This week: To Prep or Not to Prep a StoryEdited by: Dawn Embers
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Fantasy Newsletter by Dawn
A look at whether not a person might prep before writing a novel or short story. With NaNoWriMo approach (November) one just might start getting ready now, or October 31st, it all depends on the writer.
We're already part way through September and while there are some obvious holidays for many coming in the next few months, for writers we also have that crazy time of year when people try to write a novel in a single month. Others might also be cringing because they will have to hear about NaNo and people's word counts for an entire month+. The challenge might be one month but writing here is year around which brings this starting ramble to the point: any time is good to prepare to write.
Some years I've prepped for novels a month or two in advance. The first time I ever wrote 50,000 words it was helped by spending October taking part in "October NaNoWriMo Prep Challenge" [13+] in order to prep my idea for that particular novel. Since then my pre-NaNo and even pre-short story attempts have all varied greatly in time length and quantity. Sometimes, I spend a long time preparing ahead of time with the occasional outline, putting down character ideas and making notes over world, plot, etc. Other times, like one year with NaNo, I don't even have an idea until the minute I start writing (which once did involve me deciding on my idea for the novel challenge at 12:01 on November 1st, which is literally the first minute of writing for the month).
Not all writers are the same. Some will plan and others will not. These plans will vary though in the case of many fantasy and science fiction (more so than some of the non-spec genres) there is a longer process that we call worldbuilding. That is one major area of prep work that some writers take part in before, during or even after writing a story. How extensive the work gets will depend on the writer too because some can write a couple of pages and be satisfied and others will spend years developing the world of their stories to the point where they might be able to fill up several books just with the prep work.
With prep it's not just a matter of how much you do but also when. Granted, if starting now in hopes of writing in November that is an obvious "prep before writing" style, which is what many might first think of when asked about preparing to write. We might jump to either prep beforehand or don't prep at all but there are more options.
Often times a story will have more than one draft and that gives other chances to do some prep work even after many words have already been written. There isn't a set time to make notes or prepare things for a story. You can even have 180,000 words of a messy first draft done and still put together prep for the future rewrites and edits or for the worldbuilding you (and by you in this case I mean me as this was my approach with a particular novel series) didn't do before writing the first book or two.
It's not just novels either. NaNo is novel based but when it comes to taking time to get ready to write a story, any length will do. Something I need to do before I pick a novel for November, in fact. Prep and worldbuild for a short story that I'm hoping will be less than 18,000 words but you never know until you write. Having the notes ahead of time will help.
Even though I'm not much of a prep type of writer, tend to be more write by the seat of the pants and fix things later type of novelist, there are many options one can take. You can prep before draft 1, after draft 3, just probably not after the final draft. Or you don't need to prep at all. Try not to spend too many years prepping to the point you never get around to actually writing the story though as that can happen on occasion. Either way, find the approach that helps your story and get to work. Have fun, get ready and then... Write!
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Do you do any prep work before writing and if so, what do you do?
Last month I discussed careers and the concept of the jobs different characters have in our speculative fiction stories. Here is a comment sent in on the topic from that newsletter:
Comment by Elfin Dragon - poetry fiend
I think it is important for a character to have some sort of job or career goal. Even my own character who lives for thousands of years has several careers over her lifespan. And each affects her life and those she interacts with during that period of time. Even if a character just wanders around you have to have them interact with others somehow. And how they interact, I think, becomes a kind of job to them.
- Good point. Interaction is important in any scene, genre and story whether it's real world or not.
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