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 figure out your literary voice right off the bat. It takes tens of thousands of words and a hefty dose 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 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 you’re 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 – 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 who is 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 or conclusion 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.  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

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 writing process or project.

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. 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 to, get to know the community, and find interesting ideas and resources. I was poking around there 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

 

 

 

Wednesday Woo: Are You A Hack?

Seth Godin’s blog post this morning struck a nerve for me (it’s only four lines–go read it)

The critic as an amateur hack

Not only is it super easy for us to think of ourselves as critics worth listening to, but writers worth reading.

Let’s never mind the critics since they are so unreliable. How do we determine whether our efforts deserve the reader’s time and money? Or even our own time and resources?

Do you care about the quality of your work? By whose standards do you measure it?

Do you even question the works value? Or is producing it the payback? What makes a work so self-serving merit readers attention?

If you haven’t considered whether the work you are producing is worthy of what you are asking for it (a reader’s time and money) then you are a hack.

But, that’s just my opinion, take it for it’s worth.

Wednesday Woo: Supporting Writers

Setting goals during our Sunday PICR meeting has become a ritual, as has the results–not many of us actually meet them. I fear we, okay I, don’t take them very seriously or in the least not seriously enough. I don’t think we are being unrealistic in our expectations but rather we don’t value our writing as much as we should.

This week George suggested we give him a shout out to make sure he’s on target to reach his writing goals. I like that, it’s proactive. So here you go–get it done George! Times a-wasting.

This conversation got me thinking to November when we ask our loved ones to give us some extra consideration and slack while we try to pound out 50 thousand words in 30 days. And while that is a time-consuming endeavor whose pace we can’t keep up with every month, why do we not afford ourselves the time and focus to write on a more daily basis the other eleven months of the year?

I think we can ask more of ourselves and of our support system, and we should do so in order to protect the very precious writer in us that needs nurturing because no one else is going to do it for us.

What specifically keeps you from writing? I, for one, get distracted by the world-wide web and all its glorious information which I justify reading as “research”. Yeah, I’m sure that video of the baby seal playing with the surfers is going to come up in my opus on marriage. That, and I’m a television junkie. Obviously, I need to unplug, but as many of you know I have Dysgraphia and can’t write with out my laptop. I guess one option is to shut off my wifi connection and not allow myself to wander the byways of Procrasti-nation.

There’s my goal. Shut off the wifi every time I sit down to write.

As for other ways you can be and ask for support, see if you can utilize any of these.

http://litreactor.com/columns/8-ways-to-support-the-writers-in-your-life

http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2014/06/11/how-authors-support-their-writing-dreams/

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/11/09/when-in-doubt-just-say-fuck-em/

Maybe you harbor anxiety about your writing? I know I hold back and don’t finish projects to avoid dealing with the next step. This one is more about creativity and nurturing yourself. Eric Maisel is a creativity coach, one of many hats he wears.

http://podcasts.personallifemedia.com/podcasts/227-joy-of-living-creatively

Wednesday Woo: The Business of Being a Writer

This weeks topic, The Business of Being a Writer, was inspired by questions from Satin at our Plum Island Coffee Roasters Sunday Writer’s meeting. She asked about what type of taxes writes pay and general questions about being a sole proprietor. Sounds like a good Wednesday Woo topic, thanks Satin!

This is a basic overview of being a sole proprietor. It explains self-employment taxes, the rules regarding whether your writing is a professional pursuit or merely a hobby. Also, what types of information to keep track of, expenses, and deductions.

Tax Advise for Writers

Kristen Lamb is one of my favorite writer resources. She is a social media expert who can help you build your brand and platform. A visionary community builder, she has many post that will serve you well as professional writer. Explore her site, but in particular these posts…

Death and Taxes: A Writer’s Guide to Keeping More of What You Make

Authors of the Digital Age-What it Takes to Be a Real Author CEO

Warrior Writer-Formula for Disaster Meets the Recipe for Success (part I)

 

I hope someday one of us is in the position to consider if they need to establish a LLC or S-Corporation.

Tax Tips for Authors: LLC or S-Corporation

Should Authors and Illustrators Form and LLC  (And Other Business Questions)?

Well, that should get started thinking about whether or not you are a professional writer or a hobbiest. I’ll remind you that neither is a question of quality regarding your writing, but of time and expense according to the tax code.

Questions?