Brainstorming for NaNoWriMo (or for any story you want to write)

Whether a writer is a planner or pantser, wither can engage in some minimal planning for NaNoWriMo.

If he or she doesn’t want to think about it until twelve midnight on November first, nothing wrong with that. However, they may want to lay some groundwork for their 50,000 word story—nothing wrong with that either—as long as they don’t begin the actual writing of their story before November 1st. (Of course, they can begin writing it before November 1st, but they’re not supposed to count it toward their goal.)

There aren’t rules, really, just suggestions. There aren’t any prizes,either. Just dignity and pride if you reach your goal. Whatever.

So, let’s say the NaNoWriMo participant really wants to do this. They could start by opening a notebook or a blank word document on your computer, and make the following sections:

  • Story ideas (phrases that come to mind for overall ideas such as “modern day Robin Hood ends up keeping money”
  • Name ideas (Google name generators or look up meaning of names; have a first name section and a last name section)
  • Setting possibilities (make a list of settings you’d like to use in your story)
  • Character traits (one or two word descriptions like “ditzy” or “goth”)
  • Dialogue (any key phrases, jokes or slang, etc., you think your characters might use)
  • Worldbuilding (especially good for writing in the fantasy or science fiction genres)
  • Goals (internal goals: wants respect from siblings; and external goals: wants to start own company)
  • Scene ideas (take some of the items from the Story idea list and jot down a list of possible scenes)

Here are some other categories that don’t need explanation:

  • Occupations
  • Hobbies
  • Clothing styles
  • Physical descriptions
  • World views
  • Phobias and fears
  • Any other categories you can think of

Once the NaNo participant fills up the notebook with these headers, he can do the following steps to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

  1. Spend a few days brainstorming items to fill each list. Next, put together some first and last names at the top of several blank pages.
  2. Then for each page, mix and match the traits you came up with and write them underneath each character’s name. This is a bank of characters for the writer’s NaNoWriMo project.
  3. Now, the pantser can stop at this point. He can mine the bank for characters and scenes when he runs dry.
  4. The planner, however, can go a few steps further. She can use the list of story and scene ideas to create a general outline. Too much detail in the outline could spoil the fun and spontaneity of NaNoWriMo, but that is a personal preference.
  5. Starting November 1st, the writer can jump off the ideas that have been created and collected in this notebook from the previous weeks.

The spirit of NaNoWriMo should be fun, not anxiety; consistency, not perfectionism; motivation, not dread.

Some recent articles on Nanowrimo:

Nanowrimo – Novel Factory (

#NaNoPrep, Connections and Interconnections | Life in the Realm of Fantasy (

The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Survival Guide – Lady Jabberwocky

What Is NaNoWriMo? – Writer’s Digest (

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