October is typically “prep month” for NaNoWriMo. Because I was finishing my latest draft of Strange Music, I didn’t start “prepping” for my NaNo novel until about two weeks before NaNo commenced. So I had quite a bit to do in a hurry!
NaNo 2016 novel is A Long Gaze of Fire, and I decided to tackle a type of story I haven’t tried before: an epic fantasy.
All my previous stories have been small-scale affairs: the novellas (~25k words) Strange Music and A Dirge for the Amphiptere are, for all intents and purposes, one-room dramas with tight focus on character and where the MCs’ incompatible goals and inner struggles are the main sources of conflict. My NaNo novels, Dragon Within (which I’ve written about on this blog) and Highland Story, have external conflicts but are also largely concerned with the MCs’ personal struggles. Long Gaze would have a substantially larger scope: a big external conflict, bigger stakes, and a much larger cast with more complex interaction.
So, an epic fantasy is something quite out of my experience. So, how does one prepare or plot out such a large-scale story?
…No idea. I’m still figuring it out, but what I did this year…
Based on what I learned about the separate threads of plot progression and character arc, I decided to plot out Long Gaze this way, by determining the main characters’ growth arc and the main narrative conflict separately. Of course, the character arcs were easier to conceptualize and I focused on getting to know the three protagonists’ internal motivations and desires, and some of the interpersonal conflicts between them.
I wasn’t so clear on the main narrative conflict. Oh, I knew that protagonists’ goals would clash with the antagonistic force’s goals, but in focusing so hard on the protagonists’ character growth arcs, I had neglected to work out the antagonist’s own motivations as pertained to the main plot. At the time, just knowing the big shape of the conflict seemed sufficient to start NaNo with. Unfortunately that didn’t quite work out so well (which I’ll write about in time).
Still, this was the shape of my NaNoWriMo prep: delve into the character growth arcs, work out a rough shape of the main plot, and outline the first few major milestones that comprise the first half of the novel. So that’s how I began NaNo.