The marX Files: The Haunting of Preptober

October is a special month for writers. Are you ready for Preptober?

“I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times.” – Robert Bloch, Psycho

Act I – Prep-what?

A new week, a new installment of… The marX Files!

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If you are new here, the quick “previously on” is: I am a filmmaker and a writer who has begun the duel journeys of writing my first fiction novel and attending grad school for a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA).

October is a special month and not just for ghosts. It’s a special month for writers… and maybe ghost writers, too.

This time I want to talk about Preptober. No, it’s not about preppy people from the Tober townland in County Westmeath, Ireland. (That would just be weird.) The term, I believe, originated from author and YouTuber Rachael Stephen and she has a lot of great resources for writers who participate. It takes place in October (hence “tober”) to help writers prepare (hence “prep”) for NaNoWriMo.  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a yearly writing event that takes place during the month of November in which participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript. Many a novel was birthed from NaNoWriMo. It is a great motivational tool that reminds me of The 48 Hour Film Project, where a film is written, filmed, and edited in—you guessed it–48 hours. It’s like a college dare that, instead of making you feel regret the next day from a hangover, actually produces something positive, and proves that amazing works can happen if you just do the work.

Act II – Preptobering My Novel

I’ll be participating this year in NaNoWriMo, hoping to get a 50,000 word surge in my WIP (Work In Progress) urban fantasy novel. Which means I’ll, in a way, be participating in Preptober, too.

Normally, you would start a new book project (or you can adapt this to any other format of writing, like scriptwriting), but I can’t stop my novel mid-way. Instead, I hope to use it to give me that push to speed up my process. I have a lot of time left to write my book the way it is scheduled in the MFA program, but I’m about as patient as The Flash waiting for a taxi. I would rather speed ahead and not wait. But that takes a few things: correct mindset, time management, and a good outline.

Hold on, you pantsers reading this (those who like to write by the seat of their pants, a.k.a. hate plotting in advance), don’t start slinging muddy anger my way. I get that outlines or plotting a story in advance is not everyone’s cup of tea. I need it, though, or I freeze up not knowing what to write next. For those that swear by the pantsing lifestyle, I would suggest buying the book Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline (WMG Writer’s Guides) (Volume 9) by Dean Wesley Smith, which explains a method to help you anti-outliners out there. I’ll also include a video at the bottom with more information.

So, that is what a lot of Preptober is about: getting in the right mindset to write 50,000 words, planning out your writing schedule, and outlining your story (genre, plot, characters, etc.).

If you are a writer about to start a new project or a writer who wants to start writing their first project, then you might want to try this, too. And don’t just think it has to be a novel. With a magical thing called math, you can modify the word goals for a short story or collection of short stories, or make it page counts instead of word counts for a script. Just use this as a tool to help you with what you love: writing.

So, what I’ll be doing this month is taking in all of the advice, planning out my writing schedule, polishing the 80+ pages I already have written, fine-tuning my plot now that I know the characters better, fine-tuning character arcs, planning out what future books will have happen so I can better seed those events in book one, switching over to Scrivener to help me with my outlining/organization, etc. So my word count won’t be going up much this month, but I’ll have a very solid start to the novel and will write like lightning in November (crossing fingers). If I’m lucky, I may finish my first very rough draft by the end of the year. Wish me luck!

Act III – Coming Up

Besides talking about plotting, Scrivener, and more, I’ll also be doing a few reviews soon. So watch for those starting soon.

Until then, at the bottom of this column there are a few videos to get you in the Preptober spirit.

Fade To Black…

Marx’s Work In Progress urban fantasy novel (that may or may not take place in the month of October): 14,507 words

Until next time… marX out.

For you pantsers, here is a video where Michael La Ronn talks about how you can write without an outline and the book mentioned earlier that discusses the strategy he uses.

And here are a few videos that go into more about Preptober from a couple of authors who are very experienced with it, Rachael Stephen and Kristen Martin:

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Marx is the author of the non-fiction book Television on the Wild Wild Web, co-host of the podcast GenreTainment, co-host of DC Action Hour on YouTube, and creator of web series/films. He has been a panelist at various conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con, Boston Comic Con, Gen Con, and Dragon Con. As a professor, he teaches script analysis & film production. Click to join his email list or click over to to learn more about him.

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