Posts Tagged With: Writers Resources

The Truth About Your Novel

My name is Sonia and I’m a recovering pantser.

For some folk, writing by the seat of their pants is the only way to fly (The Great and Powerful Stephen King, for example). On the other hand, when I try to fly without a plan, I end up crashing into the side of a mountain. Now, if I’m taking a short trip (flash fiction or short story) I can cruise along just fine. Sure, I might revise a dozen times or so but I can get to the destination without the screaming and flaming debris. For a novel length trip, however, a plan is a must.

Of course, because I have a very thick skull, that’s taken a long time to sink in. Even now, though I lean more towards the plotting end of the spectrum, I’m more a hybrid of plotter and pantser than pure plotter. A plantser, if you will. Or maybe a plotser.

Along the way, I’ve studied story structure and availed myself of Larry Brooks’s (Master Story Structure Guy) story coaching. I’ve had both praise and unsugared criticism from him but I’ve learned a great deal each time. I’ll be signing on for coaching again when I’ve worked out the kinks I can see in my WIP (which will probably be around the same time I write “The End” on my first draft…so much for being an efficient story planner…I really did plan…I just reworked a lot of that plan on the page…at least I’m comfortable with the idea of a radical rewrite).

If you’re working on a novel or just thinking about it, I encourage you to reach out to Larry. You might not love what you hear but, if you let it sink in, you’ll learn something to make your story better.

And, while you’re at it, check out this guest post by Stephanie Raffelock on Larry’s site StoryFix. Her experience was very familiar to me:

After I dried my eyes and dusted myself off from the humiliating encounter with Brooks, I got the gift he intended: the novel is a muti-layered, heavily nuanced form, best not left to writing by making shit up as you go. Respect it. Respect the forms and functions and targets and criteria that apply to any novel in any genre, and have hundreds of years of proof behind them, because every book that’s ever been commercially successful has aligned with those principles.

Read the rest on StoryFix.com –>

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Why the Advice You Hate the Most is Right

May I confess something to you?

No? Well, I’m going to anyway.

Because it’s my blog.

And, also, I don’t have anything else to write about today.

I’m a pantser by nature. I hate schedules. I frequently have no idea what I’m going to fix for dinner before lunch and usually have no idea what my weekend plans are going to be until it’s actually the weekend. I fly by the seat of my pants.

And it works.

Sort of.

There’s a lot to be said for spontaneity. But it often is the enemy of actually getting stuff done. Sure, we might spontaneously decide to do the laundry backlog, start exercising, finish a novel…someday. But something that needs our attention right now is bound to come up, most especially when we’ve spontaneously started a project.

And some things, when left up to spontaneity, get pushed to the bottom of the list almost every time.

Like laundry–who needs to wash socks when you can wear flip-flops?

And novels. Especially novels.

Life’s distractions breed like tribbles the moment you start a novel (the way goodies multiply when you start a fitness plan). And they only pick up steam as you go along.

The solution, of course, is to make time. Set goals and tell people about them. Come up with at least a rudimentary schedule and stick to it. Come up with a system for accountability.

I know this. How well I know this. I’ve had success with this before in both NaNo and ROW80.

And yet, I struggle nonetheless.

Call it a defect of character, a lack of priorities, a distractible mind, or project ADD. Call it fear: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of dust bunnies. Call it procrastination (which itself is probably the nasty afterbirth of fear).

Whatever you call the thing, the end result is the same.

The novel left up to chance to write will not get written.

This is why NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of being introduced) is so great. You join NaNo, set a goal for 50,000 words for by the end of November, tell the world about it, avail yourself of the NaNo community and write like hell for a month.

This last November, I decided to make NaNoWriMo my spring-board for finishing my work-in-progress. I’d plotted and written part of a previous version of this novel, only to discover the story had mortal wounds. Once I recovered from that unpleasant discovery, I took the opportunity to plot a better story using most of the characters, premise and concept of the previous story. I’d mostly finished when NaNo rolled around.

Perfect timing. A chance to get a solid start (50K words should be half or more of the novel) and form good writing habits. Forcing myself to plan for daily word counts. A deadline hanging over my head. Community support. The thrill of victory should I complete the challenge. What could be better?

And it worked. I won NaNo and formed a habit for writing daily. In fact, daily writing became easier and much more pleasant. I looked forward to the blank page instead of dreading it.

Once I finished NaNo, I imagined I wouldn’t actually have to worry about setting word count goals. I’d have so much momentum built up from NaNo, I’d just keep writing…

Spontaneously.

Go ahead. Laugh now. I’ve earned it.

It didn’t take long for the lack of specific daily goals, deadlines and a system of accountability to show its rotten fruit. My productivity dropped off and I began dragging my feet when it came time to write. Distractions popped up with greater number and increased power. And much of the writing I did do felt off, forced and more than crappy-first-draft crappy.

I hate when they (the ones who talk about goal setting, scheduling, yada yada yada) are right. But I can’t deny they are.

So here I am, back on the wagon, however reluctantly. I’m shooting for 1K words daily and at least 4K words a week (allowing for days off so I don’t go NaNo nuts…those of you who’ve been there know what I’m talking about). I aim to have the first draft complete by February 28.

There and, now that I’ve told you all, I really can’t weasel out of it.

Crap.

But I’ll thank myself when my novel is done. Finally.

I’m finding a few things helpful as I go along.

I use Scrivener (an all-in-one writing software program for writers) and I love having the Project Goals feature visible as I write so I can see my progress.

I have the WriteChain app (an awesome, simple app that allows you to choose your word count and writing day goals and gives you a link for each day you meet your goal) on my phone and I absolutely, positively refuse to break the chain. I’ve got 80 links so far, which includes NaNaWriMo and I stretched the coast days during the holidays.

diyMFA has excellent advice on setting and testing goals for writing (which could apply to any goal). I’m collecting data now for my own iteration process.

And Derek Hawkins has a great suggestion on his blog for keeping yourself motivated (*hint* it can involve chocolate).

How do you keep yourself on track with a big writing (or other) project? What tools and tricks work for you?

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

When is Getting Stuck the Best Thing?

I tend to write the way I live (or maybe I live the way I write), a sometimes-awkward hybrid between planning and winging it.

Writers often define themselves as either  plotter (planner) or pantser (that sometimes flaky person who considers herself spontaneous). While I’m no longer a die-hard pantser, I’m also not entirely a plotter. I’m somewhere between. A plantser, if you will. Continue reading

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What’s the Hardest Part of Writing?

Literary cat by SuziJane (Suzi Duke) on Flickr

“It was a dark and stormy night….” Yeah, that’s the stuff. This is gonna be a best-seller for sure.

Recently, I’ve come across a few discussions that touch on, in one way or another, the hardest part of writing.

So what is the hardest part of writing?

Well now, that varies from writer to writer.

For me, the hardest part of writing is the actual writing. Allow me to explain… Continue reading

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What’s Missing from the For Dummies Collection?

For DummiesYou’ve almost certainly seen these books in the bookstore (yes, the mythic bookstore does still exist…but it’s sort of like tracking down Bigfoot), library or on your friend’s bookshelf. More than likely, you own or have read at least one. Continue reading

Categories: Killer Thursdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Novel Wishes and NaNoWriMo Dreams

Baby Stepping Through NaNoWriMo

Upside-down yawn

NaNo’s over. Time to Party!

National Novel Writing Month is over for 2012.

Whether you rocketed past the finish line or were miles away, you wrote words that didn’t exist before November 1.

Even if you never got past the first sentence, you made something happen. Seriously. Pat yourself on the back.

Celebrating even a tiny success can motivate you to succeed further.

I’m a huge believer in baby steps. Some people get jazzed by lofty goals. The mere idea makes me want to puke in my mouth a little. Continue reading

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Fattening Up Your Word Count for NaNoWriMo

Is it Cheating to Use Tricks to Get to 50K?

skinny black cat with back arched

I have to write how many words a day?!

50,000 words in 30ish days. That’s the NaNoWriMo goal and it breaks down to about 1667 words a day.

For some, word counts in the thousands a day is routine. For others (*cough cough* like me), this is no small feat.

Prior to NaNo, I averaged about 5-600 words a day. 750 was a pretty good day. And 100o was cause for a parade and statue erected in my honor (in my head, anyway).

Of course, I was also hand writing all those words. So that may have played a big part.

Coming up on November, the idea of hitting 1667 daily was nothing short of terrifying.

But then I remembered reading a post on padding your word count for NaNoWriMo and 750Words.com. At the time, I ignored the advice. Sounded like a good idea but I didn’t think I needed it.

And I didn’t need it for 750 words but for 1600-2K?

Well…maybe. Continue reading

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

How to be a NaNoWriMo Rebel

NaNoWriMo is in the air. Can you smell it?

Sure, right now that’s the smell of excitement, stockpiles of chocolate and coffee, and possibly disinfectant, as writers furiously clean their houses one last time before NaNo sets in.

Later on, it’ll be the smell of madness and unwashed people. Continue reading

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Every Word Counts When You’re Writing a Novel

Word Count Trackers for NaNoWriMo and Beyond

TypewriterWriters everywhere, newbies and old hands, are staring down the barrel of NaNoWriMo. *cue tense theme music*

At the moment, I’m wading hip deep the first draft muck of my work-in-progress. I don’t know if I’ll be joining the ranks of psychotic intrepid ink-slingers in November but I am learning the value of a monthly deadline, even a self-imposed one. Continue reading

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What Do We Do When We Miss the Mark?

Sherry Isaac is over at the Life List Club talking about what happens when we miss our goals. Head on over and check it out!

1999. The year the artist formerly known as Prince asked that we party like.

That summer, chauffeur to soccer games, school dances and babysitting jobs, a familiar beat reverberated in this mother’s minivan. ‘Steal My Sunshine’, a one-hit wonder released by Toronto-based band, Len.

Click here to read more.

Also be sure to check out Jess Witkins’s post on fast drafting and Lara Schiffbauer’s post on not wasting energy on negativity (I know I need to be reminded of that over and over again).

Stay tuned. The Life List Club Milestone Party is coming up in two weeks! And it’s gonna be a whopper because the Life List Club is turning one year old.

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