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

 

 

EVENT: Newburyport Literary Festival 2015

An amazing local event the Newburyport Literary Festival 2015 kicks-off Friday, April 24th with opening ceremony conversation between Michael Blanding, bestselling author of The Map Thief, and Boston-based investigative journalist Dyke Hendrickson, followed by dinner with the authors. While the dinner cost 50.00, the event is free. Crazy I know, but what an accomplishment by the festival organizers!

Saturday, April 25th begins with an informal breakfast and conversation with poets at 8:30 am, and closes at 7 pm, this year honoring Jean Doyle, teacher, historian, and author. What comes between those two is no less than 50 scheduled events.

The plethora of writers across genre, and forms is quite astounding. See the full schedule here. I don’t know how I’m going to chose from the many talented, interesting and compelling authors.

If you’ve never been to this event, here’s what happens. First marvel at the schedule. Choose your favorites though have back up choices as some events fill quickly and occasionally there has been a cancellation. Set out for the venue which is, for most people, an easy stroll around the town. They are held in bookstores, the arts center, many churches, the library, and The Firehouse Center. It is busy but pleasantly so. Even a rainy day doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. Go sit, listen, ask questions, engage with your seat mates. Talk to everybody and anybody they are all there for the same reason you are-their love of literature, reading, writing and authors.

One of my favorite events and always impressive is Annual Youth Poetry Slam happening at 2:30 at the Greek Orthodox Church. If you’re looking for me, you can catch-up with me there.

I hope everyone can attend, you needn’t be there for the whole day. There’s no check-ins, or tickets (except the dinner) no pressure, it’s just an enjoyable day spent immersed in the writer’s world.

Afterwards: Did you love it? Please consider a donation to support this exceptionally well run and captivating event.

Wednesday Woo: Music to Write By

Hi Gang, Just a short post today since my daughter is leaving for college tomorrow-weeping shall commence at any moment.

If you are a writer who needs or likes music to write to here are a few links that might be of interests.

http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2012/11/15/music-to-write-by-10-top-authors-share-their-secrets-for-summoning-the-muse/

http://musicforwriters.tumblr.com/

http://8tracks.com/explore/writing_inspiration

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: Writing Communities

One of the many reasons our WriNoShores have continued to get together is the sense of community it gives us. Writing can be a rather lonely endeavor, even when we have the support of friends and family. No one else quite gets the struggle, the joy, and the sorrow of pursuing writing, whether as a hobby or profession.

The thing about these communities is that no one single group fulfills all of your social, emotional or intellectual needs. This necessitates membership is varying types of collectives, be they specific to genre, region, gender, or temperament. They can be serious or lighthearted, concentrated on the craft of writing or the business of publishing. You may outgrow some or redevelop ones you’ve joined years ago, maybe discover new groups that challenge you.

Finding the ones you need that will fulfill where you are in the process can be overwhelming. Here is the beginning of what will be an ongoing resource of communities.

Regional

http://www.nswg.net/

North Shore Writers Group is based in Salem, Massachusetts, but we welcome all writers living on the North Shore — and beyond, if you don’t mind driving! NSWG nurtures writers at all levels by providing supportive feedback and information to help our members grow as writers. Our members are published, multi-published, and not-yet-published, and work in fiction and non-fiction.

http://www.neowa.org/

The New England Outdoor Writers Association is a group of New England-based professional outdoor communicators dedicated to promoting and supporting conservation, natural resources and our outdoor heritage. Membership benefits include a quarterly newsletter, membership directory, conferences and events, writing and photo competitions and craft improvement opportunities.

http://capecodwriterscenter.org/

The mission of the Cape Cod Writers Center is to assist published and aspiring writers of all genres, abilities and ages to develop their writing skills and learn the business of editing, publishing and publicizing; to publicize authors and their works; to provide opportunities for writers to congregate for inspiration, education, and networking; and to introduce readers to authors and their work.

https://www.grubstreet.org/

All writers need insightful readers, inspiration, support, and honest feedback. That’s what GrubStreet provides, in a supportive and thriving community. We offer over six hundred classes and events a year for writers of all genres and ambitions—from first-time poets or fledgling memoirists to MFA graduates and published novelists.

http://www.nhwritersproject.org/

The New Hampshire Writers’ Project (NHWP) supports the development of individual writers and encourages an audience for literature in our state. We are a nonprofit literary arts organization funded by its members as well as organizations and businesses who believe in supporting our region’s writers and literary heritage.

http://www.strawdogwriters.org/

A collaborative open to writers, writing group facilitators, readers, editors, booksellers, publishers and other organizations serving writers, Straw Dog Writers Guild is a vibrant network of resources for the writing community (in the four counties of Western Massachusetts – Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire).

http://www.amherstwriters.com/

AWA is an international community of writing workshop leaders committed to the belief that a writer is someone who writes and that every writer has a unique voice. AWA trains writers to become workshop leaders so that they affirm that commitment in every AWA workshop, with novice writers who have been led to believe they have no voice and with experienced writers who want to hone their craft.

http://www.writersroomofboston.com/

The Writers’ Room of Boston is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting the creation of new literature by providing a secure, affordable work space and an engaged community to emerging and established writers in downtown Boston.  The Room provides 10 private carrels, each of which is furnished with a desk, chair, lamp, power strip, and bookcase.

http://nescbwicritiques.blogspot.com/p/massachusetts-critique-groups.html

Members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators who live in New England can use this blog to find open critique groups.

 

 

 

Wednesday Woo: More on The Business of Being a Writer

I randomly collecting resources I think will make good posts. These recent ones all lend themselves to continuing the conversation on the business of being a writer.

This radio show from Design Sponge’s After the Jump talks about Being Your Brand. As writers I thought you could relate.

Another good site for information on covers, formatting, the business of publishing, etc, on David Gaughran Let’s Get Visible

Serious platform building and marketing strategies from Peter Winick at Thought Leadership Leverage

And last but not least one of my favorite resources Jane Friedman’s interview with Joanna Penn, Being an Author and Running a Business as an Author

Also from Jane Authors and Taxes

 

Wednesday Woo: What I Wrote on My Summer Vacation

A little self-indulgence. Last week I mentioned free writing as an exercise while on vacation. Here is mine, unedited.

Waterfall

A five-foot waterfall of flat stacked grey slabs in cantilevered tiers is surrounded and held up by large round New England field stones.

The water is loud, rushing fast, burbling in torrents down multi-level paths. There are two main tracks both leading to a six-foot basin below where water crashes at decibels that seem too high but after a while becomes background noise, pleasant, almost forcing a peacefulness upon you.

What starts as a smooth sheet spills off a plate, becoming strands of frothy splashes landing on a multitude of palm sized rocks. The water falls hard in clatters, spilling over the edges in a rush to the bottom. All this shaded by a background of feathery cedars, soaring pines and flowering shrubs that hug the edges.

It is hard not to pay attention to the fall. It demands to be heard if not seen. So I watch and I listen. There is constant movement, yet at a glance it seems frozen in time. It takes concentrated effort to tear my attention away, to write. The water beckons one to gaze while sounds whisper their hypnotic call.

The following I wrote for the write-in at my house inspired by my vacation, also unedited. I just wanted to give you an idea of what can flow when you’re free writing. The last one is a bittersweet piece. I was thinking all week about how this is likely my last vacation with the girls for a while.

What Calls Me Out

Craggy faced cliffs of the Maine coast beckon.
No white sand beach or palm ridged shore for me.

Deep green pine, and salty air incites joy,
Where eagles call high and seals low.

Still ponds with large mouth bass beneath
Fields of waterlily pads. Docks with frogs

And logs akimbo to the bank basks the turtles
And I observe the land, the life and feel at home.

Another Night Sky

The night turns cool at sundown
we watch the evening overcome light
darkening woods, deepening shadows.
Tentatively, twinkling pins holes flash
white, red, green, while satellites progress steadily
crisscrossing a diagram of technology
where once only god and goddesses connected us

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain

Hundreds ascend like toads, hopping over rocks, scrambling down the smooth-faced boulders to watch the sunrise over Cadillac Mountain. It is a rite, a passage for visitors to witness the purported first sunlight to strike the Continental US. Hotly disputed between three mountains, there is no doubt the view is expansive, moving and worth the four am drive.

Some are hushed by the serenity, some moved by a spiritual vibe, a religious gratitude, or sheer wonderment of nature, a few with youngster chatter and coo. We all gape, despite a cloud cover that threatens to dampen the show. Clouds break in time for spires of yellow and orange to pierce the downy heads. Streams of peach and ribbons of blue streak in a panorama before us.

Minute changes in the sun’s position creates a cavalcade of photo ops. Sweeping beams pass through slivers of billowy plums. Shapeshifting, the mutating banks of vapor seem to move aside allowing the awed audience to pay homage to Ra.

They Move in the World Without Me

My daughters make plans without my input, though they politely ask permission they do not really need any more. The youngest still tethered to me by age and resources is more independent by nature, now the elder by adulthood.

I raised them to be this way. I wished them to be self-sufficient. Taught them self-awareness, cognition of their surroundings. They possess the strength to be scared and lost, yet not crumble, the fortitude of inner resources to prevail any tumult.

They are capable, smart and eager to engage challenges to their limits. I’m proud, but sense a loneliness ahead of my own making. One I wouldn’t trade for their autonomy but wish I hadn’t wrought upon myself.

They’ll be back-sometimes. They’ll stay in touch-sporadically. They’ll still seek my opinion, for what its worth. But they are closer than ever to being gone.

Wednesday Woo: The Plot Thickens

To plot or not to plot, that is the question.

Not really. You need a plot.

What is a plot you ask?

Nathan Bransford does a good job giving a brief explanation. Do You Have a Plot?

and then there’s this,

25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story by the adored, but NSFW Chuck Wendig

Need to know if you’re overdoing your plotting?

Janice Hardy’s Fiction University is a wealth of helpful tips such as Too Much of a Good Thing: Over Plotting Your Novel

There are many methods you can utilize to help you plot.

Index Cards

Snowflake Method

Joanna Penn’s Mindmapping

or

Sara Toole Miller’s Mindmapping

Novel Outlining 101

Character Driven Plotting

Adding Subplots

 

Wednesday Woo: Continuing Education

Oops. Been a bit crazy here and I forgot to finish Wednesday’s post this week. Up next week will be plotting.  Belatedly–here’s a lazy ass way to give you a bunch of links at once.

If you are a blogger Jon Morrow’s site is essential reading. Boost Blog Traffic

This post is about educating yourself continuously on the craft of writing, 9 Essential Books for Writers.

 

 

Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf
Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf
Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf

Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf
Dorothy Cora Moore today, author of Writing Made Easy: How to Develop a Tight Plot & Memorable Characters. Dorothy is both a novelist and screenwriter, – See more at: http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/05/michael-crichtons-method-plotting-story/#sthash.HH9Y5X87.dpuf