3 Plot and Story Building Tips to Plan Your Novel for NaNoWriMo

Image by skorchanov, Pixabay. How do you walk your character through your story?

Welcome to an 8-post series on preparing or planning your novel for Nanowrimo (or anytime.)

This series is part of our PLAN YOUR NOVEL: 30-Day home study course and annual October workshop, now in it’s fifth year. Details at the bottom of the post.

Today is the fifth in an 8-post series on preparing your novel for Nanowrimo. Or anytime. If you missed it, the first step in your novel preparation is your elevator pitch and the second step is crafting your story synopsis. The third post on preparing your characters is here. The fourth post is here on world building.

In today’s post, we focus on on plot and story building tips.

Before you freak out at the word “plot” (I used to, and I still don’t love this word), consider that we’re really talking about how you walk your reader through your story — like going through a house.

What kind of “house” you build is dependent on the type of story you’re writing. (genre)

A word about genre: I like Shawn Coyne’s definition that genre is really just about reader expectations.

Think about it. What do you expect to find in stories that you love?

Now the question is: how do you put those elements into the story you’re writing?

Keep in mind: Take note of your genre. This will give you a general idea of the story structure your readers expect and help you think of ways to surprise them. (Readers love to be surprised, even in a genre novel.)

Time to budget: I recommend you plan at least 2 sessions of 60–90 minutes to do this exercise for your story. You’ll see why in a moment.

Plot and Story Building Tips

1. Brainstorm the high concept of your story. This will help you think of the kind of events and problems you can put into your story.

The Jewish version of The Da Vinci Code (My husband’s novel, The Torah Codes)
Lara Croft meets Lord of the Rings (This is my novel, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer.)
Snakes on a Plane (uh, yah, they kept that for the title :) )
Die Hard on a Ship (One of the Steven Seagal movies; 2 points if you can guess it correctly)

2. Make a list of all the bad things that could happen to your characters. Then organize the bad things in order of least bad to most bad. This is a possible story structure.

This is my favorite way to decide what bad things happen to my sweet characters.

3. Make a list of all the events that your readers most likely expect in your genre and type of story, then see how you can twist the events to surprise your readers.

Think of your favorite stories in your genre. You probably already know how they start, what types of events occur in the middle, and how they typically end.

Shawn Coyne calls these: Beginning Hook, Middle Build, Ending Resolution. (From his book and site: StoryGrid.com)

For example, in romance the lovers meet or re-meet. How can you make this new and different?


Draft your plot ideas and story structure notes with as much or as little detail as you’d like. You can always come back and fill in the blanks when you edit your book.

Share fun details or your Ahas in the comments below.

You can also post it on my Facebook page to enter into fun weekly giveaways.

Want help planning your novel?

Then consider joining us in our upcoming Plan Your Novel 30-Day Writing Challenge. We start October 1st.

You can also do this course anytime in the home study version here.

If you found value in this post, please comment, clap, or share. You’ll be helping me, but more importantly, you’ll be helping your fellow writers. Thanks!