Tag Archives: #NaNoWriMo2019

Time Management #NaNoWriMo2019 #amwriting

If you are planning to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, you will need to develop some time management skills.

Writing daily is easier once it becomes a behavioral habit. Making the best use of your time requires a little self-discipline.

Most of us have jobs and a family, so our time for personal projects can be limited.

First, you must give yourself permission to write.

Your perception that it is selfish will be your biggest hurdle. Trust me, it is not asking too much of your family for you to have some time every day that is sacred and dedicated to writing.

When I first began writing, I was in high school. I wrote some short stories, but mostly I wrote poetry and lyrics for songs. Later I married the bass player in a heavy metal band and began writing songs with him.

During the 1980s and 1990s, as the single mother of three children, I held down three part-time jobs. I couldn’t afford cable, so with only four channels via the antenna, TV was pretty minimal at our house. Card games, dominoes, books, and the library were our usual evening entertainment.

It was during this time that I began to write fiction seriously. We read books so quickly that the library couldn’t stock new ones in our areas of interest fast enough for us. So, when my children were doing their homework, I sat in front of my second-hand IBM Selectric typewriter and pecked out fairy tales to read to them.

In the summer, I did that while they watched videos or played Super Mario et al., on the old Super Nintendo.

That gave me at least one hour every night in which I could write, sometimes more. Yes, I did have to help with some of their homework but having me there, typing away next to the gerbil cage seemed to keep them on track, and I did get several pages written every night.

It was all crap, but I made it sound better when I read it aloud to them.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was developing discipline and a work ethic in myself as well as in my children.

Two of my daughters write fiction as well as holding down jobs and raising families. All five of our kids are hardworking adults who are raising families and who also have an artistic life in music or writing or both.

Having an artistic life means you allow yourself time to create something that is meaningful to you.

The following is a list of ideas to help you carve the time to write  and still be a full participant in your family’s life.

  1. You must decide what is more important, your dream of writing or watching a television show that is someone else’s dream. Do you want to create, or do you want to be entertained?

Personally, I would say that if you didn’t like the way Game of Thrones turned out, too bad.

It was George R.R. Martins creation, and he did it his way. He has written more than thirteen novels, numerous short stories, novellas, and too many screenplays for me to count.

GRRM did all that by sitting down and writing every day. He is an award-winning author because he makes the time to write despite his heavy schedule as a speaker, screenwriter, and editor.

So, don’t waste your time complaining about how George did it and don’t bother searching for a replacement show. Write your own Game of Thrones and do the way you think it should have been done. Writing fan fiction is a great, time-honored way to start your writing career.

  1. You have the right to take an hour in the morning and the evening to use for your own creative outlet. Get up an hour early and write until the time you would normally get up. That will be the quietest time you will have all day. Give up that 9:00 p.m. TV show and write for one more hour. There are your 2 precious hours.

If you use those two separate hours for your stream-of-consciousness writing, you could easily get your 1,667 words written every day, possibly more. I am a slow keyboard jockey, and I can do about 1,100 wonky, misspelled words an hour during NaNoWriMo.

But they ALL count, misspelled or not.

  1. Write for five minutes here and ten minutes there all day long if that is all you can do. Every word counts toward your finished manuscript.
  2. I took my lunch to work and wrote during my lunch half-hour whenever possible.
  3. I also wrote on the bus when I didn’t own a car.

You don’t have to announce you are writing a book if you don’t wish to—I certainly didn’t feel comfortable doing so. If you want to spend your lunch time writing, politely let people know you’re handling personal business and won’t have time to chat.

Some offices will allow you to use your workstation computer for personal business, but most of my places of employment frowned on that. I brought a notebook and pen as I didn’t own a good laptop. By writing down all the thoughts and ideas I had during the day, I had a great start when I finally did get a chance to write. If your work allows, bring your laptop or your iPad/Android. So you don’t get into trouble with the boss, sit in the lunchroom (if you have one).

You can also set aside a block of time on the weekend to write, though that can be difficult, as setting aside an uninfringeable time on a weekend can become a hardship, especially if you have a young family. This is where getting up early for that one quiet hour can really keep your story flowing out of your head and into the keyboard/notebook.

Writers and other artists do have to make sacrifices for their craft.

It’s just how things are. But you don’t have to sacrifice family for it. Sacrifice one hour of sleeping in, and sacrifice something ephemeral and unimportant like one hour of TV.

By  writing in short bursts whenever you have the opportunity, you might get your first draft finished, and get that certificate that says you completed 50,000 words in 30 days.

But more importantly than any winners certificate, you will have created something special, something unique that is a piece of your soul, your intellectual child, as it were.

A novel is nothing but an idea and the discipline to sit down and write it from start to finish.

Inspiration and self-discipline—that ability to start and finish a project that began as an idea, a “what if,” is what creative writing is all about.

You can achieve your goal of 50,000 words in 30 days if you give yourself permission to create and make the time to do so.

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#NaNoWriMo2019 Prepping: Setting #amwriting

If you follow this blog and you are planning to write a novel in November, you now have the first three key elements you will need to begin:

  1. Plot: Devising a Plot in 8 Questions
  2. Outline: The Outline for Pantsers
  3. Characters: Prepping your Characters

All you need now is a world to set this story in. Prepping now will save you time when you begin the 30-day challenge.

Worlds evolve as we write the first draft, but it helps to have a solid idea of where we are setting the story at the outset.

What follows is a plan to help you lay the groundwork for the world in which your novel is set.

Picture the opening scene.

Open a new document and give it a title, such as your_book_title_worldbuilding.docx

Simple and clear labels make a good file names. You want one that clearly says “this is world building” for whatever you have titled your novel, and if you put it in the same folder as your manuscript, you will be able to easily find it.

Here is a short list of questions to help you begin the process:

  1. What is the name of the world in which the story opens? What is the name of the town/village where the protagonists are living? Place names can give the reader an idea of the sort of town or village it is set in.
  2. Does it take place on earth in a real place? If so, do the research and use Google Earth and Google maps.
  3. On earth in an alternate time/place? Make that clear at the outset
  4. Is it set on some other world entirely? The best way to make the fantasy world real is to visualize the scene clearly. Blend the real world into it and write out all the details that will never make it into your story.
  5. Where is the protagonist, indoors or out? Is it a gentle or a hostile environment? Does the environment work for or against him/her?
  6. If the setting is indoors, is it home, an office, a shop, a smithy…etc. etc. How does the protagonist fit into this place? Are they visiting, or do they live/work there? List the furniture and other objects that the characters interact with and know where it’s placed.
  7. Looking through their eyes, what emotions do they feel about the world around them? THIS DOES NOT HAVE TO GO INTO THE NARRATIVE, as this is backstory for you. It will evolve into the story organically as you write.

Now we get to the tactile parts of the setting:

  1. How does the air feel, and what scents and odors are common to that place? The smells, the sounds, the way certain doors creak are all good things to know.
  2. What is the quality of the lighting both indoors and out? Is it dark, bright, subdued, glaring, etc.?
  3. If they are out of doors, what is the weather like? Weather is crucial and impacts your characters’ ability to easily go places.

On this world-building document, write every single detail the characters see and feel, from the largest down to the insects. Keep adding to it whenever you think of something new. The act of designing this scenery builds the world in your mind. For my own work, I stick with the familiar, with some unfamiliar creatures thrown in for fun. Use all the power words you can think of to build that world.

As you write the first draft of your novel, the world you are creating will grow and evolve. I highly recommend two things:

  1. Draw a quick, simple map, such as the sample map to the right, if your characters are traveling in a fantasy world—it doesn’t have to be fancy. This way your place names and directions won’t inadvertently shift as the book progresses.
  2. Make a list of character names and place names, and any words that are unique to your world and your story. This will be your reference manual for this novel and will keep the spelling from evolving as you get further into the story.

A world is more than the environment. You should have an idea of how your society works, to ensure your characters are firmly in your mind at the outset:

  • How is your society divided? Who has wealth?
  • Who has the power? Men, women—or is it a society based on mutual respect? Is one race more entitled than another?
  • What place does religion have in this society? Is it central to the governance of the society, or is it a peripheral, perhaps nonexistent thing?
  • What passes for morality? Is sex before marriage taboo? What constitutes murder, and how is it viewed? You only need to worry about the moral dilemmas that come into your story.
  • If a character goes against society’s unwritten or moral laws, what are the consequences?

This is atmosphere. This is knowledge the characters have, but the reader does not.  The way you convey this is to show how these larger societal influences affect your character and his/her ability to resolve their situation.

Fantasy worlds often involve magic. If magic is central to your story, it is essential that you have finite rules for limiting how magic works.

Unlimited power is completely unbelievable. If magic is part of your story, rules and limitations create the tension that moves the plot forward.

  • Who has the magic, and what social power does this give them?
  • What are the limitations of his/her powers? How does this hamper them?

Each time you make limits and frameworks for your magic, you make opportunities for conflict within your fantasy world. Conflict is what drives the plot. There can be an occasional exception to the rules, but there has to be a good reason for it, and it must be clear to the reader why that sole exception is acceptable.

Spending an evening working these details out before you sit down to write will make your work go faster. Many things will change as you go along, and better ideas emerge, but having the jumping off point will get you out of the gate with confidence.

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Devising a Plot in 8 Questions #NaNoWriMo2019 #amwriting

Sometimes I have these random ideas and think, “Wow! What a great idea for a story – if I had the time to write it.” I keep a document pinned to my desktop, one that I write down topics and ideas for stories on.

Good news! November is National Novel Writing Month, and that’s the time to pick one of those ideas and build the first draft of a novel.

Let’s say one of the plot ideas is for a pair of characters who are thieves-for-hire, set in an alternate renaissance reality.

I will list eight questions: the basic premise of the story will be answered in these eight questions.

Each answer is simply one or two lines, guideposts for when I draft the outline (next post).

1. Who are the players? Pip and Scuttle. Two orphaned brothers who grew up on the streets of Venetta, a medieval city, but who have a strong moral code. Now adults, they have become what is known as “Discreet Thieves,” professional retrievers-for-hire who reunite their clients with their lost or stolen valuables.

2. Who is the POV character? Scuttle, the older brother.

3. Where does the story open? In a pawn shop.

4. What does the protagonist have to say about their story? Scuttle swears they aren’t thieves. They are believers in God and the laws of the Church. They only retrieve items belonging to noble clients with impeccable reputations and do it with no fuss or drama.

5. How did they arrive at the point of no return? A highly placed Cardinal has hired them to retrieve an item, neglecting to tell them:

  • It is equipped with a curse that affects all who would steal it from the rightful owner. (Haven’t figured out what the curse is yet.)
  • It didn’t belong to him in the first place.
  • He intends to use it to depose the true Pope, and become the ruler of both the Church and Venetta.

6. What do they want and what are they willing to do to get it? They will do anything to get the curse removed from themselves and prevent the evil Cardinal from using the object against the Good Pope.

7. What hinders them? The Cardinal has kidnapped Mari, Scuttle’s lady, and holds her in his dungeon, forcing Scuttle to do his bidding.

8. How does the story end? Not sure. Is there more than one way this could go? Yes, so I’ll list them as they occur to me.

Even if I choose not to outline, the answers to those questions make writing a novel go faster because I know what happened, what the goal is, and why the goal is difficult to achieve. I may not know how the story ends exactly, but I will by the time I get there.

At the beginning of the story, what does our protagonist want that causes them to risk everything to acquire it? How badly do they want it, and why? The answer to that question must be that they want whatever it is desperately. In this case, Scuttle wants his lady released from the Cardinal’s dungeon. He’s terrified that she’s being abused, and fears she’ll die before he can rescue her.

Question number six is an important question to consider. What moral (or immoral) choice is the protagonist going to have to make in their attempt to overcome the odds and achieve their objective? Will Scuttle be forced to become a spy for the cardinal? Will he be pushed to sell out Pip? I don’t know yet, exactly. This is a spot where I can write the outcome in several different ways.

Many final objectives don’t concern issues of morality. However, if you are writing genre fiction, all final objectives should have consequences and should involve a struggle.

The answer to question number seven is vitally important because the story hinges on how the protagonist overcomes adversity. What hinders them? Is there an antagonist? If so, who are they, and why are they the villain of the piece?

Answering question eight is crucial if I want to have a complete novel with a beginning, middle and end by the 30th of November. Endings are frequently difficult to write because I can see so many different outcomes. Because it is NaNoWriMo, and every new word I write counts toward my goal, I write as many endings as I need to.

This is where making use of scene breaks can be your friend. In the NANoWriMo manuscript, I simply head that section (in bolded font) with the words Possible Ending 1 or 2, or however many endings I have come up with.

In the next blog post, we will take these eight questions and draft a loose outline for our novel. I say loose because nothing I write ever follows the original outline.

Writing is like the art of the sculptor; we sculpt and reshape the story as we go.

The finished piece looks nothing like the block of stone we carved it from.


Credits and Attributions:

Portrait of German-American sculptor Elisabeth Ney with a bust of King George V of Hanover, 1860, by Friedrich Kaulbach. PD|100. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Elisabeth Ney by Friedrich Kaulbach.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Elisabeth_Ney_by_Friedrich_Kaulbach.jpg&oldid=286953027 (accessed November 27, 2018).

 

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Prepping for November #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2019

November is National Novel Writing Month. Every year starting on November 1st, several hundred thousand people sit down and attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

Most will do this while holding down jobs and raising kids.

I began participating in NaNoWriMo in 2010. For the first four years, 2010 – 2014, I used the month of November to lay down the rough draft of an intended novel. However, in 2015, I already had two novels in the final stages and one simmering on the back burner.

What I lacked that year were short stories. I decided to write a short story collection because I knew I had to build my backlog of submittable work. As a result, and despite suffering a respiratory virus during the entire month of November, I wrote 42 short stories for a total of 105,000 words.

That’s not counting the blog posts I also wrote. NaNoWriMo 2015 was a prolific year despite the plague!

That was such a boost to my short story collection that I did the same in 2016 and 2017. I worked on a novel in 2018 and also wrote short stories, so that was a “blender” year.

My first year, 2010, was difficult in many ways. My story arc wandered all over the place, my main character sometimes disappeared for several chapters, and my hokey prose got away from me.

But that year was a great experience. I learned how to prep for the month of madness so that it can be a productive 30 days. I learned that October is an important month, even though you aren’t writing for official word count.

October, cold and dark, is your NaNo Prep Month.

I have a number of tricks I will share with you each Monday during the month of October, all aimed toward helping you succeed at your writing goal during National Novel Writing Month.

My goal is that on November 1st, you will be able to hit the ground running.

Once I have the foundations laid, I can write off the cuff. That is how three of my books came into existence.

For many participants, the challenge of sitting down and using the “seat of your pants” style of creative writing is what draws them to sign up.

Many authors are unwilling to commit to NaNoWriMo because it takes discipline to write 1667 words a day.

Also, they fear having to recoup any perceived losses should they find themselves in the middle of NaNoWriMo when they suddenly realize they’ve gone terribly astray. Or they fear writers’ block.

It happens.

Not to me usually, because I know the secret: If you can’t write on the subject you intended, write about what you are experiencing and what interests you at that moment.

I know; ranting on paper about your life is not writing that fabulous fantasy novel you began but don’t know how to finish.

But you are writing!

The answers will come, sometimes in the middle of a rant about your evil mother-in-law.

The key here is you will be writing, and that is what is important.

Rule 1 of NaNoWriMo: SIT DOWN AND WRITE.

Rule 2: WRITE AT LEAST 1667 WORDS EVERY DAY.

Rule 3: NEVER DELETE WHAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN, NO MATTER HOW GARBLED OR AWFUL OR OFF TOPIC.

There are 2 ways to create the official manuscript that you use to upload to the national site every day.

  1. Type it all in one document. When you don’t like something, just change the font color to red in that section and begin rewriting the scene the way it SHOULD have been written in the first place, using the usual black font. Every time you rewrite the scene with a slightly different outcome, it counts toward your word count. Your official wordcount manuscript will be a lo-o-o-ong, multicolored thing of beauty for a few weeks.
  2. OR, you can write each new section in a new file but paste all of them into the official manuscript at the end of your writing session. I make notes as I go for my later rewrite because if I don’t leave a message for myself, I will forget until my beta reader (who is a structural genius) points it out.

December is “Read-‘em-and-Weep” month. That is when we go over the ramblings of November and doubt our sanity.

In December, save what you want to discard in a ‘Background File’ in the same folder as the main manuscript. By doing that, you don’t lose prose you may need later.

During National Novel Writing Month, every word we write over and above 50,000 counts toward the region’s total word count. Once I hit that mark, I keep plowing ahead right to the bitter end.

Other people stop when they make the official winning word count. It’s a stressful month, so how you handle it is your choice.

If you want to sign up for this year’s month of madness and mayhem, get on the internet and go to:

www.nanowrimo.org

Sign up, pick a NaNo name – mine is Dragon_Fangirl, and you are in business. Look me up and make me one of your writing buddies. Spend the rest of October organizing what you think you will need to begin your story on November first. Then, on the first day of November you begin writing. If you apply yourself, and write (AT the minimum) 1667 words every day, on the 30th of November you should have a novel…or something.

In reality, if you set aside one or two hours a day, and pound out the words as fast as you can during that time, you will get your word count. Never delete, and do not self-edit as you go along. Just spew words, misspelled and awkward as they may be. They all count, readable or not, and it is the discipline of writing that we are working on here, not the nuts and bolts of the good manuscript.

Revising and correcting gross mistakes will come after November 30th. The second draft is when you have time to look at it with a critical eye. What you are doing now is getting the raw ideas down before you forget them.

Never discard your work no matter how much your first reader says it stinks. Even if what you wrote is the worst crap she ever read, some of it will be worth saving and reusing later. (And don’t ask “Sharp Tongue Sally” to read your work again because if she can’t find at least one good thing, she’s not a good beta reader.)

Spending a month immersed in stream-of-consciousness writing is not a waste of time. You will definitely have something to show for your efforts, and you will have developed the most important skill a writer must have: self-discipline.

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