My Writing Plan For NaNoWriMo 2012 (And a Bonus Tip!)

In my tips for a successful NaNoWriMo, I say that one of the best tips I learned was to plan ahead. If you have a plan going in, it is almost always a guarantee to success. But “having a plan” is kind of vague, so on the eve of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d share my writing plan for NaNoWriMo this year. Remember, I am doing a slightly different version than most. I am trying to get a solid draft of a new novella I’m writing completed in 30 days. Instead of aiming for 50,000 words, I am aiming for 25,000 words in 15 days, and then I plan on spending the last 15 days of the month revising the novella. But as you will see, the same principles apply to works that are 50,000 words over 30 day.

The first half of my plan is contained entirely within Scrivener. Here is the simple outline view:

NaNo Plan 1.png

Above, you can see the outline view of my plan. There are 3 parts to my novella, made up of 21 scenes. I used Scrivener’s “Custom Meta-Data” feature to add a column called NaNoWriMo date. Then, based on my estimate of how long each scene would be, I assigned a day of the month, from November 1 to November 15. Note that on days where there are shorter scenes, I have multiple scenes listed on the same day.

But a plan is more than just knowing what scene to write when. I also need some reminder of what is supposed to happen in that scene. So if you expand these to show the synopses, you see the following:

NaNo Plan 2.png

Here you can see that I’ve got a brief summary of each scene, so I know what to write1.

So what happens on November 15, when I’ve hit my 25,000 word-mark and completed my novella? I have a plan for that, too:

  • November 16-18 are slated for thinking about the overall structure of the story and determining what works and what doesn’t. Jack McDevitt has a good description of how he does this, and I think I work similarly.
  • November 19-28 are for writing the second draft.
  • November 29-30 are for the final copy-editing.

Assuming the plan works, I’ll have a good, solid draft of my novella by the time the month is out. No, it isn’t 50,000 words, but then again, I am not a novelist, I’m a short fiction-writer, and a novella is about as long as I write.


A couple of additional tips that help me along the way:

  • I use TextExpander for some common phrases that I’ll use in the story.
  • I’ll add character names to my auto-complete list in Scrivener.

And here is my bonus tip for getting that jolt I need when I get started each day. Generally, I don’t listen to music while I write, but I’ve found that for getting started, and getting those first couple hundred words or so in, there’s no better song (for me) than Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman2.”

I shaved tonight, but I don’t plan on shaving again until NaNoWriMo is over. I’ll take before-and-after pictures for everyone’s amusement.

Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo. East-coasters, November 1st is just 4 hours away.

And happy halloween!


  1. Yes, I blurred out my summaries, mostly because I don’t like talking about my stories when I am writing them.
  2. If you don’t recognize this by name, it’s the song that was played in that final museum scene in The Thomas Crowne Affair.