Preptober: Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is in seventeen days. Whether you’re a plotter, pantser, or plantser, you should be doing some sort of prep during October for the story you’re going to write in November. Why?

You don’t want to spend a month writing a collection of scenes with no plot, no character arc, and no theme. You don’t want to get stuck with writer’s block because you have no idea where your story is going. Fantasy writers don’t want to hand wave a magic system. Science fiction writers don’t want to have characters cross a galaxy and have no idea how long it would take even with an engine capable of warp speed. Mystery writers don’t want to start without knowing that the butler did it in the dining room with the wrench.

Here are some things you can do for preptober even if you’re a pantser:

1. Character profiles: Stories, at least mine, always start with a character who has a dilemma. Figure out who they’re going to need to solve this dilemma and who’s going to get in their way and why.

If you’re a visual person, scouring sites like Unsplash.com and pixabay.com for pictures of your characters is a fun way to get a picture of them in your head.

2. World building: Getting started on where your story takes place is important. The setting sets the mood of your story, provides challenges for your characters, and makes your world feel real. Even if it is the real world, don’t stick a pin on the map and call it a day.

Research weather, find pictures of what the place looks like at street level, etc. What is the government like? How does local law enforcement handle things? Are people religious? Is it a gossipy small town? Where do people work? What is the economy of the area? All of this is important stuff to think about ahead of time.

Is there magic in your fantasy world? Start figuring out what the source of that magic is. What are the costs of using this magic and how will it effect your characters.

3. Plot: Pantsers! Don’t stop reading. You don’t have to do a detailed outline or make scene index cards. If you already have your mc’s dilemma, you have step one of plotting down. Try visualizing the very last scene. The outcome of your story is important. Now come up with four major events and what your character must learn in order for your character to get to that scene you’ve imagined. There. You’re a plantser. You’re welcome. Your zero draft will look much better for it.

Even first time plotters feeling overwhelmed don’t need to do a lot. Jot down in a notebook, index card, or type up in Scrivener a key event for each chapter.

Good luck everyone!

ŠT.J. Deschamps




Published by Tammy Deschamps

Tammy loves to build worlds with words, exploring themes the effect of diaspora on the generations born elsewhere than their ancestors with the backdrop of tech or magic and dragons (sometimes both). These stories are inspired by her own family's immigrant experience. She's queer and many of her characters fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum (though that is not the focus of her work). She's married to an engineer who dances. Together they are raising three precocious teens in the Seattle suburbs. Two of her children are neurodiverse. Her experiences have taught her as much about the world, its beauties and its injustices. All of this comes through in her fiction with a healthy dose of absurd humor.

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