Tracking Throughlines in Your Novel

My life has been wonderfully routine (which is a good thing–no drama, except on the page) lately, and so in lieu of a Five on Friday, I’m giving you a longer post about an aspect of novel writing.

Today, I’m talking about throughlines.

Google the word and your head might explode.  Throughline is a word much beloved of story wonks (I love those guys, too, I’m just not one of them) and some of the definitions and explanations are so complex. To put it mildly. But here’s a simply one:

A throughline is a connecting them or plot in a dramatic work.

Say, for instance, your *main character has a beloved necklace she wears all the time.  The charm on the necklace has special meaning for her.  And, her father gave her the necklace.  Double special meaning. At the start of the story, another character compliments her on the necklace.  Then she loses the necklace while doing something naughty (having sex in a gazebo, but don’t you focus on that part).  When she finds the necklace again, it is because another character (yep, the one she was having sex with) returns it to her. And he does it such a way that it changes everything for her in that moment. Ah, true love.

Anyway, sex and love aside, the necklace is a throughline. It is a piece of plot. Ish.  You see what I mean? A throughline could be a character’s efforts to get into medical school, or it could be her reaction to a book she’s reading, as long as that book is important to the plot and it is mentioned several times.  And has some relation to the plot.

Are you with me?

Dropping In

Stories of all kinds are enriched by the addition of minor throughlines.  (Of course, many stories wouldn’t exist without the bigger throughlines.) But when writing a draft, it can be hard to keep the big picture in mind. You get so focused on the scene in front of you (as you should) that it might be hard to remember you need to mention that lug nut again. But, never fear–because you can easily drop these bits in after you’ve finished a draft.

I got very good at this after rewriting, my novel **The Bonne Chance Bakery several times.  There were certain throughlines that needed to be added, to bump up a character, etc., and at first I was daunted by the thought. But then I realized it literally is like dropping something in. I have this image of me above my manuscript, aiming little parts of throughlines at it.

Tracking

Sometimes, as I’m writing, the piece I need to add is small enough that I can go back and do it at the moment I think about it. But more often, it requires some thought. And that thought will take me away from the scene I’m currently writing.  In which case I note it on my ongoing list of Things That Need to Be Added.   This is helpful not only for tracking but for keeping these items front and center in my mind. I refer to the list often enough that I’m always reading it over. And there is the thing that writing it down cements it in my mind.

You can also do fun things with throughlines like track them on large pieces of paper.  Use post-its in different colors, or markers, or any of the gazillion fun things you can find at the office supply store.  This kind of visual representation can be very helpful in figuring out what you need to add (and subtract) from your plot.

However you decide to do it, consciously tracking your throughlines can be an enormous help as you write your draft and save frustration when it comes time to rewrite. So have it.

Don’t forget–my Do That Thing program starts next week. Your thing could be writing a novel! Or organizing your lug nut collection! Whatever it is, I’ll help you get it done. You can sign up here.

*Yes, this example is taken from my WIP.  SO DON’T GO STEALING IT. Never mind. I know you won’t. There’s nothing new under the sun, anyway.

**Yes, it is still being pitched. The novel is with several editors at this very moment.

Photo by Scott Robinson.

There’s This Thing Called the Delete Button

Me: early this morning, working on my novel.  Staring at the words on the screen, wondering if I should add a sentence about the hero’s past. Thinking it might be too much.

And then it hit me. I have a freaking delete button.

It is really freaking easy to write the sentence I’m not sure about and delete it if it doesn’t work.

Why is it so difficult to remember this?

I’ll tell you why: it’s that sneaky little thing called fear rearing its ugly head. Again. Fear disguising itself as perfectionism, as in, I’ve got to make sure the sentence is perfect before I write it.

I think about this when I do the crossword in the morning.  (In pencil, thank you very much.) Sometimes I hesitate to fill in an answer I’m not sure of. And then I do it anyway, and the whole section of puzzle opens up.  Why do I hesitate? Because I’m afraid I’m not right.

That’s about the stupidest thing ever.

Put it all on the page, people. (And when I say people, I include myself in that. I need to remember this as much as anyone.)  Because it is easy to delete or edit something that’s there. But you can’t edit something that’s not there.

What are you not putting on the page?

And, if you’re having a hard time with this, maybe you need some writing coaching.

Photo by surely.

Blocked? Try This to Get Your Writing Going Again

Before we get started, I have a guest post today over at the wonderful Samara King’s blog. It is called Born to Be Bad, and it is about the importance of wielding your creative power. Go read it!

Okay, so I promised you a tip for when you are blocked.  This is so ridiculously simple that you’re going to think I’m crazy, but it works. It’s based on one of the laws of the universe (possibly physics, though I am not scientific enough to know) with which you are familiar:

Nature abhors a vacuum.

And so does creativity.  And so here’s the idea:  you create a space in which to allow your writing to flow. I know. I told you it was simple. But it really works, because not only are you telling the universe are ready to riot, you are also easing yourself into the work.  Here are some suggestions as to how:

External

Open a file.  Opening a file is telling yourself (and the world) that you are serious. You’re going to do this thing. You are creating a place in which to actually write it. Woo-hoo!

Buy a notebook. Ditto above. Only analog, not digital. Claiming your space!

Create a binder. And ditto again.

Fill out a template.   This can be a character dossier, or a form (or forms) that you find in a book or online. Sometimes having somebody tell you what to do helps, and if they’ve given you a ready-made outline, so much the better. (Though take everything anybody tells you, especially even me, with a grain of salt.)

Title a blank page (on the computer or in a notebook) with Chapter One (or whatever). Now you’ve created a vacuum.  I’ve been known to have a file open or a notebook created for days or weeks at a time before actually writing anything in it. And that’s okay, because the energy is there, gathering. This draws on the Japanese productivity theory of Kaizen, which advocates small increases in productivity.  As in, one day you open the file, and the next day you write one word, and so on. Sounds crazy, but it works.

Kon-mari your workspace.  Creativity is messy and sloppy, yes, but getting things organized creates, yes, you guessed it, a vacuum into which words can flow. And yeah, I’m the worst person on the planet to be preaching this, seeing as how I’ve been re-organizing my office for years months.

These simple actions tell the universe that you’re ready to receive. That you’re serious. You’ve fashioned a vessel into which the ideas can flow.  And before you know it, you’ll be writing like crazy again.

Do you ever create containers for your creativity? What’s your favorite way?

And hey, don’t forget about connection calls. Just click here to schedule a time to chat about writing!

Photo from Everystockphoto.

Writing: Exhausting or Energizing?

A while ago, one of my wonderful clients mentioned that after a good writing session, she felt exhausted. Boy, could I identify with that, because I often have the same experience.  After a particularly intense stint at the computer, I sometimes feel like doing nothing more than crawling away and collapsing in a quivering heap.

And yet, I’m also energized. And excited. And in love with the world. It is a strange mixture of exhaustion and joy. Years ago one of my  MFA mentors and I marveled at how it was possible to get a blood sugar drop (an experience usually reserved for being physically active) from an avid writing session. She related that a neurosurgeon friend of hers had told her that under intense concentration, the brain can use up as many calories as one’s body does when exercising.  I’ve since had other people vigorously refute this, but I prefer to believe it–because I’ve experienced it. (Okay, here’s an article that disagrees with me, but it is still worth reading.)

Here’s the deal, though. This weird state is one of my favorite states to be in. And that is because I feel like I’ve given everything I have to the page, let the words flow out of me so intensely that I’m totally spent.  It makes me feel like I am fulfilling my purpose as a writer.

Process, Not Product

And the key to achieving this state is…yeah, its pretty obvious, isn’t it? The key is focus.  I would take that even a step farther and submit that it is a certain kind of focus.  And that is the kind of focus wherein one is so caught up in the process that she is not worried about the product.

Not worried about what her family will think when her memoir is released.  Or how her agent will react after reading the manuscript. What the spouse will say. What the children will think. What the high-school friends from long-ago will think. How the first-grade teacher, long in the grave, will judge. I swear we let all these things and more stop us from doing what we really want: which is deeply engaging with the writing at hand.

The Inner Critic

And sometimes they congeal into one big, bad lump of an inner critic. Your worst enemy. The one who keeps you from writing. The one you listen to scream at you. The one you let stop you from all your dreams of creative freedom. Guess what, people? You’ve got three choices here: you can carry on as usual, letting he/she/it stop you, or you can tell it to shut the f$%# up and ignore it, or you can befriend it.  Either of the latter two will work.  Just don’t get stuck in the first option. Please. (I’ve written numerous times about dealing with this imp. You can read more here and here.)

Balance

Besides acknowledging and slaying dealing with your inner critic, I think it’s important to realize that this kind of exhausting and energizing state is not one we are going to be in all the time. I used to get into it more often when I was not a professional writer. Back when I was writing for fun, it was far easier to just have at it without worry about the end result. That is not quite so easy to do anymore when I know that people will be reading my blog, newsletter, or novels. This is one reason I write in my journal every more–crap that means nothing to anybody but me and will never be seen by anybody but me. It reminds me that this is my goal, always–to write freely and openly without worry about how the words will be judged.  And thus it is important to seek a balance between this wonderful free writing and the time when you are more slowly considering the word you are putting on the page. (And for the love of God, don’t confuse the exhilaration you feel after completing a first draft with the idea that means it is perfect. I see this happen far too often. Just because it was fun to write doesn’t mean it isn’t in need of more work.)

A Certain Kind of Exhaustion

But, oh how I love it when the words are flowing freely and I’m a mere shadow of my former self at the end of a writing session!  This kind of exhaustion is what we all aim for: the knowledge that we’ve given one of the most important things to us all we have in the moment. That is all we can ask for.

How does a good writing session make you feel?

Hey want to chat about your writing? Get some perspective? Sign up for one of my connection calls!

New Book You Need to Go Buy

You guys, just yesterday I found out that one of my favorite humans ever, J.D. Frost, is releasing a new book today. It is called, Redemption Face: The Black Room Murders, and it is going up as a kindle release for only $2.99! I loved the first two books in the series.  They novels are police procedurals but with a depth to them. The main character, Moses Palmer, is what makes them different and so interesting to me.  He’s troubled and flawed, but still always strives to do the right thing–according to his own moral code.

J.D., the brain behind Moses, is a good friend and loyal reader of this blog.  Though he lives in Alabama, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person a couple of times–when he came to France year before last, and once when I was in Nashville. And I’m excited about the latest entry in the Moses Palmer series. Here’s the blurb about the book:

  Detective Moses Palmer is accustomed to driving strange routes, away from the river, around the river. Now Chattanooga is suffering a terrible drought and the mighty Tennessee that cuts through the city’s center is down several feet and barely moving. But Moses hardly notices. He and his new partner are chasing an eerie murderer who leaves his victims in darkness―total darkness. They have no suspects, so Palmer’s new boss, Maddie Kraikos, is breathing down his neck, in more ways than one. Then, the crazed killer ups the stakes, as if he knows Moses’ history, all of his history.

     Does life sometimes scar us beyond recovery, beyond redemption? Find out in this thrilling new novel from J.D. Frost.

Go check it out, you won’t be disappointed!

How Then, Shall We Jump Start Our Writing Goals for the New Year?

We’re coming up on two weeks into the new year. Ack! Wasn’t it just Christmas? Didn’t we just do Thanksgiving? Soon we’ll be talking about fireworks displays.  I’m still seeing a lot of posts about how to plan to make this your best year yet. I confess, I read almost every one.  Because I love me some planning, yes I do. And then of course there are the requisite posts about how you really shouldn’t plan or create new year’s resolutions because you’ll just fail at them anyway.

To which I say, pish-posh.  How are you supposed to get anything done if you don’t know what you need to do? So here we are two weeks in and I actually think it’s a good time to review your goals.  January is either all bright and shiny and new for you or it’s a terrible slog, but either way the luster might be off some of those goals.  But, the world needs your voice. You need your voice to be heard in the world. It works both ways.  So, herein are some thoughts for how to reconnect and move forward with those writing goals.  17 of them, in fact. Because…oh never mind. You get it.

  1. Write faster.  I’m putting together a….hmmm, what shall I call it? Book? Mini-book? Maybe report. I loved writing reports in school. I’m putting together a report on how to write faster and better and you can get it if you’re on my list (see sign-up to the right). It won’t be out until February so between now and then write as fast as you can. Because its better to get something on the page than nothing. So I say.
  2. Create an activation trigger for your goal.  This is a simple action that will make it easier for you to reach your goal. So, in my case, since I want to write first thing in the morning, an activation trigger would be to shut down all my inboxes and other distracting tabs the night before.  But let the all-mighty and wonderful Michael Hyatt explain it to you by going here.
  3. Clean up your crap.  Bwahahahahaha. That’s the sound of me laughing hysterically because my office is such a mess. And organizing it is the one thing I can’t seem to get myself to do. But sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed and look around and think, no wonder. I know I would be able to think better if my space were cleaner. And I also know that money likes to come where there’s room. So I’m working on it. How about you?
  4. Study. I love learning new things. And there are certain areas that I need to brush up on, for sure. Like marketing and money. So I’m setting aside time to study those topics this year.  Years ago I read a book that stated committing thirty minutes a day to a subject is enough to become expert in it. I’ve never forgotten that. Learning marketing will boost your book sales, so if that’s one of your goals, have at it.
  5. Quit worrying about what other people think.  You said yes to the PTA bake sale because you were afraid the other mothers would think you a slacker if you didn’t, but now baking cupcakes for 500 is going to take up your writing time? Stop doing shit like that.  Who cares what they think? We do, I know. It is one of the hardest things to get over.  But your writing is more important than your sister’s best friend’s cousin’s opinion of you (and this includes Facebook posting/jealous, too).
  6.  Don’t do crap you don’t want to do. Okay, into each life some rain must fall. We all have things that we don’t want to do. Like cook dinner when you’d rather be writing. Taking the garbage out when its snowing. Cutting back on wine because you want to lose some weight. (Oh and none of these items are autobiographical. Uh-uh, no way.) But we do make ourselves say yes to plenty of things we don’t want to do. Case in point: I just finished knitting a pink #pussyhat to wear at the Portland Women’s March.  The idea of this is to knit hats to keep the women marching in Washington warm and also create a great visual image. Everyone on Instagram is knitting one hat after another and I thought I would, too. But after casting mine off I realized I really don’t want to knit another one. Usually I’d force myself. Because, I have to be the most perfect activist ever! But I have no interest in knitting another one. (I get bored really easily.) So just today I gave myself permission not to knit another one.  More time for writing.
  7. Stop with the perfectionism. It doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve the people you love, either. Here’s a fun little exercise: force yourself to write one bad page. One really, terrible, horrible, very bad page.  There. Doesn’t that feel better?
  8. Find a planner or some kind of system that works for you. I’m old-school paper when it comes to this. Don’t bother sending me a Google calendar notification cuz I don’t use one.  It took me a long time, but I recently figured out the best calendar for me is daily calendar. I bought the daily planner from Danielle LaPorte (affiliate link) and I LOVE it. They sold out but are coming back in stock on January 15th. Highly recommended. (News flash addendum: I’ve used and recommended the Leonie Dawson Your Shining Year workbooks and planners in the past. She’s having a 50% off clearance sale at the moment. Go here, which is an affiliate link, to see.)
  9. Meditate. Quit your bitching and just do it. I get many of my best ideas during meditation sessions.
  10. Write morning pages. I know you don’t have time, but do it anyway. Gets all your crap out of your head and onto the page and is another place I get brilliant ideas. You know morning pages, don’t you? Popularized by Julia Cameron, they are three pages of long-hand stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. Sometimes mine are shorter than three pages, sometimes longer. Doesn’t matter.
  11. Automate. I think we used to call this delegating. Whatever. Look at what stupid things are getting in the way of your writing and figure out a way to make someone else do them. Miniature adults, i.e., your children, are great for this. Make them set the table and do laundry, etc. Yeah, right. Hopefully yours will be better at this than mine were. Failing that, hire an assistant. Or at the very least, order your groceries online and go pick them up (or send your teenager who just got his license and loves to drive to do it). We live in a miraculous world, people. Take advantage of it.
  12. Hire a coach. I have my eyes set on two this year. One for writing and one for business. And, ahem, if you are a writer looking for one you could consider me. (If you would like to schedule a connection session to chat with me about it, just click here and you’re all set.)
  13. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Gee, what a great title. Someone should use it for a book. Oh, never mind. But don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control, like the weather. We’re currently working on our fourth winter storm in a city that usually just gets rain. I get so distracted looking out the window, turning on the TV for news and so on. Dumb. Wasting precious time.
  14. Use things you love. For instance, I love writing with multi-colored pens.  The Pilot G-2 Gel Rollers come in a luscious array of colors and I use them on my planner and in my journals. A bit teenager-ish, but I don’t care. It’s fun.
  15. Read. Some writers don’t like to read when they’re writing, but I say, words in, words out. Reading inspires you, it instructs you and it teaches you. Read everything you can get your hands on and think how it relates to your writing.
  16. Get very clear about what you want with your writing.  Yeah, I know you’ve been figuring out goals and so forth, but are they shoulds or wants? This business we are in is not an easy one, and so I think you should do what makes you happy in it, not what someone else thinks you should be doing.  With all the things I do, I have to constantly remind myself that fiction comes first.
  17. Do we really need a #17? Kidding. Here it is: launch. That happens to be my word of the year, but I think it is apropos. Think of it as rising up or upleveling.  Because if ever there was a year to stand up and stand out and do your thing as fully and wholely as possible this is it.  Recalibrate your mindset so that you truly are going for it. Let’s do it together.

What are your writing goals for 2017 and how do you propose to help yourself reach them?  And seriously, I’d love to hear about your goals and your writing.  Let’s! Go here and schedule a time.

Photo by robchivers.

Now That You’ve Finished Nanowrimo: A 10-Step Plan for Rewriting

post-itsSo, you did it. You finished Nanowrimo. Huge congratulations! It is quite a journey, isn’t it? But now what, you might be thinking. And rightfully so.  You’ve just put forth a ton of creative energy over the last month.  Here is my 10-step plan for what to do next.

1.Decide if you’re at the end, really, or have farther to go. This depends on if you set out to complete a novel in 50K words or knew you’d be 50K in but not finished.  I fall into the latter camp. I completed Nanowrimo but figure I have about 15K words to go to finish my draft.  If this is the case with you, also, then finish up before proceeding to step #2.

2. Take a break.  It will do your creative spirit good to step away from your WIP for a bit.  When you do come back to it, you’ll have fresh eyes and new energy to bring to it. So go stare out the window. Take a bath. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk. Knit a pair of mittens for someone you love for Christmas. Go forth and put your novel out of your mind.

3. Resist the urge to consider it done and begin your agent search.  Please, please, please remember that what you’ve written is a draft. It will need to go through at least one and possibly several rewrites before it is ready to go out in the world.  Agents dread December 1st because their inboxes fill up with manuscripts completed during Nanowrimo, though only the authors of said manuscripts would consider them finished.

4. Reread and make notes.  This is the heart of my rewriting method. Which, by the way, I stole learned from Rachael Herron and have adapted for my own purposes. (Shout out to Rachael, who besides being one of my favorite novelists does lots of incredible things for writers, including a podcast of author interviews and essays on the creative process you can access through Patreon.) Anyway. This step has two parts to it, that you will do concurrently as you read:

A. Make an outline of the story.  Rachael says to do a sentence outline of each scene, but if that’s too much for you, figure out a way to do it that will help you to keep track of the story. Because the point here is not only to get the story back into your head, but also to give you a reference point later on.

B. Put any thoughts and ideas on post-it notes.  One idea to a post-it. This is the freaking brilliant heart of the method.  You don’t have to organize them or think deeper thoughts about these ideas, just scrawl on a post-it note and slap that note on a piece of paper. In no particular order. That will come later.

5. Review any rewrite notes you kept during the writing process.  Add these notes to your post-it pages.

6.  Create a page per chapter. Just a blank page with the number of the chapter at the top. I like to put them in a three-ring binder.

7.  Go through post-its and order them. Take your little post-its, put all the ones that go in chapter one on that page, all those that belong to chapter two on the #2 page, and so on. You can refer to your sentence outline to help you remember what happens when.

8.  Review and ponder.  Do your characters need deepening? Does your setting need clarifying? Does your structure need shoring up? Do the necessary work here and add to your post-it note outline.

9.  Celebrate.  A glass of red wine is called for. Because look how far you’ve come!

10.  Have at it! Carry on!  Get this baby rewritten so you can get it out in the world.

That’s all there is to it, friends!

Okay, so if you have any questions, email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com.  And if you need more help, let me know. You might be a great candidate for my coaching. (Which, I just so happen to be having a sale on until midnight Friday, December 3.)

Thanksgiving Gratitude and Giveaway

turkey_gobble_dinner_268746_l

On this Thanksgiving day, I’m grateful for so much, including, but not limited to:

My family and the fact most of them live close to me. (Hello, amazing, brilliant, beautiful and perfect grandchildren!)

The rain that is falling outside my window.

The sun that peeks through the clouds every so often.

My cozy house. (Hello, wonderful new bed.)

Happy Hour with good wine to drink, knitting to work on, a fire to sit by.

My wonderful friends.

The fact that I get to journey to France every September. (Hello, Paris, my favorite city in all the world!)

The fact that I’m a writer and I get to spend part of every day throwing words at the page.

You! Yes, you. I’m grateful for every one of you who reads this blog or my bi-weekly love letters to creatives, or who works with me through coaching or workshops.  And to show my gratitude, I’m giving away one copy of my new prompt journal, Just Prompt Me. To enter, leave a comment about what you’re grateful for. I’ll draw the winner’s name on Monday, November 28th.  (U.S. residents only, please.)

Here’s my all-time favorite gratitude song by the glorious Karen Drucker (and never you mind that this clip is from Father’s Day):

 

Nanowrimo Update: Some Core Truths for Maintaining a Writing Practice

Typewriter_Writing_Writer_238822_lI know. This is like, the ten thousandth blog post you’ve read on Nanowrimo.  I wrote one myself (well, okay, it was sort of about the election, too), and there’s another good one here.  

But, here’s the deal. As the headline promised, I’ve been reminded of some helpful core truths about the writing practice as I’ve toiled away on my Nano novel this month.   None of these are new, nor are they earth-shattering.  What follows are just plain, practical tips for getting the freaking words on the page regularly.   Here we go, in no particular order:

Set a word count goal.  When it comes to Nanowrimo, if you’re going to win the damned thing, you need to attempt to write a certain amount of words every day. I choose a goal of 2,000 words, because that gives me some wiggle room for days when I don’t write. (Like this morning, for instance. For some reason Saturdays are not productive for me when it comes to writing.)  And this is helpful even when it’s not November, because it gives you at least a vague idea of how you’re progressing.

Lower your expectations.  Yeah, I know. This sounds contradictory to the above advice.  And it is, sort of.  What I mean here is this: if its 11 PM and you’ve not yet hit your word count, adjust accordingly. Maybe this is a day when you get 500 words in. That’s nothing to sniff at!

Know where you’re going.  This is the single most helpful thing I can tell you. Even if you are a pantser and hate outlining, always have a sense of where you are going next.  Make a few notes about the next scene before you end your writing session for the day. Keep an ongoing scene list. Have a pad of paper handy next to your computer to scribble reminder notes.

You can get unstuck.   If you find yourself stuck, don’t despair. You can pull yourself out of it.  Turn to your journal and do some free writing, either specifically about your WIP or to a random prompt. Or plow ahead in your project–I’m continually amazed at how often the unstuck-ness comes in the actual writing.

You can write more than you think possible.  2,000 words a day sounds like a lot to some people, but you could do it if you tried.  The other day I wrote 6,000 words, participating in 10K for Writers day.  It was exhausting, but exhilarating, too.

Momentum carries the month.  There’s nothing more exciting than knowing you are making steady progress on a WIP.  You wake up every day and chug along. The pages pile up. And life is good, because part of you is living in the lovely fictional world you’re creating every morning.  Momentum carries you through when you miss a day. It leads you back to the page, reminding you that all is not lost, that you can pick up where you left off.  This doesn’t happen when you write only occasionally.

Brain.fm is a revelation.  This is a site that advertises itself as “music for the brain.”  You can listen to tracks for relaxation, sleep, or focus. I plug my ear buds into the computer and choose which kind of focus music I want (chimes and bells, cinematic, rain, forest sounds, and thunder are just some of the options), and off I go. I swear it helps enormously.  You can get 10 free sessions before you commit. I was so taken with it I bought a year’s subscription.

Find your best routine. It works best for me to get up early, take a quick look at email to see what’s going on, and then get to it. If I can (if I have no morning appointments), I write until I reach my word count. This way I feel good all day, knowing I’ve accomplished my most important thing. But I could spout off about writing first thing until I’m blue in the face and if this routine doesn’t work for you (if, say, you are a night owl), then you’re just going to ignore me. With good reason. Because you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to get up at the crack of dawn when you’ve been up late the night before.  Moral of the story: find what works for you. And then do it.

Thanks for reading.  What tips do you have for maintaining a writing practice over the long haul?

PS. You can find my books on my Amazon author page here.

The Wordstrumpet Last-Minute Guide to Nanowrimo

nanowrimo-badgeNanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) starts next Tuesday, November 1st. Are you ready? I did it a few years ago, resulting in an early draft of my novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior.  And I’m planning to do it again this year to knock out a draft of a romance novel I have in mind. I think I have a pretty good plan for completing it, she said, modestly, which I shall share here.

First of all, loosely, here are the rules: you can prep as much as you want before November 1st, but you can’t actually write anything until that date.  Write 50,000 words and you win! Prizes include a button for your website and a certificate (at least that’s what they were last time I checked). You can sign up on the Nanowrimo website to get support and encouragement. If you’re a social type, many cities hold Nanowrimo write-ins that you can participate in.

All this is great, but the most important thing about Nanowrimo is that it encourages you to fling words at the page with abandon. You kinda have to if you’re going to meet that 50,000 word goal.  And please, please, please remember that THERE WILL BE MUCH REVISING NEEDED after November 30 has come and gone.  But you know that, right? (Its surprising how many people don’t.)

But, here’s the deal, guys, you only have a few days to prepare.  Like, three. But its not too late! You can totally get yourself in the right headspace to do this in three days. (Trust me, the right headspace is half the battle.)  And, I do highly recommend it.  Nanowrimo is a lot of fun, it  totally gets you over any fears you have about writing a novel, and it helps you learn how to silence your inner critic.

So here goes, the Wordstrumpet Last-Minute Guide to Nanowrimo:

  1. Come up with an idea. Maybe you already have one? Maybe you’ve had an idea for a novel for forever? This is the time to do it.  Here’s a little secret about writing a novel: you can use any idea you want. Really. Its all about how you put it together on the page. Just remember that all novels that work are based on conflict. Somebody (your main character) wants something, but forces array to prevent him from getting it.
  2. Do some prep work. This doesn’t need to be extensive, but it will help if you know your settings (main character’s home and work place, plus her hang-out at a minimum),and some things about your most important  characters (email me if you need a character dossier for this).
  3. Create a loose outline for your plot. (Quit cringing, pantsers.)  This can be as simple as a list of scenes or you can make it more complicated if your brain works that way. (Mine does not.)
  4. Write notes. Ponder things like theme, motivation, the above-mentioned conflict and write your thoughts down. These will likely change as you progress through the pages, but it is good to have some initial thoughts. I like to create a little binder or use a spiral for this, so I’ve got everything together in one place.
  5. Figure out a schedule.  I like to get up early and write, so that my most important thing is finished first. I set a goal of 2,000 words a day. If I stuck to it exactly, I’d end up with 60,000 words after the 30 days of November. But life does intervene. There’s Thanksgiving, for instance. And that’s a time suck if there ever was one.  With my 2K a day goal, I’m good if I lose a couple days to emergency grandchild watching or whatever.
  6. Monitor your habits. This is a good time to forego that nightly class of wine. (Brahahahaha. Like that’s going to happen.) Make sure you eat well and get enough exercise and sleep.
  7. Write like the wind.  Make freaking forward progress! Your goal is to hit 50K words, not obsess over every word. If you’re going to win this, you’re going to have to write fast.  The time for rewriting is when you are finished
  8. Be aware you might not finish. Winning Nanowrimo means completing 50,000 words on one single novel project in a month. You might choose, from the start, to write more of a novella, or know that you’re not going to be quite finished at 50K. And that’s okay–because you’ll have most of it done.
  9. Have fun. We don’t do this to torture ourselves. Do we?

So, are you going to do it? C’mon, let’s! Leave a comment and let’s chat about it.