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Map to the World: Nano Prep


As most of you will know, NaNoWriMo is around the corner. Initially I wasn’t going to participate considering the busyness of life and all the things requiring my attention. However, I was talking to Rachel Poli in one of her blog posts discussing NaNo participation and she reminded me that I could be a rebel; I could write my 50K words without starting a new novel. It was a great idea.

New Novel

Of course, my mind is a mysterious creature, able to conjure up the most outlandish ideas at the worst times. I don’t even remember where the idea came from, but I was suddenly struck by it for a new novel. Just in time for NaNo too. Only problem? It’s vast. It’s confusing. It’s massive. It keeps twisting and turning and writhing and squirming into a new form every day. It has more forms than a villain from Dragonball Z.



I’m a pantser. A discovery writer. A rambler. I get an idea, start writing and let the story, characters, and vague plot progress the story wherever it pleases. I’m as surprised by the ending as everyone else. Truth is, this doesn’t work all the time. It’s probably why I don’t have a complete novel by now. Why I hit writer’s block faster and harder.

Characters are core ingredients to a story. I sometimes forget this and realize much later than I have cookie-cut characters as thin as paper and more clichéd than an orphaned boy who finds out he has a special ability that makes him the chosen one. According to ancient prophecy. Guided by his mentor… who dies.

World Building is a massive part of the story. Yet I tend to forget this even though I wrote a four part series on world building. In fact, I read through that series and I realized that it’s all just vague waffling without getting into the nitty-gritty of world building. Even that is just another example of my type of writing. And I’m starting to hate it.

Depth of story, character, and world is my greatest obstacle. It is really difficult to write profoundly when you have no idea what you’re writing about. It is difficult to have significant characters when you have no idea who they are. It is difficult to have an expansive world if you don’t know what it is. In short, discovery writing hasn’t allowed me to explore all of these important traits and all I’m left with is lackluster drafts soon to be Recycle Bin material.



XMind is a free mind mapping software available for Windows, Mac, Linux and even has the cool function of working straight from a USB flash drive without needing to install it. My younger (sometimes wiser) self used to map every detail in a story. I’ve decided to go back to this tried and tested method to plot out my new novel. It actually needs it. There is so much detail I can’t imagine writing paragraphs of notes and trying to tie them all in as separate pages.

I’m actually struggling to plot this all out. The story has multiple-genres (horror, thriller, fantasy, and sci-fi, told as a mystery). It involves multiple characters. It involves multiple worlds. It involves concepts I need to figure out right down to the core otherwise my story will have more plot holes than all the Marvel hero movies (I’m looking at you especially X-Men). I’m already feeling severely overwhelmed and NaNo hasn’t even started yet.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew and I’m either going to choke, or pull a Golden-Snitch-In-My-Throat-For-The-Win-Maneuver.




About Nthato Morakabi

Nthato Morakabi is a South African published author. He has short stories appearing in both international and local anthologies, and has published his first book, Beneath the Wax, which opens his three-part novella series "Wax". He is an avid reader, blogger and writer.

17 responses »

  1. Wow! It sounds like this will be a great read when all is said and done. I know what you mean, though. I spent most of my day on Monday trying to plan out my mystery series. I made a good dent, but then I ended up switching over to work on my fantasy novel instead. It’s a lot of work with something so complex.

  2. I know exactly what you feel! Not to be self-promoting on someone else’s post, but you should probably look at my post for this Friday. You never know, it might help. Good luck for NaNoWriMo! 🙂

    • It’s actually a great post Nandini! Thanks for the help. I’m definitely in PANIC mode right now, trying to decipher this novel before I have to write it. I don’t want to waste too much time in November still plotting. Thanks for the advice 🙂

      • Yup, feeling the same way. October is definitely the month to finish off the planning. BTW, that’ll be a series of posts and I was talking about the one that will come out tomorrow. 😀 But I’m glad I could be of help. Incidentally, are we buddies on the site? I think not. Let me know your username so I can add you. 🙂

      • Great! I look forward to reading it. I’m trying to siphon as much knowledge as I can at this point.
        My NaNo username is: silvanthato. What’s yours and I can add you back?

      • Athena Galadriel. I feel so awkward sharing it in public. I was young and now I can’t change it! 😦

      • Haha don’t be. Two strong female characters. Greek goddess and the Lady of Lothlorien. I’m adding you now as we speak.

      • But they’re both first names and it sounds odd together. That’s my only problem with that. Well, it doesn’t sound so bad when you put it that way. 😛
        I shall accept when I get my laptop back. Opening the site on the phone is a nightmare!

  3. The post is one of your best yet, and you’ve done some really good ones! What you’re feeling is writer’s angst and “this too shall pass.” Don’t delete or throw anything away and keep working and reworking on multiple projects. I predict one day (maybe during the NaNo time) things on one book/project will “gel” and a book, a publishable one, will take you over like a daemon spirit and the book will write itself. I’ve seen it happen. Don’t be too hard on your efforts; appreciate what’s good about them.

    • Ah Rae, my inspiration and encouragement. Thank you as always for your kind words.
      I sure hope it does eventually gel, I’m getting really tired of compiling unworkable drafts. They are like physical manifestations of lost hope. I’m probably just in a slump and I’ll be reinvigorated soon enough. This novel seems to be the Snoopy to my Charlie Brown and i hope it stays that way.

  4. I’m a Pantser too! I’m doing NaNo for the first time this year. Should be interesting, good luck!

  5. Pingback: Back To Square One: NaNo Prep | A-Scribe To Describe

  6. How. Did. I. Miss. This. Post? I am looking forward to this story/series SO much Nthato! 😀 😀 😀


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