NaNoWriMo Part 1: Ideas and Characters

It's September, which means we can start preparing for NaNoWriMo. Yay! *Happy dance* I've been looking forward to this year since almost last December.

2015 was my first year doing NaNoWriMo, and I loved it. I won too, which isn't bad for your first year. I was afraid I wasn't going to make it because when I write first drafts, they often end up short of where I want. I then go through and add in all the scenes I thought of afterwards later. However, that doesn't work so well during NaNoWriMo.

This year I decided to write a series of blog posts to help other writers prepare and make it through NaNoWriMo. I'm no expert but I want to share some of the things I learned last year. You're welcome to share your tips below.

I'll be posting a part every two weeks. You can use these posts in order, or mix it up. You could even use it for ideas. They're meant to help you. Today's post is about ideas and characters.


Before you write a novel, you need an idea. Some people, like myself, have lots of ideas. But other people need help finding one. An idea can be anything from an interesting thought, like an Asian siren, to a complete synopsis.

If you need help finding ideas, start by thinking of your interests. What do you like? What would you like to write about? What sort of books do you enjoy? Write down the different things on pieces of paper. From there, try dumping them all in a hat, then taking out two or three. Do they spark any ideas? You can also look for writing prompts. Do any of them suggest a story to you?

Once you have a few ideas that interest you, try the what if? game. What if there was a murder on a cruise? What if someone was stealing important monuments? Keep going until you find an idea that really sparks your imagination.

Then you've actually got to pick one. If you already have some ideas, this step is for you. You're going to want an idea that has plenty of promise. One that can make a 50,000 word novel, not a short story. It also needs to be one that you're ready to write. Some stories need time to ferment before you write them.

Once you've picked your idea, congratulations! You've just complete one of the most important steps. Without an idea, how can you write a novel? Make sure to write your idea down, even if it's full of question marks (mine often are), so you don't lose it.


You have your idea written down, now you need to brainstorm about it. Decide your genre, setting, time period, and audience. What sort of characters do you need? A detective? A lord's daughter? Start writing down anything that comes to mind. You never know what you might need later.

Some stories require certain things, and you need to make sure those are done before November starts. Fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk need worldbuilding. A mystery needs a detective and lots of clues. For example, I'm writing a steampunk story this year. I have a lot of worldbuilding to do.

Technically, brainstorming continues throughout the whole process of writing and editing a novel. You're constantly coming up with new ideas. Always write them down.

During this stage, you will also want to make a list of things to research for your novel. Victorian England, modern California, outer space, whatever you don't know, write down to look up. It's also time to read any books you want in your genre. Continuing the example, I've barely read any steampunk, so I'm going to read as much as I can in two months. (Do you have any suggestions? Let me know if you've read any good ones.)


On to the second part of this post. Characters. A novel is nothing without them. You're going to need 4 types of characters. The protagonist, the antagonist, secondary characters, and minor characters.

The protagonist, of course, is the person readers care about, so you have to do a good job on him or her. You're going to want to write a complete characters sketch and make sure you know what their goals, desires, and fears are. If you're like me, you might want to draw the character so you can really firm up what you want them to look like.

If the protagonist is the most important character, the antagonist is a close second. Without him, there's no conflict, which means no story. Antagonist's can be a person, an organization, like the Capitol in the Hunger Games, or a concept, like fear. Whatever it is, it needs to scary. If it's a person, they need to be just as well rounded as the protagonist.

Next are your secondary characters. The mentor, sidekick, love interest, and other characters with lots of page time and importance to the plot are secondary characters. You need to know a lot about these characters, though not as much as your MC and villain.

And last are the minor characters. You don't need to do much with these characters, except to write down their names, looks, and use.

If you want more help with your characters, check out my Pinterest board. I've got a lot of resources on there, including names, looks, and more.

There you have it, part 1 of the NaNoWriMo series. I'll be back in two weeks with part 2.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo and if so, what are you writing about? Do you have any tips about ideas or characters? Let me know in the comments.


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