Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo

Kath here. We are very excited to welcome Martha Alderson, aka the Plot Whisperer, to Writer Unboxed today. Martha is the author of the new plot workbook: The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories – a companion workbook to The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. The third book in the plot trilogy: The Plot Whisperer Book of Prompts: Exercises to Get You Writing is coming out at the end of the year.

Martha has also written Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple and several ebooks on plot. As an international plot consultant for writers, Martha’s clients include best-selling authors, New York editors, and Hollywood movie directors. She teaches plot workshops to novelists, memoirists, and screenwriters privately, at plot retreats, through Learning Annex, RWA, SCBWI, CWC chapter meetings, at writers’ conferences and Writers Store where she takes writers beyond the words and into the very heart of a story.

As the founder of Blockbuster Plots for Writers and December, International Plot Writing Month, Martha manages the award-winning blog for writers The Plot Whisperer, awarded by Writers Digest 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Her vlog, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay covers 27 steps to plotting your story from beginning to end.

We’re thrilled that Martha agreed to share her plotting expertise with WU readers. EVEN BETTER NEWS is that Martha is giving away her workbook–The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories –to THREE lucky WU community members! Simply post a comment below. Winners will be chosen at random by October 20, and be notified by email.

With no further ado, take it away, Martha!

Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is fast approaching. On the off chance you haven’t heard of the international phenomenon, the official NaNoWriMo site explains: “National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.”

Whether a seat-of-your-pants writer or a plotter, writers who put a bit of time and thought into pre-plotting what they hope to write before jumping into the actual task are more apt to achieve their goal at the end of November.

If you wish to take part in NaNoWriMo next month and plan to prepare for the challenge this month, I recommend that at the very least you identify the 4 major turning points in your story—what I like to call the Energetic Markers.

1) The End of the Beginning scene

2) The Recommitment scene

3) The Crisis scene

4) Climax scene

Yes, you have to be flexible and toss out the pre-plotting ideas if/when the characters bully you into taking a different route. However, many writers find that the pre-planning structural support is comforting and allows them to persevere all the way to the glorious end of finishing the rough draft of your story.

Keep the End in Sight

As you mull over story and character ideas, keep the following in mind.

An opening line or scene or conflict or dilemma may catch your fancy but rather than linger there for very long, take the inspiration you’re given and stretch the ideas all the way to the climax of the story.

In other words, constantly ask yourself what the climax scene may look like. In so doing, consider the traits the protagonist will need to have in order to prevail at the climax.

Such a search opens possibilities for the traits she will be missing at the beginning of the story, the flaw she’ll have to overcome to be triumphant in the end and what traits she now has at the beginning that are going to interfere with her forward progress toward her goal. This exercise helps create the character emotional development plot arc of your story.

Week-by-Week

Pre-plot the major scenes necessary to write each week during November. The character exercise above serves you well in the Week One, which represents the beginning writing portion of the entire project. This is the time you’ll want to incorporate the traits she embodies at the beginning to foreshadow the journey she’ll undertake. At the end of the first week of November, you should be writing the End of the Beginning scene in preparation for writing part of the middle portion in week two.

During Week Two, you show the exotic world of the middle to the reader as the protagonist explores her new surroundings. This is also the time to deepen the relationship the protagonist has with the major antagonist(s)—be it internal or external. Pre-plot now the recommitment scene you’ll need to be writing at the end of week two in preparation for writing the second half of the middle in week three.

Week Three challenges both you in your writing life and your protagonist in the story. The energy of the story rises ever higher. The conflict intensifies. A death awaits you. Pre-plot the crisis scene now.

By Week Four of November you can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Limping forward or forging ahead confidently, you write scenes that build up to the point of highest drama in your story, the crowning moment when the thematic significance or deeper meaning becomes clear to the reader—the climax. Just as it looks as if all is permanently lost for the protagonist, at the climax she delivers the gift. The climax generally hits a chapter or scene before the final page.

The climax determines many of the earlier decisions you need to make in your novel, memoir, and screenplay. The action the protagonist takes at the climax reveals what traits, beliefs, and skills are necessary for her to prevail. Thus, she is missing those skills at the beginning of the story and will need relearn or rediscover them throughout the middle. Some talents she will be learning for the first time but the true abilities necessary for her success at the climax are usually rediscovered after having been lost or buried due to her backstory.

In the last two days of November, write the resolution and then compare the beginning quarter of your story and the end quarter of your story. How do they tie together? Do both the dramatic action plot and character emotional development plot coalesce at the end for more punch and impact? How does the character change from the beginning to the end? Does the beginning foreshadow the final clash at the climax?

Photobucket Pre-plot the Character Emotional Development Plot

The exercise above is a backward approach to pre-plotting the protagonist’s character emotional development by deconstructing the end character to determine who she is at the beginning.

Most writers engage in a forward approach to pre-plotting a character.

You fill in a flaw, a strength, and five other character traits on the Character Emotional Development Plotline portion of the Character Plot Profile. See below *.

Either you begin writing first and the character reveals these traits to you, or you decide upon the character traits first and then construct a character using those traits.

However, there are some writers who pre-plot from the climax back to the beginning.

In order for the character to transform, her traits also transform. If the protagonist needs to tell the truth in order to achieve her goal and face her greatest fear, in the beginning she is the antithesis of honest. Throughout the middle, the reader learns all the subtle ways the protagonist lies to others and mostly to herself. Pretending to like something because someone in authority likes it, saying only partly of what she believes, evading a question rather than tell the truth, shaping her words to fit what she knows is acceptable, smiling when someone intends to be funny, agreeing when she has not even thought over the matter trip her up more and more often and cause her to react more and more emotionally.

By understanding who the protagonist ultimately becomes at the climax at the end, you are able to deconstruct the protagonist and thus, determine who she is as she begins the story and thus, better control when and where to offer deepening information about her throughout to the end.

*Character Plot Profile 

Fill out the following profile for your protagonist and all major characters.

Character’s name:

Dramatic Action Plotline

1. Overall story goal:

2. What stands in her/his way?

3. What does s/he stand to lose?

Character Emotional Development Plotline

1. Flaw(s):

2. Strength(s):

3. Hate(s):

4. Love(s):

5. Fear(s):

6. Dream(s):

7. Secret(s):

Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter’? Are you planning to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo?? Answer the following and you’re automatically in the running for a free copy of my new workbook: The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create a Compelling Story.

Great good luck to each of you!

Wasn’t that great? Portions of this article are excerpted from Martha Alderson’s new plot workbook: The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories – a companion workbook to The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Adams Media, a division of F + W Media). Thank you, Martha!

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow. Thanks so much for this post! This will be my first Nanowrimo and I’m looking forward to being back into that first draft territory, as I’m consumed by (slowww) revisions for my current MS. I’m working hard to become a plotter after a disastrous pantsing attempt, but I generally fall somewhere between plotter and pantser. By which I mean I embark on a project *thinking* I have a well constructed plot outline then realise later on I’ve given myself instructions such as “they are pursued into Act 3″. Not very helpful! For my Nanowrimo heroin I have already written a character arc, but I will deepen this now with the profile you provided.

    I have read lots on plotting and this has been the most useful. Most things I’ve read have been very rigid but your approach seems to provide more leeway (especially noting that the antagonist can be internal!) Thank you!
    CB Soulsby´s last blog post ..Drawing inspiration from the bad

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  2. says

    Thank you, Kathleen and Therese, for hosting me here today. A pre-plot tip for NaNoWriMo is to write the weekly expectations I outline above on your calendar. These reminders help keep you moving forward all the way to the end.
    Suzanne, I’m fascinated to know if you’ll pre-plot at all before participating next month? And, I’ll be curious to learn how the backwards approach works for you. Good luck!
    I look forward to interacting with your friends and followers today.
    Happy plotting,
    Martha
    aka
    Plot Whisperer
    Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo

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  3. Amy Mueller says

    The Plot Whisperer book and video series and completely changed writing for me. Thank you, Martha, for completely changing the way that I write and making the stories manifest from strictly in my head to on the page.

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  4. says

    Martha,
    Welcome to WU. I read your blog and you always share useful advice. I’m a pantser at heart, but the one thing I do in terms of pre planning is to think through the entire story in my head, especially.character motivations and ways in which the ending reveals the MC’s growth. I did NaNo last year and finished a 53,000-word first draft. I plan to do it again this year. It is fun and challenging . The website has a lot of great resources and we have a fantastic group in my region. We mett and engage in marathon writing sessions. I urge writers to try NaNo. Thanks again, Martha

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  5. Dee Bibb says

    I have joined in on NaNoWroMo almost every year since its beginning…however, last year is the first time that I really finished it successfully. I was so excited!

    That MS is in the editing stages….and I will eventually get it done. But I will be taking this November to — do it again!

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      • Dee Bibb says

        I truly believe that the difference between last year and previous years are two-fold. First and foremost, I think it had to do with the fact that I got your book, The Plot Whisperer Secrets of Story Structure, several months prior and secondly, I got all my students (5/6 grade) invested in writing…so we all wrote together and it made all of us accountable!

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  6. says

    Hi Martha,
    Thanks for this very interesting, informative and thought-provoking post. I’m definitely a ‘plotter’ (not one planning to enter nanomo because the very thought is daunting!) – but I’m always on the look-out for inspirational ‘how to’ books on writing. I love them! Right now I’m in the process of plotting book five so your book sounds like just the ticket. Thanks again!

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  7. says

    NaNo keeps me on my toes. I’ve wrote one book in my first NaNoWriMo, edited it in my second NaNoWriMo and now I’m inspired by another story and am going to try and work on plot first then fill in. NaNoWriMo doesn’t have to mean finishing a book but it is one of the best “butt in chair” writing disciplines for getting started. Thanks for posting this.
    Kate´s last blog post ..My Work-In-Progress progresses…

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  8. says

    Congratulations, CB, on taking the leap. It’s an exciting time. Writers planning on entering the writing cave and essentially disappearing for a month. Except, that is, for writers like CG who have a fantastic group to hang out and write with. Congratulations!
    I love learning about everyone’s process. Goes to show there are as many different ways to write a book as there are writers…
    Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  9. says

    Hi Martha. Great tips as always. I have been an addict of your youtube series. And find myself watching those whenever I get stuck in any of my WIPs (which I must confess is pretty often!). :)
    And your tips have always been hugely helpful. so thanks for being a constant source of inspirations. Cheers!

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    • says

      Nice to find you here, Adite! It’s so gratifying to hear that the youtube series are helpful to you. My friend, Cathy Cress, and I did it on a lark. Guess sometimes acting from the seat-of-your pants works out just fine (though once we got started and saw the response we were getting I did focus and plotted out the entire series.)
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  10. says

    Thanks for the advice, Martha. I’m more a pantser than an outliner but I love your advice to know all along how the story ends. I’m often polishing my beginnings long before I know what the ending will be. Not a productive way to work, I’ve found.
    Mary Incontro´s last blog post ..Writing vs Author Platform

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    • says

      I write a lot about how important it is to write your story all the way to the end before going back and starting again. The end, especially the climax, helps define so many of the decisions about what comes at the beginning. Refine the beginning before writing the end often makes the necessary cuts even more painful than if the writing you’re hacking away is merely a rough draft.
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  11. says

    Thanks for such an awesome post, Martha. I won’t be entering NaNo, but I am working on a re-write of my debut novel, now that I’ve been learning so much about plotting and sub-plotting, and character arcs and development this year. I put my novel aside for a year to concentrate on learning these things, and to publish my debut poetry book – now I’m ready to dig into my novel again! Sites and posts like these are filled with valuable information and insight that this writer definitely appreciates!
    Julie Catherine´s last blog post ..Back in the Blogosphere :)

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  12. Michelle says

    I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time last year and went into it completely blind, with nothing more than a fleeting idea. I completed more of a story than I initially expected to, especially considering that I got a late start on it. However, I felt all along that I should have had a much better idea of my plot and where my story was going and who my characters truly were. I am ecstatic about this year’s NaNoWriMo and I definitely intend on spending this month preparing! Your post has definitely given me much to think about as far as my protagonist goes. I never thought to think of who she would be at the end, and therefore determine what she would be missing at the beginning! Thank you so much for the stir of creative juices this morning!

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  13. says

    I have gotten extreme writer’s block (or whatever it is) from too much plotting, getting mired in it and being frozen to write any words while I waited for that plot to gel. Awful. Finally, I went to the cave and just wrote random scenes and cranked out words. The middle ground I found was that scene lists helped. So NaNo (which I’ve not attempted) sounds great for cave diving. I love that idea. Crank ’em out, when in doubt. But I need those scene lists. Maybe even create a 10-20 page synopsis then watch as the characters go here and there and back to where I wanted them while I write with “pantsing.” Its all so complicated and scary. No matter what, whichever approach I take, loads of editing results. Yup, edit-madness ends up being my lot. thanks for the instructions. I look forward to checking out your website.
    Diana Cachey´s last blog post ..French Ghosts Are Bullies

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    • says

      I find that rather than making lists of scenes which don’t always indicate the intensity of one scene versus another making a visual picture helps. I call it a plot planner. A place to stand back from the words and “see” the bigger picture of how all the scene work together as a whole.
      In this case, I find that one picture (plot planner) is worth ten thousand words in lists and outlines and synopsis.
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  14. says

    Last year’s NaNoWriMo was the best writing experience I’d ever had. I proved to myself that I could write an entire first draft of a novel in a month. However, I still haven’t gotten back to it because I’m still working on the mystery novel I started three years ago! What’s taking so long to fix? Plot problems.
    Linda Townsdin´s last blog post ..Contemplating the Gap

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  15. says

    Welcome to Writer Unboxed, Martha. Thanks for your advice.

    I went into NaNoWriMo in 2007 with only a few ideas about the novel I was writing. Completed a first draft that needed so much work I abandoned the second draft.

    In June and July of this year I worked out the plot and scenes for a second novel that I wrote in Aug. at CampNaNoWriMo. It was still a challenge to hit 50K words in a month, but it helped tremendously to know where it was going. The second draft needs work, but this one feels like a novel I can turn into a finished work.

    Thanks for focusing your instruction on the critical area of Plot. I’m looking forward to following your posts. Please let us know if you have any online classes coming up–thanks!

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  16. More Pie says

    Thanks so much for this. I’m looking forward to November, having just written a book all the wrong ways, even though I should know better.

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  17. says

    Thank you, Martha, for the wonderful direction. I find I am very much a plotter. I like to have a structure in place, albeit a fluid one. And yes, I’m planning to give NaNoWriMo a second try this year. Last year was a dismal failure, but it, like so much else in my writing life, has served as useful experience. Thanks again!

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  18. says

    I’m a Pantser, almost completely! But by heeding Martha’s work in the years I have followed her, I am becoming a better plotter, too, for I think the best writing I do comes with a healthy helping of both. :) I’ll be doing my fifth NaNoWriMo this year — and I’d really like to create something that could actually be *revise-able* this year! I’ve technically finished the word-count for three years. I’d like to make it a fourth “win”, but actually have a story with a solid beginning, middle, and end, and not just a kind-of beginning and lots of middle (lol).

    Thanks for featuring Martha’s work here! I have followed her site and vlog, but never had a chance to get one of her books (they have been on my Amazon wish list for a long time, though!).

    Thank you for featuring Martha here (and thanks, Martha, for posting it on Facebook, which is how I got here!).

    Karin P
    Karin P´s last blog post ..Books, Books, Books

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  19. Donna says

    Martha, this will be my first MaMoWriMo. I have been anxious to begin, but now I see I have work to do before November gets here. I really like your Character Plot Profile above.

    My wip is the first thing I’ve ever tried to write. It’s historical and I keep getting stuck trying to knit everything together. My Nano project is a current day story. I think it will be much easier to get on the page!

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  20. says

    Thank you so much for great advice! I’m having trouble with my character so figuring out how I want her to be at the climax might just do the trick. I’ve never tried NaNoWriMo but I’m excited to give it a go this year!

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  21. says

    I’m planning on using NaNoWriMo to finish a non-fiction book, not a novel. I need the deadline pressure to keep my butt on the chair. Next year I will use NaNoWriMo to finish my novel. Will definitely read The Plot Whisperer Workbook, but not till December 1st!

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  22. Lana Jackson says

    Thanks, Martha, for your great advice. I especially liked the character example.

    I’ve been watching your YouTube series and started reading “The Plot Whisperer” this summer. Thanks to you, I’ve discovered I’m a “plotter.” I’m beginning to plot out a novel that I put aside after getting completely lost. “Panster” definitely didn’t work for me. Due to time constraints, I won’t be joining NaNo this year. Thanks, again.

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  23. says

    Last year’s NaNoWriMo was the first I participated in, but I have my eyes on completing it this year. I am a ‘plotter’ by nature, but find I can over analyze everything and get tied up in that before every putting word to page. I’ve recently discovered Martha and her youtube channel, websites, and books. It’s been an eye opening for me and allowed me to step back a bit and not over-complicate things. Thanks, for the timeline for NaNoWriMo, I plan to put it in action this time round!
    Monique´s last blog post ..Soggy Doggy

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    • says

      I’d love to hear how the schedule works for you, Monique. The more tangled your mind with over complications the less room for the muse to slip in. Trust the process. Have fun with it. Nano is not a test. It’s simply a way to get you to get out of the way and write.
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  24. says

    Martha,

    This November will be my third foray into NaNoWriMo. I “won” my first year, and gave up part way through last year. Both times I was flying by the seat of my pants. I’m currently working on plotting out an already begun, but abandoned, novel in the attempt to finally finish it during NaNo.

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  25. Shauna says

    I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year and will make time this weekend to do some of these exercises. I want to have at least a loose plot in mind before I start writing.

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  26. Judy Migliori says

    I tried NaNoMo a few years back and loved writing furiously at all hours of the day – but I never did go back to the 40,000 words I wrote. After that experience I devoured every writing web site and writing books I could find because I know I am a plotter not a free for all explorer. This year I intend to use the NaNoWriMo web site for inspiration and motivation to finish a 15,000 page outline I am working on. I copied and pasted parts of your post and intend on working on the climax of my WIP using your writing tips you so graciously provided. Thank you.

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    • says

      Great, Judy! That experience of the month-long writing did as much for you as the research and study.

      A friend begged me to start PlotWriMo after she did Nano and was left with a pile of words and “now what?”

      I invite all of you Nano and non-Nano writers the entire month of December to refine the plot arc of your novel, memoir, screenplay.

      For more: http://plotwrimo.com/
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  27. says

    I would categorize myself as a plotter, but during the process, the pants do have a tendency to fly around slightly. I’ve learned to create my outlines with spandex. Almost every aspect of my story is outlined, and sometimes the work can be tedious and annoying, but when I get to the middle of a story and I hit that, frickin, mobile break wall; the first thought that comes to mind is, Sugar-Honey-Ice-Tea. I’m glad I made that outline, is the second thought that comes to mind. Plotting not only helps me start a story, but it also helps me to salvage specific parts quickly whenever I have to do a major overhaul. I find myself rehabbing more often than not. Hopefully, as I find myself moving from novice to novice first class, my rewriting I will reduce by 2.5%.

    I can definitely see how the free copy of the Plot Whisperer Workbook, would be very useful with my new book called The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. Oh yeah, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month 2012.

    Thanks Martha, you rock
    Brian B. King´s last blog post ..Projects in progress

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  28. says

    I am a pantser but wish I was a plotter. It might take the fun out of things but then I wouldn’t get into these terribly stuck places that I do. I’ve tried NANO a few times but have yet to do the 50,000 words of original work probably because of the aforementioned stuck places where I don’t know where to to go on! I am trying again this year:)
    Jacqui´s last blog post ..Upcoming Appearance at Alexandria, VA Main Library

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    • says

      My advice, Jacqui: enter Nano this year in a completely different way than in previous years. If you’ve plotted in the past and run into trouble, don’t pre-plot this year. If you’ve written purely by the seat of your pants, at least try to identify the 4 defining scenes of every great story and discussed in the post.
      I see you meeting with success this year!
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  29. Dana Carpenter says

    Thanks for all the advice, Martha! I’ve dabbled in writing for years now, but know I have more in me… I just can’t pull it. Then one day recently, I stumbled upon your youtube channel and it started clicking again. Now I’m gobbling up your advice and have a renewed spirit to write! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us!

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    • says

      Geez, Dana, I feel like I’m getting way more out of this blog experience here at Writer Unboxed than the rest of you!
      Your very kind words humble me. Thank you. I love when the creative spark lights. Nothing more miraculous than creating a story out of thin air…
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  30. Pam says

    I’m a loose plotter and these exercises sound wonderful. I hope to do Nano but may have to start late. Thanks for the great post.

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  31. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says

    A keeper this blog for all the helpful tips, whether writing in NaNo, or not. Thank you.

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  32. says

    As always, fantastic advice Martha! I’ve spent a lot of time pre-plotting my novel but have worked particularly hard on the climax scene after watching your plot series on YouTube. Finding a character’s flaws is so much easier when you deconstruct her transformed glory of the climax. Thanks!
    Rachel Larow´s last blog post ..And the Winner is…

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  33. ML Swift says

    I love your ideas, Martha, and if they’re any indication of your book, then you’ve got some real winners whispering in the wind.

    I’m participating in NaNo this year and, not going in disillusioned, have pre-plotted a decent story line. Thanks for the tidbits!

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  34. says

    What a brilliant post! And what an amazingly original idea — to plot backwards…opens up all sorts of possibilities and actually takes away all the ‘fear’ factor about wondering how to finish! I had sort of decided that I wouldn’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but after reading your post I think I have to think it out again!!!!
    Edith´s last blog post ..To NaNo or Not

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  35. says

    hi- I am so happy to read this post. You told me a lot more about the NaNoWriMo than I have actually gotten from reading blog posts. I didn’t know that was the goal to write a 175 page novel of 50000 words by the end of the month. I was told the goal is to set up an amount of words and a certain time for you to have that written by. And the end goal was to write a book but for those who weren’t going to be able to just write what you can. So this is very helpful. I am definitely going to look up your book even if I don’t win it here bc I like your outlines as well.
    What I did have a question on though is:
    Character Emotional Development Plotline

    1. Flaw(s):

    2. Strength(s):

    3. Hate(s):

    4. Love(s):

    5. Fear(s):

    6. Dream(s):

    7. Secret(s):

    If as I am I learn about the character as I write them- this is hard for me to fill out. Is it okay to leave it until I have written the book or should I at least try and map out at the beginning?
    Nicole´s last blog post ..Ever Heard of International Day of the Girl??

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  36. Karen Johnson says

    I’m a planner but some parts become pantsers depending on the will of the characters! I’ve done NaNo before and I’m really tempted to do it again!

    Karen Johnson
    kmoaton@hotmail.com

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  37. says

    This is very helpful. Thanks for sharing. I just ordered the book last night and would love to win the workbook.

    I’m not going to do NaNo this year. I’m concentrating on editing one of my other stories and don’t want to leave it.

    But I love NaNo. It’s fun and exciting and exhausting. Ha! I already feel like I’m missing out, but the time’s just not right for me.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    Jackie
    Jackie Layton´s last blog post ..Heroes, Saints and Legends

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    • says

      The PWWorkbook is great (or so, I believe anyway) because it takes all the plot concepts covered in the PW book and gives you space to fill in all the exercises and templates with Plot Planners and Scene Trackers and everything. In the end, you hold the bones of your story and a keepsake as a reminder of the steps you took to create a story from the beginning all the way to the end!
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  38. says

    I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, but after reading this blog post I see that it could be a worthwhile exercise. Previously, the event seemed like it was nothing but spilling words as fast as possible and had nothing to do with developing a story. The approaches you laid out here, Martha, look like ways to really create a story in which a character changes.
    Finishing the current draft of my work in progress comes first, however. So my answer to the question “Are you going to?” is “Maybe.”
    Skipper Hammond´s last blog post ..DSC01986

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  39. says

    Great to see you here, and talking about NaNo. I’ve been using the Plot Whisperer & your YouTube lessons to revise my WIP, and now you’ve provided a structure for heading into my first NaNo experience. I was anxious, and now I feel I’ve been given a map. Thank you!
    Anne Civitano´s last blog post ..So what’s going on now?

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  40. Diane Watanabe says

    I’m a pantster and plotting gives me the willies sometimes. This is my first year for NaNoWriMo and I’m nervous and excited at the same time. Thank you for your YouTube videos as well. They are currently stacked in my favorites folder since my video is messed up on my laptop. Hopefully, I can figure out what’s going on so I can catch up with all your great advice.

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  41. says

    Thanks for the Great Post Martha (and Kath)! I participated in NaNoWriMo last year and completed a rough draft of my first novel and will be attempting to do it again with #2 this year! I’m am both a ‘pantser’ and a ‘plotter’ and not only let my characters bully me into changing my plot line sometimes but also some of their character traits when I start dreaming about them! When you see a character so vividly in your dreams I say why fight it? I’ve started my outline in prepareation for next month but I already had a dream that made me change the main storyline from a murder to a kidnapping. Let the games begin!!

    Anyone doing NaNoWriMo, please come join me as a writing buddy!
    Anne :)
    AKA, Anne the Writer
    Anne O’Connell (@annethewriter)´s last blog post ..Super Swe-e-e-e-e-t Award

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  42. says

    Like Diana, who commented earlier, I become so intent on getting the plot to gel in my head that I hardly get any words down in print. I’ll be trying NaNoWriMo for the first time, this year, hoping I can “open a vein” and let the words spill, as commenter Skipper says.

    This post has given me some great ideas; I’m looking forward to November 1st.

    Thanks a lot.
    Ted Tyszka´s last blog post ..Martin Mörck – Tireless Champion of the Engraver’s Art

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  43. says

    Well, that’s it for me today. I’m signing off now.

    Thank you again, Kathleen and Therese. I had a ball. Thanks to all your friends and followers. I’m excited to know that 3 lucky writers will have a PWWorkbook by their side before too long.

    My apologies if I neglected to comment on your comment. I appreciate every single one of you for stopping by and saying hi.

    Happy plotting!
    Martha
    aka
    Plot Whisperer
    Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..Pre-Plot for NaNoWriMo — Step 2

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  44. says

    I have been concentrating on character development in preparation for NaNoWriMo, but yes it is time I focus on some pre-plotting. Thank you for some absolutely fantastic tips. I’m on to it now.
    Jodi Gibson´s last blog post ..NaNoWriMo. Pardon?

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  45. Jenny Tavernier says

    I need it! Checked it out earlier, with all the great things I have been hearing about it. It also sounds like something I can apply to my life, as at the moment, it, and thoughts of plots seem to be morphing into whipcream tornadoes, that get tired, a bit saggy, and melt.
    So I am sitting in the back row waving my hand wildly, because the other option is to redo (in costume), 4th through 7th grade creative writing classes…

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  46. Stephanie Carter says

    I am in love with The Plot Whisperer it has drawn me out of my writing slump and gotten me pumped to revise to complete the novel from the first draft. I also understand now where I write from (Right Brain) and why I think the way I do. Just purchased a full sheet of dry erase board (is now on the pool table until I hang it) and can’t wait to get started plotting. So excited about Martha and the way she communicates to me – next I need the workbook. I am just busting at the seams like I just found a new wonder of the world. Thanks Martha!

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  47. says

    Backwards, forwards, sideways: yes, I’m a NaNoWriMo veteran (this will be my tenth year as a participant – I’ve “won” at least five times…)

    This scene-driven approach looks like one promising method for doing the reverse engineering “thang”; just may be the kick-start element I have been looking for!

    Thank you VERY much!

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  48. says

    Hi Martha – lots of ideas to carry me forward as still struggling to plot effectively. Always looking for good advise and guidance.

    I’m a plotter who can sometimes get sidetracked not by characters but by ‘constructive’ criticism from my ex-writers group. First (unpublished) novel took 13 years.

    First draft of second novel (without the critics) took a month – last July – and was plotted. Editing that at the moment.

    Third was for NaNoWriMo 2011: reached 50k target and end but plotting pantser style. However every day plotted ahead growing more and more aware of destination.

    A year on and after four first drafts, I have outline plotted for NaNoWriMo 2012 as not willing to pants it again. Also have MS so hard struggle to write every day.

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    • says

      Fascinating insight, Roland.
      It’s so tempting to try to please everyone and take everyone’s advice, desperate for that impossible prize of perfection. At it’s core, I believe that behavior stems from not trusting oneself and believing in the process of creating something (a story) out of nothing (air).
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..PWWorkbook Giveaway + Free Plot Consultation

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  49. says

    I take a hybrid approach to plotting. I need the structure of at least some plotting. However, I allow myself to the freedom to listen to my characters and follow them them to surprising places.

    I’ve participated in NaNo several times. My first ‘win’ was the last time I participated in 2010. I’m really looking forward to participating this year because I have a book I need to write and NaNo is the perfect time to do it. I’ve already outlined what will happen in the story and I anticipate that this will help tremendously.
    Roxanne´s last blog post ..The Power of a Well-Told Story

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  50. says

    I’m basically a pantser who struggles with plot. After listening to and reading Martha’s advice for several months now, I’m attempting to become more of a plotter. I think it will help the depth of my novels if I can do that, as well as helping me not to have to sweat so much over “Where am I going with this??”

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  51. Charli says

    Nano 2012 will be my second go — My first time was two years ago and although I did try to plan in advance I still found I wrote 14000 words before I realised I’d started in completely the wrong place! Then I had to pants it, with just a rough idea where I was going. But that was fine; it threw up a few surprises that enhanced the story.
    This year, though, having just discovered the plot whisperer, I am planning, planning, planning. Those YouTube vids are really helping me, thanks!
    I am going to print this off and stick it to my wall.

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  52. says

    When I start a novel, I begin in pantser mode. After a few chapters, I know how it will end and I start plotting the story loosely to get to that point. I’ll be doing NaNo again this year. This time I’m doing more pre-planning and will try your deconstructing suggestion for the protagonist. Thank you for a great post.
    Kathy´s last blog post ..Bullying: You Are the Boss of You

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  53. says

    I’m a hybrid pantser/plotter. My best work comes when I have a plan going in. But that best work also tends to stray pretty far from the original outline by the time I’m done. For me, plotting is a way around the extreme insecurity I have over my writing. Having that outline quells some of the anxiety so I can move on with the writing. Whether the final product follows the outline or not doesn’t really matter, just as long as it keeps me in the game long enough to type “The End.”

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  54. Jodelle Brohard says

    I’m a pantser. But I would love to be more of a plotter. I have your original book, The Plot Whisperer, and would love to win the workbook. The original book was great and very helpful. I don’t think I’m doing the NaNoWriMo this year.

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  55. says

    This is exactly what I need. I’m strongish on character development but feel plot is mysterious thread that eludes me. I look forward to reading all three of your books.

    Thanks,
    Toni
    Toni Evans´s last blog post ..Should

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  56. Janet B says

    Martha, you give such great advice! Your workbook would
    be a wonderful advent for preparing my novel. It will defintely
    strengthen and help develop a stronger book.

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  57. says

    I actually just signed up today for my first NaNo. I’ve been hearing about it for years and thought “what the heck” this year. I usually do my first drafts in a month (somewhere quite a bit longer than 50k), and I’d like to get at least a rough draft of the fourth book in my series written before the end of the year. NaNo might just give me the kick in the pants to do it.

    I’m pre-planning at the moment anyway. Now I just have a reason to step up my planning. :)

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  58. says

    I like how you set it up in layers so people can try your concept i.e. the four key scenes without necesarily having to commit to a whole lot of pre-work. (Yes, I, too, am a pantser.) I’ve done NaNo three times and finished the last (2010). I credit reading Chris Baty’s book to finishing the last time. He argues against too much pre-work (research, plotting, character development, anything), so it’s interesting to read your perspective. One thing I did do was a more limited version of your suggestion re: characters. I set up Goal, Motivation and Conflict charts for each, a suggestion by Deborah Dixon in her book of the same name.
    Re: plot, I will admit, around 35K words I was starting to worry about how I would pull the three plotlines in my braided narrative together!
    Cari Noga´s last blog post ..Forecast: Scud missile skies

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    • says

      I love what Chris has done with NaNoWriMo for writers. One of the most crippling habits I find with writers, especially beginning writers, is the going-back-to-the-beginning syndrome.

      Chris offers a challenging and fun way to prevent that and write all the way to the end. .

      I step in to help writers wanting to write a story with a plot.
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..PWWorkbook Giveaway + Free Plot Consultation

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    • says

      Women’s fiction often uses multiple viewpoints and centers the dramatic action around relationships.

      I recommend filling out the Character Emotional Development Profile for all of the viewpoint characters and assessing how each are thematically linked to the other.

      Then, I’d draw as several Plot Planner lines, one above the other, and plot out each individual plot line. Stand back and compare the plot planners, each individually and together.
      Martha Alderson´s last blog post ..PWWorkbook Giveaway + Free Plot Consultation

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  59. Leslie R. says

    Thank you so much for this information! I always thought of myself as a pantser until I ended up writing a script for a musical that was based on a synopsis I’d written as a class project. I’d revised the synopsis at least four times before I started writing the script, and while there were still changes along the way, it was much easier to get to the end using that roadmap. So I decided that for my first NaNoWriMo I’d try that whole plotting thing. :)

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  60. Christa says

    Well, I used to fervently claim that I was a panster… now, I have to say I’m somewhere in the middle. I want an idea where I’m going, but I don’t spend months pre-planning, either. So I’m not hard-core either way.

    I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, though I’ve always wanted to. This year, I’m trying to reach ending for my current WIP, so it may not happen again. It depends on how things go in the next week or so!

    Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  61. says

    Good morning all,
    I’m a plotter, 110%. Since I’m 3/4 of the way through a first draft at present, no, I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Still, I’d love a copy of your workbook.

    Thank you for the giveaway.

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  62. Lisa Gilbert says

    I plan to write my own BadNaNoMo. Thanks to this post, maybe it won’t be as bad as I planned.

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  63. says

    Great post-and perfect timing as I’m setting up my NaNo. I’m a panther, and it’s great to see that even I can be a plotter. I always know my end point and the basics. Breaking it into what to do why week when and when to plot what-I’m all for it. Thank you for this guidance. Now I’m off to do the character sketches:)
    Robin´s last blog post ..Author Interview: Lana Krumwiede

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  64. says

    I’m a terrible plotter. I write scenes that strike my interest. One after another. And wait for it to mesh together. My wife keeps telling me I need to outline more, that it will help me finish my novel because it will give me the next thing to shoot for. She’s probably right. I just bought your book on Amazon.
    David Olimpio´s last blog post ..Guts removed… (Taken with Instagram)

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  65. says

    I am going to try NaNo this year for the first time. I have a working outline, a few characters and a bunch of scene ideas on index cards which I keep adding to every time I think of another one. I have skimmed through “The Plot Whisperer” and plan to read it in depth before the end of this month. I’d love to get my hands on the companion workbook – what an awesome birthday present that would be. Of course if I don’t win it I plan to gift it to myself :)

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  66. Karen T. says

    I’m just finishing the second draft of a contemporary romance, but before I tackle the third draft I’m tempted to enter NaNoWriMo (for the first time!) in order to jump-start my next project. Plus I need as much butt-in-the-chair-every-day discipline as I can get.

    Martha, I, too, followed your YouTube series and find your three-plotline approach most helpful. Character emotional development and thematic significance come easier to me than dramatic action, but most books on plot and structure seem to emphasize the latter. I like the way you incorporate all three.

    And yet, I’m more plotter than pantser as I write. I don’t go so far as to do written-in-stone outlines and I hate, hate, hate index cards! But I do need specific, defined destinations within the story to be writing toward. In other words, the turning points. To me, there’s no point in writing a particular scene unless I know where it fits into the overall story. Therefore, when organizing my story, I always move from general to specific. So I start out answering the big questions, figuring out the three acts and major turning points, how it will end, what’s the inciting incident at the beginning, etc. Then I take a smaller chunk at a time, say, Act I, and I plot out a rough idea of what has to transpire in terms of events and character development to get me to the turning point of Act II and so on. But I don’t necessarily plot out the specifics of any particular scene until I get to it. Also, I’ve learned by trial and error that what Martha says is true: Write from beginning to end and don’t go back over anything. Instead of doing a full draft at a time, I used to skip around to different parts. But then I found myself going over and over what I considered the “fun” scenes and avoiding the harder ones. Took me forever to finish anything!

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  67. says

    I am a planning pantster. :) I don’t do outlines per se, but I have a notebook in which I make notes about the story as they come to me as well as any research I do for the story. Thank you for this blog. It gave me some better ideas for planning, especially for the character plot profile.

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  68. Shannon says

    There is a lot in this post for me to mull over. Thank you! I like having a plan but am trying to incorporate some panster as I have over planned some stories. I am trying to prep in time to do nano. I’m also enjoying your “Plot Whisperer Secrets of Story Structure”.

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  69. Sarah says

    I needed this!

    I love NaNo, and for the first time I am actually going to try and flesh out a rough draft of the story I’ve always wanted to tell. Even though I am excited I’m suddenly realizing how little I know about my story!

    Thanks for the tips, I’m keeping this article open in a tab so that I can refer back to it as needed while I prepare for November!

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  70. says

    What a fantastic post! Thank you so much for the concise teaching and the formula for creating characters that will rock! I am participating in NaNoWriMo but am shaking in my boots. This will be my first time and as I am generally a Pantser I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to think of something to write about. I had decided to forego the event, thinking it will be too stressful but I realized I was just copping out, so I signed up. When I set writing goals I meet them. Once I made the decision it wasn’t so scary (I hate not finishing things and November is a busy month). I am thinking after reading your words that it might be time for me to try being a Plotter. I believe it will give me the structure to succeed and will quell the trembling. I have always written my best stuff when I am “inspired” but I think it takes me twice as long because I have to do a lot of thinking along the way. Again, thanks for this head start – I can get started early!

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  71. Jeri says

    Looking forward to my first Nanowrimo. I’m a pantser, but I almost always know the ending soon after I start writing. This definitely helps by giving me direction as I write. Great article!

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  72. says

    This is a great post! I’m thinking of doing NaNo this year mainly to preserve my sanity – if I’m not “in” a novel, things fall apart – as I try to get novel #1 ready for the agent search.

    Novel #2 is the sequel to Novel #1, so the story is literally fleshing itself out. I am also, however, an indecisive pantser like many fellow writers – it is next to impossible for me to line it all out or list scenes and details before they’re written. I do vacillate quite a bit on what the ending is/should be, never certain how the novel will end until I come upon it. I have to write it by feeling it out, BUT, I find a basic, basic structure does help me “stay on the road”: Act I, Act II, Act III, and the specific scenes that both separate and glue them together. Thanks for sharing these tips, it will make the project a bit easier, help me looking for directions within the story itself.
    Jillian Boston´s last blog post ..Adventures in Logophilia Day 35: Niobe (jillian)

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  73. Elaine Milner says

    Thanks for the great post. It shows a different way of looking at things than what I’m used to. I’ll have to find your site and books. I haven’t read them yet.
    I won Camp Nanowrimo in August writing the second in a series of middle-grade novels. I had hoped to preplan it well, but I didn’t get that done in time. A lot of my words were actually writing to figure out what I wanted.
    I think the experience was valuable. I proved that I can write and stick to it, and I came up with a very interesting twist in the middle that I hadn’t thought of at all. It grounded me so deeply in my novel that I thought about it all the time and the writing helped me figure things out much faster than just sitting wondering.
    I’m planning on unofficially doing my own Nano next month to write a proper rough draft of it, filling in gaps and strengthening the ending. It only needs to be 35,000 words.

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    • Elaine Milner says

      A thought just slapped me in the face! I went to your site and realized I have Blockbust Plots Pure and Simple. A friend gave it to me a few years ago. It is a unique and excellent book that I need to read again. It will help me prepare for my private “Nano.”

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  74. Sarah says

    Thank you for your article! I love NaNoWriMo–I look forward to it every year. Usually, I’m more of a pantser, although sometimes I do a little planing (mostly in my head). I’ve always hit my word count goal of 50K or more, but I’ve never been able to finish a novel in the five years I’ve done this. I hope to break the trend this year!

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  75. says

    I’m a mix of pantser and plotter, becoming more of a plotter but I get surprised at times!

    I won’t be doing NaNo. A mix of Day Job extra hours for half of November and a two week vacation with lots happening for the other half will mean snatching what time I can for writing.

    I love that idea of working backwards! I’ve never heard it before and it’s such a useful way to look at character arc.
    Autumn Macarthur´s last blog post ..Simplifying my life

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  76. Jude says

    I love how Martha helps me collect my stray concepts into something that build upon itself. I’m a huge fan. Onward to November!

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  77. says

    One of the beauties of NaNoWriMo is that you push yourself to do enough writing that you can say whether you’re more of a plotter or a pantser, rather than just hypothesize about it.

    This year I’m going in not knowing much about the middle of my story. I need some wallow time with it and the motivation to blurt out the options and see what it tells me. Knowing what major points I need to know helps me, though–as does knowing that I always feel a little nerve-wracked at the start.
    Ann MG´s last blog post ..Data

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  78. Anne Buzzini says

    Pantser! But attempting to modify my strategy…

    No Nano this year. In the middle of too many things. See you next year, though!

    I love your stuff, Martha. I have been following you for quite some time and I am thrilled for you and your success!

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