have not, therefore, had much time to think about my NaNo story, let alone do any of the usual detailed planning I usually do.  But I’m hoping I’ll still be able to pull off NaNo with some effort, little sleep, and lots and lots of coffee.  *crosses fingers* So last night, I finally decided on a title (which may change later, but maybe not), and a wrote a summary/blurb thing.  I also have a fairly decent handle on the main characters.  But where I usually have a pretty detailed plot outline by now, I have only the bare bones of the major plot points.  I’m going to be doing a lot more pantsing this month than I usually do.

That’s not to say I ever follow my outlines all that closely anyway.  But they are useful for direction.  I think of them as a detailed itinerary and road map for a long road trip, that gives me very clear instructions of where to go and when.  BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t get sidetracked or take alternate routes when I see some interesting or useful sign on the road.  Sometimes when I get sidetracked I can improvise my way back to the main road, and continue on with my itinerary with just that small addition.  Sometimes I get so far off the beaten path I have to simply make up a new route altogether and revise my itinerary accordingly.  But I still like to have the initial road map to begin with.  At least then I know where all the major landmarks, highways, and rest-stops are.  So to speak…  Otherwise, I might end up forgetting what state I’m in, let alone where I was headed.

I think it’s completely possible to have this kind of initial plan and still be a pantser at heart.  Because even with the map, you still never know what you might run into or where you might end up there might be a roadblock, construction, a sign pointing to really interesting scenic route or tourist trap you just can’t resist, and so on and then you have to improvise and quick-step your way back to your main plot/goal (and maybe you even change your mind and decide you’re not going to Los Angeles, you’re going to Las Vegas instead).  I highly recommend at least a basic list of important landmarks and highway exits to get you started.

But that’s just my two-cents.  *shrugs*

In any case, this time around, I don’t have the whole map and itinerary to work with.  I just have 5 or 6 of the major landmarks I have to reach with no clear idea how exactly to get to them.  It ought to be interesting…

If anyone wants to add me to your Writing Buddies list (once they get that up and running on the site), I go by “YummieYami” there (don’t ask, long story).  Also, for anyone who might be curious, here’s the summary I’ve come up with for my story, which is a weird, twisted retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (set in an epic fantasy world I’ve created for a series of books):


When Jemirai, third daughter of King Uzon’yr of the Bheidien the People of the Sea risks not only exposure to humans, but human lives as well, Uzon’yr fears little can be done to make his angry, callous, rebellious daughter change.  And then he comes to a decision: he will turn Jemirai into a human and send her to live among them in hope she will learn patience and compassion.  To prevent her from using some magic to reverse his decision, Uzon’yr takes her voice as well.  And then he sends her to the sea-side principality of Emen, where the advisor of the heir-apparent, Prince Garan, was once Bheida himself, before becoming human for the love of a woman.

Prince Garan, at his advisor’s behest, takes the mute, cast-away princess under his care, despite his preoccupation with the illness of his father and his unwillingness to assume the throne.  Unknown to him, his cousin Duke Akthon has plans for the throne himself, believing Garan too soft-hearted to be an effective ruler.

Jemirai, meanwhile, resists her new life as a human, and is desperate to return to the sea.  Then an ancient sea-demon called Wave-Waker appears to offer her a wager: if Jemirai makes Garan fall in love with her within three months and kill him on their wedding night, Wave-Waker will return her to the sea; if she fails, Wave-Waker will devour Jemirai’s soul.

Jemirai accepts.  But that’s just the beginning.

So, who else is doing NaNo?  What’s your project about?  Do you do a lot of planning for it, or do you just go at it and see where you end up?

10 thoughts on “Outline as Road Map in Planning for NaNoWriMo

  1. Amanda, the synopsis of your story sounds so. darn. epic. Seriously, I would pick that up in a heartbeat and read it, because it sounds like an amazing twist on one of my favorite fairy tales.

    I jumped into CampNaNo in August without much more than a general outline for the first three chapters and the identity of the scary serial killer in mind. It was a really interesting process, trying to plan as I went along, but ultimately I ran out of steam half-way through the month and had to race to make 50k. I ‘won’, but I knew that for November, things would be too crazy with school and work for me to even hope to pants my way through.

    So I have an outline of sorts, although it only encompasses Parts 2 and 3. I’m hoping I can get Part 4 under control sometime this weekend, and I’ll figure out the beginning eventually. I’m a psuedo-rebel in that Part 1 is technically already written, but I can’t decide if I like it or not. I may scrap it and start over from scratch, but we’ll see.

    The story I’m working on is a coming-of-age fantasy novel about a sheltered princess whose world is turned upside-down when her father dies and she learns that she was kidnapped many years before. She returns to the land of her birth, a mythical realm where women rule, have all sorts of ancient magic, and exercise power over birds. Once there, she finds herself embroiled in all sorts of political intrigue, and a tangled plot that threatens to plunge the whole world into war. I’m really excited about it, and I can’t wait for November 1st to arrive so I can get started. 😀

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you think my idea sounds interesting. I LOVE the Little Mermaid story and have always wanted to do some weird retelling of it, but I’ve been worried that no one would like the idea of me messing with the mermaid character so much. I was just so sick of the naive, innocent, powerless victim persona she usually has (I’m talking mainly about Anderson’s version here, not so much the Disney version).

      Your idea sounds absolutely awesome too! I absolutely ADORE political intrigue stories, especially when its mixed in with big fantasy elements. And even more so when it includes interesting female characters. I hope I get to read it someday! Good luck getting started!

  2. I wrote a while back about how good outlining can be for writing, so I’m glad to find someone who agrees with me, lol!

    And you synopsis does sound pretty epic. I was never a big fan of “the little mermaid” but that sounds pretty amazing. I hope it goes well for you!

    • Thank you! I’m pretty excited about the idea of my story, but we’ll see if I can actually pull it off.

      And I’m a planner by nature. I plan out EVERYTHING, so I definitely like outlining.

  3. I also love outlining as it feels like cheating… only not. For me, the outline has always been most of the work… and writing the actual “product” is the easy part (but it’s so much more fun if I have an outline that I like).

    Good luck on the writing! Cheers.

  4. Sounds like an interesting idea for a novel! I’ll have to keep following you now (er. . . not in a stalker-ish way) to see how it turns out. I’m doing NaNo this year, too, so good luck to us all!

  5. Pingback: Blog Treasures 10-29 « Gene Lempp's Blog

  6. I really wanted to give NaNoWriMo a shot again this year, but we’re already almost a full day in and I haven’t the slightest clue what to write about!

    I’m trying not to stress over it too much because the last year I participated I ended up well over 50,000 words when I didn’t have any idea where my plot was taking me. I guess the real trick is the first sentence. Characters usually go where they’re meant to after that.

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