Monday, October 26, 2015

Questions to Ask about your Story: A Master List

Everyone has different ways of plotting novels. I have been writing for so long that I can definitely tell the difference between plotting and not in my stories.

Even for those who like to wing everything, sometimes it's just helpful to know about your characters and some stuff about your plot.

And so, tonight, I spent a long time going through various stacks of worksheets I have scattered throughout my room, and compiled a master packet of questions to ask about characters and plot for my story ideas. 

Let's get right to it! Below, are a long list of questions that you are free to copy and use. Hope they prove useful!

(All of them are from various online sources and books and forums. For more help I 10/10 recommend Go Teen Writers by Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morill, and also How To Write Your Novel in a Month by Jeff Gerke)

Plot (premises, various types of outlines
Character (Assorted character worksheets)
Overview (Final questions)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo: How to Do the Thing

Ah. Do you sense it? You can smell it in the air.

The smell of overly hopefully writers, clicking their pens and sharpening their pencils menacingly, smoothing out fresh pieces of paper, and stocking up on caffeine products.

It's here. The season of NaNoWriMo. 

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, in which people all over the world write 50,000 words or more in a month. You set up accounts, meet other writers, update word counts and if you make it at the end, you can get fancy coupons.

But basically, it's 30 days of insanity.

Today, I am here to bring you the basic things you can do to survive NaNo. I myself am no expert. I have done three NaNoWriMo's and two Camp NaNoWriMo's. But most of them were spent crying and writing what I call "crap-fic". Those are the scenes that make no sense and have no addition to the plot but are there because you cannot do the words anymore.

Still, I have learned some things along the way.

Tip 1# Make Sure you Love your Story

It will be impossible for you to get through your novel if you hate it. And if you do, the chances of you even using that draft are slim.

Last year I was planning to spend my third NaNo writing book three of my trilogy that I had done for the last two NaNoWriMo's. But, a month before NaNo started, I realized that I actually didn't feel connected to that series anymore.

And so I said "Screw it, I'm writing about ghosts." I dug around my story ideas, pulled out Imaginary,  did very brief plotting for it, and wrote it. And guess what, in a month or so I'm starting draft two. Never have I been so grateful to change my mind last minute and write something new.

NaNoWriMo is an excuse to take that plot bunny you've been wanting to write forever and write it. You might be surprised and realize that this is the project you should be working on.

Tip 2# Make it a Thing

The way you survive NaNoWriMo is determination. I find it easiest to get through the month when I am excited, so the key is the maintain that excitement. Make NaNo a big deal. Put it on your calendar. Tell other people you're doing it. Change your Facebook header to that fancy NaNo participant banner. Get notebooks ready, clean up your desk the week before. Go through this whole process to get yourself excited.

Tell other people about your story! You need to know going in if this is the story you want to write. If you start the month with excitement, you're bound to do better.

Tip 3# Get a Routine

During NaNo, you're going to want habits. Start experimenting before it even starts and figure out what works best for you. Do you write best in morning? Afternoon? Evening? Make a plan. Set aside time for writing. Never ever say "I'll write when I have time."

Make this a thing. You'll get through it if you set aside time for it.

Tip 4# To do List!

The October before NaNo is always insane.

"What is plot"

"What is this story doing???"

"What even happens in this story?????"

A few days ago I made a to do list of things I needed to do and figure out before NaNoWriMo and I was very glad I did. When you know where to go, you're going to have a better time.

Tip 5# To Outline or Not to Outline?

Planners and Pansters. Which are you? Planners plan (shocking, I know.) and pantsers wing it.

If your goal is the at the end of the month to have a reasonably usable first draft, then I heavily recommend a mix of both. Writing a book in 30 days is extremely hard, and if you pants the whole thing, you might have a lot of un-needed things or plot holes. Granted, NaNoWriMo is about writing 50k and not caring about the content, so it all depends what you want at the end of the month.

I have discovered that when I have an outline, I get less lost and stressed, because I know what to do. At the same time, you need to be flexible. Some of the best things have come from on-the-spot writing.

Examples: Imaginary had no villain until day 3, when I recycled an old character as a villain. And another day I was so dead (haha) and bored, I introduced a completely new character just to annoy my MC and now I have one of my favorite characters in the story.

So. You don't want to over-outline. It'll take the fun out of things. But try and now where you're going, or at least major scenes and turning points.

All you planners, try and be ready to go off your outline if it's necessary.

Tip 6# Find Your People

My very first NaNoWriMo I did on my own. To be honest, the whole month of 2012 is a blur in my mind. 2013 I had my good friend Maddie alongside to help me along. And last year, is the year I got to know my best friends Samantha and Emma who would proceed to also do Camp NaNoWriMo 2015 with me.

Literally they are the only reason I got through that month.

Writer friends are exceedingly helpful.  See here for proof.

Fellow writers can be found on the NaNo forums, in writing clubs, or various places. Sam and Emma video chatted with me almost every day last November, and I can safely say that it made the month more memorable and definitely got me through it.

Tip #7 Straighten your Expectations


I'm just telling you now. Sure, you'll have those scenes you stare at and go "Wow that was good" but let me just assure you that your NaNo first draft will have so many issues. Do not expect perfection. Do not expect beautiful prose. If it happens, then yay you! But do not expect it. You'll discourage yourself.

Tip #8 Have Reminders

This is a piece of advice from Jeff Gerke's How To Write your Novel in a Month, which I definitely order you to get. He suggests that you get out a piece of paper or blank document, and ramble about your story. Talk about how much you love it. Rant about the characters and themes and the BEAUTY. Print it out, hang it up, or keep it somewhere close by.

During the month, most likely there will reach a part you don't like your story anymore. That is when you pull out that sheet and remind yourself. Keep writing.

Tip #9 Change Location

Sometimes changing location can seriously help. Go to a coffee shop. Move to your couch. Find a bookstore. Walk outside. If you type, try writing by hand. If you write, try typing. (This helped me so much last year)

Carry a notebook around. You never know when you can write. Type it up when you get home, and voila, you have a system.

Tip #10 Don't Panic!

As crazy as it sounds, NaNoWriMo is seriously one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. It's hectic and insane, but worth every moment. When you finish your story, you will feel more triumph then ever before. Even if you don't succeed, you can say that you did NaNo and that's a big deal.

Love your story. Go at it. You can Do the Thing.

(Just have a lot of tea ready)


Interested? Check out the NaNoWriMo site!

If 50k sounds too crazy for you, or want to do more than 50,000 go to the Young Writers Program where you can set your own goal. Anywhere from 1,000 words to 100,000.

Reading thing after November? There are two Camp NaNoWriMo's during the year, April and July, where you can set your own goal, join a cabin, and write away.

Graphic made on Canva from a tumblr image