Are you one of those crazy people who attempts National Novel Writing Month each year? Or are you thinking about trying it for the first time this year? Well, this is the place for you!
In November we post helpful tips and suggestions, as well as provide a place for you to get support and encouragement from other WriMos on Tumblr. We want to help make sure that your writing process goes as smoothly as possible!
The rest of the year we will do our best to inspire you with quotes and activities to keep you writing! We will also be featuring support for Camp NaNo in the summer and ScriptFrenzy in the spring. As well as teaching you some prep tips in the early fall for the next NaNoWriMo.
This year we are starting our own challenge for Flash Fiction writers!! It will take place every third month (March, June, September and December), called Four by Flash. Stay tuned for more information!
Feel free to Ask us any questions you have regarding this site, NaNo or any other writing advice! Also if you're looking for online writing buddies please check out our list of community members and/or send us your contact info using This Form and we'll add you to the list!
2a: competitive or opposing action of incompatibles : antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons) b: mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands
3: the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction
So where does this put us? When you are writing, your story has to have some kind of conflict. It doesn’t have to be a major conflict, and sometimes, the conflict can happen within another conflict that doesn’t impact the actual story.
(I think that needs some clarification. Think about a movie set during a war. My first thought is Casablanca, but you can think about another example if you don’t know that movie. In Casablanca, there is a war going on, but that isn’t the actual conflict of the movie. There’s another story going on within the war.)
So what do you need to do to create conflict in your novel this November? Well, in my mind, conflict is all about two people that want different things. Just like in my movie example, the conflict doesn’t have to be anything big. Maybe their conflict is choosing where to have dinner. One wants Chinese, the other wants pizza.
Your story needs conflict. If you don’t have it then it will get pretty dull. Let me try to give you an example of how that would look.
Tim and Tom were going for a walk. They decided to go to the beach. They got everything together and chose their favorite path to the water. After several hours of fun, they went home.
Not very exciting was it? What if Tim and Tom couldn’t agree where they wanted to go? Maybe there could have been an argument at the beach. I’m sure you can think of hundreds of ways to make that little story better.
So what are you waiting for? Take my idea, or one of your own, and fill it with conflict.
Whether you managed to pack 50,000 word into the month of November, chances are that you have a story that still needs some work before it has been told. If you’re like me, you still have a big chunk of words to cross the finish line. In that case, I have some advice for you:
Read your book!
I know you think you know your story since you’ve spend thirty days cramming it onto the page, but I assure you that that you’ve forgotten something.
How do I know? I ran into the same problem last month when I was working on reaching 50k. I had started my story later in the story. I’m not sure if it was in the middle or not, but I had reached the part of the story I had jumped from, but I had to go back to see what I had done at that part.
It turns out I didn’t remember what I had done as well as I’d thought, so it was good for me to review it. At this point, going back will help you because it will help you remember what you’ve done, but more importantly, it might give you some ideas about the future of your story.
Don’t think about what is wrong, or needs correction. Just get the story back into your head.
This short phrase represents one of the very most core distinctions between being a writer and being a great writer.
The Big Idea:
Maybe not everyone here is as big of an English nerd as I am, but have you even read a passage in a book that was so well written that it just sent a tingle down your spine? One that you had to stop reading for a second to just admire how perfectly it was worded? Or even a scene in a movie that is so well written it makes you sort of jumpy and you get that “Yes! That makes perfect sense now!” feeling. The kind that makes you so excited that you want to turn to someone and say “Get it!? Because she said _____ in the beginning!?” but of course everyone already gets it because the scene was just so flawless.
Usually these are the passages where the author sums up a theme or where some major plot element ties together without the author directly telling you that it’s being wrapped up. It’s usually a passage that is heavy with symbolism and key words, one that links back to a previous moment of foreshadowing, or one that provides an important insight into a character. These moments wouldn’t be as intensely satisfying if the author just came out and told you exactly what they meant, the reason they are so satisfying is because the author guides you, as the reader, into figuring it out for yourself.
Obviously your story will not be all big reveal moments that need to be cleverly crafted but it will be important to sprinkle your novel with key words, clues, and the like that will help you better be able to show the reader later when your story eventually does come together.
You should also be trying to incorporate this technique into your prose because overall, even for the mundane things, it is more fun to read when you have to deduce some of the elements for yourself. You don’t want you just be telling your reader about what happens to the characters, you want them to be able to experience what is happening to the characters. You don’t want to just tell them what is happening, you want to show them how it’s happening.
1. "Maya was broke and burdened with debt. She knew she deserved a raise, after all she was the best barista in the whole coffee house."
2. Maya expertly pressed espresso and steamed milk, pulling levers here and pouring streams of hot delicious beverages into ceramic mugs and paper cups there. The aroma of darkly roasted coffee swirling around her as she spun around the coffee counter like she was practicing a choreographed dance. She smiled as handed customers their beverages and wished them a good day, especially the sleepy or grumpy ones. It was a grey, gloomy day outside but she was sure her chipper attitude and the glorious caffeinated elixir they were about to partake in would be a much needed pick-me-up!
When the morning rush died down and the regulars were all settled with their books and laptops sipping their chai lattes and cappuccinos, Maya untied her apron and leaned on the counter with her phone in her hands. She popped open her mobile banking app and scrolled through the recent transactions for a while then let out a tired sigh.
An old man sitting on the couch furrowed his bushy brows and folded his newspaper, “What’s up buttercup? Student loan payments coming again?” Maya looked up from her phone “You know me Merv, always trying to make ends meet…” He frowned a bit and said with a hint of derision “Anthony still only paying you minimum wage, huh?” Maya let out a short chuckle but just nodded.
Merv got up and put a five in the tip jar before heading out, Maya smiled appreciatively and said to have fun at physical therapy. She tied her apron back up and began to sweep the floors, pausing only to glance up at her picture on the wall under the words “Employee of the Month!”
In both options the next sentence or paragraph could still easily be an action that leads to your next plot point, but they are both very different approaches. The first example tells you that Maya is broke, that she needs a raise and that she is the best barista. Whereas the second example shows you how Maya is the best barista, it lets you discover for yourself that she is broke and then through dialogue leads you to the conclusion that she deserves a raise.
You can see this is also and important distinction to make for NaNoWriMo because you can turn a 25 word leading sentence into 275 word chapter introduction while simultaneously making your story more interesting to read.
This was a previous writing prompt we posted, it was also an exercise from one of my fiction writing classes in college and probably one of my most favorite writing exercise ever: http://writrs.tumblr.com/post/18519594456/
If you find yourself stuck on this concept take a break from writing and try the prompt! make sure you pay very close attention and stick to the rules! You can even use your MC from your NaNo novel instead of one of the characters on the list and if you end up liking it, add it to your word count!
That is a question you all must consider during the month of October… Some of you may already have your NaNo ideas rearing to go and some of you Last-Minute Lucy’s may not have even given it a second thought yet! Both courses of action are totally valid options, as long as you know it is a good fit for your creative process!
Let me start by explaining a little bit about my own creative process. Usually when I entertain an idea for a novel I can see a clear beginning and end immediately. Despite this knowledge for where I want the story to go, I usually just jump into it without much planning anyway. So far this has yielded some results, albeit over long periods of time, although for NaNoWriMo this strategy has proven completely ineffective for me!
"Why?" you might ask… Some of you who also chose not to plot, or some of you who have not finished NaNo, or some of you who just enjoy writing, I am sure can identify with why! It is because pushing full steam ahead with no real plan and just letting the story flow organically (while often is a beautiful expression of talent and passion for the craft) is a sure-fire way to hit a patch of writers block. Especially when you have a very short deadline. For me there are three major reasons this strategy has not worked for me in the past:
First is my story ends up organically diverging from the path I wanted it to take. Which sometimes can be great! Except then it still takes extra time to reorganize your path in your mind. And then other times it can just be immensely frustrating.
Second is I think too far ahead and get overwhelmed or psych myself out. Usually when I think about how little I am into the story and how far I must get in order to reach the end. Which can sometimes be exciting, but it can also be terrifying and lead to those moments of “but I just don’t know HOW I’m going to get there!”
And lastly, sometimes I just plain get stuck. We all have moments of forgetting something important you wanted to add, or just not knowing what to do next, or being unable to continue until you work through a major plot element because it ties into your current scene.
This year I am attempting to plot out my novel to try to avoid my chronic recurring pitfalls! I am drawing maps, writing character bios and making timelines. (Stay tuned for my posts on these topics in the upcoming month!)
Now to the point, which should YOU do? To help you assess whether or not you should plot your novel before beginning to write I am leaving you with a list of reasons that are either pro-plotting or pro-winging-it, you should take both into consideration and use them to decide which works better with YOUR writing style.
Reasons To Plot Your Novel: -It will help you organize your thoughts and get your ideas focused. - It will help you stay on track as your write. - It is a good idea if you struggle with procrastination. - It is a good idea if you have attempted NaNo and once the month started spend most of your time doing research and thinking about your novel rather than writing it. - Either way you will have a plot, so figuring it out beforehand is one less distraction you will have to worry about once you actually start writing. - You will be less likely to forget any major (or minor) points you plan to add in later in the story. - If you develop a case of writers block, you will already have a general idea of what should come next. - If you get really stuck you can just jump to another plot point on your timeline and work from there until you’re ready to go back. (Note: You don’t have to write your novel from end to end to begin with, but having your plot developed will let you jump around even more easily. -Billy) - It will help you set goals and pace yourself (for example: you can try to hit a certain amount of plot points each week.)
Reasons Not To Plot Your Novel: - It is a good idea if you are able to construct a solid plot on the fly without obsessing over the details. - It is a good idea if you are skilled at the “write fast, edit later” concept. - It is a good idea if your story is very heavy on prose and character development, or is told over a short period of time and therefore not very action heavy. -The best reason not to plot is if you are just more comfortable starting from scratch. - Another good reason is if you have a great idea and a strong opening but just aren’t sure where to go with it yet. - Also if you have finished NaNo without plotting in previous years, by all means stick with your current strategy!
Of course there is no real answer to the question, it just depends on what works for you! I hope this was informative and helps some of you make up your mind on how much you want to plan your novel before November! I hope you look forward to our future planning posts as well!
Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
Laugh at your own jokes.
The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
I though I was doing pretty well with staying on track for Script Frenzy. Just do 3 pages a day, right? Well, just remember that in order to reach 100 pages in 30 days you have to do 3-1/3 pages each day.
So at the end of day 9, you need to be at 30 pages instead of 27. It isn’t a lot, but it will add up quickly.
The time is coming fast, so it’s probably a good time to talk about forming your idea.
So where do you start? Go watch a few of your favorite movies. Make some notes about why you like it. Make some notes about your favorite visuals. Make notes about how the characters interact.
If you want to use one of the other formats, then just change the focus of your research. (This is a great opportunity to read all those comic books.)
Whatever kind of project you have in front of you, you need to come up with an idea that you can spread over 100 pages of script. If you aren’t certain, you should plot out the idea. Remember that your scripting can include special effects. That might come in handy.
I’m not sure what I’m doing either, but Now is the time to start thinking about it.
Think back to November. Remember how each day (or almost each day) you sat down and cranked out a large pile of words. After a while, it became very easy, but at first, it took a lot of effort. Now here we are a few months later and if you’re anything like me, you’re finding it hard to find the motivation to write at all.
I don’t have an easy fix to that problem, but I do have some advice:
Start writing every dayagain!
I don’t even care what you write. It can be a grocery list. You’ll save money because you are just getting what you need. It can be ideas for character names. Go on your blog and write a random opinion about something you saw on the news.
It really doesn’t matter what you write as long as you are writing.
I’m working on this right now for that very reason. Not only do I need to post more than great quotes, I also need to get back to giving advice.
If you’ve got questions, feel free to ask them. Camille and I will get to them as quickly as we can, and having questions gives us ideas on what you want/need to know.
waywarddean asked: Hi, do you have any post-Nano tips for me on how to get back to writing? I am absolutely stuck.
Great question! This is something I’ve been dealing with now that 2011 is almost over. Most of you know that I decided to take all of December off from my project, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve had any compulsion to write.
I’m still not ready to tackle my novel, but I’ve taken some time to work on a couple of smaller projects to get my writing back on track. Part of that was passively seeking what I wanted to write.
What on earth does that mean? Well, the best way to explain is to say that I didn’t go searching for the projects. I let myself ponder writing ideas. Eventually they came to me.
One of those projects was a poem I’ve had on the back burner for a while. It spoke to me and told me it was ready to finish up. (Yes, I do a lot of talking to imaginary things. I can admit that.) The other is a dramatic monologue that I was thinking about last fall called Leader of the Pack.
Working on these projects has gotten my creativity up a little bit.
I stopped by an Office Depot about 20 minutes ago and had them print out what I have of my novel so far so I can look it over and make edits and look for cool/stupid stuff.
Here’s what I want you to think about with this, if you have any idea that you might get your book published in the future, you really ought to be keeping track of any expenses you may have. I’m going to save the receipt for the printing. I’ve got a friend, that I trust and love dearly, who will be proof reading my novel. I’m going to ask her to keep track of her time and expenses.
I don’t know much about how the publishing side of things works, but it may come in handy to have such details if you ever get to the point of contract negotiations. Besides, it’s always a good idea to keep track of where your money is going. (Something I’m still not very good at yet.)
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to editing, there’s nothing I like more than having a physical copy of what I’ve written to mark up and desecrate in order to get the look and sound that I want. I’m actually planning to go get my NaNo novel (at least what I’ve written so far) printed out so I can do just that. I know there are plenty of words and sentences out there that can probably just go. I’m just hoping that there aren’t any paragraphs or sentences.
The great thing with a physical paper edit is that it allows you to make changes without actually changing the document like you would end up doing if you were to change your Word file. You can see the two options right before your eyes.
This may not work for you, especially on such a large scale, but print out the first chapter and see how it goes.
Merry Post Christmas, and the best of everything in 2012-Billy
NaNoWriMo is an amazing exercise. It’s a great chance to flex your creative muscles and show off what you know. There’s also a chance to try something that very few people could manage.
A novel is a complicated thing and it takes a lot of time an effort to get it right. If you didn’t make the 30-day deadline, don’t take that as a failure. You can still keep working on the novel and it will be an even better exercise to make that happen.
Also, if you did finish your 50,000 words, you may still have a lot of writing to do. I know I’m going to be at least 20k more to write before it’s all said and done.
So what else can you look forward to in the coming days? Plenty of rereading and editting. We’ll be talking about that process soon, but for now, enjoy what you have accomplished no matter how far you have gotten. 50k or not, you’re still a winner to me.
National Novel Writing Month is a great idea and it’s a great way to get people to try writing a novel. It certainly won’t give you a finished product, and you won’t be able to take what you’ve written this month directly to a publisher on December 1st, however, you can take pride in whatever you’ve accomplished, and with some more hard work, you can have something that a publisher might want to read.
Here’s the thing I want you to understand: every story has its own words count. 50,000 is just a rough average that breaks down into a workable daily word count. Some novels are longer than that number and some are longer. Maybe the reason you’re struggling right now is because you are trying to fit your story into a very limited box.
Are you trying to pack filler chapters into your book just to reach that lofty goal? Well, maybe your book isn’t meant to be that long. Are you trying to wrap your story up in time to finish at 50,000? Don’t do your book a diservice. Let it continue after you reach your goal. Write the book until it is done.
I’m on a good track to hit 50K by the 30th, but there’s no way that I’ll be done. I crossed 40K last night, and things are just starting to get interesting.
Let your story have the words that it needs. Otherwise it won’t be worth telling.