Plotting in Three Parts

Today I’d like to introduce Anne Marie, author of La Dame a La Licorne, brought to you by Musa Publishing. This will be her ninth year participating in Nanowrimo. Lucky for those of you scrambling for ideas and trying to figure out how you’re going to outline a novel before November first, Anne’s got some ideas of her own about outlining which I hope you’ll enjoy.

For the past eight years I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (aka: NaNoWriMo or NaNo). Every year I’ve tried a different approach to writing. I wanted to prove to myself that there isn’t one way to tell a story, and the methods outside my comfort zone might actually work better. Besides, what’s comfortable about writing 50,000 words in one month? Answer: everything when you’ve got the NaNo community with you each step of the way.

There are at least three types of writers: Outliner, Beader, and Pantser. I’ll detail each method, and what to do before and during November. I hope it helps you reach the finish line on November 30th (or earlier).

The Outliner:

You’re the type of writer that wants to know exactly how you get from the beginning to the ending. You write pages and pages of detailed character sketches, setting description, research notes, twists and turns, and how each scene will play out.

Before NaNo, make sure you don’t write down any dialogue or actually description you’re going to use. It’s tempting to dive in before October. If you get stuck, put your outline away for a week. Return to it with a fresh mind and see if you can improve it during the last week before November 1st.

During NaNo it’s helpful to check your outline and make sure you’re on track word-wise. There is no set word count for a scene; however, if you have twenty-five scenes that run two thousand words, and you write a scene a day, you’ll finish with days to spare. Since the daily word goal actually is 1,667, you might want to write a scene with that word count in mind. For a thriller writer, your scenes may be shorter to keep the pace fast. That’s fine! Just know, roughly, how many scenes it will take to reach that daily goal.

The Beader:

Much like the Outliner, you have a pretty good idea how your story starts, important scenes in the middle, and how it ends. What you don’t yet know are the linking scenes between big events.

Before NaNo, the big scenes are what excited you to begin with. Concentrate on how to link the explosion on page 1 with the alien invasion on page 15. Read books in your genre. Talk to your friends. Ask them how they would logically get from explosions to aliens. Day-dream.

During NaNo, your daily payoff will be to write those explosions and invasions. Which means, you should start each day writing the linking scenes. Your reward will be writing those scenes you’ve been thinking about since October. And rewards never hurt. If you don’t make your daily goal with a linking scene and a big scene, write half of the next linking scene. Generally, you’re going to be writing more linking scenes than explosions.

The Pantser:

You throw caution and preparation to the wind. You might have a vague idea about the topic you want to write about, you might not. You might know a character’s name, but then again, you probably don’t.

Before NaNo, it might be helpful to brainstorm some big general ideas that won’t tie your free spirit down. Where do you want to start? Where do you want to end? It’s always helpful to have an ending in mind, so that you know where to steer your NaNo ship.

During NaNo, every day is going to be a new adventure. Sit down and follow your characters. Throw everything in their way. They want to go to the mall today? Make it rain. Give them a flat tire. When you get stuck, stop and think about how you’d get out of the situation they’re in. Make it worse.

Whether you’re an Outliner, Beader, or Panster, NaNo teaches you how to embrace your style in thirty days. Remember, this isn’t a polished piece. If things aren’t flowing the way you want them to, don’t delete. Put a note in the document. Trace your steps back to the last point the story was working. Continue writing from there. When you go back to edit, you can delete all the non-working words. When I know I’ve gone on a dead-end tangent, I make all the text red.

Good luck! I hope to see your purple “Winners” bar on November 30th. To follow along with my progress, you can find me here.

Bio: Anne attended the University of Colorado for a BA in English Literature, where she fell in love with folklore and myths from around the world. She adores languages, great white sharks, and the impossible. Her work usually includes one of those three things. She currently lives in Aurora, Colorado with Brody the beagle. Once a week, she posts a short story at Cimmerian Tales ( You can follow her on Twitter @annemariewrites.