Time for you to decide what you will be writing about during Nanowrimo! Will you outline, or will you gather references and inspiration? Will you read other people’s take on how to make it your own, or will you write some plot points and go with the later flow?
You should already have your concept from Preptober part 1, so let’s move on to figuring out how you are going to execute that concept and add a bit more detail to your growing ideas.
When it comes to writers they tend to come in two distinct types, and then a hybrid of the two: Planners and Pantser.
Planners have a plan, as the name implies. They have an outline, they have backstories and they have every character’s family tree written down. Will they ever need all that? Probably not.
Pantsers are just going with the flow. They have a rough idea and a direction they want to take them in, but they might find themselves somewhere else as they go along. Do they sometimes get lost? Yes, yes they do.
Both have their upsides and their downsides. I do not personally think one is better than the other and actually try to be a planner with a pantser mindset. I want to have my information organized and know what points I am going to have to hit, but I don’t mind changing the way I do so if I come up with a new idea.
You might find that going full planner or pantser works for you and not need to combine the two, but do know if you do – you are not alone.
I think regardless of being a planner or pantser there are things you should do:
Start at the End
Figuring out your ending will make it easier for you to not get lost. If you are a planner, this might take the form of a detailed concept for each character’s fate. For a pantser, it might just be something like, “I want the good guys to win, the main character to be mostly happy, and for one of the villains to be redeemed,” with no solid details.
When I am struggling to come up with an ending, I try to figure out what kind of end I want. Happy, sad, hopeful, open-ended, or ambiguous? From there I can picture what would be a happy/sad/hopeful ending to my rough outline of a cast and then tweak that to my liking, or to fit the concept.
Sure I want a happy ending for my war story and my main character’s(MC) ideal happy ending would be to survive with all their friends, but that is not very realistic nor does it fit the tone I want. So which one of you are going to die, and how do I show the MC is healing and moving on? Now I know what direction I am heading and what I need to do, even if I do not have a solid idea of the details yet. However, I can now try to figure those important details during Preptober if needed, and not during the time-sensitive, sometimes stress ridden, NaNoWriMo.
Setting The Mood
I will fully admit this might be a ‘me problem’, but I can struggle with visualizing characters and places. This might be my ADHD or my face blindness, but it is an issue. So I tend to make a mood or reference board of sorts using private Pinterest boards, though I will make this NaNoWriMo’s one public.
Here I collect face claims, fashion and clothing styles, scenery, and concept art that fits what I want in my story. When I get stuck on figuring out how something looks I can then go to this board and reference what is closest to what I want and examine how I would describe it.
I sometimes will doodle out the appearance of characters despite not being an artist. For human characters and normal animals, it’s to compare build, size, and style if relevant or something to be contrasted against. For nonhumans it’s to figure out how all those extra or different parts work, or to see if what I am describing works as a functional being.
Remember if you use Pinterest to make boards, be sure to either make them private or make sure to source the pictures correctly.
Gathering Your Sources
Sometimes I have to stop in the middle of writing and go: “Wait, how does that work?” It’s all well and good to break a character’s arm, but if you need them to use that arm later on you need to make sure you gave it enough time to heal or have a reason for it healing faster than it should have.
The healing time of injuries is not the only thing you need to be aware of, though with writer’s habits of injuring their characters it is one most used. Other things you may need to be aware of are relevant school systems, organizational setup, criminal investigations, basic principles of scientific fields, prices of illegal and military-grade equipment, terminology, current trends, historical events, and due processes.
Also, remember to keep things straight and double-check your facts or you might make mistakes. I once accidentally gave a character a physical trait associated with the Japanese Yakuza instead of the Chinese Triad they were actually from. I had the two mixed up and did not double-check the information. This was also a defining physical trait, so lots of rewrites were needed.
Compare Others To Yourself
Yes. I am telling you to compare yourself to others technically, which is usually a big no-no, but I am telling you to do it in a positive way. Find people who have done something similar to what you want to do and figure out what you do not like about their version. Review what you believe worked and what was left unexplored.
For example, let’s say I want to write about monster hunting siblings road tripping across the US for NaNoWriMo. During my Preptober, I would watch a few episodes and read summaries of Supernatural, a TV series with a similar concept, or maybe I have already watched it. I have actually watched most of it … many, many seasons – so let’s move on.
What I Disliked: Despite the introduction of many characters, these characters were often killed and abandoned to refocus on the Winchester brothers. They overly focused on Christen Mythos and gave a less than stellar representation to none Christian religion and mythos.
What I Like: The community of hunters from the early seasons, the various characters that had powers like Sam in the first season were interesting and the ghost stories were well made to the point they seemed like they would fit into the real world. The spin on Bloody Mary was a good concept, as were people’s reactions to the ‘end of days’ events from the bible.
What Was Underused: There were cool concepts in regards to the gray morality of a handful of the demons and angels introduced that never really expanded to others. Some monsters of the week were underused, as was the Horseman Death, and his grim reapers who were only really used to add some spice.
From this, I know I want to have a story that focuses more on the community of these monster hunters and the world’s reactions to the monsters when they appear. I want to focus on urban legends and mythos, other than Christianity, but ‘end of days’ events from the bible still interest me.
I could use the one episode where various gods met together to object to God and the Devil being the ones to end the world when they have just as much right to. I could have my siblings’ team up with their monster hunting community of various backgrounds, to talk down these pantheons from ending the world while dealing with the pre-apocalypse events.
Here you can see despite using an episode of Supernatural as my basic idea, I was able to come up with a vastly different execution for the story.
You might find this helps you, or you may find your own methods or someone else’s works better. Tale Foundry’s Matryoshka Method is still good even if it does not work for you. I encourage you to share what does on Twitter with the hashtags #preptober2020 and #WiseWordsPreptober over on Twitter! Remember to keep an eye on the Preptober & Nanowrimo category for part 3 of Preptober!