Where to Get Ideas for Your NaNoWriMo Project

As the winter slowly descends upon us, it’s time for the annual tradition of hand-wringing, self-loathing, and maybe—just maybe—writing a novel in 30 days. National Novel Writing Month has become a beacon of hope each November for the many high achievers who desire to not only start, but also finish a draft of a novel in one month.

Can you make up for 11 months of not working on a novel by cramming all your creativity into this short time period? It’s a hefty challenge. And it’s one that many people, including myself, have attempted to achieve.

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But now it’s November 1 and you have zero words. You want to flex your writing muscles but with everything else happening in your life and our often hellish world, you’ve got… nothing.

Plot generators to the rescue. If you’re not picky about the who and what of your story and just want to get started right now, you can leave the details up to chance and let a magical machine choose for you.

How do they work? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter. Don’t procrastinate by looking up how they work. Just choose one of these generators and get started.

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Reedsy

Self-publishing platform Reedy’s new plot generator is the prettiest of the bunch. It promises one million plot combinations: You can choose from drama, fantasy, mystery, romance, or sci-fi genres, and get details for a protagonist, secondary character, plot and even a twist. Because every story has a twist.

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The best part of this generator is that you can lock any generated field once you like what’s been generated, then continue to shuffle the rest until you’re satisfied. Once you’re finished, you can save the plot and email it to yourself.

Screenshot: Lisa Rowan (Reedsy)

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WritingExercises

WritingExercises.co.uk’s Random Plot Generator allows you to choose up to six elements, including two characters, a setting, a situation, a theme and character action. You can continue to click each button until you get a combination that suits you.

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Screenshot: Lisa Rowan (WritingExercises)

This website has a variety of other generators and writing prompts. I like “Take Three Nouns,” which generates two concrete nouns and one abstract one to inspire a freewriting exercise.

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RanGen

RanGen’s plot generator only gives you three genres to choose from (action, fantasy, or romance), but allows you to choose from three different levels of plot detail. Need a small push? Select the “premise” level. Tend to get stuck on middles and endings of stories? You might want to go for “complete.”

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While this website is choked with advertisements—seriously, brace yourself—its writing tools are clearly a labor of love. The generative goodness doesn’t stop at plots. You can generate character traits and quirks, awkward moments, or character names, among other options.

Screenshot: Lisa Rowan (RanGen)

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Writer’s Digest

It won’t hand you a plot on a platter, but Writer’s Digest’s weekly creative writing prompts can help you get unstuck. Some are more complex, challenging you to write a story about a specific character or event. Others are more open-ended, like one that only stipulates your scene or story include a piece of candy.

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