Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How I'm Planning for NaNoWriMo

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Okay, NaNoWriMo starts in less than a week now. So how, you ask, am I preparing for the plunge? Well, I'm trying to keep the planing to a minimum. Over planing can take all the fun out of the writing process, plus if you spend too much time preparing a story before you start writing than the story may become too important to you. That sounds like it should be a good thing, but really it's not. Remember when I talked about Exuberant Imperfection? In order to succeed at writing a novel in 30 days you need to be willing to mess up and write a complete mess, while rejoicing in your own writing flaws. That is the only way you will finish your rough draft and still have you sanity in the end. If a story line become too important to you than you won't be willing to put it all on the line. You will never finish the story.

So, rule number one when planning for NaNo: Plan all you want, but plan on changing your plans. Also, don't get too detailed in your outlines and character profiles. Let the details just flow off the page when you are writing. That is the fun part.

One suggestion that Chris Baty made in his book, "No Plot? No Problem!", was to spend only one week outlining and planing your novel before you start writing it.  This way you don't have time to get too attached to your plot. If you write it and it turns out to be no more than a pile of poo than you have not lost anything more than a weeks worth of meddling.  I sort of ignored this little tip and started planning out my novel a whole month ahead of time. Well, guess what happened. I started thinking about my story too much. I became too invested in it. It got to the point that I was afraid to write it because I was afraid of messing up. So now that plot is thrown out the window because I know that I will NEVER get it written at this rate.  So I've started fresh with a brand new idea that may not be able to hold water. But it is a story none the less. One I won't cry too much about if it decided to jump off a cliff.

So, how am I actually going about my outlining process?  Well, this year I am using yWriter 5 by SpaceJock, an amazing free program that helps writers organize their stories in a very user friendly way which allows the writer to focus on just writing and not worry about the technical side of things.  You can download the software here: http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html

yWriter allows you to divide your story up into chapters and scenes and then move them around as you change the order of your story. It also has good fields for writing character, scene and item information. I can't even begin to explain everything on it. I urge you to go check it out for yourself. It is 100% free, no strings attached. You've got nothing to loose.

I am creating a very simple outline within yWriter but then I am writing my actual story in Microsoft Word (yWriter doesn't have spell check :p). I will then paste my story into yWriter so that I can organize it anyway I want. yWriter also keeps a running word count which is great if you are keeping track for NaNoWriMo.

So go check it out. I'll continue to update you on how well it works for me.

Peace and Joy,

Miranda Joy

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love to Read, Hate to Read

Monday, October 19, 2009
Here is a great idea I stole from Chris Baty's book, "No Plot? No Problem!" to help plan out and guide your novel writing process.

Make two lists on two separate pieces of paper. Make one list "What I Love to Read in a Novel" and the other "What I Hate to Read in a Novel." Do exactly what the lists suggest. Write down everything that you love to read about, all the things that get your heart racing and cause you to not be able to put the book down. Then write all the things that make you gag and want to throw the book out the window, or the things that make you fall asleep while reading. Take some time to really think these lists through.

Keep these two lists near your computer so that they will constantly be on hand as references. You would think it would be common sense not to put the things you hate into your novel, but you would be surprised how easily those things can creep in when you've got no better ideas. Don't let this happen! The list of things you love can act as a to do list, or more like a mission statement. Try your best to put as many of the things you love into your book.

With this exercise you are essentially creating your own guidelines for writing. A list of Do's and Don'ts that you will never be able to argue with.

Here are my lists, though I am sure I will think of more points later. Remember, this is my own list. You need to make your own. You might love something I hate, or hate something I love. This is just an example.

"Things I Love in a Novel"
* Quirky characters
* Physical peril
* Strong female characters
* Secret organizations
* Concise, imaginative description
* Risky stealth operations
* Smart kids (Not Nerds. I mean kids that have a lick of common sense and know to hide under the bed and call 911 when the killer barges into their house)
* Angry mobs
* Out of control super powers
* Witty dialog
* If Odd Thomas would do or say it, I love it.
* Stubborn male characters
* Snappy one-liners
* Mutants
* Social outcasts
* Betrayal
* Death of beloved characters
* Gun fights
* Chase scenes

"Things I Hate in a Novel"
* Wordy sentences
* Over description
* Large time lapses within chapters
* Opening paragraphs that describe scenery
* Over use of onomatopoeia
* Teen romance (crushes are ok, romance is unrealistic)
* Magical swords/weapons that bestow phenomenal powers on it's wielders
* Glitter and Fluff

Hmm, apparently there are more things I love than hate. I'm sure I'll think of more later. I hope this tip will be helpful to you in your novel planing endeavors.

Peace and Joy,

Miranda Joy

Friday, October 16, 2009

No Plot? No Problem!

Friday, October 16, 2009
In preparation for National Novel Writing Month, which begins in a little over two weeks, I am reading Chris Baty's book "No Plot? No Problem!" Chris Baty is the founder of NaNoWriMo and his book was intended to be the bible for WriMo's all over the world who set out on the crazy adventure of writing a 50,000 word novel in one month.  I first participated in NaNoWriMo back in 2006, and have participated every year since. Sadly, I have never gotten very far in previous years. But this year is going to be different. I am determined to win!

I picked up Baty's book a couple months back. I am reading it through a second time and it is just as refreshing and enlightening as the first time. I wish I had this book back when I first attempted NaNo, it would have saved me a lot of blood, sweat, and tears... well, maybe just tears.  One of the greatest things it has taught me is to not take novel writing lightly, but more importantly, don't take it too seriously.

My favorite term from the book (I'm not sure if Baty just made it up or what, but he's a genius if he did) is Exuberant Imperfection; which, basically, is the attitude you are to have if you ever want to succeed at writing a book in a month and still retain your sanity.  The gist of it is that you must acknowledge the fact that your first draft will NEVER be perfect, it will probably actually be very messy and not resemble much more then a pile of roting vegetable, but it is always fixable. We must rejoice in these imperfections and just have fun with it. Throw caution to the wind, do what doesn't make sense, have fun playing hopscotch over your novel's many pot holes. Just get your story out and don't care what it looks like until after you write "The End," then go back and fix it.  If you try to make things perfect, it will never work out.

Of course, Baty explains all this much better than I ever could. I highly encourage anyone who wants to attempt NaNoWriMo to pick up a copy of this book. It is full of yummy tips and is a real hoot to read.  Even if you don't every plan to attempt writing a book in a month, it is a great tool to help you hammer out a rough draft with the most amount of fun and the least amount of stress.  What good is writing a novel if you don't enjoy it and you end up pulling all your hair out before you finish? Buy it today, you will be glad you did.

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Peace and Joy,

Miranda Joy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bestseller or Bust!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Like many other hopeful writers out there, it is my dream to one day write a bestselling novel and publish it for the world to see. At this time in my life that dream seems like a distant star, unreachable, unattainable, but not impossible. I have been writing stories since I was fourteen years old. Though I have never completed a story worthy of submitting to a publisher, I know it is something I can do if I really put my mind to it. Now, will I ever be a best selling author? Who knows. The odds are unlikely. But if I continue to have the attitude that I CAN'T write a bestselling novel then there is no hope I will ever be able to. As Les Brown once said, "Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars." I think that is a great quote to live by.

In this blog I plan to chronicle my writing endeavors, such as my attempt at NaNoWriMo 2009 this November, and to post helpful tips and articles that I discover along the way. So, stay tuned as I set out on my journey to bestselling stardom. I know it won't be easy, but I do know it will be a great adventure.

Peace and Joy,

Miranda Joy
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