Only three weeks to go, where are you at on your story?
I started doing some block outlines for my NaNo Story, and I’ve been so busy this week with keeping Viral Spark rolling along that I haven’t been reserving much time for my nano book. But when I hit the go button, I’m fully on to whatever the task is in front of me.
In fact, I’ve gotten ahead on the VS release, a month in front of where my scheduling is, but every time I look at that stack of paper, it’s hard to focus on anything else. I’ve talked a lot about getting out of your situation to spur creativity, and it works just as well to squash one project so you can focus on another.
I printed off a stack of paper Friday so that I could do one final revision and typo hunt, as well as adjustments to formatting, before sending VS off to make proof copies. I realized that it had already eaten my whole day, and most of my week, so I put the stack of paper in one place, and took off toward another with my NaNo notebook.
Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what they say, and it works. With nothing but a notebook and a pen immediately in front of me, the distraction of working on other projects was gone. I started scribbling, and as I went, some fuzzy plot details became clear, some potential problems were avoided, and I started coloring the story into the world lines that I had established last week.
If you are prepping in October, there are three main things that you need to tackle about your book. You need a main character, a conflict, and a setting. That’s all! Unfortunately these are not easy things to work out most of the time.
If the setting is one that you are already super familiar with, then that isn’t much of a problem (home town, present tense). I started with the setting, as my story idea is futuristic. I expanded it out, and then drew it back in last night to focus on one specific area, since most of the story, possibly all of it, takes place on Earth. I still need to know what’s going on with off-world stuff, but it’s not 100% crucial to my story, the “big stuff” details should be good enough.
I don’t recommend starting with the setting, but for some sci-fi and fantasy books, it’s a little hard to ignore. Starting with a character arc is generally a better way to go, since the story is found in the main character, not in the actual setting.
By now, you should at least have some idea for one of the three. If you have a cool world created, make sure that you clear up any detail information and research that might be needed during your draft. If you have a main character, then perhaps make a sketch, or find of photo of what they look like in your head. Hash out some of their personality quirks. If you have a story arc, then take a good look to make sure it’s long enough to last through 70,000 words. Tie in some complexity.
How to do this?
My favorite method, by far, is flash fiction. You can write little stories about your character’s childhood. Maybe some events that helped to shape them into the person that they are in your story. This will add familiarity, and you’ll know exactly who you are writing about as the story plays on.
For world building, you can make little historical snippets about events that happened in the past to shape your world. Whether or not the main character played a part in these events is irrelevant, but you can most definitely write them as your character views the events for a bonus. For instance, if some government policy, or war, or peace treaty, or world-wide event played a significant role in the world (new inventions for sci-fi writers, developments in magic for fantasy), then your MC is likely to have an opinion about it. Let them speak.
For your story arc, in fact what I’m working on this week, you can write a synopsis. Then criticize it, and write it again. I’ve gone through 8 or 9 versions of my overall plot by now. I’m still not happy with certain parts, and I can’t nail down any kind of ending. I’m not sure where my character is going, and I’ve already lopped off 2-3 potential chapters because they were back story (and one of them would be really boring, which I didn’t want at the beginning of my book).
These story arcs don’t have to be super detailed. Don’t engage the technical part of your brain so much, let your creative side play a little bit. Each of my “plot ideas” is 2-4 pages. I expand on different parts, but I mostly let the pen do the work. If there is something I’m unclear about, then I write a little more on that section. Stuff that I’ve been over in my head fifty times doesn’t deserve as much attention. Ideally, by the end of this week, I’ll have most of my world building done (including the Delta-V equations for my space ships, even though they aren’t going to be included as more than a cameo), and with any luck, my plot/synopsis/outline will be a manageable list of sign posts that I can direct my main character toward.
Don’t get too crazy with outlining. If you’ve written a bunch of novel-length stories, then you might know the dangers of putting down every little detail, and having your main character’s motivations feel forced. I find that a good outline lists the main bullet points, and you can squeeze it one one page, two max. That’s just a guideline though, everyone has their own style.
What about you? Making progress on your NaNo prep? Do you have your MC figured out? a groundbreaking plot? an awesome universe that will accent your story? Is three weeks enough prep time?
And I have to put a shameless plug here for FTDB, because I believe that it will help you with NaNo. I’ve been carrying a paperback around with me, just to keep me on track. It’s my pocket muse.