In less than four weeks, November will be here, and with it, National Novel Writing Month! As I’ve mentioned before, NaNoWriMo gets a lot of heat on the internet, and the consistent criticism I’ve seen is that it encourages participants to produce subpar products. I have a couple problems with that critique, because I don’t think it’s fair. It assumes that the writers participating in NaNoWriMo signed up on October 31st with no prior thought about their novel. Maybe some of them did, but I seriously doubt that’s the bulk of the writers. Second, it also assumes that working on the novel ends November 30th. Completely untrue. Anything that it thrown together in one month will be far from perfect – but the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to achieve perfection, it’s simply to finish. Any writer who is serious about this endeavor knows that there is a lot more to do in December and the months beyond.
Let’s go back to the first assumption – that writers are jumping in with no preparation. While I wouldn’t say that I did that last year, I was definitely not as prepared as I could have been. I’m trying to fix that in 2014. But before I can get to preparation, I face a more difficult dilemma: choice.
I have three projects that are currently in progress, and while I would love to continue on any of them, I know that the rules of NaNoWriMo say that I need to start something new. I’m debating between two ideas. One idea falls into the category of science fiction, while the other is more of a dark fantasy/horror. The science fiction story, like the novel I wrote last year, involves time travel, so I’m a little reluctant to repeat that concept so soon (even though the plot is completely different). The fantasy/horror story seems more challenging to me, because it will require a lot more worldbuilding, and because I don’t have a clear outline in my idea. But I’ve been thinking about that one a lot more, and so I have a better grip on the characters. I think I’m leaning toward the fantasy/horror story at this point, if for no other reason than that it’s writing in a new genre, but the concept of worldbuilding another dimension for this novel is terrifying. None of my previous projects have required extensive worldbuilding – what if I’m terrible at it? (Ah, there it is: That quiet yet determined voice of criticism in the back of my head).
The answer to this problem is clear: preparation! If I’m writing a fantasy novel that involves a different world, I need to sit down before November 1st and flesh out what that world looks like. I can’t wake up on November 1st without the bones of the world built. Just like I shouldn’t sit down to write without having my main character at least somewhat developed in my head, I shouldn’t sit down to write this story without a structure for its world.
What are you doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo? Have you picked your story yet? What factors did you consider in picking?