Three days, seventeen hours, and thirty-two minutes, and the world of people who like to write turns to their version of a padded room. I think that was what my dreams were discussing last night, where I seemed to be alternating lives between a stunt person in a very low-budget movie, and working in a company where no one really cared about me, and I was allowed to wander about all day, wondering what it was I actually do . . . no, wait: that last is real life. I even saw someone I work with in the dream, though they wouldn’t speak to me.
That wasn’t very nice of her. Oh, well. Time to move on.
I’m already seeing the stress in the Facebook groups, among the people who are scrambling to get some semblance of order to whatever passes for notes for their upcoming NaNo opus. I don’t want to say some of these people will, by 10 November, end up like Miss Happy Rainbow Girl to the right, bemoaning the fact that Writin’ is Hard Work, and if it wasn’t for the cat begging to be fed and petted every four hours, I’d have made my one-six-six-six words a day, durrrrr–but that will happen. Hell, it might happen to me. I can’t say.
But it won’t happen because I’m not ready.
As I’ve said more than a few times, having everything set up and ready to go before you see 12:01 AM, 1 November, pop up on your computer, it probably one of the better ideas you could ever have before word one goes into you story. It saves on the Head-Meet-Desk feelings that will come about, oh, about 8 PM, 1 November.
If you are trying to write about something that is out of the norm–like space opera, worlds of magic, vampire stories where the main characters don’t act like hormone-driven fifteen year old kids, but rather, you know, vampires–then you gotta get your world building chops down. I did this for my NaNo Novel 2011, where I was developing a world that was modern day, but which used magic for a lot of things. I had wizards and witches, sorcerers and sorceresses, a demoness, and a lesbian vampire who didn’t act like a Lego block. But most of all, I had the people who laid down the rules for these preternatural people running around my different Chicago, and I had magic–
Which meant I needed to figure out how to work said magic.
The biggest thing about world building is that you have to keep things consistent. If you decide that people can fly simply by sprinkling fairy dust on your butt, then you are not going to fly if you snort said fairy dust down like a line of Mr. Heisenberg’s Finest Product. More than likely your head will explode, Scanners-style, because snorting fairy dust should be sort of like inhaling a kilo of pure China White. Fly or die, baby. Your choice.
This is the sort of thing you have you hammer out if you’re going with something that might not be the same as the world in which we exist. You might even need it for our world. I think it was David Gerrold who once commented that if the rules of your world say the main character can’t use their left hand, at the end of your story, you can’t have them save the day by using their left hand. That’s not just lazy writing: it’s dishonest as hell, and calls you, the author, out as little more than an unimaginative hack. It’s a rule breaker, and in these days of Internet flame wars over things as insignificant as whether or not George Lucas did rape your childhood, any rule breakers in your story are going to get you pillared in short order.
World building doesn’t have to be a long process. Have a few notes ready, maybe a visual aid or two to keep you on track. Remember words and phrases that are important, remember how things work. Little differences are going to make all the difference when it comes to getting your story close to believable. A story is only as strong as the world in which is resides, and if you have a weak foundation, you’ll probably have a weak story. That doesn’t always happen, but the odd aren’t always ever in your favor, folks.
Then again, sometimes NaNo is an experience that is suppose to be fun and games. Maybe you shouldn’t take it too seriously. Maybe you should just write with all abandon, and not worry if what you’re producing is worth a damn . . .