Tag Archives: November

NaNoWriMo 2014: Preparing, Week 4 (Final): Outline THIS!

One of the biggest parts of any writing is knowing what you’ll be writing, either by way of post-it notes, corkboard, chalkboard, or whiteboards. Notebooks, on the computer or not, wherever you can get your hands to fly and get your bursting creativity into some kind of writing.

So it makes sense that an important part of NaNoWriMo is to have an outline ready and set for the next 30 days, so you know where to go. There are pantsers, people who write by the seat of their pants without having much of anything prepared, who don’t need the outlines, who are perfectly fine with or seasoned veterans of their whims.

For those of us (me) who feel utterly lost when they don’t have anything planned out, outlines exist. Thank goodness.

Funny enough, I found this guide just a few days ago,  which nearly does my job for me, giving a good explanation of different ways of outlining and examples. It’s a good place to look for what kind of outlining might be best for you, or to see what type you identify with the best.

On the reasons of why to do this, “painting yourself into a corner” is probably one of the best reasons, in my opinion. One year, Friend killed off his MC in the middle of the novel. I know, it’s not terribly exciting, but I love this story, that he issued their death and then went on to finish the novel. He didn’t care for the finished product, but he didn’t stop. Nothing could stop him.

While it’s an awesome story of perseverance, it’s also a bit of a nightmare. Outlining, even if it’s vague and free written, can help you avoid getting stuck. If you know where to go, even just a little bit, you keep away from little plot holes that drag you in and don’t let go.

To know who’s in your main roster list, who they mostly interact with, and to have an idea of where the story is going, is a huge advantage.

I still remember last year when I’d come up with a basic idea of the first few chapters and then froze, unsure of what to do. I just paused and blinked at the screen for a few seconds. Despite having the bigger points and a huge amount of the meat of the story fixed and fleshed out, the beginning area was stumping me. I had months of preparation under my belt last year. At least I learned from that; when you have a big idea, a seriously big novel, sometimes it’s easy to overlook details.

This year I have mercifully made it a much smaller task to finish the novel…

With outlining, you also have a chance to research, which can lead to more ideas and, like the article says, a better flow for creativity, as well as to help with the movement of the plot and conflict. It can change the tone or set of the novel, when it’s just in its first stages of creation.

Any kind of preparation is going to be crucial to the novel and its structure, to how you write it and those terrible moments of brain blanking where you have no idea what you’re going to do next. Where is point A, and where is point B, and how are you going to get there? What is important enough to make it into the grand scheme of things and what’s just filler?

Whatever you put forward is going to help, but if you’re not the type to outline, or you don’t care for it, I invite you to try, even just a little bit. Write out the plot, a couple of characters, and see where it takes you. Free Writing is the best option, usually, for those who aren’t so used to outlining. It helps to just let out a flow of conscious, and you don’t need to be super specific about every little detail going on, save that for the writing come November 1st!

I wanted to squeak in a Happy Halloween to everyone celebrating it, be safe and responsible! And a HUGE good luck to any and everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year, starting midnight tonight, the writing frenzy begins!

My blogging will be reduced by another day or two, or they’ll be shorter. I will try to keep up as best as I can! Happy writing, whether you’re participating or not!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Preparing, Week 3: Guest Post: It May be Ugly, but it’s Mine…

Lesson from Friend, all the way from October 5, 2004

Do you remember when you were in grade school, and you had to make finger paint art, or macaroni art, or put together something out of clay? Do you remember how proud you were to give it to your parents, and how much more proud you were when it was given a prominent hanging space on the refrigerator door?

You’re going to close your eyes, shut off the logical part of your brain that says, ‘This sucks!’ and just write your fool head off. You are going to create art — and you are going to like it. Moreover, someone else out there will like it. They will say, ‘Wow, you did that?’

Why? Because to people who haven’t done it themselves, fifty thousand words is a huge number for them. So it will be impressive even before they open the cover. You don’t even have to show them. You can just answer the question, “What’s it about?” and gloss over the fact that you misspelled ‘refrigerator’ in Chapter Seven.

If they do read it, and they do find the misspelling (and oh boy there will be a lot of them, unless you religiously run your spellchecker before shutting down your word processor), you can say, “Oh, thanks! I haven’t edited the thing yet, that’s helpful.”

Kathy Coleman, of the Tai-Pan Project, I believe, was the one that told me that if your story is good enough, the mistakes matter less and less. Proof positive was the 17,800 word story I’d written, where there were more edits in the front half than the back half.

Write for November. Save your editing for December. Or better yet, January. You have all the time in the world to edit, revise, and clean up… but only November to write.

Q: So… like, you don’t revise at all?
A: Okay, I lied. I do revise a little bit. I go back within a day’s work and …get ready for it… ADD bits in order to flesh out a weak bit of the story. If I think a section of story is a little light on the description or emotion, I’ll re-examine what’s going on there, who the speaker is, and where they are in the story and then embellish on them a little bit more. It adds detail — and it adds to my word count. That’s what you call a win-win situation. I also correct spelling mistakes if they jump out and hit me over the head.

However– I NEVER throw out a part once it’s been written. I never trash a scene completely; you can kill scenes after November 30th, but if you just spent a day writing, KEEP IT. It’s word count. It’s stuff that makes up part of your story, or you wouldn’t have written it. It made sense when you first typed it out. And it builds characters.

Greg Connor , who also finished the NaNo with me last year, wrote scenes in non-chronological order. He’d set up an outline of where he wanted to go, and on any given day, he’d hang a chapter number on the bit he wanted to write for the day, and go from there. Mind, he’d also write Chapter 7.5 — proof positive that you can revise into the middle, too. It’s your story. You can always go back and add scenes.

A part of the key of doing the NaNo is that you have to write to a deadline that’s so huge-looking that you don’t have time to second-guess yourself. Your mind starts filling in the blanks just ahead of the next line of text, because our minds are geared to solving puzzles and setting order to the universe.

NaNoWriMo 2014: Preparing, Week 2: Write-In

The general consensus for any activity is typically that it’s better done with more than just yourself. Sure, you can go it alone, but is it nearly as fun? And is it at helpful as having a good environment of people who help each other with the same interest?

Write-ins, held throughout the month by the municipal liaison (also known as a sort of leader figure for the region you’re a part of) and other wrimos in the area, can be about meeting others as much as about writing as much as possible in an environment that pulses with enthusiasm and encouragement.

They are especially great for extroverts and people who don’t mind the company, whether it’s simply having more presence or actively talking.

Even as an introvert, getting out and meeting other writers has always been exciting to me because sometimes, it feels like an exclusive club, and those who don’t write don’t exactly understand what or why I do what I do. Acceptance, a place that doesn’t make you feel left out. It’s nice, and so were a lot of the people I met at my first outings.

One thing that write-ins remind me of is a phenomenon seen in runners, where if you run slow, and you have a friend that comes along with that has a higher pace, you’ll see an increase in your own performance to keep up. It’s personal motivation to keep going: If the person sitting beside you has 10k words on the first day and still counting, it makes you want to push harder, and focus more.

Though there’s always the possibility of focus being lost. When you spend the time talking to others instead of working, mostly, it doesn’t entirely defeat the purpose, but it does hinder your wordcount.

Kick off parties, whether at midnight on November 1st or later in the day or week, are especially exciting, typically, and you might get some goodies for it (stickers, a calendar for what days you’ve completed as you go through the month, and other small things).

Most-all of these, by the way, are organized via the forums for your region on Nanowrimo.org.

Along with meeting new people at write-ins, you gain a support group, which can also hold true for the online community just as well, if you have friends all over the country, or even the world, who participate with you. You have people to trade experiences with and relate to, someone else to laugh with and bounce ideas and thoughts off of.

For this case, I remember an article from someone or somewhere about non-writers viewing your work and why it’s a bad idea… ( I have been looking for this godforsaken thing for thirty minutes and turning up empty handed still. I WILL find it. It will be here shortly…)

Of course, these gatherings are totally optional. You could spend all November curled up in the safety of your house without a care in the world, but it gives you a chance to get out and meet others if that’s what you like. Personally, knowing there are people like me, locally, who I can connect with, is exciting, most of my friends close by aren’t writers.

I did want to touch again on the online friend groups again, though, because the idea for this post sprouted from a facebook post that got some attention. I know a few people (and encouraged a couple) to do NaNoWriMo this year, and after becoming writing buddies on nanowrimo.org, I got really excited. For the first time, I had a group bigger than two or three people (myself included) that were going to write all through November. I have more people to talk to about the small writer’s blocks and the flash burn outs and the wordcount I surprised myself with, the writing frenzy I got into, or feeling stuck.

Friend is always there with me for Nano, of course, but sometimes, don’t you just feel the need to talk to people and geek out outwardly?

I guess in a way, that is the essence of Nanowrimo write-ins: to geek out with fellow writing geeks and to feel like you have a place to go, if you want.

Some people are more comfortable with staying in or away from it. For those who aren’t, November holds the potential for dozens of opportunities to meet, greet, and geek.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Burnout and Frustration

Today’s small post is brought to you by the Wordsmith’s crunched schedule and an amount of time that feels limited but isn’t really.

I have been running on fumes the past week-ish. After trying to get over a sinus infection, which then got worse, I’ve been struggling against a sickness-induced apathy. I’ve felt drained and out of it for a couple of days now, and I’m not entirely sure how else to combat it other than curling up in bed and waiting until I’m ready to tackle things again.

It’s hard to have days like these, and I’ve talked about it before, taking a break, stepping away for a little bit, getting some room to breathe, but I hate when they come up. I feel like I’m not doing enough, if I’m not being productive, something is wrong, and I’m only perpetuating the problem. I need to write and get into things and I’m struggling again between two story ideas I wanna do for November and I’m making progress there but I feel like I haven’t sunk my teeth in completely yet.

Speaking of November, if you’re interested and you haven’t checked it out already, NaNoWriMo.org just updated this morning for 2014, so you can put in your info and get ready for the next month! Woo!

Tomorrow will be better. It’s been a gross, wet day and I’m all out of wisdom for right now, but tomorrow, it’ll be there. At least, I hope.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Preparation

The last two months before November are known as “crunch time” for me, and for Friend, for National Novel Writing Month, and trying to figure out just what we want to write. Dedicating 30 days and as far over 50,000 words as we can manage isn’t so tough when we can find an idea we love.

Unfortunately, this year’s decision is a lot harder than it was last year, which took me all of a day to figure out before I started a three-four month process on outlining and working out other little details that would shape the novel. So now, after having one NaNo success under my belt, I have other little ideas that are waiting for me to write them out, and I’m not sure which one I want to go with.

Friend doesn’t have too much preparation that he does in comparison. We flesh out ideas and brainstorm and figure some things out, but for the most part, everything remains in his head until November, and then it all gets let loose. I envy that, to a point, but I’m very much a planner in my own right.

I have to know what I’m going to write a little less than I did last year. The year before was my first  year committing, and I didn’t make it. After making it, I have an idea of what to do and expect of a successful month.

It reminds me of something he mentioned the other day. Someone he knows, knows someone who’s done NaNoWriMo for seven years, and what they loved most about it was that it’s practice, and it’s helping them get better, that they can see the progress they’re making.

That’s what I love about November, that at the core, it’s meant to help you, to throw you into thirty days of writing as much as possible and not let you come up for air until the first of December.

It equates to hard and heavy training: If you haven’t been writing all year round, having a full month of daily writing will shape your writing in ways you haven’t seen before. Just as well, if you don’t exercise much daily, and push yourself to do it for a full month, you will see physical results that haven’t happened to you before. 

The difference this time, for me, is that I’m writing daily, even just a little bit. As much as I can, a story, an excerpt, something. But I’m excited to see how this month will go.

I wanted to announce now, too, that I’ll be posting weekly motivation through October for it, in case it’s something you’re doing. I realize now that there are plenty of people who haven’t done it (I know a few authors who haven’t). So for that, I may as well just apologize for cluttering you’re reader if you’re not interested!

On the other hand, if you’re contemplating doing it for the first time this year, please give it a shot. 50,000 words sounds scary, but the real goal is to get you to write every day, and to commit, and to work on finishing something. It is to stoke your creativity. Don’t be intimidated, just go for it, that’s all it ever takes.

Do what you feel is best, anyway, whether for NaNo or just in general. For me, it’s mapping everything out so I know which way to go. For Friend, it’s jumping into it and letting the current take him through.

-The Novice Wordsmith