Tag Archives: Nanowrimo

Top 16 Close-Talking, Double Dipping Tips to Succeeding At Nanowrimo!

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month.

For 30 days in November every year, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world try to get 50,000 words on paper. In a perfect world, these words would be brilliant and profound. It’s far more likely that the words are a big hot mess. If you are participating, this is the perfect time to organize your ideas and get ready! The objective is to write as much as possible, you know, yada, yada, yada, not to be beautiful doing it. Sign up here so you can participate this November!

I believe that the objective of 50K words in 30 days is doable for anyone who wants to try.

I also believe that much is to be gained from the whole exercise, even if it isn’t a coherent story. I’ve broken down the steps to writing a story for Nano into super-easy steps. If you follow them, you’ll easily make your goal. (It’s only 1,667 words a day. You can DO that!)

So here we go! (This is the Seinfeld version so I suggest you regift your label maker, put on your puffy shirt, and spare a square!)

 

Step One: Start your story with Did you ever notice  . . .. Is that cheating?  NO! It gets you going and now you only have 49,996 words to go.

Step Two: Pick Two Names: Almost any two will do. Let’s go with Jerry and George

Step Three: Describe these two characters. List their favorite things, their appearance, and their relationships. They also need a job that is unrelated to the genre of the book, like say, make them work for Vandalay Industries! In the import/export business! Say they really, really like velvet!

Step Four: Give them an antagonist. This determines your genre. If it’s a mean girl/boy, then it’s chick lit, (Susan?) If it’s a tall, dark stranger who they think is a pain in the butt (at first) it’s a rom-com, (Putty?) If it’s a mysterious colleague with secret who may do something violent to protect it then it’s a thriller, (Tim Whatley?) If it’s someone who had committed a crime and he doesn’t want our couple to find out about it, it’s a mystery, (Newman and what he did to that poor dog!) If it’s bigger than a personality, like, say, a government agency, then it’s a spy thriller, (Kramer probably knows something about this!) If it’s a non-human but nothing technological is involved, then it’s a fantasy. (“The sea was angry that day, my friends!”  If it’s a non-human but technology IS involved it’s science fiction.(The Bubble Boy!) Okay, so these are loose definitions, but this is Nanowrimo! There is no need to get technical, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Step Five: Give them a setting. Make it consistent with the antagonist. Delis in NYC are more for romantic comedies than for science fiction. You could also hang out in Jerry’s apartment, but the local soup Nazis will do too.  But you know what, it’s NANOWRIMO! Go ahead, break the rules, and while Jerry and George are waiting for the baddie to show up, they can order twenty-seven things on the menu, as long as they follow the rules, because that will pad you with a lot of words! Or maybe Kramer drops by because he wants something!

Step Six: Give them an objective: All this means is that the characters want something. They want to be loved. They want to be famous. They want to be secure, forgiven, avenged, or safe. These are primal needs and everybody wants them. You don’t need to worry about the specifics of the objectives, that will come later.

Step Seven: Give them a handicap: What will keep them from meeting their objective?  Sure, the antagonist will do his part, but there’s got to be more. Let’s say George is an incompetent Yankees employee who thinks uniforms should be made of cotton. Let’s say Jerry has the bad habit of bringing Pez dispensers to piano concerts. Be as nonsensical and illogical as you want because HEY! THIS IS NANOWRIMO! 

Step Eight: Give them something to say:  Open your scene with dialogue. Your pair is bickering because of something. This shouldn’t be hard to come up with. As they bicker, the reader learns about their big objective. There is no topic too small to talk about. You can talk about Snapple. You can talk about why the girl you know wears the same dress every day. You certainly can talk about Superman.

“It all became very clear to me sitting out there today that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat – it’s all been wrong.” –George Costanza

Step Nine: The antagonist makes an appearance OR someone challenges them to acquire something. They are sent off on their mission. They bicker about it some more. They get distracted. Now write about this! NEWMAN! 

Step Ten: Stuck? Tell us backstory! This is where Nanowrimo is beautiful. Tell us all about George’s struggle with his parents and how his fiancee died licking wedding invitation envelopes. Tell us about the trauma that Jerry had when he his girlfriend ate peas one at a time. Tell us about that time that Elaine, ahem, danced. In Nanowrimo (unlike your best work) you can have as much bleedin’ backstory as you want. This will add to your word count, will help you flesh out those characters, explain what happens in chapter 47 and help you understand where the story is going. Trust me.

Step Eleven: Stuck again? Put something unexpected in their path! Japanese businessmen! An NBC pilot!  A new J. Peterman catalog! Have your duo fight it out and regroup and get back to the task at hand. (That could kill a couple of thousand words right there!)

Step Twelve: Take a break and think about your ending. What do you want to happen? Do you want them to meet their objective or not? Brainstorm for 10-20 things that need to happen before your duo gets to the end. This is your very loose outline. From now on, as you get stuck, refer to this. Put Jerry and George in these situations or scenes and then get them out.

“I can’t die with dignity. I have no dignity. I want to be the one person who doesn’t die with dignity. I’ve lived my whole life in shame! Why should I die with dignity?” –George Costanza

Step Thirteen: When you get about 10K from the end, try to wrap it up. Get your main characters in positions where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re having trouble, make a coincidence work out for them. Have a high school buddy show up with a solution. Don’t even worry about the logic of it. The important thing is that YOU ARE 10K FROM THE END! You need to fill that space up with something. Sometimes all we need to see what happens next is to put our fingers on the keyboard and plow through. You might be surprised what you figure out for your characters.

Step Fourteen: When you hit 50K, CELEBRATE!  You deserve that badge! You deserve a pat on the back And don’t worry about the story.

Put it aside for a minimum of three months. Do it, Jerry. Do it!

Step Fifteen: When three months have passed, get the story out and go on a search and rescue mission. You are now digging through the haystack looking for the needle. You are digging through the stable full of ca-ca, looking for the pony. You are mining for diamonds in the cave. DO NOT PUBLISH THIS, JERRY! I repeat! DO NOT PUBLISH THIS, JERRY! If you have any kind of sense, you will take that 50K words and see if there’s something salvageable, like an exchange of dialog, a good description, a well-drawn character or a little bit of a plot line. This is your good stuff. SAVE IT.

Step Sixteen:  Question my method completely. “What’s the point of writing like a madman for a month if all we’re getting out of it is a little bit here and there.” I’ll tell you. You are learning discipline. You are learning to think fast. You are learning to appreciate the struggle. You are learning basic storytelling elements. You are learning what doesn’t work. You are learning what is good and what is drivel. You are learning to write the hard way.

Nanowrimo is not HOW to write a novel. It is however, a way to build muscle and skills. To stretch your story-telling abilities. To gain perspective and insight. It’s good for you. And your car will look nicer too.

So, veteran Nano-ers? What do you think? How has past Nanos worked for you? 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community. 

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) To Help You Through Nanowrimo

We’re in week 3 of Nanowrimo and if we’re really honest, it’s been a rough month.

You may have had moments of frenzy, of fatigue, of despair. And you still have several days to go!

Your purpose in Nanowrimo is to just get the raw material of a story. You don’t have to create a masterpiece. You don’t even have to be all that coherent. In fact what you’re doing wrong may be stressing you out. Instead, just write down what comes to your head. Don’t self edit. Don’t go backward. Just put down word after word.

Top 10 Emergency Writing Prompts (And Photos) to get you through Nanowrimo by Katharine Grubb

The following prompts may just get you over your little funk and get you enough inspiration to get you through the next few hundred words.

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. It will be awesome.

Prompt 4.24.15

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it?

 

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something?

 

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. This will also be awesome.

Prompt 4.3.15

5. Give your main character an ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it.

 

6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible.

 

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned.

Prompt 3.13.15

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want?

 

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements.

Prompt 3.6.15

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. You don’t need that. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Prompt 2.27.15

 

Here’s a secret: you don’t have to write what makes sense. You just have to get to the end.

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome. Trust me.

Top 10 Ways You May Be Doing National Novel Writing Month All Wrong

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Is it really November? Is it really time to start that non-stop frenzy that requires 50,000 words in 30 days? It is!

Congratulations to all of you who are attempting it this year!

And to those of you who have tried, get discouraged and possibly think you are on the road to failure, just consider this:  you may be doing it wrong. 

Top 10 Ways You May be Doing Nanowrimo All Wrong, by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. You think every word you write is golden. Um, your nano project is a first draft. Please, for the love of all that’s publishable, type this sentence ten times —> MY NANO PROJECT IS A FIRST DRAFT. The solution? Just plan on doing some major rewrites, revisions and edits long before you let a critic, agent, publisher or reviewer see it.

You just have to write the words.

2. The converse: you think every word you write is garbage, so you delete and try again, rewriting the same sentence fifty seven times. The solution? Don’t delete! Don’t edit! Your purpose is a high word count, to have the raw material of a good book. Just keep going and worry about editing later.

You just have to write the words.

3. You’ve got your character stuck in a corner so you quit. The solution? Give him wings and let him fly out of there. Leave him in the corner and throw down 3K on his backstory. Go to a different scene, or a different point of view, and write what’s happening elsewhere. You don’t have to save your hero in this draft. You just have to write the words.

You just have to write the words.

4. Your outline isn’t as wonderful as it was in October, so you quit. The solution? Forget the outline. Go a different direction. You are the master of the outline, not the other way around. If you want start at the ending and work backward. No one says that you have to do your words in chronological order.

You just have to write the words.

5. Your write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method is stressing you out. You thought that this was the way to stay truly inspired. The solution? Go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be a creative genius all the time. Instead of wishing for the muse to show up, write about descriptions of the setting, character backstory, or the tragic forces that made your antagonist so nasty.

You just have to write the words.

6. You obsess over everyone else’s numbers. It feels like all your friends are knocking these big word counts every day and you’ve lost your confidence. The solution? Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. You only have to write for yourself. Also? If you spend your writing time today just writing all the reasons why you WILL succeed, it can count for you daily total.

You just have to write the words.

7.  You think that all the big, famous writers do Nanowrimo, so this must be the ticket to fame. Nope. Not quite. The solution? Realize that every big, famous, published writer had their own unique ticket to fame and fortune. The only common denominator is their hard work. Nanowrimo is a great idea, but it’s only a tool that writers can use to get a draft. The reward comes in completing the goal, not fame or fortune.

You just have to write the words.

8. You think that winning Nanowrimo propels into a magical world of authorship. Nope. The solution to this thought? A reality check. Many, many people complete nanowrimo and their finished draft goes nowhere. Those 50,000 words is the literary equivalent of finding a piece of carbon. Don’t you dare assume that you can sell it off as a diamond without a lot of pressure and hard work.

You just have to write the words.

9. You think writing is supposed to be easy. Oh no, honey, bless your heart. No, it’s not. It’s full of self doubt, of constant backspacing, and of getting the cat off the keyboard. Writing is an art form and to do it well, you must be disciplined. Nanowrimo can work best for you if you see it as an exercise to grow in that discipline. Put one word after another and you’ll get better, you’ll get faster and you’ll be more confident, but it may never be easy.

You just have to write the words.

10. You think that to succeed in Nanowrimo you need certain music, certain hot beverages and certain inspiration. Nope, wrong again. Writers who wait for inspiration are never successful. Writers who work, day in and day out, doing their best to make their work excellent will find the inspiration. Ask any experienced writer and ask them how dependent they were on the muse to show up. Most of them will laugh. They may suggest that we just show up, put our butt in the chair and the hands on the keyboard first, then maybe our muse will show up later.

Nanowrimo is fun, it’s hard work, and it can, at times, be stressful. But it is JUST a tool. It is not a replacement for good editing and revising, good character development or any other short cut. It is a great way to create raw materials for future masterpieces. We all have to start somewhere and if you’re working at Nanowrimo then you’re better than writers who never write a word at all.

You can do this! One word at a time! 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top 10 Ways You Can Conquer Nanowrimo Like War & Peace

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

We’re just a few days in to National Novel Writing Month and it can feel like you’ve decided to read a Russian novel.

Last spring, I read War and Peace for reasons that I can’t quite remember. I think I wanted to add to my literary experiences. I think that I had seen on too many lists that it was one of the greatest novels ever written. And I also think that somehow my 21st century American sensibilities would totally identify with the plight of rich, idle Russian aristocrats who kinda hate the French.

But, oh my, that book was 1300+ pages long. I was committed to finish and I had to push myself forward, even when I thought it was dull and impossible.

Nanowrimo can feel the same way. It can feel like an eternity to get out of the battlefield of the Russian countryside and back into the warm parlors of Bald Hills. It can feel like an eternity when you read page after page after page, and only get 2% more read than yesterday. Nanowrimo is putting one word after another, just like those poor, poor Russian soldiers put one foot in front of another defending themselves against Napoleon.

Oh, Napoleon! Leo Tolstoy really hates your guts! From Fine Art America Images

Like me, you’ve signed up for something bigger than you because you thought it was a good idea. You thought that you’d have the fortitude to endure the daily grind of 1667 words. You thought that the story that’s been rattling around in your brain for weeks/months/years would just flow out of your fingers.

Nope. It hasn’t, has it? This feels about as hopeless as a French army facing a Russian winter. I am probably not the ideal reader for War and Peace and you can read about why I think so here. 

I’m here to help you. With all the imaginary vodka I can muster, I want to give you top 20 ways to get going on your Nanowrimo project.

Top 10 Ways You Can Conquer Nanowrimo Like War and Peace

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later. In War and Peace, the big emergencies were that Pierre, the bastard son of the richest rich guy may inherit the estate against the wishes of nearly every noble in the countryside. Apparently, besides not having married parents, his big sin is that he’s dull. Put your character in direr straits than that, please.

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him! In War and Peace, the many princesses would have a sewing needle. Yawn. Wait, no, I shouldn’t criticize that. What else would they have? An iphone?

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot. Aha! This is where we can learn a lesson from the Russians. Pierre, against his better judgement, marries Helene for her looks.  This connection would ease the grudges that the rest of the nobility have against him. What kind of fix can you put your main character into?

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out? War and Peace has this too. It’s called The Masons. Get this, they require Pierre to think. 

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless! Now, with a title like War and Peace, you’d expect more than just parlor romances, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Nearly every non-curmudgeon male character in the book goes to war to defend against those nasty French. These soldiers get their breaks in various ways: capture, disease, losing a leg. If Tolstoy can use this device, so can you.

6. What would Napoleon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later. Even while I was reading W&P, I was thinking, Hey! These bloody battle scenes remind me of Gone With The Wind!  Wartime saga in which families lose their fortunes and the women have to do anything, anything, to survive! Oh Tolstoy! I know nuthin’ about birthin’ no babies!

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet. Or, if you’re Tolstoy, and thank God you’re not, you could spend 100 pages or so contemplating the purpose of one man, his conscience, the theory of free will, and the wheels that turn history and how you can compare it to bees.

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist? And in Tolstoy’s frosty Russia, all it takes to fall in love with an heiress is sitting at her feet while she mourns her broken heart. That’s it. You might touch her hand! OH THE SCANDAL!

This is Alexander I, the emperor that could do no wrong! (At least according to Tolstoy!)

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader! Or compare your setting, characters and plot to bees. Tolstoy did it twice. Twice!

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out! And when you grab that towel, brush your teeth with running water and realize just how wonderful it is that you have neither lice, dysentery or gangrenous limbs, you may want to write about it.

Remember, the point of participating Nanowrimo is quantity, not quality.

This draft is supposed to be messy, kind of like War and Peace, but with less hype. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out your rants about Napoleon later.

I got through War and Peace. I started April 1 and I finished April 25. I kept at it because I knew that at the end, I’d be glad I finished. You can finish Nanowrimo. And at the end of it, let me know. I’ve got a big bottle of vodka to celebrate with you.


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top 10 Ways To Prepare For National Novel Writing Month

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

National Novel Writing Month is an international event where, in the month of November, writers from all over the world attempt to put down 50,000 words of a story in thirty days.

Ideally, these 50,000 words are all coherent, have a great plot, have full, 3-dimensional characters, and the story is thrilling, romantic, sweet and/or satisfying. That’s the goal.

Nanowrimo is really good for people who need motivation, community and tangible goals.

Nanowrimo is also great for experienced novelists who need the daily writing goals to push them forward in the WIPs. Nanowrimo is for those people who appreciate the prep work that goes into it (if they’re a plotter) or the freedom to write down everything they want, follow any tangent, break every rule (if they’re a pantser). Nanowrimo is really good for people who “pants”, who have low expectations of the final result and who understand that the final product should never be publishable.

Nanowrimo is not good for people who spend hours revising as they go, who may over-outline, and who think that it is quantity not quality that creates a novel.

Nanowrimo is the literary equivalent of taking a test drive in a sports car.  Or it’s the literary equivalent of trying a neighborhood 5K fun run. Or climbing Mt. Washington but can’t afford Everest.

Nanowrimo, over the course of thirty days, asks this simple question: do you have what it takes to make it? 

Top 10 Ways To Prepare for Nanowrimo! by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

How do you prepare for Nanowrimo? You can be fully ready if you spend a little time on these 10 easy steps.

1. Think about the time commitment! How will this impact your daily life? When and where will you put down your 1667 words per day? I believe that you can accomplish it in 10 minute increments. Here’s a list of ways that you can find those 10 extra minutes.

2. Think about your workspace! Do you have a place that you can work every day, with minimal distraction? Here are six must-haves for the time-crunched writer!

3. Think about your organization! Do you have your files or apps or software in an easy to access location? Here’s the 10 Minute Novelists’ Pinterest board that’s all about apps and software to keep you organized!

Click on the image to buy the mug!
Click on the image to buy the mug!

4. Think about your story! Before you start, you may want to review what story structure is, read a few books, check out a few blog posts, print out a graph. Here are my Top 10 resources for story structure. Enjoy!

5. Think about your genre! It may be obvious to you that the only decent stories you need to tell are dystopian vampire romances set in 1641. But if it isn’t so obvious, review the rules of genre. Rules, you say? There are rules? Yup. Like all romantic comedies have happy endings. Sometimes knowing what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do, can keep you focused.

6. Think about your plot! You’re going to need a plot. On this Wikipedia page, Christopher Booker explains the seven major plots that are basic foundations for all stories. If you haven’t got a plot yet, chose one and allow it to be your blueprint for your characters’ objectives.

7. Think about your characters! You need a main character (if this is your first novel, keep to just one) a few supporting characters and an antagonist. Check out these three Pinterest boards that I created just for this very purpose — Main Characters, Supporting Characters, Antagonists. Make notes, play around with them, base them all on people you know. I think character development is the most enjoyable part of the whole process.

I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends
I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends

8. Think about your setting! That means jot down a few key locations that your scenes will take place, like the barbershop, behind the middle school, on the moon and somewhere in the Great Coral reef. Your setting is just as important as your main character. It will need detail and description. When you write your story  you should try to visualize what’s going on in each scene. This will strengthen your story and your reader will find it interesting.

9. Think beginning, middle and end! If you’re into math, (and really, of the people who read this blog, we have -2 people who like math) then you need to see that the beginning or set-up of the story shouldn’t be any longer than the first 10,000 words or so, the middle be up to the 40,000 word mark or so, and then the wrap-up, or third act, in the last 10,000 words. This post on three act structure may be able to help you!

10. And then? Go for it! If you followed points 1-9 then you have all the basic ingredients of a story. The rest requires putting your butt in your chair and moving forward in the story a little bit every day. Here’s what you can do if you’re stuck! 

Thousands of people win Nanowrimo every year. You can do it too!

What strategies have you used? What are you doing to get ready?

I DID IT! I’M A NANO WINNER! (Now, What My Project Is, And What It Is Not!)

I did it! Despite going away for a week, having no plan, no outline and no idea what I was doing, I put in the necessary 50,000 words required for National Novel Writing Month. So, I won! I’m a winner! WOO-HOO!

Now before I get too excited, I need to realize that word count alone doth not a novel make. Oh my. No. So this little blog entry is to explain what my particular messy 50K word work-in-progress is and is not.

What It is: A long brain spew. This isn’t a bad thing. I really believe that the best books resemble icebergs. What is read in the published form is only the tip. This is a critical part of the story creating process, but not really worth keeping. To use another metaphor and to borrow from Hemingway: first drafts are a load of ca-ca, but I think that there’s a pony underneath it all.

What it is not: Readable.

What it is: Illuminating. One morning, about 35K into it, I was thinking about snails. (I am a homeschooling mother of five, so this topic of conversation comes up far more often than you would think) and a specific kind of snail from Indonesia stuck in my mind. This snail became a metaphor for me personally, then I realized how awesome it would be if my point-of-view character had a fascination with this kind of snail and what that would mean for her personal objectives. How could I use this for a symbol?  I was delighted and wrote hundreds, if not thousands of words about her, snails and what it means in her life. From there I got more ideas for scenes and plot points. I struck gold.

What it is not: Concise. It takes more than a bunch of symbols to make a story. But I’m getting there.

What the characters are: Fuzzy. I’m not too big on physical descriptions. Instead I’m far more interested in motivations and obsessions that drive a person to make the choices that they make. It does help if I have a mental image to go on, but I don’t want my readers to be bogged down on whether or not my romantic lead has a dimple in his chin. The fine-tuning of hair color can come later.

What are the characters are not: Shallow. I never really care what flavor of ice cream they like and I’ll probably never bother with details like that.

What the plot is: Low-concept. I prefer character driven plots, where people change rather than plot-driven stories where something is stolen or something blows up. I do see an accidental shooting of a prize-winning show dog in this story. But overall, my work in progress is far more about people changing for the better or worse.

What the plot is not: Easily organized into scenes. Oh well. Someday.

What the setting is: Very clear. This story is set in the town that my husband grew up, Leominster, Massachusetts. I’m going to have my point-of-view character work in the same family business that my husband’s family worked in. I can get first hand knowledge of the goings-on, the potential for conflict and culture. I’m really excited about it.

What the setting is not: Done to death in other books. I hope.

What the next step is: To wait. I’m planning on letting this little 50K project simmer in a drawer for a while. I’ve got other projects to attend to. I’m moving house. I’m celebrating Advent and Christmas. Life is getting in the way. If this is really a good story, then it can wait until I can give it my full attention. I’m not worried.

What the next step is not (and never, ever should be after Nanowrimo): Sending it in an attachment to every agent on the planet.

So, what about you? Did you write 50K in November? What is it? What is it not?

 

The Schlemeil, Schlamazel Hassenpfeffer Incorporated Method To Nanowrimo (Or How ’80s Pop Culture Can Make You A Better Writer)

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month.

For 30 days in November every year, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world try to get 50,000 words on paper. In a perfect world, these words would be brilliant and profound. It’s far more likely that the words are a big hot mess. If you are participating, then you know that you only have a week left to get your words in.

You Can Do This!

happy

If you have 10K or less to do by November 30, this is manageable. If you have much more than that, do the best you can. Walk in grace and go easy on yourself. And try again next year and then you can write all the words. ALL THE WORDS.

The objective is to write as much as possible, not to be beautiful doing it.

It’s literary vomiting. It’s Jackson Pollock art.  It’s not about form or order or plot even, it’s just about getting that word count in.

I believe that the objective of 50K words in 30 days is doable for anyone who wants to try.

I also believe that much is to be gained from the whole exercise, even if it isn’t a coherent story. I’ve broken down the steps to writing a story for Nano into super-easy steps. If you follow them, you’ll easily make your goal. (It’s only 1,667 words a day. You can DO that!)

So here we go! (This is the ’80s version so I suggest you pop up your collar, put on your Ray-Bans and crank up the Pet Shop Boys!)

How can I sign up for Nanowrimo?

Step One: Start your story with Once upon a time. Is that cheating?  NO! It gets you going and now you only have 49,996 words to go.

Step Two: Pick Two Names: Almost any two will do. Hall and Oates, BJ and the Bear, let’s go with Laverne and Shirley! 

What do I do when I'm stuck on Nanowrimo?
I had to look this up. It’s a Yiddish schoolyard chant that would have been common in Wisconsin when L&S were kids. #themoreyouknow

Step Three: Describe these two characters. List their favorite things, their appearance and their relationships. They also need a job that is unrelated to the genre of the book, like say, make them fax machine salesmen! Leg warmer designers!

Step Four: Give them an antagonist: (This determines your genre). If it’s a mean girl/boy, then it’s chick lit. If it’s a tall, dark stranger who they think is a pain in the butt (at first) it’s a rom-com.If it’s a mysterious colleague with secret who may do something violent to protect it then it’s a thriller. If it’s someone who had committed a crime and he doesn’t want our couple to find out about it, it’s a mystery.  If it’s bigger than a personality, like, say, a government agency, then it’s a spy thriller. If it’s a non-human but nothing technological is involved, then it’s a fantasy. If it’s a non-human but technology IS involved it’s science fiction. Okay, so these are loose definitions, but this is Nanowrimo! There is no need to get technical.

How Do I Win Nanowrimo?
So why were we so fascinated with the 1950s during the 1980s?

Step Five: Give them a setting. Make it consistent with the antagonist. Coffee shops in NYC are more for romantic comedies than for science fiction. (And there weren’t that many Starbucks around in the ’80s!)  But you know what, it’s NANOWRIMO! Go ahead, break the rules, and while Laverne and Shirley are waiting for the baddie to show up, they can order twenty-seven things on the menu because that will pad you with a lot of words!

This is where you sign up for NANO!

Step Six: Give them an objective: All this means is that the characters want something. They want to be loved. They want to be famous. They want to be secure, forgiven, avenged, or safe. These are primal needs and everybody wants them. You don’t need to worry about the specifics of the objectives, that will come later.

Step Seven: Give them a handicap: What will keep them from meeting their objective?  Sure, the antagonist will do his part, but there’s got to be more. Let’s say Laverne is a narcoleptic and falls asleep every seven minutes. Let’s say Shirley is deathly afraid of asphalt. Be as nonsensical and illogical as you want because HEY! THIS IS NANOWRIMO! 

Step Eight: Give them something to say:  Open your scene with dialogue. Your pair is bickering because of something. This shouldn’t be hard to come up with. As they bicker, the reader learns about their big objective. Laverne wants all of her black rubber bracelets back and Shirley wants to go to the Madonna concert.

Step Nine: The antagonist makes an appearance OR someone challenges them to acquire something. They are sent off on their mission. They bicker about it some more. They get distracted. Now write about this!

What should I do for Nanowrimo?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the pilot died and Laverne had to land the plane. AND she had narcolepsy! If I were Shirley, I’d be biting an apple in fear too!

Step Ten: Stuck? Tell us backstory! This is where Nanowrimo is beautiful. Tell us all about Laverne’s struggle with narcolepsy and how her fiancee left her for a woman who stays awake. Tell us about the trauma that Shirley had when she was four when she skinned her knee on the asphalt. In Nanowrimo (unlike your best work) you can have as much bleedin’ backstory as you want. This will add to your word count, will help you flesh out those characters, explain what happens in chapter 47 and help you understand where the story is going. Trust me.

Step Eleven: Stuck again? Put something unexpected in their path! A car wreck. A flood. A tornado. Have your duo fight it out and regroup and get back to the task at hand. (That could kill a couple of thousand words right there!)

Step Twelve: Take a break and think about your ending. What do you want to happen? Do you want them to meet their objective or not? Brainstorm for 10-20 things that need to happen before your duo gets to the end. This is your very loose outline. From now on, as you get stuck, refer to this. Put Laverne and Shirley in these situations or scenes and then get them out.

Step Thirteen: When you get about 10K from the end, try to wrap it up. Get your main characters in positions where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re having trouble, make a coincidence work out for them. Have a high school buddy show up with a solution. Don’t even worry about the logic of it. The important thing is that YOU ARE 10K FROM THE END! You need to fill that space up with something. Sometimes all we need to see what happens next is to put our fingers on the keyboard and plow through. You might be surprised what you figure out for your characters.

How do I do Nanowrimo?
I hope to God that was Carmine under all that gauze and not Squiggy!

Step Fourteen: When you hit 50K, CELEBRATE!  You deserve that badge! You deserve a pat on the back And don’t worry about  the story.

Put it aside for a minimum of three months.

Step Fifteen: When three months have passed, get the story out and go on a search and rescue mission. You are now digging through the haystack looking for the needle. You are digging through the stable full of ca-ca, looking for the pony. You are mining for diamonds in the cave. DO NOT PUBLISH THIS! I repeat! DO NOT PUBLISH THIS! If you have any kind of sense, you will take that 50K words and see if there’s something salvageable, like an exchange of dialog, a good description, a well drawn character or a little bit of a plot line. This is your good stuff. SAVE IT.

Step Sixteen:  Question my method completely. “What’s the point of writing like a mad man for a month if all we’re getting out of it is a little bit here and there.” I’ll tell you. You are learning discipline. You are learning to think fast. You are learning to appreciate the struggle. You are learning basic storytelling elements. You are learning what doesn’t work. You are learning what is good and what is drivel. You are learning to write the hard way. NANOWRIMO is, I believe, the Mr. Miyagi method to all you aspiring Karate Kids out there.

Nanowrimo is not HOW to write a novel. It is however, a way to build muscle and skills. To stretch your story-telling abilities. To gain perspective and insight. It’s good for you. And your car will look nicer too.

So, veteran Nano-ers? What do you think? How has past Nanos worked for you?

 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Even More Top Ten Emergency Writing Prompts for Nanowrimo!

Last week I suggested ten emergency writing prompts for Nanowrimo. Here are 10 more!

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later.

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him!

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot.

nanowrimo writing novel national creativity help prompts ideas

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out?

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless!

6. What would Kevin Bacon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later.

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet.

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist?

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader!

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out!

Remember, the point of Nano is quantity, not quality. This draft is supposed to be messy. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out the lawn gnome later.

Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top Ten Nanowrimo Emergency Prompts For The Overwhelmed

 

Are you stuck yet? Don’t worry, you will be. When you are, don’t panic!  Don’t worry!  You’ll get through it! If you get stuck, here are ten writing prompts that might send you off on a tangent, help you finish your book!

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather deux et machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later.

 

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him!

You’re ready for Nanowrimo to be over when you actually decide, about the 24th or so, it’s time to shower& talk to people.

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot.

nanowrimo writing novel national creativity help prompts ideas

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out?

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh the possibilities are endless!

You take Nanowrimo too seriously when you haven’t showered, seen family nor spoken in days & you’re worried you don’t have enough conflict.

6. What would Kevin Bacon do? No really. Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from film. Write in down now and then tweak it later.

7. Go backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet.

Nanowrimo is when you’re at the store & the clerk says, “Paper or plastic?” And you snap. “I’m a PANTSER! For God’s sake! Stop asking me!”

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist?

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader!

#Nanowrimo is like jumping from an airplane & your parachute only works if you flap your wings 1667 times a minute.

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out!

Remember, the point of Nano is quantity, not quality. This draft is supposed to be messy. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out the lawn gnome later.


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Top Eight Signs You May Be Doing Nanowrimo All Wrong

Is it really November? Is it really time to start that non-stop frenzy that requires 50,000 words in 30 days? It is!

Congratulations to all of you who are attempting it this year!

And to those of you who have tried, get discouraged and possibly think you are on the road to failure, just consider this:  you may be doing it wrong. 

Top Ten Signs Your Doing Nanowrimo Wrong

1. You think every word you write is golden. Um, your nano project is a first draft. Please, for the love of all that’s publishable, type this sentence ten times —> MY NANO PROJECT IS A FIRST DRAFT. The solution? Just plan on doing some major rewrites, revisions and edits long before you let a critic, agent, publisher or reviewer see it.

You just have to write the words.

2. The converse: you think every word you write is garbage, so you delete and try again, rewriting the same sentence fifty seven times. The solution? Don’t delete! Don’t edit! Your purpose is a high word count, to have the raw material of a good book. Just keep going and worry about editing later.

You just have to write the words.

3. You’ve got your character stuck in a corner so you quit. The solution? Give him wings and let him fly out of there. Leave him in the corner and throw down 3K on his backstory. Go to a different scene, or a different point of view, and write what’s happening elsewhere. You don’t have to save your hero in this draft. You just have to write the words.

Nano (2)

You just have to write the words.

4. Your outline isn’t as wonderful as it was in October, so you quit. The solution? Forget the outline. Go a different direction. You are the master of the outline, not the other way around. If you want start at the ending and work backward. No one says that you have to do your words in chronological order.

You just have to write the words.

5. Your write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method is stressing you out. You thought that this was the way to stay truly inspired. The solution? Go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be a creative genius all the time. Instead of wishing for the muse to show up, write about descriptions of the setting, character backstory, or the tragic forces that made your antagonist so nasty.

You just have to write the words.

6. You obsess over everyone else’s numbers. It feels like all your friends are knocking these big word counts every day and you’ve lost your confidence. The solution? Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. You only have to write for yourself. Also? If you spend your writing time today just writing all the reasons why you WILL succeed, it can count for you daily total.

NanoDisney

You just have to write the words.

7.  You think that all the big, famous writers do Nanowrimo, so this must be the ticket to fame. Nope. Not quite. The solution? Realize that every big, famous, published writer had their own unique ticket to fame and fortune. The only common denominator is their hard work. Nanowrimo is a great idea, but it’s only a tool that writers can use to get a draft. The reward comes in completing the goal, not fame or fortune.

You just have to write the words.

8. You think that winning Nanowrimo propels into a magical world of authorship. Nope. The solution to this thought? A reality check. Many, many people complete nanowrimo and their finished draft goes nowhere. Those 50,000 words is the literary equivalent of finding a piece of carbon. Don’t you dare assume that you can sell it off as a diamond without a lot of pressure and hard work.

Nanowrimo is fun, it’s hard work, and it can, at times, be stressful. But it is JUST a tool. It is not a replacement for good editing and revising, good character development or any other short cut. It is a great way to create raw materials for future masterpieces. We all have to start somewhere and if you’re working at Nanowrimo then you’re better than writers who never write a word at all.

You can do this! One word at a time! 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available for pre-order! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

Polishing Your Beach Rocks: All Beautiful Words Start Out Plain — A Guest Post By Christine Hennebury

‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ – Theodore Roosevelt

Have you ever read someone else’s work and been struck by the sheer beauty of their words? Did you then turn to your own work in despair because it could never match what the other writer had produced? Did the comparison take the joy out of your writing for you?

 Anne Lamott, one of the great philosophers of our time, often warns us against comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.  She’s usually speaking in a more general sense of personal well-being but it applies to our writing as well.  When we compare our messy drafts with someone else’s published work, we are comparing our insides to their outsides.  It’s a cruel thing to do to ourselves because it is not a fair comparison and  it certainly doesn’t help us become better writers.
Polishing Your Beach Rocks A Guest Post By Christine Hennebury
When we see those beautiful words, we don’t have any idea how much work and how many revisions went into them.
There’s no way to know what they were like when they started and how many drafts it took to make them beautiful. It’s like comparing ordinary beach rocks to ones that have been tumbled and polished and set into jewelry. They are the same basic material but there are a lot of unknown factors between the two sets of stones.

That’s why, when we write (or create) anything, it is so important for us to learn to focus on the process instead of the end product.

 We need to get comfortable with creating and we need to let go of our expectations about the end results. When we learn to do that, we can enjoy our writing and produce lots and lots of very plain beach rock words. Then we can choose our favorites, polish them nicely, and set them into something that showcases their beauty.  But without the plain rocks as raw material we will never get the jewelry.  So how do we get enough rocks to start with?
I’m sure by now that you’ve heard about the college instructor who divided his pottery students into two groups – one group’s grade depended upon the perfection of a single pot that they had to submit at the end of the semester. The second group was graded on the sheer volume of the pottery that they produced. It seems like the first group would be the ones producing the most beautiful, skilled work but it turns out that it was the second group – the ones who had freedom to make mistakes, to create ugly pots, and to just fool around with the learning process – who created true beauty.

For writers, challenges like NaNoWriMo, the A-Z Blogging Challenge and the 10 Minute Novelists 365K Club put us in the same situation as the second group of pottery students. 

Those challenges aren’t about producing a small set of perfect words, they are about losing ourselves in the process of writing.  There is something about the structure of a challenge that frees us from the pressure of choosing what to work on and the volume of words required means that we have to let go of trying to polish each one as we produce it.  There’s no time to be fussy and precious about our words when we have so very many to write in a short period of time. These challenges let us push ourselves past the limits of perfectionism and the pressure of creating beautiful words.  Pushing past those sort of blocks is key to our development as writers.  We can’t create beautiful words unless we start with ordinary ones:  it is impossible to polish work that doesn’t exist.

Challenges like those listed above may not have any appeal for you, not everything works for everybody. 

But if you are finding yourself thinking too much about results or getting caught up in a quest for the perfect word, please try to find a way to shift your focus.  After all, there’s no guarantee that your end results will make you happy but when you concentrate on the process of writing, you become much more satisfied with your work.  You don’t want to become one of those people that focuses so tightly on a narrow outcome that the fear of falling short keeps you from writing at all.

I think that the key to creating work you are proud of is to give yourself that freedom to create all kinds of different words – beautiful ones, ugly ones, plain ones, and everything in between.  We all want to create beautiful words – the shiny ones that await us at the end of the writing and the editing and the polishing – but we can’t lose sight of the work it takes to create them.

We all start with plain beach rocks and the beauty comes from the effort we put into them.

 

Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her story skills have improved since then. She makes up stories, shares stories, and helps people shape their life stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Christine Hennebury
This is Christine Hennebury. You do NOT want to mess with her!
Find out more about her storyfying at www.christinehennebury.com
Read some of her recent fiction at mombie.com/category/writer-dame/storyaday2014/
Chat with her on twitter @isekhmet

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Signs You Have Too Much Backstory

They really should call December CleUMessNoMo, for Clean Up Your Messy Novel Month. And that kind of looks like clueless. I think that’s fitting because many writers, especially new and inexperienced writers are clueless about what to take out of the hot mess that is their Nanowrimo Project.

If you have any doubt, this handy list can help you address the backstory problem you may have in your little darling. Backstory is great for writers who need to know the true motivation of their characters. Backstory is not great for readers who are aching for action and just want the writer to get to the point!  Tell the story for crying out loud! 

Top 10 Signs You Have Too Much Backstory

You May Have Too Much Backstory If . . .

1. You have too much backstory when you have told your reader how everyone is related to everyone else in the first two paragraphs.

2. You’ve listed three items on your main character’s resume.

3. You’ve mentioned you protagonist’s high school experiences and your main character is 27.

4. An old boyfriend makes an appearance and your MC flashbacks to the break up scene.

All of my break up scenes looked just like this one.
All of my break up scenes looked just like this one.

5. It’s in the first chapter.

6. You defend yourself by saying that Dickens or somebody a 100 years ago did it so you’re doing it too.

7. When you’ve stopped the big action between the dragon and the knight  to tell the reader how the sword the knight is using was forged by the elf who was once engaged to the driad, who died of a curse from a witch, who lives in the hut in the enchanted forest, that is full of fairies who sing in a full moon, which only comes out once a year because this story takes place on another planet in another galaxy that was formed billions of years ago.

8. When you catch yourself saying, “but I RESEARCHED clothing in 1820 Poland! My reader needs to see how hard I worked!”

9. When you have conveniently forgotten that the purpose of Nanowrimo is quantity and these passages with too much backstory are likely that night you stayed up until 3 AM and you were just padding the stupid thing with any words you could think of.

“A day without sunshine is like, you

10.  You’re so into telling, rather than showing, that you named your main character William Tell. He lives in Tell City, Indiana, he has a job as a teller, and for vacation he goes to Telluride.

You may also have too much backstory when you’ve got too much backstory when the action that progresses the story forward has stalled or stopped. You may have too much when you feel like there’s a pause button because you need to explain something. You may have too much when you use your research and notes and notes of character development as justification. You may have too much when you think that padding your word count will do you favors. You may have too much when you find yourself head hopping. You may have too much when you think that detailing people’s opinions of other characters is an excuse for head hopping. You may have too much when you have referred to childhood trama way too early. You may have too much when the details that you have to share reveal a secret, which, would be best suited saved until much later. You may have too much when you’ve decided that a little backstory is easier to write than action or dialogue.

Every word you put down is NOT golden. Don’t be afraid to cut backstory. Your readers will thank you and your work will be better for it.

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Questions To Ask Yourself When You Clean Up Your Nano Project

Nanowrimo is almost done!!

And if you are one of those gold star, overachieving type, you may be wondering what to do with this little project once it’s all over. (This blog will have plenty of advice in December!)

Top Ten Questions To Ask Yourself When You Clean Up Your Nano Project
Top Ten Questions To Ask Yourself When You Clean Up Your Nano Project

But for now, let’s list a few general tips to consider when fine tune that draft. These all have to do with the general story structure and plot –these are big issues. In fact, you can’t do much more with the development of your story until these wrinkles are ironed out. Are you ready to answer some tough questions? (And have a stronger manuscript as a result?) Let’s Go!

1. Does the point of view character you chose have the most to lose?

2. Is your point of view consistent throughout the story?

Did you choose the right person's point of view?
Did you choose the right person’s point of view?

3. About the first third of the way in, does the main character set off on some sort of task or adventure?

4. Does the main character have a precise outward goal?

What do I do when I'm stuck on a story idea?
from Frabz.com

5. Does the main character have a inner basic drive, such as acceptance or justice or vengeance or security?

6. Are the obstacles in the path of the main character increasingly more dramatic?

7. Is there a point about 3/4 of the way in the story in which all seems hopelessly lost for your main character?

8. Does your main character have two mutually exclusive desires? Is there critical point in the story, about 3/4 of the way through in which he will have to choose one over the loss of the other?

What is that Phillip Pullman quote about stories?
Share this quote with your friends! Please pin!

9. Is your character’s choice a predictable one? If it is, you’ll need to rewrite it to surprise your reader?

10. Does the last fourth of your story tie up all the loose ends and put your main character into a permanent new situation?

Congratulations! You got those 50,000 words in, but you’re not done yet! Don’t be intimidated by the work that still needs to be done.  Your book is worth it!

#Top10Tuesday Top Ten Additional Emergency Writing Prompts for Nanowrimo

Just a couple of weeks ago, I shared with you Top Ten Emergency Writing Prompts for Nanowrimo. Today I have ten more!

Stuck in Nanowrimo? Here are some emergency prompts to get you going! More at www.10minutewriter.com

The following prompts may just get you started!

1. Describe what everyone is wearing. This is especially for your girly-girls. Go into detail about the honey colored cashmere twin set that the receptionist has on. Have it remind you of your Aunt Grace and the time she took you shopping at Macy’s and you got squirted in the eye by the perfume counter and now you can’t smell Jennifer Lopez’s new scent without thinking of Aunt Grace. Do it. It will be awesome.

2. There’s an annoying noise bothering the main character. What is it? And then describe it. What does he do about it?

3. Your main character is really, really hungry. Have him stop and feed himself. Does he cook or go out? What does he eat? Go into detail. Why does he like bacon and blue cheese burgers so much? What does he do with his egg allergy? Why does he suspect the waitress is up to something?

4. Your main character has been in this exact position before. What was it like? What did she do differently? What feeling does she now have about this? Pride? Shame? Fear? Tell the reader. This will also be awesome.

5. Give your main character an ridiculous middle name and tell a story of how they got it.

6. That weird thing that you heard about from a friend last week — about the dog, or the appliance repair man or that puff piece on the evening news — put it in your story. Even if it’s not completely plausible.

7. Put your main character in a car accident. These are never planned.

8. Your main character finds a cell phone. It is ringing. They answer it. It’s someone the main character knows. Who is it? What do they want?

9. The weather goes crazy. Is it a major thunderstorm? Hurricane? Blizzard? This too is not in our control and it shouldn’t be a choice for you — put your main character in a storm and let them wrestle with the elements.

10. Finally, set your timer. Go small. You might be stressed out that you don’t have an hour or two to put in the big numbers. You don’t need that. You need lots of small numbers. If you’re a fast typist, you can knock out three hundred words in ten minutes. Take any of the above suggestions, work for ten minutes and watch that word count climb.

Every Friday, this website features writing prompts if you need more! 

Just write. You can do it. It will be awesome. Trust me.