If you’ve not already done some planning, start there. Take the next couple of hours and put your preliminary thoughts down on paper. Don’t write your story at all, just some of the scene ideas and basic plot elements you’ve devised, maybe a couple of quick character sketches. If you’re still looking for an idea go over to www.wordtrip.com or search on google.com or a9.com for story generators. Take some characters, put them in a situation, pick a setting and start from there.
Don’t over plan, don’t over research, and once you’ve got enough to get started, and keep you going once you do start, put your butt in your chair and start writing (or if you’re waiting for Writing Week to start, take the time to get a good nap and maybe go for a mind clearing walk).
Stop the Block:
In the latest issue of Scientific American Mind there’s a whole article on the brainstorm and tapping your creative powers. The key thing I pulled from it was that the key to solving a problem isn’t knowing more than the next guy, but having the basic knowledge (what your story is for example) and then turning off your brain and thinking about other things to let the “guys in the basement” (as Steven King oft referrs to them) do their job. So as this week (or next month) progresses and you’re finding yourself stuck on a story problem take the time to take a break. Even if it takes away some writing time, take a 10-20 minute break (grab a cup of coffee, a hershey kiss, or take a nap) and then come back to your problem.
I’ve used a software from www.pzizz.com that plays soothing sounds (though sometimes spooky) and talks you through a short nap and wakes you up when it’s over. You might want to try something along those lines to distract your mind so it can do what it needs to. Another option is meditation. There are a plethora of Yoga sites out there that will give you quick stretches to work through that can give your mind something physical to focus on while those basement workers can find a path to your pen. Even without a guide you can set your kitchen timer for 10-15 minutes and take the time to sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. Or go for a nice walk around the neighborhood (assuming you’re in a safe neighborhood and won’t get shot). The key is just to focus your mind on another subject for a little while. This will let the subconscious mind sort all the information it’s been clogged with into a manageable pattern.
That’s all for me today. I’ll try and post a couple of encouraging bits later this week. Happy Writing and Happy Wordtripping!]]>
You’ve all heard of NaNoWriMo (they get all that pesky free press), some of you have heard of www.3daynovel.com as well. Most of us are not speedy enough to get a novel written in 3 Days, and only a few of us have the time to devote to spewing forth 50,000 words in a month. So, we at Wordtrip have come up with the Novel Writing Week. A smidge more time to write that book than the weekend crew gives you, and less time to feel guilty about falling behind than you suffer through with NaNoWriMo.
Here’s the plan, we’re going to take the last full week before NaNoWriMo starts, and have a week of writing madness.
From October 22nd at 12:01 AM till October 28th 11:59 PM our Wordtrip community (and anybody else who wants to join in) will be writing our little hearts out. You even get to pick your level of commitment.
I) Novel: A complete novel from start to finish, or 49,000 words, whichever comes first. You’re encouraged to have notes and outlining and all research done beforehand. This is 7,000 words a day for 7 days to give you a 49,000 word novel. This is for the people who are taking a week off of work and family and drinking a lot of coffee for that week. It’s a pretty short novel, and one you’ll want to edit a lot to be sure, but you’ll be a novelist.
II) Novella: 21,000 words and a good start on your novel. You’ve got an aggressive 3,000 words a day to write, and hopefully the momentum will carry you to finish it within the next two months.
III) Short Story: 5600 Words: a short story, or the first three chapters of the novel (the common amount sent out in proposals). You’re still getting something accomplished, and have a more reasonable 800 words a day goal.
If you’re going to participate in NaNoWriMo you might choose the Short Story level to get your writing juices flowing in preparation of NaNoWriMo. If you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo this is your chance to get a jump start on that story you’ve been putting off.
Check here and at Wordtrip.com for further updates on our 2006 Novel Writing Week. Remember those dates:
October 22nd at 12:01 AM till October 28th 11:59 PM]]>
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.
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!
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.
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: http://www.wordtrip.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5679
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!
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 : http://www.wordtrip.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5653 to discuss this topic with other Wordtrippers.
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!