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NaNoWriMo 2014 - Tips and Advice
Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Friday, September 5, 2014 12:17 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 141


Hi everyone,

NaNoWriMo 2014 is almost here! How did you handle the stress that comes with writing a novel in one month? How did you balance writing with a full-time job or raising kids? What advice would you give to other Book Country members who are doing NaNoWriMo for the first time? Comment below!


Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 12:59 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 141


On Twitter last week, someone mentioned how important it is to start brainstorming your book before NaNoWriMo actually begins. What do you is the best way to go about doing this? Outlines? Flash cards? A simple synopsis?
D J Lutz
Posted: Saturday, September 20, 2014 5:20 PM

The first time I tried Nanowrimo, I just started writing. No plan, no outline, barely a plot. I just wanted to see if my mustard seed of a story idea could go somewhere. I also wanted to find out if I could discipline my time management enough to break past the 50k word count by the end of November. I did finish a "winner;" and now I have a rambling 120,000 word epic that with luck no one will read. Ever.

 

But it was a great learning experience for me, the novice writer. I recommend Nano to everyone. There's something in it for each writer, regardless of skill level.

 

I have written two more Nanowrimo novels since, using the "snowflake method" to create outlines and character sketches in September and October. I found the advanced planning helped solidify my three-act structure and the character arcs.

 

As for when to write? I work a regular job that has me away from my personal computer from 6:30 am until 5:30 pm. My standard writing time is 5:30 - 6:30 am every week day. This works because no one else is awake yet.  If  I can get an hour of writing after dinner, it is a great day. I rarely have great days in November. Too many people asking me questions like 'Are you writing? What are you writing about? Can I read what you have written?'

 

The goal is 1,667 words per day. If professional writers crank this word count out before lunch, you can do it, too, given the whole day.  And whatever you do, edit later. After all, you have nine months to revise your draft into a decent novel; then it will be time to start on the next nano outline!

 

 


Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014 12:10 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 141


The "snowflake method" sounds really useful, DJ. How do you stay focused that early in the morning to write? I feel like I need to download Anti-Social to get anything done.
Julie Artz
Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 7:43 AM
Joined: 11/11/2013
Posts: 43


Random aside: For the last six weeks, I've been trying my own version of the "Antisocial" app. Basically, other than a quick scan of email/Facebook that I do when I first wake up in the morning, I don't touch social media again until my writing for the day is done. Twitter/Facebook/email is a nice reward for getting those words done! 

 

As for NaNoWriMo, I really love it, and credit it with getting me back in the swing of writing after several years off with my babies  

 

My advice:

* Don't try to do all your Wrimo work over the weekends in Nov. Write every single day, even if you have a day job. Writing every day gets you into your creative flow faster than writing the same number of words in a couple of big chunks over the week, I promise!

 

* Outline & do your research in advance. If you're like me, you can get totally off on a research tangent and spend a whole writing session reading about the price of tea in pre-Communist China. You know it's true. So get those distractions out of the way before NaNoWriMo to give you the best possible chance of hitting your word goal. My first successful WriMo started with a 5-line outline because I'm a seat-of-your-pants writer for the most part. But I had a ton of research done, and those five lines of outline really did help guide me all month long.

 

* Keep writing even if it feels bad and isn't flowing. The only way to get over the hump and back into the flow is to write more. Drinking a latte or watching a movie or whatever won't get you there. Only writing will.

 

Good luck and happy writing!


Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 5:30 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 141


Great advice, Julie! I think it might help viewing social media as a reward rather than a necessity. 

 

For the short creative writing pieces I've done, I usually don't extensively outline because I'm too preoccupied getting everything on paper. But I think outlining will help break down the process so 50,000 words isn't quite so big.

 

I also need to break the bad habit of waiting for the right words before I write anything. I just need to write and see what happens.

 

D.J. wrote a helpful blog post about using the Snowflake Method to outline your novel. Definetely helpful!


Atthys Gage
Posted: Saturday, October 18, 2014 5:42 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


October already?  The 18th?  Ye gods, what fools we mortals be.  

 

Yeah, I'm game to give NaNoWriMo another go. I managed to squeak out 50K last year, and ended up with a complete novel (I kept on going Nano-pace into December) of about 63,000.  I haven't sold it yet, but at least one agent tells me she's still considering it (she has the full manuscript), and one other agent told me I was "gifted," though that may have been my consolation prize for her not choosing to represent the book.  But no matter. It's a good book and the experience of writing the bulk of it in one month taught me some things. Most of all, it taught me that if I'm going to write 50,000 words in a month, I better have a real plan. So, for the next two weeks, my main writing goal is to finish doing a scene by scene for my new November book.  (I don't outline, as such, I just plot it out like a series of synopses/explications/story-boards for each scene.  I did this for Whisper Blue (last year's book) and it made all the difference. It allowed me to keep pushing forward even when I knew a scene wasn't really there yet, because I knew what the next scene was going to be. Also, I learned just how much a story can change in the course of a month of woodshedding.  (A character I thought was just going to be a one-scene walk-on turned out to be the MC's new love interest.  Hey, I fell in love with the guy, so she had to as well.) 

 

I hope to see many of you on the boards during November,  moaning, groaning, cheering, boasting, but most of all, not giving up.  

 

Good luck to all.

 

 


Lucy Silag - Book Country Community Manager
Posted: Monday, October 20, 2014 11:17 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Hi Atthys--I think I am going to give it another go this year . . . last year I only came in at about 25K, but hey that was 25K I didn't have. I definitely agree that this year I need to go in with a plan.

 

How do you do your storyboarding? Anything visual or just a doc with the synopses? Sounds interesting.

 

Woodshedding?


Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, October 20, 2014 8:55 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


Lucy.  For me, traditional outlines are just another way of getting bogged down.  The responsibility for that level of organization is too heavy.  (I remember reading that Fitzgerald had hundreds of little notecards for Gatsby, which he would push around and tack to the wall in different arrangements. That didn't work for me at all.)  

 

So, I just do a scene-by-scene:  Where are we? Who else is there? What happens? What gets said? What is unsaid? Sometimes its very specific, with bits of potential dialogue or description. Other times, it's more like a shopping list of what I want to accomplish, with no particulars at all. Last year for NaNo, I think I had about 35 pages of scene-by-scene notes before I started actually writing. The book, Whisper Blue, ended up being about 270 pages, so that's about an 8 to 1 ratio. I'm not sure if I can make that happen again this year, but I'm sure I couldn't have written 50,000 words without that notebook. I know I would've lost momentum, and gotten bogged down in details, instead of plowing forward. 

 

Woodshedding just means going off alone and working hard on something privately. Musicians use the word to mean practicing by yourself. I've got about 16 or 17 pages so far on November's book. I hope, now that the edits for Spark are finally, really done (I hope), I can dig in and block out the rest of it before November 1st. 


Julie Artz
Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 4:38 AM
Joined: 11/11/2013
Posts: 43


Wow, I'm such a pantser by comparison, Atthys! 

 

I did actually write a 1-page synopsis of my current WIP, but even that level of planning was a bit unusual for me, and I've already drastically changed the ending of the story, even though I'm only mid-way through. Usually, I start with a logline and a couple of bullet points and then go. That said, I do let a story percolate in the back of my mind for a while before I write it, doing bits of research here and there and letting the characters take shape in my mind before I start writing scenes, so maybe my subconscious is doing all kinds of outlining as I type this! 

 

I'm in a tricky place for NaNo this year. As I said, I'm midway through a ms that I definitely want to finish next month, but I don't have 50k words left to write (probably only about 20k). So I may end up starting the sequel to last year's NaNo project mid-month. Not sure if that's "legal," but I can't stop mid-project and start something new on 1 November.

 

Good luck everyone. I really do love NaNo and think every writer should try it just once for the exercise of really committing to something, of being a part of a vibrant and encouraging community, and for the motivation a little competition can generate.

 

 


Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 4:09 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 141


Thank you, Julie, for the great post on creating an outline NaNoWriMo. I think using an outline will help me keep going because I'll know there is some type of end in sight. 

 

I'll also have to get used to writing on the train! Good luck to everyone. 


Lucy Silag - Book Country Community Manager
Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2014 5:05 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


Great idea, Athys, and I feel you on outlines bogging you down. I will try this method over the weekend--I'm excited to approach Nano in a new way for 2014.
Julie Artz
Posted: Friday, October 24, 2014 12:53 AM
Joined: 11/11/2013
Posts: 43


Aw, thanks Janet
Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, October 26, 2014 7:38 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


My notebook is becoming a mess. I'm trying to sort out the order of events in the last third of my book, and it's no picnic. (Hey! They could have a picnic! No. Dumb.)  

 

Motivation leads to action, leads to reaction, leads to confrontation, leads to either resolution or further conflict.  Yes, that's plain.  But that doesn't mean I want to tell it in that order.  Motivation can be inferred by a agile reader. Yes. I'll have to make sure I've planted sufficient clues and make the character readable enough.  But, there's still uncertainty.  Reader thinks she knows why X just did Y, but she's not completely sure. A measure of uncertainty is good, because it creates tension, not between characters but  between the text and the reader. 

 

But X did just do Y. So what's the reaction? And when? Is it immediate?  How often do people react immediately. After all, character B is probably trying to sort out why X just Y'ed. When he does react, his reaction is an amalgam of various motivations, not just a simple reaction to X. His motivations aren't clear either. There could be ulterior motivations. So when X and B confront each other, their elaborate backstory informs everything they say and do. Resolution? A false cadence, perhaps.  There's release from tension in a false cadence, but because it's not really the end, the tension immediately begins to build again. like a goddamn Wagner opera.

 

Order

Design

Tension

Composition

Balance

Light

Harmony

 

Order:  Sequence follows naturally, in understandable, realistic order. Even if it doesn't happen on the page that way. 

Design:  Underlying structure informs the events, the motivations. Design can be floor plan, a scaffold, a sequence of keys. 

Tension:  Every person, every event, exerts a force upon every other person and event, from the mundane to the profound.  Gravity is everywhere.

Composition: Symmetry hides behind asymmetry, and vice versa. The rhythm of lines.

Balance:  Balance is always dynamic, because nothing is ever truly at rest. Keep all the plates in the air. 

Light:  Leave room for light to get through. The white of the page is as important as the black letters. (There is no true emptiness either.)

Harmony:  Even a plain melody is informed by the harmony that exists, unheard, beneath it. Challenge harmony. Always. Go deeper. 

 

Get it all down, either on paper on in the notebook of your subconscious mind. Work it out.  Then, put it away, and write. 

 

 

 



Lucy Silag - Book Country Community Manager
Posted: Monday, October 27, 2014 3:23 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1357


You might have heard that doodling is a great way to unleash creativity.

 

Artist and author Lisa Currie put together these doodling prompts for Book Country to help us get ready for NaNoWriMo-- you can download the prompts, print them, and develop your character with them. Check it out--I had so much fun doing mine!

 

 



Russell Giles
Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 1:48 AM
Joined: 3/4/2014
Posts: 19


Aha!   So glad to see I'm not the only one who doodles for NaNo!  biggrin   I'll have to give those prompts a try. 

 

I'm no artist by any stretch of the imagination, but doodles help me to visualize the story like nothing else I've tried.  I always start with one of those itty-bitty composition books you can get by the fistful at the dollar store.  I put a basic sketch (and by basic I mean third-grade-stick-figure level) of each character on his/her own page with a little bio summary to match. The remaining pages are a haphazard array of quotes I want to use, sketched scenes I'm thinking about, and whatever else may come to mind throughout the day.

 

The doodle that helps me the most, though, has to be the traditional dabble in amateur cartography.  Drawing a map of the novel's setting gives an immediate reference point for the action.  May not be appropriate for all novels (my characters tend to move around a lot.  Not sure if that's a good thing or bad...), but if you've never tried it, see what a map can do for your thought processes. 


DCLabs
Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2014 9:16 PM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78


It's probably been said already but simply this: Quantity over Quality.  You'll best hit your writing goals if you simply blast through a high word count.  Worry about the nuts and bolts of the structure later.  You'll find the momentum you gain from writing 50k or more words in a month carries well into the new year.  Use it for rewrites and editing your original.

Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant
Posted: Monday, November 17, 2014 2:43 PM
Joined: 4/7/2014
Posts: 141


If you need help adding depth to your characters for NaNoWriMo, you can download free doodling prompts from Lisa Currie, author of ME, YOU, US. I now know what my character does before going to bed!
 

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