Monday, October 17, 2011

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Plotcards

It's that time of year, not of foliage or way-too-soon Christmas decorations, but of words and words and words. That's right. It's NaNoWriMo time. If you're new on the block, this weird word stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Sounds crazy, right? To quote the Cheshire Cat, "We're all mad here."

In order to successfully complete NaNoWriMo, you need an attack plan. There are many ways to achieve this, but since this is my blog real estate, I'm going to share with you what works for me.

Plotcards involve index cards and ideas for scenes. If you're a pantser, this is the closest plot method to what you're used to. I first learned about how to use them through Holly Lisle,* but have modified the process since.

Going into the plotcards, you will need to know who your characters are. They don't need to be fleshed out yet, but you should know the basics: name, sex, story role (protagonist, antagonist, billy goat, et cetera).

Take a pack of index cards and write on each one a scene you would like to write. If you're writing something with multiple points of view, you should know which character the scene is attributed to as well. The more detail you have here, the better.
Okay: A monkey jumps through the window.
Better: Sandra's pet monkey crashes through Joel's living room window in a rage.

Once you come up with about 50-60 scene ideas, it's time to examine them for duds. Discard anything that looks like a duplicate or doesn't seem like a strong scene. Then, take your remaining cards and organizing them into an order. Some of these cards will have been created in a logical order, but there will be others where you will have to find a home.

What's nice about the index cards is that you can shuffle them around anywhere and however often as you need until you have a plot to your liking. It won't be solid and there is still enough wiggle room to create enough of the story that you're not stressing out.

Have you tried this technique before? What has been your experience with it?

* Who has a wonderful, robust site on a variety of craft topics. If you haven't been to it, go there. Now.
_____________ hit of the day: Sleep of No Dreaming by Porcupine Tree


  1. I'm using this method to organize the rewrite that's slowly killing me. Index cards *are* making the process easier and more manageable, but it's definitely tedious. I'll let you know how it all works out. :)

  2. I love using notecards. Great tips. Also very cool that you found them at Holly Lisle's site. I really like her Moon and Sun series.

  3. Hmm, I've only used index cards for revising, but this is a good idea! Thanks for sharing, Alicia. :)

  4. Plot cards made it easier (and faster) to see when I was going too easy on my protagonist. Having it laid out physically makes it easier somehow than just doing it on the computer. Now typing up all the horrible things off the cards after I get them in the perfect order...well it's not a perfect system yet.

  5. I became a fan of plot cards once I read Save the Cat. I like your suggested use of them - may have to try this with the next one. :)

    And good luck with NaNo - once again I'm revising so I won't be doing NaNo in November. Maybe by June. Ha. Then I can call it JUNO.

  6. Great tips! I sorta kinda want to take part in NaNoWriMo but am mostly a big clucking chicken about the whole notion. Plus, I probably should have started planning by now if I want to take part.

    Have fun and good luck with NaNo!

  7. I've never tried this method before. I like the sound of it though. I'm more of a panster but I really like this because it's not planning and following an exact outline. I just may try this. Thanks for the info. :)

  8. Huh. Interesting. I don't think that would ever work for me--I think it wind up a big, jumbled mess--but I like the idea of it.

  9. This is a cool idea. I am so impressed by you Nano folks. I haven't tried it, and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to this year. I might try NaNoWriMos and stretch it over November and December.

  10. Whoa...I LOVE this idea! Quita and I are supposed to start plotting this week, so I may just give this method a go. :)


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