Some of you out there might be planning to participate in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. Good on you. It isn’t something for me, in part because the pace demanded doesn’t match my ideal writing pace, and in part because, for me, every month is Novel Writing Month. My current schedule, my current system… it really doesn’t allow me much breathing room between projects.
I’ve compared writing a novel to running a marathon, but that’s not right. It’s going on an expedition. You’re going to trek out there and do some serious Lewis and Clark level stuff to get from staring at a blank page to “Hey, I wrote a book!” And if you were to cross to the Pacific or climb Everest or reach the south pole, you wouldn’t just strap your shoes on and start walking and find out what happens.
No, you’re going to do some prep work. You’re going to get yourself supplied. What does that look like for this expedition?
Here’s my checklist:
- Worldbuilding: At this point, for all the Maradaine books, this is more or less done, but each book will probably have some additional element to investigate or deepen. In An Import of Intrigue, that meant figuring out the street-level of The Little East in finer detail.
- Outlines, Spreadsheets and Timetables: With three (or four) interconnected series in the same city, there’s a lot of moving parts, and a lot of keeping track of what happens when, and how that has repercussions elsewhere. My outlines have a structure that have served me well, and in addition to writing on Scrivener, I’ve been playing with Scapple (from the fine people who made Scrivener) and Aeon Timeline. Both fine programs I recommend for free-form thinking and laying out timelines, respectively.
- Character Work: Every book, at the outset, has a Dramatis Personae, and this file gets updated over the course of the work, as new characters show up who weren’t intended in the original outline. Sometimes minor, and those minor characters blow up as the series progress. Also part of my process is getting myself a visual reference for the character in my head. So I create a facepage of the main characters, digging through actor headshots (here’s a good source) to find people who look like the characters I imagine.
- Playlist: I don’t do too much of this, but I do try to find some music that fits the mood of the book I’m about to write.
All this reminds me, I’ve got to get moving on finalizing the prep work for A Parliament of Bodies in the near future. And you’ve probably got some work to do, also. Get on that.