This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.

Plot and theme

Add your own tasks to this list!

C1 - Write a one paragraph description of your novel.

C2 - Come up with a working title for your novel. It doesn’t have to be the final one, but you need a way to refer to this wonderful (or terrible) thing you’re writing!

C3 – Design the cover for your novel.

C4 - What is the general beginning and end of your story? What will be the narrative voice?

C5 - What are the major themes of your novel? Write a few sentences about each and talk about how they might interweave with characters and plot.

C6 - Make a concept map showing the major themes of your novel and how they interact with each other, characters, etc.

C7 - What is the time period your novel is set in? Write about what is important in the time and place in which your story is set. What is the political climate? What are the general societal events? What current events shape this time and place?

C8 - Collect a series of pictures that can inspire your writing. They might be historical or geographical reference, or they might be photos that evoke a certain emotion or mood. These can be gathered in a notebook, a web page, or wherever works for you.

C9 - Make a rough outline of the plot of your novel. You know, exposition, rising action, conflict, complication, falling action, denouement. Draw it if you like. (Draft #1 – suggested to be completed in early Oct.)

C10 - Refine the rough outline of the plot of your novel you made earlier. (Draft #2 – suggested to be completed mid-month in Oct.)

C11 - Refine the outline of the plot of your novel you made earlier. (Draft #3 – suggested to be completed in late Oct.)

C12 - Draw a timeline for various events and characters in your novel.

C13 - Write the back-of-the-book synopsis copy for your book. (You can even write your own little “about the author” if you like.)

C14 - Storyboard out one or more parts of your novel.

C15 - Tie your plot to estimated word counts and your writing calendar. (This is for anal people like karen.)

C16 - List the top 30 items that could represent the points that are the backbones of what you need to get out in your story - this could be in the form of themes, chapater titles, or just snippets of stages that will come out in your story.

C17 - Do some background research on an important event, time period, organization, or other part of your novel. Write a short backstory that draws on your research that doesn't involve the characters in your novel.

C18 - Set up your novel on the Nano site and write a synopsis.

Task Discussion

  • karen   Oct. 19, 2012, 12:16 p.m.

    I'm not doing as much detailed prep this year as I have in past years, but I have a major breakthrough on my novel this week. Think I got the narrative voice and format all worked out. Trying something different this year. For the first time this month, I'm excited about starting to write on Nov. 1. Yay!

  • Sheri Edwards   Oct. 14, 2012, 11:56 p.m.


    C1 - Write a one paragraph description of your novel.

    Ok. Second story.
    Something is happening to the water, and no one knows what or where. The main character , Blue, has only been to a mountain area once, and never to see an ocean or lake. Every one she knows lives in the city-buildings, which are self-sustaining in energy and food supplies. But the image of a large body of water keeps popping into Blue's head, and she knows she must find it.
    That's what's floating in my head now. But it will probably change. I like wandering in my citiy-buildings and this would take me out.
  • Denise   Oct. 19, 2012, 7:45 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Sheri Edwards   Oct. 14, 2012, 11:56 p.m.
    I love this idea, Sheri. You tell stories like I like to read. I'm still not doing my NaNo prep work, like I hoped! Feeling a bit buried right now! Denise On Sun, Oct 14, 2012 at 10:56 PM, sheri <
  • karen   Oct. 19, 2012, 11:56 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Denise   Oct. 19, 2012, 7:45 a.m.

    One of my favorite pieces of advice from Chris Baty's book No Plot, No Problem is to write the novel you want to read.

  • Sheri Edwards   Oct. 10, 2012, 1:27 a.m.

    C7 started. Cities

  • Sheri Edwards   Oct. 7, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

    What if I'm the writer that just starts writing? I let characters float in the back of my mind and then start asking What if?

  • karen   Oct. 9, 2012, 10:56 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Sheri Edwards   Oct. 7, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

    I've been thinking about this as well, though I have not ever written this way. (I am a big outliner...characters occassionally stray but at least I go in with an idea of where they will go.) My prep activities are not catching fire so far this year. Hmmm....

  • Sheri Edwards   Oct. 10, 2012, 12:47 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Oct. 9, 2012, 10:56 a.m.

    I think many writers just write. But it was an article/ interview that helped me "just write." I can't find the interview, but I did find this terrific lesson plan based on Stephen King's ideas at Who's Dancing Now?"  It's basically what I did last year. I imaged an idea with one characer and let the character live.  Very powerful. And I wrote about that experience here.  So that's what will drive my story again...  Water