It’s that time of year when thousands of writers around the world prepare to type faster than a speeding bullet, drink coffee more powerful than a locomotive, and leap tall deadlines in a single bound. We’re talking about National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo), and the challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to create a 50,000-word story from scratch in just 30 days, from November 1–30. How’s that for productivity?
We’ve met a lot of writers who use Evernote to plan, brainstorm (and sometimes even draft) their novels, so we are proud to be a corporate sponsor of NaNoWriMo for the fourth consecutive year. But as any fiction writer knows, the hardest part of any new work is figuring out what to write about in the first place: What happens next? What motivates these characters? What’s this story about, anyway?
Only you can answer those questions, but it helps to figure them out early. If you’re going to write a novel in November, the time to plan is now. With that in mind, we’ve created a dozen note templates to help you collect and structure your thoughts in Evernote. Many of them include questions or prompts to get you started, but you can feel free to replace those with inventions of your own. Start filling them out today and they’ll keep you anchored while you write your 30-day masterpiece.
The game is afoot: Plotting and outlining
Are you the sort of writer who wants a solid plan in place before typing “Chapter 1?” You’ll need a roadmap that begins with a premise and culminates in an outline. There are a lot of different ways to get there, so we’ve made templates to walk you through several of the most popular plotting methods. Choose the one that fits your personal style:
1. Story premise worksheet
Your premise is the foundation on which the entire novel is built. With this step-by-step guide, you’ll think about who your protagonist is, what he or she wants, and the problems or conflicts they must overcome. The end product is a concise, two-sentence explanation of what your story is about. Get it »
2. Three-act plotting template
Remember learning in school that all stories should have a beginning, middle, and end? This classic, logical method of storytelling takes you from your story’s initial setup and inciting incident through rising action, turning points, and resolution. Get it »
3. Story beats template
Adapted from the world of screenwriting, this popular method replaces the concept of acts with a set of milestones that commonly appear in many kinds of stories. Hitting these “beats” gives your story a rhythm while leaving the details open to your imagination. Get it »
4. Snowflake method checklist
Maybe you’d rather work from the top down than from the ground up. Inspired by fractal geometry (really!), Randy Ingermanson’s “snowflake method” grows an entire novel from a single sentence. Each step of the process methodically expands upon the one before, filling in detail until you have a complete draft. Get it »
5. Story timeline tracker
Regardless of the plotting method you use, keeping track of time in your novel is important. Did your hero get that threatening letter on Tuesday or Sunday? Does the next scene happen on a sunny morning or in the dead of night? This template will keep your novel’s clock ticking smoothly. Get it »
6. Chapter outline
Once you’re in the writing groove, you may not want to wade through all your plotting notes to remember what comes next. This checklist gives you a scannable view of your plot, chapter by chapter and scene by scene, making it easy to see what you’ve completed and how much lies ahead. Get it »
Who, where, when, and why: Characters and settings
Even if you aren’t the plotting and outlining type, the more you know about your characters and the world they inhabit, the better your writing will be. The following templates will help you brainstorm and remember the little details that make a story come to life, or just give you a bare-bones overview for easy reference:
7. Character master list
Got a lot of characters? This “quick and dirty” list helps you remember who’s who at a glance. Add names, ages, and comments. Drop in a photo or drawing of each character to help you visualize your story. Get it »
8. Character profile worksheet
If you want to go deeper with your characters, you’ll need a full dossier describing their physical appearance, manner of speaking, behavioral traits, and background. From their hair color to their biggest secret, this questionnaire covers it all. Get it »
9. Character biography
Now that you know who’s who, here’s a template for figuring out how they got to the situation in your novel. When it’s time to write a flashback or refer to a past event, you’ll breathe easier (and save yourself some edits) knowing you can look up the dates in this simple timeline. Get it »
10. World-building questionnaire
So far we’ve been talking about the what and who of your novel, but where and when are just as important. Whether you’re writing about a fantasy world or the town you grew up in, this questionnaire will get you thinking in depth about the setting. Then you can write richer, more realistic scenes that draw the reader into your world. Get it »
Pulling it all together: Project trackers
A novel has a lot of moving parts. When you factor in research, articles saved with Web Clipper, and random jottings about who did what to whom, you’ll probably find you have a lot of notes for your writing project. Consider adding a couple more to keep it all straight: a dashboard where you can manage the whole thing, and a checklist for bringing your completed opus to the world.
11. Story dashboard note
For a quick overview of your project, use this “dashboard” to track its status. Add it to your shortcuts for easy access, and insert links to related notes to save time on searches. If you’re writing in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you can paste the file or link into the body of this note and jump into your manuscript with a click. Get it »
12. Self-publishing checklist
Planning to publish that novel when it’s done? Here’s a checklist of all the important steps, from writing a blurb to editing, design, and proofing. TIP: If you copy this checklist into your dashboard note, you can easily track your novel from first brainstorm to final publication. Get it »
Ready, set, write!
So, novelists: What do you think of these templates? Are they useful? Can you think of ways to make them better? Let us know. In the meantime, happy writing!
Evernote is proud to be a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month. 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.