Writing Wednesday: Preptober

Writing Wednesday: Preptober

Happy  Preptober!

What’s Preptober, you ask? Well it’s the best month in the whole year (October) and NaNoWriMo Prep time. Hence, Preptober!

It’s the time of year when those of us participating in NaNoWriMo start to brainstorm, to develop our ideas, to come up with Pinterest boards for inspiration (here’s mine).  If you’re a pantser, this might be all that you do, just come up with a vague idea for a story, the characters, etc.

If, like me, you like to plan a little bit more, Preptober is your best friend!

I love knowing my story’s premise before I start writing. Brainstorming is probably my favorite part of the planning process. I love how bits and pieces of things start to come together as I find connections.

Do you use a notebook, Word (Scrivener or Google Doc), or your phone to help you keep track of your growing ideas?

As you plan this October, you’re going to need a place to record your ideas (you don’t want to lose those. That’s the worst). So make sure you have a notebook or computer document of some sort where you can add to your story idea as you come up with more information. This is also helpful when you have many ideas and are trying to figure out which one you like the best (often that is the idea you have brainstormed the most about). Continue reading

What do you want to write for NaNoWriMo?

Do you want to participate in NaNoWriMo, but either don’t know which idea you want to use or you don’t know what to write about at all?

You aren’t alone. I didn’t figure out which story idea I wanted to go with until very late last week. If you’re feeling the pressure with NaNoWriMo a little over a week away, I hope that this post helps you come up with some ideas you can use and feel more confident.

Some people start the month of October, known to many as NaNo prep month, with a ton of ideas or one main idea. Others begin it with none at all.

Continue reading

Getting Started for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

www.nanowrimo.org

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, begins on November 1st.

NaNoWriMo is a challege to writers, or people who want to be writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Yes, I know that sounds impossible. Who can actually complete a 50k word novel in 30 days? A superhero? A crazy person? Someone who does nothing but write non-stop for 30 days?

But the real answer is you.

Yes, you can write a novel in one month. Here’s how!

Continue reading

NaNo Prep #5- Your Characters Need Flaws

Over the weekend, I had the Oswego region’s Kick-Off party. While there was only a handful of us that were able to make it, it allowed me to get to know some of the participants better. We also got to talking about our books and characters. I was asked a question that for some reason, I had trouble answering

What are your character’s flaws?

sammycrap

Shit. I drew a blank at that question. I knew that my character isn’t perfect. She’s involved in some pretty seedy things and gets herself into a hell of a lot of trouble. But it got me thinking– what exactly are my character’s flaws?

I spent the rest of the weekend trying to mull it over and read through her character sketch at least ten times. I went from ‘I’ve got this” to “Oh my god I have no clue what I’m doing next month” and then went back and forth a couple of times. This morning I did a quick Google search for “character flaws” to try to come up with something so that I could stop freaking out.

Brave1All I can say is, I don’t know what I did before the Google Machine.

I found generators and lists of character flaws and explored them. I wasn’t looking to create a character based on flaws that a generator came up with, but ones that I knew would fit my character and her personality. While I browsed through lists they came to me, and for the time being I feel much better about my NaNoWriMo  novel that I will begin in just a few, short days.

In order to be realistic, your characters need to have some sort of flaws to go with their redeeming or good qualities.

Otherwise you tun the risk of having flat, boring characters that are dangerously close to being a Mary Sue. One of my biggest fears is realizing that after spending so much time writing and revising my book, that I have a Mary Sue main character on my hands.

No real person is flawless and we want our characters to be as real as possible— why would we expect our characters to be flawless?

Giving your characters flaws makes them feel real to the reader, makes them more dynamic, and gives you something to help them grow and change throughout the novel.

Likewise, your antagonist can’t be all flaws. You want them to have some redeeming quality somewhere (even if it has to do with their past or back story).

Overall, I’m really glad that this issue was brought to my attention.

Even if it did cause a whole weekend of self-doubt and “can I do this?”. My characters and novel will be so much more interesting as a result– and even better, my main character will not be a Mary Sue, and I understand her so much more.

spn-awesome

A Writer's Guide to NaNoWriMo- Part 2!

Yesterday I posted part one of my Writer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo. This is something that I am sharing with my fellow WriMos in the USA:: New York:: Oswego region and I figured I would share it with all of you on the interwebs as well!

boundlessnovelbanner50k!!! That’s a lot of writing! What if I get writer’s block?

We all get writer’s block from time to time, but there are a few things you can do!

  • Get your handy-dandy plot ninjas, pluck one out of there and try to work it in to your novel!
  • Start a new, completely unrelated scene or chapter or change points of view, you can always fill in the gaps or change things if you decide to revise!
  • Take a break and go for a walk— you’d be surprised how much this helps. It gets your blood pumping, and you can think about your novel (or completely unrelated things) for a little while before going back to write.
  • Look online— there are plenty of resources to help you!

 

Should I plan out my whole story?

nanowrimo-nov03-2012

www.nanotoons.net

If you want to! Plotters outline or plan out aspects of their story before writing— some in a lot of detail, others in little. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants and just write whatever comes to mind. Plantsers are some combination of the two.

You can do whatever you feel is right for you!

To Pants or to Plan (that is the question)

What do I need to do to participate?

  • Go to NaNoWriMo.org, sign up and create your novel
    • Select a home region to get updates and pep talks from your local pals!
    • Get something to write on or with and get writing!

But I get so distracted!!!

Try to get into a writing routine before NaNoWriMo. If you can’t do it before the month starts, try to go somewhere with little to no distractions. I have my craft room in my house. It doesn’t have a TV and other than yarn in it, it’s pretty damn empty. Coffee shops are great for writing, but sometimes other people’s conversations (which can be great for inspiration) can distract me– or I find myself singing along to the song on the radio instead of writing.

Try to create a distraction-free zone for yourself when you sit down to do your writing for the day.

Word Wars and Word Sprints are great for keeping your focus on your writing as well– they put the pressure on to get words on paper.

I’ve never written a novel before though!

So what! You want to right? Do it then :).

 

Here are some posts to help you along the way!

NaNo Prep- Brainstorming

NaNo Prep- Creating Your Characters

NaNo Prep- Convincing Villains

NaNo Prep- Let’s Talk About Plot!

NaNo Prep #4- Let's Talk About Plot!

WhatCreatesPlotWe’re almost to November, but no one panic just yet. If you’re a planner, you probably have all of your characters fleshed out by now. A protagonist and an antagonist of some sort are about to start working against one another in your head and on the page.

But what now? What are these characters going to actually do over the course of your novel?

What I’ve always been told (and I’ve found it works) is Characters + Conflict = Plot

Is this a perfect equation? No, but it helps to create and drive your plot forward.

Let’s start thinking about plot by taking a look back at your characters.

Protagonist Antagonist
  • Goals (might have more than 1)
  • Motivations
  • Actions
  • Goals (might have more than 1)
  • Motivations
  • Actions

 Often, your protagonist and antagonist will want opposite things.

This is an easy source of conflict that can help drive your plot forward.  One will try to stop the other from achieving their goal and may succeed (or fail) at doing that. The “good guy” can’t always win, and neither can the “bad guy.” The conflict always has to be resolved in one way or another– even if it’s not in your good guy’s favor.

Here’s a tip from me, especially in a rough draft— use that to your advantage!

http://shannoncurtis.wordpress.com/tag/external-conflict/

http://shannoncurtis.wordpress.com/tag/external-conflict/

What are the 5 worst things that could happen to your protagonist?

Those are the best things that could happen for your antagonist(s) to get what they want. This also works the opposite way.  Ahhh conflict! *sits back and basks in the fictional drama* But really, these obstacles help your plot develop and move forward. You don’t have to use all of them but this can guide you.

The Dreaded Plot Diagram.

plot-diagram-2Most writers have seen a basic plot diagram at one point or another (damn you, high school English classes). This might not be what yours looks like (mine is a heck of a lot more up and down than this) but you get the idea.

Plot and conflict need to begin in your very first chapter. This is what hooks a reader’s interest and keeps them going.

You want to introduce your character, but you also need to have an inciting incident.

An inciting incident gets the plot rolling right off the bat and immediately creates some sort of conflict, or problem for your M.C. to solve.

  • This gives your M.C. a goal and some sort of motivation to achieve that goal.
  • Your antagonist may or may not even have a hand in the inciting incident, or we may not know they are involved right away. However, you’re going to want to bring them in very soon.
  • What ways can you make the antagonist stand in the way of your protagonist’s goal?

But conflict in your novel doesn’t always have to do with the antagonist!

Your poor protagonist doesn’t always have to be bashed over the head with terrible things. There are other kinds of conflict you can use: It could be internal, related to romance, or any number of subplots you have– but remember, it should be necessary to the story.

It should help your character grow, learn, or change over the course of the novel.

Personally, I love conflict, I have at least traces of conflict or tension in every scene, every chapter of the stories or novels that I write. I don’t create a strict outline, but conflict that naturally arises is what keeps me excited to write my story and keep going. Some problems in my novel might be resolved as the story progresses, but others arise.

One of my favorite Youtube Vloggers, Katytastic has a great video about story structure, and an outlining process. While I don’t outline much and I don’t strictly follow this structure, it helps me make sure that my story is on track and the story progressing. I use it as a guide.

What do you think? How do you make sure your plot progresses?

Lets chat about plot! I’d love to hear what you think and what you do when you write.

NaNo Prep #3- Convincing Antagonists

It’s been a while since I posted about NaNo prep, which might be because I’m really struggling with my concept and story for this year. My main character (protagonist) is created. She has objectives and motivations. Now it’s time to create her nemesis or, the antagonist.

I love nothing more than an amazing and convincing villain or bad guy.

Sometimes they are even my favorite characters in a book, movie, or television show.

Remember Ben Linus from LOST? Loved him, even though he was an asshole and a terrible “person”. There was just something about his character that grabbed my attention every time he was on screen or his name was mentioned (and that’s not just because Michael Emerson is amazing– although that might have been part of it).

benlinusHe had his motivations and he had objectives. But he also had a backstory, and a good one at that. His back story gave him depth as a character. Ben Linus wasn’t just an evil bastard (although yes, he was pretty evil). He had character growth and development over the course of the show.

Your villains, bad guys, and antagonists need many of the same things as your protagonists do.

  • an objective/goal
  • motivations– What makes them do these things they do?
  • What do they do to reach their objectives or goals

It helps that you know your villain/antagonist’s back story. You don’t have to know it right off the bat, but they have to have a reason for doing the things that they do.

Look at Voldemort for example. Good old Voldy, is a great antagonist and villain. He wants to wipe out all witches and wizards who aren’t “pure bloods.” Yes he is terrible and evil, but why? Turns out he suffered throughout most of his childhood and he himself isn’t a pure blood.voldy

Voldemort’s back story makes him seem more real, more “human.” It sure as hell doesn’t make him less evil, but it gives him more dimension as a character and makes us feel for him (even if it is just a little bit.)

Your antagonists need to feel as real to the reader as your protagonists do.

Look at the tv show, Once Upon a Time. If you’ve watched it, you’ve seen how complex their antagonists are. One minute they are working with the protagonists and the next, against them. You can see the things they do and why they do it. It’s one of the many things that have really drawn me into the show and the story. That and Regina is pretty damn amazing.

regina

And I guess that’s where I’m stuck right now. I need an amazing antagonist, even if it is just the hint of one that will be further developed as the novel progresses. I want to have a difficult love/hate relationship. I guess what I am looking for is a complex character, who have a similar relationship to the protagonist of my novel as seen in Once Upon a Time.

How is your antagonist development coming along?

What do you do to create a good “bad guy”?

NaNo Prep #2- Creating Your Characters

Creatingyourcharacters

In all of my behind-ness I am just now creating my characters for my novel next month, which brings me to the question…

How do you craft interesting and exciting characters?

No one stays interested in a Mary Sue who gets whatever she wants all the time and cliches make characters fall flat for many readers. As a writer, I want to create characters that my readers will come to care about. It’s so much more than what that character happens to look like.

What do you need when creating your characters?

We need to know who they are physically, socially, and emotionally— most of all we need to know what they want.

Each character needs to have an objective

    • They need a goal that they want so badly they will do pretty much anything to get it. They also might have smaller objectives along the way (in each chapter or scene) but they should be moving toward their overall goal to push the plot of your novel forward.

To create conflict, other characters may have opposing goals— and try to get in the way of that character’s objective.

angryotter(This little guy’s objective- he wants to stack the cups.)

Which brings us to motivation

  • Why does your character do the things they do? Why do they want to achieve their goal?
  • Your main character, secondary characters, and antagonist(s) all need to have some kind of motivation for their goals.

And finally action

  • How does your character reach or fail to reach their objective.
  • Each character can’t reach their objective— what made them fail? How do they feel about it?

 

You also want to think about the following when Creating your characters

  • What are some of the best possible things that can happen to your character?
  • And the worst
    • You want an interesting story? Throw some curveballs in there. We want to see your character react to those heart-wrenching or terrible moments. We see who your character really is by how they react to them. It makes us care more (even if they don’t react very well).

plottwist

  • It’s important to have internal and external conflict

    • Sometimes a character has to sacrifice something they love that brings them further from their goal.
    • They should always be struggling with something internally and externally throughout the novel.
  • Know your character’s back story.

    • Even if you don’t use all of it in your novel. It’s usually behind their motivations and what makes them want to achieve their goal. Knowing it as a writer, helps you craft believable, multi-dimensional characters.

Most importantly, how does your main character grow over the course of the novel?

Sometimes we don’t know this right away. I usually don’t know until revisions when my plot it tightened up a lot and I can see my character’s arc.

It’s ok to not know this when you first begin your novel. Just try to keep it in mind as you write. You want changes in your character to be natural, a progression from beginning to end. There has to be a turning point where there is no going back and your character can only push forward.

 

The most helpful book I found to create well-developed characters is Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Cole.

In fact, a lot of the information from this blog post came from there :). Some of her chapters are really long, but she poses great questions to really get you in the mind of your character (and also helps to develop plot, etc).

Other great resources:

I love Susan Dennard’s blog. Right now she is posting a series about crafting characters that I have been following— check it out.

Susan Dennard is the author of Something Strange and Deadly (and it’s sequels) which I have been meaning to get my hands on for some time now.

Google Character Questionnaires to answer a series of questions that will help you get to know your character and their back story a little bit more.

Character questionnaires by Gotham Writers

The Young Writers Program (YWP) also has an excellent Character Questionnaire in their workbook.

And just for fun, the Mary Sue Litmus Test

Not sure if your main character is a Mary Sue? Try this out. (It’s actually pretty fun)

 

How do you create your characters?

If you’re a pantser:

Do you go in with a character/goal/motivation already in mind? Or does it unfold as you write?

If you’re a planner:

What do you do to get to know your characters? Do you fill out questionnaires?

I love hearing about the process you all have for coming up with characters or planning your novel, so let’s chat!!!

 

NaNo Prep #1- Brainstorming

http://philmckinney.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/HiRes-2.jpg

I’m starting my brainstorming a little late for NaNoWriMo this year. (Better late than never, right?)

Many of your have notebooks, or documents on your computer full of ideas. I’m not so lucky. I have a couple of ideas of novels that I started to explore for previous NaNoWriMos and then halfway through the month, I dropped them, never to pick them up again. I’m not even considering revisiting one of these stories. Last year I found that a fresh idea is what I needed to push myself forward.

Now the problem is, what do I write?

At this point, I have a handful of very basic, not well developed ideas– depressing, huh? Now I have to choose which idea to go with by brainstorming up some details and choosing the one that makes me the most excited.

Usually I just list details, but this year I’m trying to stay more organized by making a word-web, or using something similar to the snowflake method to come up with a very basic plot and maybe one or two big events or twists that I may or may not work in. I like to have something as a starting point.

Or maybe a free-write or writing prompt will awaken my Muse?

Here are some Brainstorming resources I found while browsing the inter-webs.

8 Brainstroming Strategies for Generating New Writing Ideas

50 Brainstorming Questions

^ I will be checking out the above link to help me, that’s for sure!

No Plot? No Problem!: 3 Things to Keep In Mind While Brainstorming

I really need to pick up a copy of No Plot? No Problem! — I borrowed it from a friend last year and only had it for a limited time, but it was so helpful!

 

How do you brainstorm for NaNoWriMo?

Do you have any resources you use to help you? If you’re a pantser, do you brainstorm for story ideas?

My NaNoWriMo 2014 Survival Kit

Hello friends, if you don’t know by now I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year! Last year was the first year I jumped in head-first and made it all the way through. I could have used a survival kit then, but unfortunately I didn’t make one for myself. This year, I am trying to prepare a little more.

Here is my NaNoWriMo Survival Kit for 2014

1. Coffeegrumpymug

This is probably the most important thing to have in my cupboard the month of November. Usually I can barely focus in the morning without my cup of coffee, but when waking up earlier than but when waking up earlier than usual (and probably staying awake later than usual too) coffee is a must. Usually a great mug is a must too.

It makes those early mornings a bit more tolerable. I’m not an early morning person.

Speaking of mug, I need an awesome NaNoWriMo mug before Nov 1st!

2. An awesome notebook

notebooksSince this notebook will likely hold any and all notes and ideas before NaNo starts and bits and pieces of writing during NaNo-, it’s best if it’s one that I love using and looking at. Time to put away last year’s dinosaur notebook and pull out this year’s Safari notebook.

*Sniff* goodbye for now dinosaur notebook.

You can get these awesome Decomposition Books with some other awesome cover designs here. I got mine at my local independent bookstore— yours might have one too.

A notebook is so helpful to keep all of your thoughts, novel ideas, and research handy 🙂

3. A clean / distraction-free workplace

Which I don’t have a photo of right now because it’s a total mess! This is a must, at least to start the month with (who knows if I will have time to maintain it). My workspace will eventually become a mess and full of distraction, but it helps me to have a specific writing space, even if I do a lot of my writing elsewhere. I need a place where if I am there, I need to be writing and focused.

4. A webcam

What? Why do you need this??? (you might be thinking)photo(20)

Last year, our region wasn’t very active, so I had virtual write-ins with my friend Tracy who lives a couple of hours away. It helped and made word wars and writing very fun. I was so much more productive on days where she and I video-chatted and helped one another out. Even thought my region will hopefully be hopping with activity this year, I hope to continue this.

5. My Crockpot

This was probably the best gift I ever received (I know, I’m old) but I can just throw something together and it cooks on it’s own. Yay for easy meals. Writers have to eat too, right? And if I didn’t cook, I think the boyfriend would starve.

6. Tunes

11dancingI don’t usually listen to music while I write, but sometimes it sets the mood before an intense writing session. And sometimes I need a random dance party to get rid of  some of the antsy excess energy that builds up when I sit for too long.

And I need to do so away from other people, so I don’t embarrass myself 😉

7. A reward system

Whether it is a piece of chocolate, a refill on my coffee, a short (or long if the weather permits) walk, I need some kind of reward system for my hard work. If I meet that day’s goal of 1,667 words, I need a way to pat myself on the back and motivate myself to keep going.

8. Time to decompress

I love writing, but I can’t be doing it 24/7. Writers need to give themselves a break sometimes. This is usually where a walk comes in for me. It helps get the creative juices flowing while I’m daydreaming about other things and gets the blood pumping.

 

It’s time to get your NaNoWriMo Survival Kit in order! What is in yours?