Tag Archives: plot

3 Symptoms of the Week 2 Blues (and How to Cure It)

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 10

Total number of words written: 16283

Words Written Today: 250 (so far)

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 1 fun size Crunchie, half a cup of Milo–by which I mean just dry Milo, no milk or hot water involved (so far, but it’s only 2pm) (have sadly run out of milky ways) I should probably also mention the caramel popcorn and starbursts, but technically they’re not chocolate 🙂

In NaNo land there is something known as the ‘Week 2 blues’ and unfortunately it seems to have hit me the past few days.On top of that, it’s been a super busy week in Mummy land. I’ve had antenatal appointments, immunisations for Miss 2 (which turned out to be much more of a drama than it was supposed to be), an afternoon at the cinema with a group of playgroup mums and the usual weekly shopping trip. I’ve just signed my son up for the local Christmas play, so we’ll be attending rehearsals for that every week, the first one was on Monday. I also decided this week the fridge was in desperate need of a cleanout, not to mention the cupboard under the sink. And November’s calendar is filling up fast!

Sunday and Monday were both low word count days. On Sunday I consumed at 3 cans of Coke, ate a great deal of chocolate and ended up getting KFC for dinner, but still didn’t get near the daily word goal. I did go to the movies in the afternoon, though, and even though I lost a few hours writing time, I think I needed that break and to get out of the house to reenergise.

Since there’s nothing I can do about life’s happenings, I’m going to focus on getting over these week two blues.

The Symptoms:

1. Motivational high of week one has pretty much all fizzled out. All the excitement of going into a new story, all the buzz of new ideas, that spurred an initial surge of words spewing onto the page has died down.

2. It’s getting harder to push words out onto the page. You find yourself staring at the page, letting distractions take over. Whereas in the first week the words seemed to flow onto the page easily, this week you feel like you have to pry them from your brain.

3. You know where you want your characters to go, but don’t know how to get them there. You have your plan, you know what your next plot point is, but trying to get them there has you stumped.

So how am I supposed to get past this week two slump? I know other NaNoers who have simply quit, deciding NaNo just isn’t working for them this year. Some have changed stories and gone into a new idea with renewed motivation (I did this last year). Some have decided to take the pressure off by not worrying about the word count and just writing what they can, when they can.

I still love my story idea, and I want to keep on, so here are some ways I’m going to try to tackle the week two blues that have worked for me in the past.

The Cure:

1. Stay focused on where I want my story to go, but also let it surprise me with plot twists and extra details. My characters have just found the first clue to a conspiracy that I had not planned at all. It was an interesting surprise and a nice addition to build upon my plot.

2. Push past the ‘writer’s block’ by just writing. Write or Die has been a big help with this in the past in getting from one point to another.Wordwars/wordsprints are helpful too, and there are always NaNoers around on Twitter who are up for some word wars.

3. Decrease distractions by writing on my laptop (which has only Word programs and is not connected to the internet).

I am so grateful for that week one padding I built up when my motivation was still high, it has helped a lot this week. At the moment I’m trying to keep just ahead each day. I find if I think, “I only have to write 900 words tomorrow to reach the goal”, it gives me motivation going into the next day, because the goal isn’t as overwhelming as staring at the prospect of writing 1667. And then when I’ve hit the goal, I think, “Well now it’s only 700 more and I’ll have written 1667”. It breaks it into chunks, which makes the goal seem easier to reach.

Author Jody Hedlund has a great post on writing after the initial passion has fizzled: How to Keep Writing When the Honeymoon is Over

How is everyone else going? Have you been hit with the week 2 blues? How are you coping with them? What strategies are you using to keep on going?

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NaNoWriMo – Creating an Outline

A story skeleton - Just in time for Halloween

When I get an idea for a novel I do a basic outline. It basically forms the bones of my novel (I like to call it the story skeleton). I find an outline is particularly helpful during NaNoWriMo because it gives me a basic road map for my story, that way if I get stuck half way through all I have to do is refer back to my road map and get back on track. Since the aim of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a month, I don’t want to get stuck halfway through because I don’t know where the plot is going. A basic outline can be a great preparation tool, and a great way to fend off writer’s block.

This is how I set up an outline; it’s a fairly basic set up, yet it includes everything you need for your story arc. (I’m going to use The Wizard of Oz as an example)

PLOT (Here I write one or two sentences to give the basic idea of the main plot – think of it as a practice run for the tagline/pitch of your story)

When Dorothy finds herself in a strange land called Oz, she must find the wizard to get back home again.

ORIENTATION/BEGINNING (This is where the story starts. It contains the inciting incident that gets the story moving towards the conflict)

A tornado picks up Dorothy’s house and whisks it away to the land of Oz. There she meets the Good Witch who tells her she must follow the yellow brick road to find the wizard.

CONFLICT/PROBLEM (What is the problem/obstacle the main character will need to overcome?)

Dorothy needs to find the wizard who can send her home. To make things more difficult, a wicked witch is trying to do her harm because Dorothy accidentally killed the witch’s sister when her house landed in Oz.

EVENTS/PLOT POINTS (Here I list the important events I want to happen in the story, it doesn’t have to list every single event in the story, just the ones that will be particularly relevent to the plot. And don’t worry if you think of more things later on as you are writing. This is just a basic outline to help keep you on track. This is the part I find most helpful when I get stuck, because I can look at my points and think, I still need that to happen.)

– Dorothy meets a scarecrow with no brain who joins her in seeking the wizard.

– They meet a tinman with no heart who also joins them.

– Finally they meet a lion with no courage who joins them as well.

– The Wicked Witch kidnaps Dorothy.

– Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion come to save her.

RESOLUTION/CONCLUSION (This is how the problem is solved and how the story will end.)

Dorothy defeats the Wicked Witch and finds the wizard. Her friends receive the gifts of a brain, a heart and courage and Dorothy is able to return home.

You’ll note I don’t mention the ruby slippers in this outline, it could be that when I start writing the story I get the idea for the ruby slippers, I can then either amend my original outline with the new idea, or just write it in as it comes to me. If the idea comes early in my writing of the story I’ll write it into the outline, but if it comes later, perhaps when I’m editing, I often don’t worry about amending the original outline.

From your basic outline you can create a more detailed outline or you might feel as though a basic outline is enough for you to go on. Once you have your story skeleton all you’ll need to do when NaNoWriMo starts is to begin fleshing it out.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – July 2010 Edition

I just realised it’s been two months since I last did one of these, so here is a round up of some helpful writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the past two months:

You Have to Believe

Rachelle Gardner (literary agent) has a great blog, with lots of fantastic posts for writers. This particular post was quite an inspiring one encouraging writers to believe in themselves. My favourite line: “God gave you something powerful – a story or a message, and the desire to share it. God is not in the business of tricking people, or of squandering anything – not talent, not passion, not time. Pursue your God-given passions with an unwavering faith. Praise and bless the obstacles. And keep believing.”

Tips for Pitching and Querying Agents

YA writer Ingrid Sundberg shared a hand-out from Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole that she received at an SCBWI agent day on pitching and querying. It includes some great advice, as well as step-by-step questions you should address in your pitch.

Try This Picture Book Editing Checklist

For anyone out there writing or editing a picture book this is a great checklist to refer to, from the editors of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers.

Will Literary Agents Really Read Your Query Letter?

This posts covers reasons why a query letter may not be read, the problems with many queries and some tips on how to write better queries.

The Power of the First Sentence

We all know how important that first sentence is in a manuscript, Brenda Hineman, a freelance writer, guest posts on this blog on what makes an opening sentence memorable.

Eleven Senses – Who Knew?

Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I’m a big fan of ‘show, don’t tell’ in writing, and whenever I talk about showing in writing I refer to using the five senses of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. This workshop handout covers eleven senses, including pain, balance, sense of time, joint motion and acceleration, temperature differences, and direction. Not only does it describe how each of the senses work, but how they can be applied to writing, some writing exercises and, best of all, a comprehensive list of verbs for each of the senses to spice up your writing.

7 Techniques for a Dynamite Plot

An editor offers some solutions to common problems writers have when constructing their plot.

The Secret to Getting Published

Published author Karen Gowen offers some down-to-earth truths on what is and isn’t the secret to getting published. My favourite line: “You have to want it more than you want anything else. You must want it with every fibre of your being.”

3 Ways to Show, Don’t Tell

There’s my favourite writing mantra again! A short post covering verbs and nouns, sensory details and dialogue.

Query Letter Suicide

Another great post from YA Writer Ingrid Sundberg, this time sharing some advice from Agent Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency. A comprehensive list of what not to do in a query letter.

Do You Know the Real Reason Not to Use the Passive Voice?

The dreaded ‘passive’ voice. It’s something I’m working on cutting in my novel revisions at the moment. This post by an editor shows an example of the difference between using the passive voice and the active voice when writing.

Advice for New Writers Blogfest

Last week I participated in Peevish Penman’s blogfest on ‘My Best Advice for New Writers’. There were 42 participants altogether. I haven’t quite got through reading all the posts yet, but the ones I have read have offered some fantastic advice. You can find the links to all of them on the Blogfest page, they’re well worth checking out.

Writing Effective Description

This week on #scribechat on Twitter (Thursday 9pm ET US/Friday 11am AEST Aus.) the topic was ‘Editing your Manuscript’. One question that came up was regarding description. So today I’m going to address the topic of writing effective description in your novel.

Show, Don’t Tell This is the most important thing to remember when writing description. I’ve written a post about this before (Show, Don’t Tell). What is the difference between showing and telling? Telling is exactly that: telling. You tell the reader that the character is ‘tall with long brown hair and blue eyes’. Sometimes the writer tries to be more subtle about it, the biggest cliche being a character looking in a mirror to describe him/herself, but it is still telling. Showing means interweaving the details in the story. If the character is tall you might write, “His head brushed the top of the doorframe as he entered the room.” In this example you are showing the reader the character is tall, without having to even use the word ‘tall’.

When I am editing I use a blue highlighter to highlight any sections of my manuscript where I am telling instead of showing.

Use All 5 Senses This is related to showing rather than telling. Whenever you describe anything in your novel, don’t just think about the visual elements, try to imagine the smells, tastes, sounds and how things feel. It’s the difference between your reader viewing a photograph of your scene, or becoming immersed within the scene. You want your readers to feel like they are there, experiencing what your characters are experiencing. Instead of just telling the reader there’s a building on fire, describe the sound of the flames crackling, the smell of the smoke and how the smoke burns your character’s throat.

Here’s an exercise: Go sit outside and close your eyes. What sounds can you hear? Are there birds tweeting in the trees, or cars revving their engines? What can you smell? Can you smell the sweet aroma of flowers, or maybe you can smell rain in the air? What can you feel? Is the sun warm on your face, or is the wind sending chills through your body? Now when you write your next scene think about where your character is, what time of year it is, what time of day and what is going on around him/her and incorporate the different senses into the scene.

Move the Plot Forward It’s important to keep your plot in mind no matter what you are describing. Avoid adding excessive details that do not relate to your plot. Is it important that your main character’s best friend has a mole on her chin? Does it matter if someone’s eyes are blue or brown? Character development and world building are both necessary to give your story life, but try not to bog your story down in too much detail or readers will be inclined to skip over the long drawn out descriptions. Cut out what is unnecessary, then build up the parts relating to your plot. Instead of spending a page and a half describing what your character looks like, use that space to delve into who your character really is and what motivates him/her. Instead of telling your reader your character has a scar on her left knee, you might write, “Liz ran a finger over the scar on her knee, remembering how she’d fallen off her motorbike in the Championship race last year and lost the race.” From this we find out Liz likes to ride motorbikes competitively and if the story is related to her racing it might show us how she is out to prove herself. This shows a very different character to one who might have got the scar from a knife fight.

These are the three main points I keep in mind when writing/editing description in my manuscript. Do you have any other important tips you follow for writing effective description? Please share them!