NaNoWriMo Prep: "The Hailstorm Approach"
In continuing celebration of the fast approaching NaNoWriMo, I want to touch up on another approach to accepting the challenge before October ends.
This approach is called "The Hailstorm Approach." The short version: this approach helps you surge through a last minute preparation for getting your project ready to write out. In my ever favorite way of writing out lists, I will go into more detail of what this approach is and how best to put it into practice. So if you're only now trying to get your project together, I'd skim through this blog post.
1) Let's Pick Genres, State Your Basic Plot in One Sentence
This probably goes without saying but you need to know what your story is going to be about before you start scrambling with that first sentence. Chances are you already have this part down; if not here's your chance. Tumblr and a bunch of other websites all over the internet have pages of one sentence word prompts. You'd be surprised what good it would do to simply invest in a random project for the sake of practice.
At this stage, there's no reason to sweat the small stuff. Just condense your story down to something that's focused and ready to go. If you're planning on writing a genre-mashup or NaNoWriMo, do it, just make sure you know which.
2) Laundry Lists are Your Friends (I would know)
Since we're at cramming time at the end of October to get this project together anyway, we might as well get some direction once we've picked out our genres and written our one sentence summary. Make your chicken scratch list of plot points, where the characters are going to fit in to said plot points, etc. Just get this kick starter list going because you'll need it.
You should also list elements of plot you absolutely adore and list them too. Say, for example, in any murder mystery genre, you just love those red herrings that had deeper meanings than simply leading your detective to a dead end hallway. No specifics necessary, but list on your laundry list of things that you definitely need symbolic red herrings to appear in your steampunk mystery project.
3) Fence in Your Plot to Keep from Meandering
Let's now start figuring out in your laundry list of a plot, where acts one, two and three occur--from beginning to end. This doesn't need to be perfect, but just have a rough place in which we should be dividing up these acts. A great way to do this is to use the "Three Disasters" structure. This structure basically entails throwing three disasters your protagonist(s) will have to overcome; one disaster in each act. Once this step is done, you'll have given your project some bones. More importantly, this step will simply put up the fences that keep your steampunk mystery from randomly becoming a contemporary romantic erotica.
4) Characters and Aspects
Just make a quick sketch up here. If you've been writing for a while, you know characters, when written, must have at least a good ten aspects attached to them. These aspects involve many things like: physical appearance, personality (quirks among these), goals, motivations, dialog, tropes you'll eventually be working through, etc. At this stage, don't worry about being consistent, just have a basic goal in mind. The rest will easily follow when the time to actually write and explore begins.
5) Conflicts and the Relationships that Come With Them
Now we're tying the characters together. Figure out who are the lovers, the rivals, the best friends, the backstabbing traitors, whatever it is. Figuring this out will do wonders with figuring out just how your scenes will play out. Again, don't worry about setting all this in stone now, just spit-ball everything so you can figure out what will stick.
6) Summarize your Major Characters
Speed-date your way through story arcs of each of your characters. Summarize how they're perceiving the world and how they will navigate the plot. You'd be surprised how this helps to choose your main character versus your supporting ones. You'll have time to sort the finer details later so just march on through.
7) Make Another List! For You Scenes This Time Though...
Ok, here's the end of our list (few)! For this step, get your word processor open and make your roughest drafts of scenes. They don't have to be what will make the final cut, but just get a feel for how your characters will deal with one another in high and low pressure situations. Play with point of view, intensity, whatever relationships tickle your fancy, etc. The major point being that this is the time for you to really be figuring out through who's eyes and experiences you want to navigate the project in November.
This will be one of the first make it or break it times in this new project's life so choose wisely. Get through this framework if you've fallen behind and you'll make it just in time for NaNoWriMo!