Hooray! NaNoWriMo is just 22 days away! I love the space theme this year, and it’s especially fitting because the story I’m planning to write is a relationship driven sci-fi novel that takes place (mostly) on Mars.
I’m psyched to start writing, but I can’t officially start until November 1st. In the meantime, I’ve been working on novel prep. For those of you who are curious, I thought I’d share a little about what I’m doing.
First, a caveat — every time I do this, my process is a little different. Last year, for example, I mostly worked from a rough outline and a beat sheet and did minimal prep work. In previous years, I did even less prep work. Back in 2013, I completely pantsed my novel with no outline or prep work. Going into November the year after that, I think I knew exactly one scene that I wanted to write, but that scene didn’t take place until nearly two thirds of the way through the novel. So, I wrote down some “way points” that would get me to that scene. Then I started writing and pantsed my way from point to point until I ultimately got to that scene.
What I’m saying is, there are a lot of different ways to “win” NaNoWriMo, and there is no “right way.” Do what works for you.
This year, I’m trying to take a little more time and be a little more organized with my prep, mostly because the story I want to write is a little more complicated than what I’ve done in the past. I’m attempting a “re-telling,” but I want it to feel like an entirely new story while still being true to the emotional and plot beats of the original.
I’ve started by thinking about which story elements I’ll be including in my novel (primarily Relationship with sides of Wonder, Drama, Issue, and Ensemble, I think). Now I’m working on fleshing out each of the four story building blocks:
My characters and my plot are both drawn from the original story. How they differ from the original will depend a lot on the setting I’m planning. So, I’m starting with world-building. Once I’ve got the world figured out, I can tweak my characters and my plot to fit seamlessly into my world. In the process, I’ll be adding a whole new layer of conflict that didn’t exist in the original story.
So far, I’ve mostly been doing research for my world, but it’s getting to the point now where I think research is really just a procrastination excuse because I’m not exactly sure *how* I want to organize my world-building. I’ve been searching for writing tools that might help, but I think this may work best if I just start free-writing my thoughts in a notebook the way I’ve always done. I’ve built five completely different worlds for the five novels I’ve written, so far. I’ve never used any writing tools for world-building before, and world-building has always been an area of strength for me. So, I’m pretty sure I’m completely over-thinking this part.
Once I tackle the world-building, the characters and plot will be much easier. I already have good tools for these areas. I’ll probably use character sheets to define each of the main characters’ motivations, objectives, sensibilities, etc. Then I’ll map out my emotional and plot beats and modify them to fit the setting. After all that, conflict *should* be pretty obvious, but I may just make some more specific notes on that so I don’t forget what I’d originally planned once I start writing.
For the record, I’m just getting started, and it feels like I have no idea what I’m doing, even though this will be my 6th time writing a first draft of a novel. Perhaps this first draft thing never gets any easier… What’s keeping me motivated is my vision for this story and the knowledge that, if I can make this work, it’s going to be awesome.
Now it’s time to stop procrastinating and dive into world-building.
Oh! But, before I go… I’m only $38 away from hitting my fundraising goal to support the non-profit that runs NaNoWriMo, plus many other excellent creative writing programs for children and adults. If you haven’t already donated, please have a look at my fundraising page and consider a donation.
For those who have donated: Thank you for supporting me in my novel-writing quest, and for helping National Novel Writing Month create a more engaged and inspiring world. You’re awesome!