Ideally, I like to start NaNoWriMo with a file of background notes, a pad to brainstorm on and a deck of cue cards by my side. I need to have all the preparation done before the writing begins. The more preparation I’ve done before NaNo, the easier it is to just write. Having detailed notes on characters also helps me out when writers block strikes. If the character, and the conflict is developed in detail it usually acts as a good prompt to kick my brain into action.

I find that it helps to have the following elements in place before I start writing.

Fortunately, all of my world building is done. I have files of background notes and an entire first book based in the same world to inform my writing this November, so I’m not too worried about this element.

Character Profiles

Before I start writing, I need to know who my main protagonists and antagonists are, and all of the supporting characters. I need to know what motivates them. To have analysed their strengths and weaknesses, and to understand why they are part of the story.

As this book has been bubbling away on the back burner for a few (OK five) years now, I’m confident that I know the characters, and that each of them should have a place in the book.


I know how the book begins, and how it needs to end. I think beginnings and ends are the easiest parts to write anyway. Beginnings need to plunge readers into the action, making them want to read more. Endings need to bring a degree of resolution (depending on the need to leave things open for a sequel). Middles can be tricky. I tend to build tension for a few scenes, before including an action scene followed by a reaction.


Once I know the characters external and internal conflicts, and how these relate to the overall plot, I get the scenes outlined and sequenced on cue cards. Each scene has to move the plot forward, or add a new twist. I think, for me, there’s a danger of letting things get too complex. Especially if you have many viewpoint characters, each with his or her own goals and conflicts.

Point of View

I have eight viewpoint characters in this book. Ouch!

I’ve spent part of today looking through what’s been written so far and trying to think about which ones I should relegate – but they all have good reasons for being viewpoint characters. The story takes place in multiple locations simultaneously, so I do need more than one viewpoint character. Each of the characters all have unique insights and experiences that add to the plot, which is why I’ve decided to keep them all. I do think, however, that I need to give the main characters the majority of the scenes or risk them getting lost in the mix, and their stories becoming less powerful as a result.

I also need to be aware of which point of view I’m writing in. Personally, I prefer writing in third person. First person doesn’t feel right for the story, and I can’t get my head around second person at all.

I think I should be prepared in time for the 1st. I need to do some more work on the outline, and get that scene balance right, but really I think I’m in a good place right now.