It’s October! And for lots of writers out there, that means prep for writing a new novel in November.
Call it NaNoPrep, or Preptober, or National Prep Month, or whatever you will. October is the time to start getting prepared if you plan on participating in NaNo this year.
Is this cheating?
No. At least not to me. Unless you are planning on pantsing your entire story this November, then you need to do some prep work on your novel. I’ll be here with you every step of the way. I plan on doing lots of NaNo prep this month, and posting inspiring blogs to keep you going through the writing process next month.
Last year, I wasn’t going to bother with NaNo. I had plenty of projects to work on, and I skipped out. Not this year. With the paperback version of Finish the Damn Book! releasing tomorrow(hopefully), I feel compelled not only to participate this year, but to blow it out of the park. So for anyone feeling a little wary of cranking out 50-80,000 words this month, you can join me in my preparations, and I’ll be here with you every step of the way (shameless plug: don’t forget to subscribe to my blog).
Let the Brainstorming Begin
This is basically what I did. I opened up a blank page in my notebook. I consider myself an author without a genre, or more specifically not confined to just one genre. When prepping to write a story, genre is something to think about. I kind of know my feelings toward some present projects at this moment, so I went down my normal list of classes that I like to write in:
I crossed fantasy off the list straight away. I have a lot of prep work done on some world-building for a story, but there’s still a long way to go until I’ve collected all the bits that I need to write the Fantasy novel that I want to write. I’m not going to get into details, but I’m not writing Fantasy this November. Maybe next year.
I put the other three genres, selected because I have fun writing them, as headers, and then started listing simple ideas under each. For instance, under SciFi, I have the headings: Space Opera, Test Tube Earth, Space Meets Magic, Supernova, Europans living under the ice, Breeding soldiers, etc. The other columns have similar lists.
As I was spitting out random ideas, I underlined a few that sounded awesome, and kept dropping ideas on the paper. I even did a pass through my “idea notebook” to see if there was something in there that sounded like a cool story for November.
When I finished, I scratched “Horror” from the list, because the ideas under that heading just weren’t coming easy, and I didn’t like what I had.
Some of my Dystopia and SciFi ideas did a little cross-breeding, and I came up with more ideas. I finally landed on this Supernova concept, and mixed some of the other stuff in. Now I have a list of ideas and side-plots that I can investigate for my story.
Going from Concept to Creation
Let the world-building begin. I did some research on Wiki, and then cut loose, letting my pen scribble down thoughts as they came into my head. I started by scribbling what kind of human space infrastructure I would need for my story, and what would be in place. What kind of ships would be needed, and most importantly, how would Earth keep order throughout the Solar System?
I drifted off on a tangent about the new space police, and that dug into several other aspects of politics and society on Earth, and how everyday life would be affected for my characters, it was almost like writing a story, except not.
Write, but Don’t Start The Story
I explore worlds as I’m creating them. That’s my thing. My main character, actually, I haven’t decided on an MC yet, or his/her mission. Needless to say, they aren’t part of my scribblings. I’m jotting down all the notes about the world that I can see, as they come to me. The result is a really telly bit of story just outside the story that I intend to write.
Pens are wonderful, magical devices that allow me to write about the world I am creating without getting directly involved with it. For instance, if my soldiers need to be absolutely obedient to the empire, then there has to be some way to ensure that they stay obedient. Any why is it an Empire? Why not an oligarchy, or democracy, or whatever? So I pick a world government, or collection of governments, and keep moving. That was my thinking.
I even got lost on one tangent about the governmental setup, and how the soldiers themselves are selected for different things, and even sub-classes that are more or less part of the mind-control substructure.
I wanted to know what life is like on the colonies, so I wrote some historical notes about the history of the colonies, what kind of people live there, what they do, etc.
This is my Process, What’s Yours?
That’s a pretty good peek into my creative process for brainstorming this next NaNo book. In SciFi, Fantasy, Dystopia, or any story that doesn’t take place in modern times with a relatable world, the groundwork has to be laid down. Some do it as they write their character’s story, but if I learned one thing from the Viral Trilogy, it’s that sometimes it is best to iron out as many of these details as possible, ahead of time.
So this is how my story begins. My notebook is becoming a collected history about this new world that I want to create. If I keep at it, and keep focusing on the tiny bits, then I should have a very vivid picture in my head when it comes time to toss a character into the world with their own plot. Creating a world means finding out good and bad things about the world, and developing a feel for it.
It means less confusion, less time thinking about this shit when you’re drafting, and more time storying. When you know your story world as well as you know the real world around you, then it’s easy to describe. It’s easy to picture in your head. And it means less gaping plot holes later.
That’s my brainstorming process, what’s yours? Do you have an idea for a novel yet? Did you start with plot, or world, or character? Are you ready for November?