3 Books Every Plotter Should Read Before NaNoWriMo / by Julie Hopkins

3 Writing Books Every Plotter Should Read Before NaNoWriMo

October is here! That means it’s time for carving pumpkins, raking leaves and #NaNoWriMoPrep!

We are less than one month away from November, aka National Novel Writing Month, a time when writers around the world put pen to paper (or fingers to laptops) to write 50,000 words in 30 days! (If you haven’t heard of this, go to nanowrimo.org and create your novel. It’s the best.)

With such an audacious goal, some writers find it helpful to have a strategy that works for them. The two approaches I hear all the time are “Pantsing” or “Plotting”.

Pantsing is starting with an idea (or maybe just a word or image) and crafting your story on the fly, or writing by the seat of your pants if you will. This approach is exciting because you get to run alongside your protagonist as your story unfolds, chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence, word by word. If this is you, stop by my blog this Thursday and check out my blog post for 3 books every Pantser should read before NaNoWriMo.

Plotting is when writers make an outline of some kind before venturing into their fictional world. This approach is great because you don’t have to think about what happens next. You already know. Take that Writer’s Block.


If you’re a Plotter, here are three books that will help you get from zero to 50,000 in 30 days.


Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing

By Larry Brooks

Short Version: Read Chapter 5 on Story Structure. Then go back read all of it. This book was a game-changer for me.

 Long Version: Story Engineering is by far, the most helpful, informative and straightforward take on plotting a novel. The premise of this book is that all widely successful novels and movies adhere to specific guidelines, regardless of genre. He systematically points out the similarities in these stories through what he calls his “6 core competencies”: concept, character, theme, story structure, scene execution and writing voice.

The part that made the biggest impact on my writing was the section on structure. Brooks’ book demonstrates how all great stories follow a certain structure. Then he lays out that structure in detail for you to use in your novel. If you’re skeptical, he includes numerous examples of best-selling books and big-hit films to backup his theory. Plus, he shows you how to follow the structure while still unleashing your creativity.


Writing the Breakout Novel

By Donald Maass

Short Version: Read the sections on concept and theme. He offers no-nonsense advice on what kind of ideas engage readers and what ideas are just plain boring.

Long Version: Similar to Larry Brooks’ book, Donald Maass pinpoints the elusive qualities that separate mediocre books from the literary masterpieces. As a successful literary agent, Maass has experience working with hundreds of writers, getting their manuscripts polished and ready for publishing houses.

The section on concept is particularly helpful for plotters. He walks you through the process of coming up with a concept, gives reasons why it works or doesn’t work, then goes further by showing you how to make your concept new and fresh. He also highlights themes that readers are most drawn to. (Spoiler: forgiveness and sacrifice are a couple of these.)


90 Days to your Novel By Sarah Domet


Short Version: The outlining section about the note cards is freaking brilliant.

Long Version: Let’s be honest, that 90 day plan—ain’t nobody got time for that. This is NaNoWriMo. We have 30 days—and one of those days is Thanksgiving!

Skim this book. Take notes on some of the points that resonate with you and ditch the rest. That being said, there are a few hidden gems in this book that I use again and again. One of these is the note card outline idea. You make a note card for every scene. You write the setting, the characters in the scene, the main conflict of the scene and a summary of what happen in the scene. It streamlined my writing and helped me see what scenes I didn’t need before I spent four hours writing them. Sometimes, I tape them up all over my wall like a creepy serial killer.

What’s your NaNoWriMo strategy? Are you a pantser or plotter? Comment below! 

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to enter the Indie Book Cover Designs NaNoWriMo Contest for a free book cover. Email Julie@indiebookcoverdesign.com with your name to enter.