Organizing Your Story Idea: Nanowrimo Prep # 1


November is coming! As is Nanowrimo and I’ve signed on for again this year. Last year, my first attempt at Nanowrimo was a struggle, and I learned a lot about myself and about writing. 50,000 words in one month. Apply fire directly to ass…

Four weeks of Nanoprep!

This post will be the first in a series that summarizes the topics we cover in my writing workshop. These will come every Friday, if you’re following along at home. The workshop is free and open to the public and we meet at the Bixby Library, in Vergennes, VT, so let me know if you want to join us! I will use these posts so that attendees can refer back and so others can find some inspiration. This month we are winding down an eight-week session of my writing workshop at the Bixby Library, and I am discussing preparation for writing your novel in hopes that we will all commit to writing 50,000 words in November. This preparation will allay some fears and begin to build a solid foundation for your project. Four weeks of Nanoprep!

Start with an idea.

All this organization and preparation might seem anathema to some of your processes, and that’s fine. If you’re a “pantser” (writing by the seat of your pants), go for what works for you. We all start with an idea, though. That idea can be a single sentence, too. Boy, while honing his secret powers, uses those powers to save the princess and the world. We all visualized a story, and likely they were each a different story. So, where to next?

One-Sheets and how to use them

We are adapting a selling tool from screenwriting to help us organize our story idea. One-sheets consist of five pieces, arranged on a single page: title, logline, genre information, a short treatment, and a one sentence: “It’s this meets that….” The objective is to give an overview of your project in a short, quickly digested form. In order to accomplish this goal, though, it really helps to know your project. That detail is part of why it is an effective tool for preparation.

Here’s how to write a one-sheet: pick a title, it can always change later (required). A logline describes the premise, conflict, basic idea of the project in a single sentence (required). For extra credit, write your logline so it hooks your reader. The genre information tells the background of this type of story, where it fits in the tradition of narrative (required). Genre stories share patterns. These patterns work and should be utilized in your project. Writing this information about the genre on your one-sheet shows that you have done your research and helps you to avoid redoing work that has already been done. It really helps to understand what works for stories like yours.

Next, the short treatment walks through Act 1 of your story and gives a hint of what happens in Act 2. This “meat” is why people will want to read or see your story (remember Doctorow: person, place, problem). Movie trailers are sometimes like a visual short treatment. And finally, the “It’s this meets that”: acknowledge influences and inspirations and give the audience a mash-up to illustrate what your project will be like.


Now, go forth. Write a one-sheet. We will discuss them at workshop next week.

Next time: Beat Sheet