It's October first! NaNoPrepMo is finally upon us! Let the bells ring, let people dance in the streets, and let me dust off my chicken hat.
(Well, I wear my chicken hat year-round. But it is especially important during NaNo season. Ooooh, should I let my hat sprint during NaNoWordSprints?)
While I have been discussing plotting versus freestyling for the past few weeks on this blog, this next series is going to be particularly about preparing for NaNo. Maybe it will be more pertinent to those who like outlining, but I would still suggest that you have an idea of what you want to write about, particularly if this is your first NaNo. This week, I'm going to discuss the idea process, so that should help for you no matter what camp you are in.
Day one can be daunting, or exciting, depending on what sort of idea you have. As such, I have a few proposed guidelines for you about your idea. I should add, while I'm putting the NaNo lens on this idea, it's a good checklist for when you start a book regardless.
1. Am I Excited About This Topic?
If you aren't excited about your book, your next month is going to be miserable. If you can't stop thinking about your book idea, if you keep on coming up with subplot ideas, if you want to start writing now, then you're fine. If you have an idea, but sitting down and making an outline sounds like a chore, then you might not have the best idea. Remember: it doesn't matter if the idea has been in your head forever. It matters whether you want to write it now.
And that means this book. If you are excited about future books, about future subplots, about becoming the new George R. R. Martin...that's not excitement about this idea. Maybe you're close to the idea. Maybe you should think about writing the sequel first, a la Star Wars. But make sure you are eager about this upcoming month and this book, first and foremost.
2. Is This A Big Enough Idea?
Writing about a picnic on Mars might sound like fun, but that is really only one scene. You want to make sure that your idea is big enough to take up a whole book. Writing about how two characters ended up have a picnic on Mars will take a while; writing about how an innocent couple are suddenly transported to Mars during a picnic will take a while. But that actual picnic? Unless you're being really existential about things, that's not going to take 50,000 words.
Sure, if you're freestyling, maybe you want to just know your first scene to start off. But make sure there are avenues to continue exploring. Colonization on Mars, earthling invasions...just start thinking about some places to go after day one. If you only have an idea that will take a few days, you need to start expanding your idea.
3. Is It A Small Enough Idea?
This was the issue my first year. I wanted to write about a girl disguising herself as a man and fighting in tournaments in the Middle Ages, but the problem was that it didn't take too long to get to that first tournament, and then I had no idea where to go. Winning tournaments? Taking over a country? What happens next?
If I had shrunk my idea to a girl preparing to fight in tournaments, that would have worked. If I had shrunk my idea to just one tournament, that would have worked. But I had bitten off more than I could chew, and had no idea where to go. Take some time to make sure your idea has a clear progression. You want to talk about earthling invasions on Mars? What happens after the first invasion? Once you can answer a few of those questions, your story is big enough.
4. Do I Know What I Need To Know?
Research if you need to. I could have (and should have) done more research into tournaments before I tried to write a book about it. Maybe you need to write the Martian Bill of Rights (as long as that isn't part of your novel, that's fine!). Maybe you need to come up with character names. Maybe you need to double-check whether surgeons go to the same schools as doctors. But if you have any questions about your topic, start looking into things now.
If you can say yes to all of these questions, you're in good shape for NaNo. If any of these are no? You might still be okay, but you're going to have a harder time unless some sudden inspiration hits. Once I took my tournament team time travelling into modern-day Europe, I was able to write and love it--I just needed to tweak my idea. That's what NaNoPrepMo is for: to prep! Start thinking about your idea, and how it is going to become a story.