Tips & Stories

NaNoWriMo: Planning a Novel with Evernote Templates

NaNoWriMo: Planning a Novel with Evernote Templates

Posted by Forrest Dylan Bryant on 04 Oct 2016

Posted by Forrest Dylan Bryant on 04 Oct 2016

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In November, nearly half a million people around the world will embark on a remarkable quest. National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo) challenges established authors and aspiring writers alike to create a 50,000-word story in just 30 days. Sound crazy? Perhaps. But thousands of people complete the task each year, and a few of those books go on to be published. But whether you come out of November with a masterpiece or a rambling mess, the journey is a creative jolt like no other: exhilarating, maddening, and almost always fun.

If you’re thinking of joining the party, or you just have dreams of someday writing a novel, there’s no better time to start planning and plotting than right now. But confronting the blank page can be a scary prospect. Where do you begin?

Many writers use Evernote as a key part of their creative process (like Amy Stewart, or this guy). Take a look at some simple guidelines and note templates you can use to tame your wild ideas, and give them the structure you need to move forward.

To use any of the six note templates mentioned in this article, click the “Preview” link and then click “Save to Evernote” to add the template to your Evernote account. You can copy, rename, and edit the note in your account.

From concept to premise

The seed of a story can be anything: a situation, a character, even a title. Some people like to take one of those fragmentary ideas and just start writing, but for the rest of us, turning that notion into a real story with a beginning, middle, and end means figuring out a plot. And the first step to doing that is creating a premise.

A good story premise has several components:

  1. A main character: A character can exist without a plot, but a plot can’t exist without a character. So this is the first, most important thing you need. And your character needs a goal, whether that’s saving the world or a peaceful night’s sleep.
  2. A setting: Because every story has to happen somewhere, and the time and place determine what’s possible.
  3. An antagonist: This is the person (or impersonal force) that puts an obstacle in the main character’s way. It could be a moustache-twirling villain, a snowstorm, or the main character’s own fears and doubts.
  4. A situation and inciting event: The situation describes the state of things at the start of your story. The inciting event upsets that situation and gets the plot moving.
  5. A conflict: The obstacle (or series of obstacles) your antagonist puts in your character’s way, started by the inciting event and sustained until the resolution, when your main character either succeeds or fails in reaching her goal.

The Story Premise template will help you think through the elements of your story:

nanowrimo-story-premise

Preview the Story Premise template »

Methods of plotting

Now that you have a good idea what your story is about, you can start to figure out what happens when. There are many ways to determine the plot of the story, and every writer has their favorite. Here are three favorite approaches:

Three-Act Structure: This classic model of storytelling breaks a novel into three “acts”—the beginning, middle, and end. The first act contains the setup for your story, the longer second act contains rising action and conflict, and the third act resolves the situation.

Preview the Three-Act Story Plotting template »

Story Beats: This concept is borrowed from the world of movie screenwriting. Beats are a simple list of milestones that provide a structure and rhythm for your story, while leaving the path completely open to your creativity.

Preview the Story Beats template »

The “Snowflake” Method: Created by Randy Ingermanson, this popular method starts with a single sentence describing the story and builds up in iterations, each elaborating on the last: first the sentence becomes a paragraph, then each sentence of the paragraph is expanded into a new paragraph. When followed diligently, the process leads to a completed first draft.

Preview the Snowflake Method Checklist template »

Building character

Your characters are the most important part of making a story come alive. The more you know about each character, the better you can describe them. Understanding their backgrounds, motivations, and how they think will also help you write more realistic scenes.

The Character Profile template covers all the basics, from a character’s physical appearance to favorite figures of speech. You’ll probably think of more characteristics as you fill it out, so feel free to add or delete sections.

nanowrimo-character-profile

Preview the Character Profile template »

Setting the scene

Sometimes, the setting for a story can be almost as important as the characters within it. Think of how different Romeo and Juliet is when the setting moves from 16th century Verona to 20th century New York (West Side Story). A fantasy world might set your characters free to do things nobody can do in real life. On the other hand, writing to a historical setting might determine how characters interact or affect their points of view.

Whether you’re writing about a faraway planet or your own home town, the questions in the Worldbuilding Basics template will help you think about setting and how it influences your characters.

Preview the Worldbuilding Basics template »

Countdown to your novel

There are a lot of steps to planning a novel. Even if you’re the sort of writer who prefers to dive in and start writing from scratch, at some point you’ll need to keep track of your characters, setting, and plot so you don’t get lost. These note templates will help you throughout your creative adventure, from your first idea to finally typing:

THE END.

Evernote is proud to be a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month this November. If you’re up to the challenge, sign up for free at nanowrimo.org, then come visit Evernote on the NaNoWriMo forum and let us know how your novel is coming along! We’ll post more tips and strategies to our blog throughout October and November.

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18 Comments RSS

  • Ezra Heilman

    These are fantastic. Thank you!

  • S. J. Pajonas

    Wow! I love these! I saved them all. Thank you! I do all my pre-plotting, planning, and even some of my writing in Evernote. I couldn’t do without it.

  • Robert King

    Evernote has improved its android app an incredible amount. Great tips, combined with Evernote I’m feeling good this NanoWrimo for hitting the 50k word goal.

  • Anthony Zappia

    Great information and tips for writing here. I put all my research into Evernote, but these ideas could add a whole new dimension to that research and incorporating it into my writing. Thank you Forrest

  • Maxine

    I’m looking forward to using these. Thank you.

  • Rob Ling

    Thanks heaps for the the templates, and for the fantastic write up here. Good information all around. No matter how many stories we write, it’s always good to refresh the mind on the art of the craft and have conversations about what we’ve all learned.

  • Khaviya

    The Character profile template is incredible! Thank you so much!

  • sally

    These are all great tips and very useful indeed, thank you. The big question I have is how to get my novel out of Evernote?

    Can we export the notes as RTF or TXT files so that they can be imported into Scrivener for Compiling or to Word for group editing with Tools Track Changes? Neither of these apps seem to import .ENEX or HTML files… HELP!

    • Forrest Dylan Bryant

      Hi, Sally:

      The short answer is copy & paste. However, there are some good techniques that can help make the process go as smoothly as possible: I find I can convert a short story from Evernote on my Mac into a doc using a clean, standard submission format in a few minutes, or prepare a full novel-length manuscript the same way in less than an hour. I’ll try to address this topic in a future blog post.

  • Julie

    These templates would also work great for anyone running a role-playing game. A lot of people don’t realize that game masters are basically writing short stories every time they run a game. We need to come up with good characters, antagonists, and plots for every game . . . that could be monthly, or even weekly. Thanks, Evernote, I am going to use these templates to increase the quality of my game master output.

    • Forrest Dylan Bryant

      Hi, Julie:
      Thanks for the comment. That’s a great idea and I wish I’d thought of it. Happy gaming!

  • femmeflashpoint

    Sweet! Thanks so much! I saved every one of them and have been doing searches for book writing templates for weeks! Didn’t find anything I could work with and then here comes Evernote to the rescue. Y’all are awesome-sauce. 🙂

  • Mauricio Safra

    Great Templates.

    I am just finding out that you can build templates for Evernote. Where can I find out more templates?
    How can I create more templates?

    I think Evernote could make it easier to work with templates. Like creating buttons to create notes directly with a template

    • Pamela Rosen

      Mauricio, thank you for the suggestions! You can learn more about templates (and get some free templates) here: https://www.evernote.com/shard/s308/sh/6dda5e50-9e87-4f41-a846-eb62b2963a74/a16f65173182fa29.
      Also, keep an eye out for the next blog post! -Pam R

  • Leelou

    Brilliant, thank you …

  • Jesse Stoddard

    These are really great! Thank you very much. You guys have an amazing company. I use Evernote every single day for comedy writing! …and then I slip on a banana or whatever.

  • Shea

    Hi, thanks for sharing very useful. Is there a version for non-fiction books?

  • Roland

    Depuis des années j’ai eu envie d’écrire et aujourd’hui, grâce à tout ces précieux conseils, je me lance enfin!
    J’ai une tonne de notes… J’avoue que je manquais sérieusement de structure … Merci, c’est fabuleux!