Tag Archives: novel

Are You Ready For NaNoWriMo?

press-start-fa915ffe8a6fb32bb3eabf7f771620b4With only two weeks to go until NaNoWriMo begins for another year, are you prepared? As a previous (multiple) NaNoWriMo ‘winner’ I’m here to help you get ready for November.

STEP 1:

Have you signed up to the official NaNoWriMo site yet? If not, don’t forget to sign up. It’s a great way to keep track of your word count over the month, and to keep track of any friends who are also taking part. Explore the forums and sign up to your local area group to get motivating emails throughout the month.

STEP 2:

Do you have a plan? Although one year I managed to write 50,000 words on a novel by pantsing, I believe having a plan can be a great help. Even just a dot point outline can give you something to refer to when you get stuck so you can remind yourself where you want the story to go. I personally like having a skeleton outline, which you can read more about here.

STEP 3:

Do you know your characters? Getting to know your characters before you start writing can make it easier to get into their heads as you write. Here is a post on various ways you can get to know your characters before NaNo.

STEP 4:

Have some handy writing tools at your fingertips. Here is a list of links to writing tools to help you during NaNo, such as Write or Die (which is GREAT for motivating you to reach your daily word count).

BONUS LINKS

Links to help you with plotting your novel.

Links to help you bolster your word count.

– And don’t forget my master list of links, including links to posts on character, tension/pacing, and much more.

BONUS TIPS

– Keep a notepad and pen with you at all times during NaNo so you can write whenever you get a moment.

– Write whenever you get a free moment. Kids occupied playing outside, sit on the porch and write. On your lunch break at work, break out that notepad and write. Waiting in the doctor’s waiting room… You know the drill. Use those spare moments. Forget Candy Crush, it’s banished for the month. Bookmark that book you’re reading and put it in a drawer. Let your partner/housemates have control of the remote control (or if you have a favourite show you can’t miss, don’t forget to write during the ad breaks).

– Link up with fellow writers, particularly those doing NaNo, and do writing races. Example:

Me (on social media site/forum): Who’s up for a writing race? 30 minutes starting at :15 (use just the minutes to account for people in different time zones, so it could mean 7:15am in Australia AND 4:15pm in New York).

Writing friend: I’m in!

Me: (at 15 minutes past the hour): Go!

*30 minutes pass*

Me: Stop! 868 words.

Writing friend: 934.

– Stock up on chocolate/caffeine/Wiggles DVDs for the kids/whatever it is you need to get through writing when you are stressed/tired/despairing over character arcs. (I’ve picked a really good time to start a new diet, so it will be my first NaNo without a stockpile of chocolate/caffeine to get me through. Eep!)

Share your NaNo tips in the comments below.

HAPPY NANO-ING!

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Writing a Novel – Character Profiles

Welcome to the first post in my Writing a Novel series. Today we will be looking at character profiles.

Usually when I am embarking on a new novel, I plot first, then do character profiles. This time around, my characters, specifically my main character, have been clamouring to be heard. My plot, at this point, is still not completely clear in my head, but the characters already have very strong voices. So this time around I am starting off with character profiles (and hoping once I know them and their motivations a bit better, the plot will become more clear).

Simple Bios

A few years ago I discovered ywriter and one of the great features is that you can include character bios (which can be as detailed as you want), including their goals. There is even a tab for including a picture!

ywriter character profile

I spent far too much time searching Google images for pictures that fit my character descriptions, but it really made me think about how my characters look and even helped me develop their personalities (of course Nyssa has to be smiling in her picture, because she is such a positive, happy character). The Mac equivalent to ywriter is Scrivener, though I’ve never used it, so I’m not sure if it has a similar feature.

For the bio, I kept it simple at this stage. I included age, physical features, family, personality traits (both positive and negative) and goals. You can see an example of a character bio on the post NaNoWriMo — Character Outline.

Character Interview

With the character’s basic personality now in mind, it’s time to delve deeper. I like to do character interviews with the main characters to really bring the characters to life. In my post, Creating 3D Characters: The Character Interview, I talk about this more in-depth and provide some examples of questions to ask that really get to the heart of your character. And in my post, NaNoWriMo — Character Outline I show how these questions might be answered (using Harry Potter as an example).

Visualising Your Character

There are so many fun, creative ways to do this. Here are a few of my favourites:

A character collage. Write your character’s name at the top of a piece of blank paper and grab a heap of old magazines, some scissors and some glue. Cut out things that would suit your character and stick them on the paper. Does your character have brown hair? Cut out a actress with brown hair. Does your character love music? Cut out a picture of an ipod. Does you character wear jeans? Does your character love animals? Is your character a doctor?

charactercollage

Sketch. Blank paper + pencil. It doesn’t matter if you’re not very good at drawing, you’re the only one who will see it. Add labels, eg: ‘blue eyes’, ‘sword’, ‘permanent smirk’. Make it more than just a picture to show what they look like, let their personality and the setting of the novel shine through, too.

Powerpoint. This is especially good if you have several main characters. On each slide find a picture to represent how you imagine your character to look, then accompany with dot points that describe your character’s personality.

So is it really necessary to make such an in-depth profile of your character before you begin writing your novel? It’s really up to the author. For me, I find having looked at my characters in such an in-depth way before I begin I am able to really immerse myself in my character’s head as I write and their voices come across more naturally. Also, I don’t have to flick back to page seven to remember what eye colour my MC has or to page fifty to remember if my MC’s best friend has two sisters or three, because I know them so well (or if I really have forgotten, it’s much easier to just refer back to my character profile, than find where I mentioned it).

What do you do to develop your characters before you begin writing? Or do you just jump right in and let them develop as you write?

New Writing Resolutions

happy new year 2013Happy New Year!

My resolution last year was to submit more, but unfortunately, like many resolutions made on New Year’s Eve, this didn’t come to pass. For the most part it wasn’t my usual submission anxiety holding me back, but an insanely busy roller coaster ride of year that stole a lot of focus from my writing world. Regular followers might have noticed my blog has been more quiet than usual this past year and my Facebook author page and Twitter have also noticeably been much quieter, too.

My new resolution for 2013 is to get back into my writing groove. I’ve joined a group called Sub Six with the goal of submitting at least six manuscripts this year (I’ll be polishing some of my 12 x 12 manuscripts from 2012 as well as a few from 2011 that I’ve been polishing over the year). I’ve dusted off my Publisher Checklist, I know which manuscript I want to submit first and which publishers I think will be the best fit. I’m working on a cover letter at the moment.

I’ve also been hit with inspiration for a novel. Since it is a brand new novel, I’ve decided to share my novel writing process as I write, from plotting through to editing, with helpful hints I’ve learned along the way. My first post in the series will be on writing character profiles and should be up within the next few days.

What are your writing resolutions for 2013?

13 Helpful Tips for Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel (Guest Post)

Hopefully you’ve been letting your novel sit since you finished it to give you some distance from it before you start revising. When the time does come to start your revisions my guest poster today, Brittany Lyons, has some great tips to keep in mind to ensure your novel becomes perfectly polished.

13 Helpful Tips for Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel

You’ve taken the National Novel Writing Month challenge and after a month of writing feverishly, you now are left with something less than perfect. Yet although you want to get your novel into shape, the task may be so daunting it seems like you are completing one of the world’s toughest PhD programs instead. Don’t despair. Here are some simple, self-editing tips that can help you polish your piece.

1) Make sure your book opens with a sentence or paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps them reading the next sentence, and the next, and the next.

2) By the end of chapter one, there are a few things that should be revealed to the reader:

  • The genre and time-period in which the story is taking place.
  • The main character, or at least one of them.
  • The main conflict(s) the character(s) are facing, or a foreshadowing of what they are going to face or what is keeping them from attaining their primary goal in life.
  • The setting – the reader must have a sense of where the characters are at all times. Descriptions of rooms and awareness of space and flow are important. Drop these images in naturally so readers understand the “blueprints” to buildings.

3) Make sure you haven’t created perfect characters. Real people are riddled with faults, so a character who has nothing wrong with them in any way is not believable. Without credible characters, your story won’t be interesting. Likewise, avoid describing the character in a paragraph or two. Instead, drop in tidbits about them organically throughout the story.

4) Examine whether your dialogue advances the story – are beats and tag lines relevant to the scene? It’s best to not overuse these, and make everything count.

5) Look for overused, unnecessary, and pet words and phrases. These are the biggest offenders:

  • “That,” “however,” “because,” “of course” and “after all.”
  • While it is okay to use conjunctions like “but,” “and,” “for”, “then,” and “well” to start sentences, don’t begin too many of them that way.
  • “Just” and “very”.
  • Avoid using “begin” and “start.” The moment someone begins or starts to do something, they are actually doing it. These are empty words.
  • Repeating adjectives won’t make something more intense. Watch out for describing something with “very, very” and similar repetitions.
  • Worn out clichés and trite phrases.
  • Don’t begin consecutive sentences with the same word or phrase, unless for effect or to heighten intensity of a scene.

6) Beware of over-explanations that insult the reader. Assume that most of your readers will be able to figure things out for themselves. Example: “I don’t understand why you said that to me,” Margie said, confused. The dialogue already shows Margie’s confusion, so there is no need for further explanation.

7) The most popular point of view (POV) today is third person past tense. When using this tense, write each scene from only one character’s POV. That means you can only describe the scene from what that particular character can see, feel, hear, taste and know.

8 ) Check your work for “information dumps.” It is common for authors to want to explain technical or historical information to the reader. Don’t dump it all in one spot, but rather drizzle it into the story in smaller tidbits so you don’t overwhelm the reader.

9) End each chapter with either a cliffhanger or in the middle of an unresolved scene. The idea is to entice readers to keep reading because they can’t put the book down.

10) Beware of state-of-being verbs that render your sentences passive. If you can rewrite a sentence to get rid of “was” and other forms of “to be,” your work will be more active and interesting.

11) Eliminate adverbs ending in “ly” whenever possible. They are considered “telling.” It is more desirable to “show” the scene. Instead of writing that a character said something excitedly, rewrite it to show us what “excited” looks like for that character.

12) Make sure that when you write “the end,” the story has a satisfying ending. Conclusion to your novel doesn’t have to be happily-ever-after, but all major conflicts must have been resolved, and the reader needs to feel content when they close the book.

13) Lastly, do a final run-through to check for punctuation, usage and grammar errors.

Editing can be a lot of work, but implementing these tips will tighten your writing and give it focus, taking it from blah to ah! The more polished your manuscript, the better chance it has of catching an agent’s or editor’s eye.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

The Final Days of NaNo

NaNoWriMo Diary – The Day After

Total number of words written: ???

Coke consumed on last day: 1 can

Chocolate consumed on last day: 3 Tim tams, ice-cream drizzled with chocolate topping

Yesterday was the last day of NaNoWriMo for 2011. Did I make it?

A couple of days ago I was in a panic. With only a few days left to go I could see the finish line ahead of me, I had passed 40k words, but at the same time I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to 50k by the end of the month. With five days to go I still had 10k to write–2000 words a day. I thought I could make a big dent over the weekend to give me some leeway when my busy week started and I had less time. It didn’t work out that way. I ended up babysitting over the weekend and had four kids aged 6 and under from Saturday before lunch until Sunday after lunch. Saturday fizzled at 1000 words, but I managed to get over 2000 on Sunday. At this point I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact I probably wouldn’t hit 50k by November 30, but that was okay, I would still write as much as I could.

Monday: With three days to go, I still needed another 6000 – 7000 words. Monday is my busiest day of the week and I didn’t quite make 2000, although I did write the most I have written on a Monday for the whole of November, which was an accomplishment nonetheless.

Tuesday: I was looking 5000 words in two days. I thought I would have all day Tuesday free, but ended up having lunch at the in-laws. I got to 2,200 words.

The final day: I needed 2,800 words to finish. I debated skipping taking my daughter to playgroup so I could stay home and write, but didn’t think that would be fair to my daughter, so I took her. It turned out to work in my favour. She was so tired after playgroup she was quite subdued and quiet after we got home, allowing me a good block of writing time. My muse was exceptionally kind yesterday. I was at a part of the story that just seemed to flow out easily. I knew what I wanted to happen and didn’t need to sit and think too much about it. Plus there were some good opportunities for description–that helped.

At around 10.30 last night I crossed the 50k line! I did it. I wrote 50k in a month. My final word count was: 50224. I wrote over 3000 words yesterday, almost matching my highest word count day for the month.

Is it a novel? Not yet. Since it’s a fantasy it will need to hit at least 90000 words before it could be considered complete and I’m nowhere near the resolution yet, so I still have some writing to do. Then, of course, there’s the editing and revisions. I’ll take a bit of a break over December, though. And today I get to celebrate by putting up my Christmas decorations!

Some stats…

Highest word count day: Day 1–3075 words

Lowest word count day: Day 17–0 words

Average word count: 1674 words per day

Highest average day: Tuesdays (average 2582 words)

Lowest average day: Mondays (average 1005 words)

P.S. I haven’t done a Helpful Sites and Blog Posts post for November as I just didn’t get time in the last few days of November, so I will be combing it with December’s post.