Usually, I figure out what to write by September, giving me a month or so to waste before I construct a setting and cast of characters in a rush. Well, not quite. Typically, I have characters floating around and whichever set clamors the most for attention gets to be written about. Sometimes it works, such as Crossover featuring characters from the S13-verse. Sometimes, not so much, like my aborted paranormal romance.*
Each NaNoWriMo, I try to do something different, something new that I hadn't tried before. The first NaNo I did, the new thing was doing NaNo. So, if I work on a Traveller story, what's new? I've already written an RPG tie-in novel with a Shadowrun story a few years ago. However, strange as it is for me to admit, I've never written a science fiction story set in the galaxy. To date, my NaNo works have included a mystery, a paranormal romance, a text-based graphic novel, an urban fantasy that almost became a paranormal romance**, a cyberpunk novel, an attempted erotica, and a giant mecha story. That last is probably the closest I've come to a "traditional" SF story.
So, this time, Traveller, specifically, the Third Imperium and the lead up to the Fifth Frontier War. This means, I'm using the Spinward Marches as the main setting. However, that still means I have a lot of interpretation to do. I do have the official releases, but the sector is large and, even with the world codes created, still leaves a lot of creativity in the hands of the gamemaster or, in my case, the writer.
I do want my characters to have some degree of freedom of travel. Space is big. Incredibly big. Even the fastest ships in Traveller would take over six weeks to cross the sector, not including time spent refueling. The characters won't have access right away to a ship that fast. I also want to keep the main cast a reasonable size. I like ensembles, but at some point, I find that some characters fall by the wayside and not get enough spotlight time. Typically this is when the main cast numbers five or six. So, four characters. And, a quick check of canon starships later, hey, look, the Scout/Courier has four cabins. Perfect!
Now, casting. I'm going to use Mongoose Traveller for this, at least until my copy of Traveller 5 comes in. (I contributed to the kickstarter with the rest of my /Traveller/ group.) Best way to have the Scout/Courier is to have a member if the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service go out on detached duty. So, there's my first. I do want an alien in the mix, though one that's from an Imperial ally. I'll also needs someone who knows which end of a rifle to point at others. That leaves one cabin unfilled.
Oddly, I've been picturing Philomena as part of the cast. She'd bring an interesting set of skills. After all, you never know when you need a lawyer who can man a laser turret. This means, I should create the rest of the cast over the next couple of months. Maybe do a test run with them as a group to see how they get along.
After that, the plot. The working title, The Sword Worlds Menace gives me an idea of who and where - a Sword Worlder and either in or near the Sword Worlds subsector. Since the Sword Worlds have allied themselves in the past with the Zhodani Consulate, this lets me use the Fifth Frontier War as the backdrop for the drama and adventures of my crew.
This will be a story idea I'll expand over the next few months. I still need a cast, but, with a ship and the crew requirements it'll have, I can start populating the story and work out the first meeting.
* The lead character was more interested in magic than any of the romantic partners in the story. I should salvage the ideas from it, toss the romance angle, and restart.
** This time, the lead character found someone she wanted, even though I wasn't planning the romance. Goes to show me to listen to my characters.