NaNoWriMo 2020 Planning Journey: What Does Prep Look Like?

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If you’ve been reading along for a while, then you already know that I participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every November and try to write a brand new 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  I encourage anyone who likes writing, or hanging out with other writers, to give it a try and find your local NaNoWriMo community (online) this November.  It’s a great place to meet friends and an amazing challenge to try to get a draft down on paper while ignoring your inner editor and perfectionist.

You may also know that I tend to be what the NaNo community calls an Pantser.  Which is the opposite of a Planner.  Planners have outlines or scene lists or beat sheets, or in some way plan out what their novel is going to look like.  Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants.  This can also be called discover writing in other spaces.  While I’ve been experimenting with planning and plotting in advance (or at least between draft 0 and 1), I’m not very adept at it, but I still do NaNo prep every year.  So what does that look like?

It can look like a lot of different things depending on what kind of world I’m writing and what kind of story.  I’m going to take a couple posts to talk about what that’s looking like this October.  It’s only the second day of the month, so not a lot of work has happened, but I’ve started a process that I plan to continue, and we’ll see how it develops.

I have this history of writing a lot of story before the story starts.  A beta reader told me to cut the first 100 pages of book two, and they were right.  Last year, someone said I’d get an idea the week before NaNo and spend the first 6 days writing back story before I got to the actual story.  That was pretty close to what happened.  (And this was the same person in both cases…my friend really knows me well as a writer.)  So this year, I’m leaning into that.

I have an idea that centers around a female MC, who is going to be important because of the relationships she builds with the other characters.  I haven’t quite worked out why, but that’s not really important because the idea is to track her slowly building up a large group of friends and admirers who each want to be her most special person (whether that’s as a favorite sibling, a best friend, or a romantic partner) and how they jockey for position to be closest to her.  The idea developed from a reverse harem anime I watched recently.  It was just so genuinely nice.  The MC was sweet and caring and genuinely nice to everyone, and the characters in her harem were also genuinely nice people who for the most part liked each other too.  That’s the vibe I’m going for at any rate.

So in order to prep for that, I have to get to know all the characters.  I’m taking them one at a time and writing little scenes that would have been formative for them.  What gave them their life’s ambition?  When did they first meet the MC and what impact does that have on them?  How do they relate to the other characters around the MC?  What was they family or childhood like?  Those sorts of major developmental scenes.

Writing these scenes is also letting me play with the world building.  What sorts of technology is there?  What is magic like?  How much technology do I want?  What is the aesthetic of the world?  Is it a highly class based society or more egalitarian?  What kinds of clothes do people wear?  So far, I’m leaning toward slightly Victorian inspired clothes, a fantasy world with magic but also a hint of steam punk aesthetic with some tech and travel related things, and a definite class hierarchy (at least between nobles and commoners).  I’ll know more about the world as I keep writing and adding details.

Once I have enough of the characters planned out, I’ll start thinking about what order I want to focus on the secondary characters.  When does the MC meet them?  How does the MC feel about them?  When does each SC realize they want to be the MC’s most special person?  When does the MC clue into this?  Does the MC clue into this?  So far I’m writing her as intellectually fairly quick and studious, but socially a little but clueless, so she may not pick up on the hints the SCs are dropping, or at least not interpret them correctly.

I’ll report back in late October about how all this is going, and maybe give a few more sneak peaks at what I have planned so far.  I’ll also let you know what amount of outlining or scene listing I’ve been playing with.  I might actually try out planning each SC’s relationship arc with the MC (to a point at least) and then see if I can interweave them together in a pleasing way that gives the MC a coherent arc as well.  We’ll see how that actually goes, and if I even get to that point.  But stay tuned for more on how I’m prepping for this November.

Next week I have an image prompt and then the week after that is a response, but be sure to check back in on the 23rd for an update, and likely another on the 30th.

Happy prepping, planning, and writing, to all my fellow WriMos out there!

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