My NaNoWriMo prep usually starts in September. I take any one of the handful of ideas floating around in my head at any given time and begin to flesh it out into as much detail as I can. I start with a basic plot that grows and develops as I build my world and give birth to my cast of characters.
I never go at it alone. I always surround myself with my fellow writers, asking them for advice and help when I need it and offering the same in return. It’s with their assistance that my world takes shape into something more than just a tiny pebble of an idea and forms into something greater that I can work with, in which I can give my characters and my plot a home.
The characters are the most important part of my stories. Without them I’d have an empty and boring world devoid of life and the action intended to keep readers turning the pages, hungry for more. It’s on my characters that I spend the most time. I always start with my main character, giving them just enough life that they can begin to talk to me and tell me about themselves: their mannerisms and flaws, their qualities, their motives and how they intend to reach their goals. I develop my other characters around my main character so when it’s time to start writing they can support and help or, in some cases as with an antagonist, hinder the main character on their journey to accomplish their main goal. I treat my supporting characters the same way I do my main character, letting them shape themselves. In a way, my characters write their own story.
I also spend a lot of time doing research. In my experience, there isn’t any story that couldn’t benefit from some research. Sometimes it’s in-depth historical research, or researching a bit of science I’m not already well enough acquainted with or need to brush up on. Other times my research consists of studying works by other authors who’ve “mastered” the genre(s) I intend to write in to become more familiar with the styles and methods they use to become successful writers and produce best selling works. On the occasion that I set something in a place I’m not familiar with, I take quite a bit of time to research the setting of my story. Sometimes even setting a story in my hometown requires a bit of research.
And then, of course, there’s taking time to put together a playlist that helps to keep the words flowing. Sometimes I’ll seek out help from a few artistic friends who help me to more clearly see my main characters by doing sketches based on the info I share about those characters with them. There’s also the search for a cover, even just a temporary stand-in during NaNo season to keep me motivated. And I never seem to be able to really get going once November 1st rolls around unless I’ve got even just a temporary working title for my project.
By the end of October, I’m always anxious and ready to roll, eagerly counting down the seconds to midnight on November 1st when I can finally put my pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard and start my 30-day marathon of writing to hit my 50,000 words.