NaNoWriMo 2017: How to Plan Your Novel’s Beginning, Middle, and End

Posted Mon, 11/06/2017 - 8:00am by  |  Category:

Notebook and penWe’re entering the first full week of NaNoWriMo. I hope you’ve had a lot of fun writing so far. I know I always feel good after a few days of consistent writing.

If you’re following my recommended schedule from my first post, then you’re probably at around 6,000 words.

The math of your novel

By now, I would highly recommend you consider breaking the structure of your draft into a defined beginning, middle, and end. What are the numbers for that?

This means your beginning is about 25 percent of your novel, or around 12,500 words. If you’re still establishing your beginning, start thinking about how it can transition into the middle of your story.

Your middle is about 50 percent of your novel, or about 25,000 words.

The end is another 25 percent, so a final 12,500 words.

You’d probably intrinsically follow a similar word count on your own. But it’s good to make distinct goals for each section.

Make the middle matter

Deciding how to write the middle can seem a little more challenging; 25,000 words is a lot. It can feel like everything in the middle is just filler before the chance to write the good stuff at the end.

To help make the middle fun, here’s a tip: Make some really good, juicy stuff happen. Don’t feel like you have to save all your best ideas until the end. Writing good ideas into the middle will inspire even more creative ideas for your ending, which will then be that much better.

A book with a great middle: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

When Harry is trying to solve the mysterious puzzle of the singing egg that will reveal clues about what to expect for the second Triwizard Tournament competition, he’s stumped at every turn. The morning of the event he doesn’t know what to do and is in complete despair.

This is the end of the line for Harry, I remember thinking when I first read the book.

When I look back at it now, I love how dire the author, J.K. Rowling, made this section. It was a bold choice that made her main character’s eventual success that much more thrilling and kept me hooked for the rest of the book.

Give yourself permission to make the middle just as exciting as the beginning and the end.

The end comes fast

When you do get to your ending, remember that you only have around 12,500 words to wrap up everything that you’ve built up to in your beginning and middle. This will not feel like enough when you’re writing it!

As you’re writing everything else, think about how what you write can play out over your remaining words. Also save some words to resolve things after the thrilling final scenes you’re already planning.

I hope this post gives you more structure on how to plan for and write your NaNoWriMo novel.

Talk to you next week. Keep writing.

Jay PetersJay Peters is a Seattle-based writer and editor who offers manuscript editing and developmental editing at He’s happy to chat with you about your NaNoWriMo story — just email him through his website. In his spare time, he likes to run through the city and read in the most comfortable chair he can find.