Unless you’re an experienced author or NaNoWriMo veteran, I don’t recommend much in the way of outlining or other deep prep. NaNo works far better if you employ ‘discovery writing,’ that is: make it up as you go with as little to go on as possible, as opposed to planning thoroughly. (Gardener vs. Architect.) This is a fun way to write, as it is more like the reading experience: lots of surprises. It’s a blast when your characters start doing unexpected things!
But… a little prep can go a long way towards making sure you stay on track, and don’t get discouraged.
Experienced writers can do more prep if they like, but I do recommend that inexperienced folks keep it to the minimum. Still, it’s not a good idea to start from complete ignorance. Before November 1, make sure you know at least something about the following:
- Genre – Deciding whether you’re doing an action-adventure or post-apocalyptic dystopia brings in a whole host of standard assumptions that you can rely on to help guide the story.
- Setting – A ‘where’ and what that ‘where’ is like is super-helpful.
- Basic Plot – Hero’s journey? Love triangle… or pentagram? Decide in general terms what will drive the conflict in your story.
- Protagonist and antagonist – Who does the story revolve around? What are they like at the beginning? Where do think you’d like them to go? What are their primary internal conflicts? (David Farland on Characters (short but mightily helpful))
- The End – Not everything, but something about the end, even just an inking of an idea can help keep you going when you get to the doldrums of NaNo (and it will happen!).
One more important thing to keep in mind: When you do get to the doldrums and your story stagnates, be ready to introduce conflict to keep your plot moving forward and your characters jumping!
Have fun getting ready for NaNo! Let me know in the comments how you’re going to prepare – or if you’re a vet, how you’ve prepared in the past.