The Best Resource for Planning Your NaNoWriMo Novel

Can you believe it? We’re less than 10 days from the biggest, craziest, event in Writerville: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). That means 50,000 words written in one month, and all the coffee, stale pizza, and Skittles you need to fuel yourself to do it.

This year I won’t be entering but I’ve won NaNo a few times in the past (and failed once). That failure was due to a misstep of mine which I’ve never repeated.

What happened, exactly? Well, things were stupidly busy for me and long story short, I went into it unprepared. All I had was a nugget of an idea and figured I’d “get everything sorted” as I went along.

I was wrong.

Halfway through the novel, the story petered out. I never finished. Worse, I felt like I’d wrecked what could have been a great story idea…had I planned it out a little more. UGH.

Some people like to pants a novel (meaning they don’t need to plan and they can create on the fly). And while back then I would always pants a little, I still needed to know my story’s bones – who the protagonist was, what was at stake, and have ideas about where things were going.

So lesson learned: plan the important stuff. Since then, I’ve brainstormed what I’ve needed to. No more novels running out of steam, and no more quitting a book before it’s finished!

Whether it’s NaNoWriMo or not, I’ve realized that planning my characters so I know who they are deep down means they are so much easier to write. I always know how they will behave because I understand who they are and what’s motivating them.

Whether you plan a little or a lot, there’s one go-to place to check out: One Stop for Writers.

Planning is part of my routine but time is always tight, so having the right toolbox at my keyboard makes all the difference. Here’s how One Stop can help.

Ideas. Oh, where to start when it comes to planning a novel? A character’s secret, fear, or emotional wound? A plot complication, an area of internal growth, story stakes, or a story prompt? The idea generator is packed with options for planning your characters and plot.

Characters. At the heart of your story, characters must be well-developed with needs, motivations, and goals that make sense for who they are. The Character Builder not only helps you plan the people in your story, it also can recognize which key details will be part of their character arc. It will gather this information and create an accurate character arc blueprint showing their internal journey in your story. (Yes, really!)

Worldbuilding. Whether the story takes place in the real world or one of your own making, the details matter. For readers to be immersed in the protagonist’s struggles and the logic of the world has to hold up. One Stop has customizable surveys can help you plan the people, places, and systems that power your world.

Timelines. Is your character going on a quest? Do you need to plan a series of crime scenes where a killer leaves clues behind? This tool can help you track places, dates, and important details. And if you need to, you can drag the tiles around to play with the order of story events.

Plot & Structure. Need a solid outline to follow? Story Maps leads you through the 3-Acts step-by-step, helping you plot the outer story and prompting you to think about what developments should happen and when for change, failed, and static arcs.

Scene Outlines. If you want to keep your scenes on track so each one pushes the story forward, we have two different styles of Scene Maps to help.

Depending on what you need, there are other resources too. You can take it slow with Templates and Worksheets by planning the character, plot, and settings in smaller pieces. Or dive into everything that touches your character’s specific goal like the obstacles, stakes, and preparations using the Character Motivation Thesaurus. One Stop has the largest description database available anywhere so even during NaNoWriMo you’ll never run out of ideas on what to write.

Each of us plans differently…we get a feeling in our gut that guides us. Whatever you personally like to know about a story going in, I’m guessing One Stop for Writers can help. (But hey, I’m totally biased!) If you want to check the site out, give the 2-week free trial a spin.

One Last Tip (& It’s a Big One)

Bookmark this list of Checklists and Tip Sheets just in case you get stuck, write yourself into a corner, or stall out during NaNoWriMo. It might just be your lantern to finding your way out of the darkness!

Are you entering NaNoWriMo? Is this your first year, or have you done it before? Let me know in the comments!


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in Character Arc, Characters, Motivation, Motivational, NaNoWriMo Strategy & Support, One Stop For Writers, research, Software and Services, Time Management, Tools and Resources, Uncategorized, worldbuilding, Writing Resources, Writing Time. Bookmark the permalink.
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[…] For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, which begins Sunday, Nils Ödlund contributes a NaNoWriMo milestones list, and Angela Ackerman supplies the best resource for planning your NaNoWriMo novel. […]

Jackie Layton
4 months ago

Hi Angela,
Yes, I’m entering Nanowrimo. Even though I’ll be out of town for a few days in November, I love the encouragement and the graphs to track my progress. I also love the community of writing with others. In 2020, I need the togetherness more than ever.
Thanks for these tips!