NaNoWriMo 2018: So You Think You Want To Write A Novel.1

I’m breaking this up into parts because…I’m me, and brevity and I are not friends, and there’s a lot of info to cover.

I’m going to briefly describe ways to approach writing a novel for NaNoWriMo. I use a lot of links rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

In my previous post I talked about resistance, and now that you are primed to fight the evil lurking within, let’s talk about how and where to start this project.

Writing for NaNoWriMo is different from other types of writing projects. It is fast-paced, and intense for a reason. You need to dedicate yourself to focused creative writing time in order to get those 50 thousand words in 30 days. No editing!

That is the reason I participate. To quiet the inner editor that doesn’t allow me to get words on the page without constant correction. It is sheer creativity pushed to it’s max. 

As I’ve learned over the years, my process requires a bit of prewriting. And likely, no matter what your process is, you do to. Or not – you be you. 

A Word About Voice and Process

Don’t expect to figured your literary voice right off the bat. It takes trial and error, and a bit of self-reflection to recognize and hone that skill, but you will get there.

Process refers to two things. One is an individual’s rituals and predilections, the other is the steps of writing. There are as many ways to approach writing as there are writers. For our purposes, I will be referring to the steps of writing, not Maya Angelou’s habit of renting hotel rooms, sprawling out on the bed, and day drinking – which I am totally down with.

To learn about the writer’s process, read with your favorite authors, see if they have written books or blogged about their writing process.  Research until you have a clear idea of how you might incorporate them into your personal writing practice. Again, it takes time to suss out and likely you’ll fuss about it for years. Pick somewhere to start and go from there.

A good primer on process comes from the two books I’ve already recommended, my go-tos on the matter, Stephen King’s On Writing and Elizabeth George’s Write Away. Each author comes at writing from a completely different perspective, one a pantser, one a plotter.

Here’s an older post on process with links to a few videos.

Beginnings Are Hard

I’m guessing you want to write a novel because you have an idea, or a character, or a message, or a moral…some inspiration that has pushed you to want to tell a story. Those things are merely the sparks, not fully fleshed out ideas, not the things that will carry you through writing an entire novel.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for 8 years now, and I can confidently say that having a plan is much more helpful than a hindrance to creativity. Sure, some naysayers will decry the lack of spontaneity, claim plotting or prewriting in any form inhibits the muse, or corrals your creativity. That’s hogwash!

Writing is the discovery of story, the journey you are on, not the map you follow. You can stay on course or veer off the route any time, and any place. Because that’s the big secret to writing…DECIDING.

Decide – Does my main character like cheese?  Will he fire his long-term employee over something trivial? Will she drive her car off a cliff? Should the children die? Which character’s point-of-view is more effective? Why should the damsel in distress wait to be saved? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

It’s all decision, and you get to make them. And unlike real life – you can take it all back and start over if you don’t like where your going or how it ended. Nothing is written in stone until you’re dead.

Begin The Beguine

That was my mother’s favorite song. I had no idea what a “Beguine” was until a few years ago. It’s a dance…shall we?

Our partners in prewriting are, CHARACTER, PREMISE, GENRE, STORY, and SETTING. You can start with any of them, but if you have no preference, choose premise. Go ahead, pick a partner and hit the floor.

Character

I almost always start with a character. The character will have a problem or a need. There will be complications and conflicts thrown at that character while they try to fix the problem or satisfy their need. If there is no conflict, there is no plot. No plot, no story. 

Once I have a general idea of who I’m dealing with, I write short stories as biographical background to figure out why the character behaves the way they do. What happened to them as children that causes them to react, act, and see the world as they do?  Was there an event or conditioning in their young life that change or shaped them? I need to understand my characters motivation.

Then I make a timeline of their life. When I write the story I will add the plot points, other characters, and events. It’s a big visual help to me to see where everyone is and when they are in relationship to each other. I tend to write stories that span lifetimes. Ya’ll remember that time I lost my timeline? Oh, the despair.

You can use psychological profiles, personality tests, questionnaires, or worksheets to build and develop your characters. They can be a simple as age, height, weight, or as detailed as an FBI serial killer profile.

And, I repeat, ad nauseam “There is not just one way to do this thing!” Pick something and go with it. If it isn’t enough, add another method.

Character development links:

9 Tips for Convincing Arcs

Character and Characterization in Novels

Writer Digest’s Character Development Worksheet

Ultimate Character Questionnaire

Premise and Controlling Idea

The difference between premise and controlling idea is, premise asks the question “What  happens when…?” and the controlling idea is a statement the writer makes to convey her opinion of the premise – kind of the moral of the story. All story decision should be made to support your controlling idea…if you know it. Sometimes you don’t figure that out until you get your story’s first draft out of your head.

I am willing to argue that premise, (in film it’s called a logline,) and the subsequent controlling idea, are the most important aspect to writing and revising a successful story. Without a premise to guide you, how are you making the decision of where to go and what to do? Working that out before you write can act as the grease to your creative wheels. Might not be totally necessary, but it sure makes the journey a lot smoother.

The premise: What happens when… a man with no outdoor skills wants to rescue his soul mate whose trapped on a mountain?

Controlling Idea: A man can overcome any obstacle when motivated by love.

I have a story that started with this supposition: What happens when… a preschool teacher at a religious school is publicly outed as a best-selling erotica author? From that Premise, I wrote the entire story.

When I finally get around to revising it, I’ll need a controlling idea to pull the plot, subplot, characters, and arcs together to support my message. The moral I want my readers to infer, that’s the controlling idea.

My first approximation of it is “When a disruption in education comes, not from a teacher’s moral choices, but from those passing judgment according to their values, society must fight for the rights of the individual.” It’s awful, but you can see where I’m going with this, my point-of-view is obvious. A bit closer… “A teacher’s private life should not be judged by “other’s” values.” Oh well, it stinks too, but I’m getting there.

Recapping: For the purpose of getting through your first NaNo project, a premise is good enough because you might not have the controlling idea nailed down until you’ve finished telling your story.  And if you only complete one step in prewriting, make it Premise.

A few links to help you understand Premise and Controlling Idea

They Are Not The Same Thing

Understanding Premise and the One-Sentence Story Concept

Finding a Successful Story Premise: 6 Sources

Because I like to contradict myself, this link promotes developing your controlling idea to use while you write. I agree, it’s more helpful to have it than not, but don’t get stuck on that when you are just beginning to develop your process.

A few more thoughts…

Story by Robert McKee has been mentioned a few times in various links. If you haven’t read it, or heard of it, he’s kind of The Godfather of screenwriting and story telling. It is one   of those book you constantly refer back to and reread. I don’t know many writers who don’t have a copy.

NaNoWriMo members on the boards are the most generous and helpful group of people I’ve ever come across. I have never failed to find answers to my question on the forums.

Please use NaNoWriMo threads, get to know the community better, find interesting ideas ands resources that will help you. I was poking around the boards today and found this amazing list by Samma Jaye, on the thread…The Writer’s Quick List which was under the heading Helpful Resource and Sites. It’s so comprehensive I haven’t finished reading it yet.

In the next post I’ll cover the other three steps in prewriting, GENRE, STORY, and SETTING. and I’ll tackle plotting as a separate subject after that.

–Lynne

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2018: Resist!

Resist!

Do you have “writer’s block?” Do you find you’ve lost hours and hours to Pinterest or Facebook when you should have been writing? Do you wander the house doing chores like, dusting the crown moulding? Cause that couldn’t wait another minute, eh? If so, I’d like to introduce you to your nemesis…

RESISTANCE!

Four years ago I wrote a post about this very subject. Resistance is the theme of Steven Pressfield’s seminal work, The War of Art. If you haven’t read it… it is a powerful treatise on identifying and fighting resistance.

I like Steven. He is warm, and generous and reminds me of Joe Biden, often wise, sometimes funny, and once in awhile he comes across like your wacky old uncle Joe…read my resistance post here.

Remember, our enemy is not the lack of preparation: it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of your bank account.

The enemy is Resistance.

The enemy is our chattering brain, which if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self- justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.”

Steven Pressfield from Do the Work

What I’d like most for you to know is that you can work through resistance. You just need to show up and do the work, no matter what, no excuse. Put your butt in the chair and produce something, anything. That’s where NaNoWriMo comes in, 50 thousand words in 30 days leaves no room for doubt, or time for resistance,

Writing is like any other skill. You need to practice. It needs to become a habit to build upon your previous work. You wouldn’t expect to sit down at a piano for the first time, or hundredth time, and expect to be a master of it would you? Even when you do reach mastery, you never stop practicing. Right?

Whatever level you are at, whether it is the first time you’re putting pen to paper, or you are on your tenth novel, the process is the same. Write. Write some more. Do it again tomorrow.

There you go. What stops you from accomplishing your writing goals is resistance. What stops resistance is doing the work.

“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”

Steven Pressfield

Resources:

Joanna Penn interviewing Steve Pressfield

Steven Pressfield’s archive of articles about Resistance

 

 

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2018

Greetings WriNoShores and other assorted writer friends!

How about a little warm-up to this year’s NaNoWriMo?

Most of you will have found us through NaNoWriMo, but for those you dragged here by a friend or happenstance, and unfamiliar with this awesome event…read this.

Pantser, Plotter, or Hybrid

For those new to the concepts…a pantser is someone who writes on the fly, a plotter makes decision about their story and and characters before they write, and a hybrid is somewhere in between. How you approach novel writing is personal, and takes time to discover.

My advise is to read about your favorite author’s process. Two books I recommend are Stephen King’s On Writing and Elizabeth George’s Write Away. Both are masters in their genres, and attack writing from very different perspectives.

I’m going to keep this post short and poll you on the Facebook Page as to what subjects you might like to delve into, or questions you might have about writing, and NaNoWriMo. Feel free to ask here too if FB isn’t your thing. Or follow us on Twitter.

More info for newbies and prepping for this November event can be found here on the NaNoWriMo website.

 

–Lynne

 

 

 

2018 Schedule of Write-Ins at Lynne’s House and Sundays at Atomic Cafe with Julia

Here they are…your important dates for 2018!

Tuesday Night Write-Ins at Lynne’s House

Jan: 9 & 23

Feb: 13 & 27

Mar: 13 & 27

Apr: 10 & 24

May: 8 & 22

Jun: 12 & 26

Jul: 10 & 24

Aug: 14 & 28

Sep: 11 & 25

Oct: 9 & 23

Sundays at Atomic Cafe with Julia

Jan: 7 & 14

Feb: 4 & 18

Mar: 4 & 18

Apr: 1 & 15

May: 6 & 20

Jun: 3 & 17

Jul: 1 & 15

Aug: 5 &19

Sep: 2 & 16

Oct: 7 & 21

2017 Schedule of Write-Ins at Lynne’s House and Sundays at Atomic Cafe with Julia

Here are the dates for Write-In’s at Lynne’s House for 2017.
They are the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month, 6-9pm.

Jan 10, 24
Feb 14, 28
Mar 14, 28
Apr 11, 25
May 9, 23
Jun 13, 27
July 11, 25
Aug 8, 22
Sep 12, 26
Oct 10, 24

November is reserved for NaNoWriMo. See their website for scheduled write-ins
December we don’t schedule Write-Ins, but check back here for updates and news about any other meetings or write-ins that get scheduled.

UPDATE: Julia is hosting Sunday’s Write-In at The Atomic Cafe in Beverly the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month, 11am-3pm (they open at 8 so feel free to come earlier if you want!).

Jun 4, 18
July 2, 16
Aug 6, 20
Sep 3, 17
Oct 1, 15

 

NaNoWriMo 2016

Another year has passed, and it is once again time to start planning for NaNoWriMo.

There is a crisp chill in the air here on the North Shore. Rather than autumn feeling like a time of waning I am invigorated by the change of season.  I want to be outside in the  swirling burnt-leaf tinged air, low sun warming my cheeks.

If you participate in NaNoWriMo, this time of year may also bring a slight tremble to your hand and gentle prodding of your brain. Then the pleading begins “Please, let me think of something to write before November 1st!”

Sedate bees float by seemingly lost in the decaying garden. The low cruising geese honk in unison as they materialize over the tree top startling the dog.  I cast about for a plot, a scenario, a tidbit of inspiration.

It is a romantic notion, the muse is. I don’t imagine an unseen entity sprinkling writing dust full of ideas over my head. To me it is work, the enjoyable welcome work of having to think and notice and feel and consider and contemplate. The blank page doesn’t frighten me…apparently finishing does.

This is my 7th year of NaNoWriMo. Another WIP to add to the growing file of unfinished work.  I think a few of them are good. Good enough to finish and put out in the world. Why I haven’t is hard to articulate.

It would be easy to blame the usual writer laments, fear of failure, fear of success, imposter syndrome,  all are valid. Yet, I don’t feel any ownership of them. Which leaves me still wondering, why haven’t I finished? Do I lack the ambition to self-publish?

I thought of not participating this year, or not starting something new. Giving myself the ultimatum “No new novels until you complete one.” But, the process of coming up with a story, imagining what’s next, developing the characters, and words flowing by the hundreds, is the part I like best. I need this part.

I will finish something. It’s getting too embarrassing not to. I was ashamed to admit to someone last week that I have spent the last seven years writing yet having nothing to show for it.

As I watched my friend Satin hand her book over to a buyer, I had my deep pang of jealousy that caught me off-guard. I wanted that. I wanted to be able to say, “Hey, I have a copy of my book in the car, I’ll just run our there and get it for you.”

I’m also tremendously proud of her.  She’s well on her way to her second novel’s finish line. And having had the honor of being an early reader, I know how hard she’s worked to make this one better than the first. Writing only improves with practice, a practice that needs to include finishing and moving on to the next work. She’s my inspiration.

I’m not sure what I’m writing this year but I know as soon as the month is over, I’ll be setting it aside to finish my previous work. No more hoping I’ll be finished by some imaginary date.  May 1st is my deadline to hand over The Illusion of Marriage to my beta readers. I’m trusting you all to hold me to it.

 

 

 

Schedule of Write-Ins at Lynne’s House2016

Happy New Year!
As usual I’m scheduling them 2nd and 4th Tuesdays. Looks like I don’t need to change any of the dates this year. Here it is.

January: 12th and 26th
February: 9th and 23rd
March: 8th and 22nd
April: 12th and 26th
May: 10th and 24th
June: 14th and 28th
July: 12th and 26th
August: 9th and 23rd
September: 13 and 27th
October: 11th and 25th
November: See NaNoWrIMo Scheduled Write-ins
December: None Scheduled.

NaNoWriMo 2015

Oops, we did it again!

Can you believe we have another year of NaNoWriMo under our belts? This is the 6th for me, 7th for Sara, and 12th or so for Sara-with-an-h.

What keeps us coming back?

Each other. At least for me, more than the writing itself, the company I keep has become the greatest compelling force (at least until I finish something).

Seriously, you guys keep me going-kept me going this year. After my sister’s death I did not think I would be up for this. Once we got going though I couldn’t help but find my voice, my story and once again, my writing friends.

I’m grateful for your support and ears and words. The readings at the TGIO Party rocked ! So much talent, so many different stories, so diverse a community-though the commonality of quite a lot of us seeming to have no trouble killing the innocent-that’s slightly disturbing.

To the newbies who joined us this year, I hope we lived up to your expectations. Let us know if there is anything that you would have changed, or if you have suggestions for next year-you will be back-we welcome your input.

Thank you to all the regulars, those stalwarts who continue meeting all year at my house or Plum Island Coffee Roasters.

As usual, we’re taking a break in December but I’ll be posting the 2016 schedule in the coming weeks.

Enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate, but keep writing.

See you in the New Year!

–Lynne