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Wordtrip Writing Week » Novel Writing Week 2005

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Final Thoughts

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

This is the last e-mail and post for this round of Novel Writing Week. I just wanted to put down some of my final thoughts on NoWriWe before they ran screaming from my memory.

First things first:

I want to send a HUGE congratulations to all those who tried out our first Wordtrip Novel Writing Week. Those of us who aimed for short stories had a much easier time hitting our goal than our one ambitious person who aimed for Novelist level did. BUT Hissmonster, our solitary novelist, managed to get down a ton of words during one week. The point of Novel Writing Week is much like that of NaNoWriMo; get something down on paper. To all of you who attempted the process this time, my hat is off to you. Go grab a nap and a cup of coffee and savor the victory.

More lessons learned:

We all know, from almost any book on writing you can pick up, that the biggest part of writing is getting your butt in the chair and the words on the page. This week was a fine example of that. My story played off a single scene I devised months ago. The original scene was only 600 words or so. What I did though, was take those characters, and that setting, and introduce a bit of conflict and off it went. At times it didn’t move as well as I’d like, but in the end it did move.

What I didn’t do, was go back and constantly revise and edit things to make them fit the newest situation. By the end of the week my characters had lost a couple decades of age, the setting had grown to a much larger town, moved from Mexico to central America (probably Belize), and generally morphed into it’s own world. Normally I’d have taken a break a few thousand words in to make things match up. But the beauty of a deadline is that you get the words on the page, you keep the story moving, and you don’t waste writing time going back to edit (which won’t help you reach that word count goal).

My story isn’t finished yet (though I made my word count goal), and I’m not even sure if this will be an 8000 word short story when I’m done, or a 60,000 word novel. But I’ve taken it to heart that I’m not going to go back and tweak those first 5000 words till I’m finished with SOMETHING. This will be the first time I’ve had complete first and second drafts of a story. I’m debating at this point changing the setting even more and making the rest of the story into more of a western. If I do that, when I go back to write draft #2 from scratch, I’ll take all of that into account, and flesh out those first scenes even more.

If you go back and read my last post, you’ll see how I advocated planning. I wish I had more planning involved in this story. If I did, I’d probably have less re-writing to do. But, now that I have a basis, I’m not going to kill my momentum and go back and plan everything else out now. Next time though, I’ll try the suggested method of scene cards, develop a framework, and then lay the net of words over that; which brings me to my next point.

Next Time:

Now that we’ve got our first Wordtrip Novel Writing Week under our belt, we’re looking at when we’re going to do this again. If we do four of these a year, I think we’ll aim for the last week of October, January, April, and July. If we aim for only two, then April and October seem the most likely candidates. We will also be doing a Novel Editing Week between each time we have a Writing Week (probably two months after any given Writing Week). I’m not deluded enough to think that anybody is going to use these weeks to pound out 4 novels in a year. But if you take two for short stories, one for novella, and one for novel, we’ll all have a huge jump in our accomplished writing for the year. Heck if I just use it for four big short stories in a year I’ll have a good jump. Once the final decision is made, I’ll send out an e-mail to all members of Wordtrip with that schedule.

NaNoWriMo and how we fit:

NaNoWriMo’s policy is that you have to write your 50,000 words on a new novel, so you probably won’t be taking your 5600 words from WNWW and parlaying that into a 56000 word novel the next month. But if you’re looking for some good advice on binge writing, we hope you’ll come here for some inspiration. I also hope that some of you will take this week as a catalyst to keep writing on a regular basis.

My hope is that if we have people who want to participate in NaNoWriMo in November, that they will sign up for a short story level in October, and get their juices flowing during that week. Then, with proper planning in place for NaNoWriMo, leave their short story behind to plow into the Novel length adventure in November. Hopefully a week of writing 800 words a day will get the writing muscle loosened up and ready to make the jump to 1600 a day for a month.

Thanks again to all who helped with Novel Writing Week and congratulations to those writers who participated. Keep Writing and Happy Wordtripping!


Lessons Learned

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Well, some of you may have 3 hours to go in Novel Writing Week, but for me (and anybody else on the east coast) it’s over. Amazingly enough I actually hit my goal of 5600 words, though my short story isn’t finished. Actually I’m not even sure it’s a short story any more, it might be a whole novel eventually. So let’s take a look back on the lessons we’ve learned this week.

A) Planning can help.

I did very little planning on my story. Mainly because I couldn’t think of what I wanted to write about. The only idea I had bouncing around in my brain was for a novel and I wanted to plan it out a bit more before tackling it. So what I did, was head to the archives. I’m sure I’m not the only person who does this. I have several story ideas or scene ideas that I’ve worked on in the past but never actually got around to writing a story for. When I started writing this week all I had was a 590 word scene in a central American bar. There were several times when I wished I had some sort of plan for the story. I struggled with moving my characters along, introducing things at random to create some conflict.

B) Coffee is good.

This week I have increased my daily coffee consumption by a good bit. Not that I was exactly laying off the caffeine before this, but this week I kicked it up a notch. My wife’s family came into town and having other coffee drinkers in the house helped, there was always a pot on.

C) This was a great test-week for hitting a goal.

I’m not sure I could have found a worse set of situations to try and write under. This week was the first time in my marriage that my father-in-law has visited us. The day after this challenge I turn 30. I have a 4 week old daughter today, and a two year old who is having issues with Dad going back to work. I work in IT and this week was our disaster recovery test, so for a few days things were breaking, and I had double work-load for the actual DR testing day. BUT even though the week was a horrible confluence of events that would keep me from writing… I still managed to hit my goal (barely, but I did hit it).

D) We should do this again sometime.

The short story goal is not an unattainable level to hit almost every week. And if we are writing every day of every week, we’ll all be much better writers AND more likely to have a novel finished. And we all know that we’ll never get a novel published if we never finish one in the first place. We’re discussing doing at least two of these a year, and two editing weeks, but now I’m thinking maybe we should do 3 or 4 of each.

E) I need some sleep.

Ok, it’s not much of a lesson, but it’s after midnight and I’m done with my writing challenge and I’m still typing… I’m going to bed.

Happy Wordtripping!


48 hours

Friday, October 28th, 2005

We have less than 48 hours left in our first Novel Writing Week, and still no sign of Eddie Murphy. Some of our members (xcheck24) have already surpassed their goal; some of our members (Hissmonster) are well on their way to meeting their very lofty goals and are well into the 10s of thousands of words mark. Then there is me. I’m around my day 2 goal, which would be nice if it wasn’t already day 5. It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m just putting this up as a quick reminder of how little time is left before I get to some writing on my story. Good luck to all, and happy Wordtripping!


Just Keep Writing

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Today’s goal is to be like Dori in Finding Nemo. Today’s goal is to be like Dori in Finding Nemo. You want to forget that you worked REAL hard yesterday and wrote half your wordcount goal for the week. You want to forget that your worked NOT AT ALL and didn’t write anything because you were cleaning out your garage. That productivity is almost as scary as that blank page so remember: “Just keep writing, just keep writing”.

If you’re aiming for a novel this week you should be at 14,000 words by midnight tonight. If you’re shooting for Novella you should finish the night at 6,000 words. And if you’re only aiming for a short story you should be hitting 1,600 words tonight. If you got a jump on things and have much more than your goal, good for you, organize for a tomorrow, get a few words written, and enjoy a nice warm beverage and get some sleep. If you’re like me and you missed your goal for the day by a country mile, well, buckle down with a nice warm highly caffeinated beverage and get writing slacker!.

FYI: If you’re aiming for a short story level this week you’re still only going for about half the recommended number of words a day that Stephen King says you should be shooting for day in day out every writing day of the year. After you’ve written your short story this week, and gotten into a groove of 800 words a day, try and keep it up for another week, and then another. The biggest problem most writers have with finishing a story is keeping their butt in the chair. This week you’re going a LONG way towards building the good writing habits that will keep you writing.

If you want a good 20 minute pep-talk and reminder of how you’re procrastinating, check out the “I should be writing” podcast #10, Mur has great reminders of how you’re procrastinating is killing your writing, and Wordtrip’s Novel Writing Week gets a mention too :-D.

Discuss at:


It’s Still Day 1

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

At we had a saying, it’s still day one. The CEO ment that the internet economy and growth of the company was still near the beginning, but for you, it means it’s still Day 1 of writing week :-D.

So you’ve been writing for 24 hours non-stop right? Admittedly if you were shooting for a short story, you probably shouldn’t have taken 24 hours to write your 800 words for the day. Just a reminder that Short Story goal for today was 800 words, Novella goal was 3,000, Novel goal was 7,000 words today. How close did you get? I personally have failed completely with family, house cleaning, and work projects.

Back to “It’s Still Day One”, I think that will be your key on Novel Writing Week. With only 7 days of binge writing, you’ll need to write like every day is both day one and day seven. You need the rush of getting started AND the rush of the deadline. Step up to the keyboard or notepad and get writing!


Shopping day

Friday, October 21st, 2005

OK, I missed a couple days here, planned on one more “article” on plot generators but never got it done. So I’ll give a quick thought on it before today’s real topic. Basically you’re trying to cram a long process into a short time, so you really don’t have the time to wait on inspiration to bring you the perfect twist in your story. I know there are others out there but I’m going to point you to the bottom of the front page where we have a sort of “plot generator” with random character and story attributes you could pull from to spice up your story. We also have some “Random Plot Points” that may give you an item, time period, song, etc to insert into a scene and maybe twist it a different way. IF you’ve done your homework and built up some scene cards and have your novel idea mostly in hand, you may not need this, BUT it may help you transition from one chapter to the next if you get stuck 80% through the week/month.

Moving on, to the topic at hand. Today (be it Friday or Saturday when you read this) should be your shopping day. You’re going to undertake a full week of heavy duty writing, which means you need to prepare. If you’re one of those people who write by hand, you need pencils and pens and ink and paper and such. If you’re a purely digital writer you won’t need much extra actual writing hardware, but you’re not off the hook. This week should be busy, this week should be focused, and it should be fun. How do you get focused when you’re busy? Caffeine of course! Go buy the BEST coffee you can, your favorite kind that costs twice as much as the stuff you normally drink. If you don’t drink coffee (blasphemous!) then go pick up some Coke, Pepsi, or Tea. What else do you need? Chocolate of course, Ice Cream maybe. What else? You’ll need the phone number to Pa-Pa Johns or Domino Pizza; probably the one to your nearest Chinese delivery place. Don’t forget frozen dinners, cans of soup, Spaghettios, and snack food that won’t put you to sleep (my personal favorite would be chocolate covered espresso beans… sugar AND caffeine).

While you’re out stocking up on snack foods and caffeine for you, don’t forget your family (assuming you have one living with you). Make sure you have food that’s easy for them to prepare so you don’t have to take precious writing time next week preparing complex meals for them. Get the staple foods too, milk, eggs, bread, cereal, things you may run out of in the middle of the week and waste an hour or two shopping for when you could be writing.

The goal for the last couple of days before Novel Writing Week (or NaNoWriMo for that matter) is to get your proverbial ducks in a row and be prepared for a week of binge writing.

The last thing I want to mention here is two podcasts that I’ve found very helpful lately in both information and inspiration. Podcasting has grown exponentially with iTunes adding it as a feature recently, and I’ve been caught up in the swarm. For those of you who don’t know, podcasting is essentially a radio show type recording that you can “subscribe” to or just download as they come out in mp3 format and listen to either on your computer OR on your iPod/mp3 player of choice.

The first is Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing”. Mur is a wanna be writer just like you and I who has some experience outside of fiction and is trying to make a go of writing fiction as well. She does a great little weekly “this is what I’m doing, this is what I’m struggling with, maybe this will help both of us” podcast that is quite good, go to her site and subscribe to the podcast (and as she’s on episode #9 (and they’re about 10-20 minutes each) you could take the time to listen to all 9 episodes over the next day or so while you prepare to do your writing).

The second is one recommended by Mur and a couple of other podcasters I’ve listened to lately and it’s Media Artist Secrets with Frank McMahon. Frank isn’t focused exclusively on writing, but on the creative process as a whole AND on marketing yourself as an artists and the business aspect of that.

There you have it, go buy coffee and chocolate, check out the random plot generators for a kick in the butt, and listen to I Should Be Writing and Media Artist Secrets. And (to steal Mur’s line), I should be writing, and so should you.

visit : to discuss this topic with other Wordtrippers.


Writing Week Math

Monday, October 17th, 2005

I know you’re going to assume I’m about to give you a rundown of the number of words you’ll need each day to finish your novel/novella/short story during Novel Writing Week, but I’m not. What I’m going to talk to you about today is something you used in 5th grade math… the Lowest Common Denominator. Of course I’m not talking fractions, I’m talking plots. In another tidbit gleaned from 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias, we’re going to go over eight of the lowest common denominators of plot.

LCD 1 - Make Tension Fuel Your Plot. If you’re writing a story, it has to have tension. Nobody wants to read a story about somebody who wants something and gets it… there’s no story there. The story has to have some tension, some reason to keep reading.

LCD 2- Create Tension through Opposition. Make sure you’re planned story is going to have some tension, some roadblocks to attaining a goal, something to make it interesting for your reader. Sometimes the tension will be internal, sometimes external, but either way you want to make sure that you’ve got not only a local tension (fine for a short story), but also a universal tension theme that runs through the story (for a longer piece).

LCD 3 - Make Tension Grow as Opposition Increases. Don’t make things easier on your character as things progress. The tension needs to build to a climax over time so that the final resolution relieves the tension rather than just tie up a few loose ends. This goes into your standard three act storyline. Act 1 is the setup, you create some tension, and you set your stage and players. Act 2 is where complications arise, and arise, and arise. The second act is the critical place to grow your tension by feeding it more and more opposition. Act 3 is your resolution and should have that final climax of the most tension possible before you let the story be resolved.

LCD 4 - Make Change the Point of the Story. The hero, and tangential characters, should end up changed at the end of the story. If your characters have remained the same, not having grown as a result of the situation and the lessons learned, then you’ve wasted their and your reader’s time. Without platitudes and preaching your characters need to learn from the mistakes or at the very least change in SOME way due to the situations they’ve just been through.

LCD 5 - When something happens, be sure it’s important. This is more important when you go to edit your work, but if you can keep an eye on it while writing you’ll save yourself many beautiful words, and many wasted hours. Avoid the tangents to your story; make sure that what’s happening is moving the story along.

LCD 6 - Make the Causal look Casual. No matter how well thought out and plotted your story IS, you don’t want it to read like it was plotted. Your goal should be that things happen in such a way that they are believable. This ties in to LCD 7, which is…

LCD 7 - Leave lady luck and chance to the lottery. Even if somebody in the real world DOES win the lotto and the million dollar slot machine, you can’t have that in your story as any sort of resolution. Certainly if your story starts with somebody winning the lottery and is based around that you’re ok. But you can’t have the family farmed saved from foreclosure after 200 pages by the farmer winning the lottery the night before the sale.

LCD 8 - The central character must perform the central climactic action. If you have a protagonist, they need to be the one doing whatever gets done in the climax. They need to be in center stage, involved in the action. They’re the main character for a reason, they’re most important to the story, and your readers now care about them… don’t leave them hanging out at the bar while somebody else does all the dirty work.

Now that we’ve got the LCDs, we know we can get away with breaking one or two (we just have to know the rules so we know HOW to break them). But, if you’re not writing your umpteenth published novel, you’d be well served to keep the LCDs handy when you’re writing, so you can follow the rules, not break them.

Keep Writing and Happy Wordtripping!


What’s in a…?

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

Today we’ve got two parts, both inspired by No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty.

What’s in a Day:

Unless you’re sitting on a LOT more spare time than I am, you’re going to need to find some time to do all this extra writing next week. So what you should be doing this week, is figuring out how you’re spending your time.

First off, pick a couple of days this week and log everything you do throughout the day (you can do it in half-hour increments to keep it easy). Next, before you go to bed, sit down with your list. Take that list and a couple of highlighters and mark off the things that are essential (Work, eating, etc). Everything else gets yanked!

OK, FINE… take it another step and highlight in a different color the things that are highly desired. Now anything that isn’t highlighted gets dropped. If you’re trying to write a novel in a week though, you probably should consider dropping quite a few of these (FYI: ANY TV shows get the axe, sorry, use Tivo).

You want to eliminate anything you possibly can that won’t cause your life to collapse if you give it up for a week/month. Plan ahead for your binge writing period and schedule all that extra time for writing. If you can, re-arrange some of the essentials to give yourself larger blocks of writing time. If you’re only going to have an extra 15 minutes after work because you’re giving up that last trip to the snack machine, have your notebook with you and get in a few words by crikey!

The key is using your time to write and for little else that won’t get you evicted, fired, or divorced. This goes double if you’re commiting to writing a novel in just a week.

What’s in a 50,000 Word Novel:

So you’re wondering what your 50,000 (or 49,000) word novel will look like? How about this list of classics that all weigh in at about 50K words:

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

The Catcher in the Rye - J. D . Salinger

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain

You’ll add a few words in revision, take a few away… but you’ve got enough words to have a classic (though if you write the next classic in a week or a month… you probably don’t need us or NaNoWriMo to kick you in the butt).

Discuss this at

Keep Writing and Happy Wordtripping!


Pick a Plot, Any Plot

Friday, October 14th, 2005

With just a bit over a week till Novel Writing Week starts, some of us are looking for a plot. If you’re writing a Short Story you may have a simple plot already in mind. But if you’re more ambitious and working on a Novella or Novel length entry, well you may be in need of a bit more… inspiration? guidance? organization? Tie this in with your scenes from the last entry and maybe you’ll make it through.

I’m going to give you a quick run down of the 20 Master Plots discussed in 20 Master Plots and how to build them by Ronald B Tobias.

1. Quest

2. Adventure

3. Pursuit

4. Rescue

5. Escape

6. Revenge

7. The Riddle

8. Rivalry

9. Underdog

10. Temptation

11. Metamorphosis

12. Transformation

13. Maturation

14. Love

15. Forbidden Love

16. Sacrifice

17. Discovery

18. Wretched Excess

19. Ascension

20. Descension

Discuss this topic at

Novel Preparation

Wednesday, October 12th, 2005

This is a bit of advice from the book “From Where You Dream” by Robert Olen Butler. We’re going to try and do some planning before tackling Novel Writing Week, or NaNoWriMo, and his advice should work well.

The idea is to take some time each day leading up to your binge writing session, and get yourself into the “creative” zone (”dream state” if you will). Once in your zone, visualize scenes that might fit into the story you’re wanting to tell. Have a stack of 3×5 cards handy to write these scenes down. They have no need to be in any order, just small scenes that might occur to your characters. The key will be writing down a simple one sentence description of the scene (”The dog gets hit by a car”,”Tom and Janice kiss for the first time”,”The family moves”, etc) and forcing yourself to not try and write any pithy verbage or dialogue yet.

Pace yourself so you can come up with 100-200 scenes if possible before you start your writing, and leave a day to pre-edit. The last day or two before your writing binge, organize your scenes. Pick out the ones you still think will be in the story, winnowing down to 80-100 for a novel. During that winnowing process keep your eye out for an opening scene. Once you’ve winnowed and found your opening, go through and organize them in an order you think they might appear in your book. Once you’ve gotten this far you’ll want to fill in other scenes where you have unnatural jumps (maybe writing new ones, maybe pulling from the pile of rejects).

During the writing process you’ll want to grab 3-5 scenes at a time, write those out, and then do a quick re-assessment of how well the next batch will mix in. Obviously at some point you’re likely to need more scenes or at least re-organize the ones you’ve got, but hopefully this will give you enough to work with so you’re main focus during the binge writing period will be on the writing and not the coming up with what the story should include.