anonymous said:

It's 10 days away from NaNoWriMo and I want to be a part of it this year but I don't have the slightest clue what kind of story I want to write. Do you have any tips for coming up with any ideas?

Hi!

Lots of people don’t have ideas when they start NaNo, and that’s totally fine. It’s actually a discussed method for participating known as “pantsing.”

If you really do want to start out with a set idea, we have Writer’s Blocks to help you with that and a whole tag for coming up with ideas!

Remember, everyone has a different writing method. Personally, I like to make a visual collage or a cover before I start writing, because it helps me to sum up all of my story in a picture or two. Do whatever works.

More for you: 

Thank you for your question!

-Z

Road Trip to NaNo: Preparing Your Ideal Writing Space

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NaNoWriMo is an international event, and the stories being written every year reflect our hundreds of participating regions. We’re taking a Road Trip to NaNo to hear from our amazing volunteers and writers all around the world. Today, Abby, one of our Municipal Liaisons in the USA :: Alaska :: Anchorage region talk organization and setting:

Alaska is a land of extremes. During the winter, we have almost no sunlight at all. Then, on the flip side, we get an overabundance of sunlight in the summer, and have to tape our blinds shut just to get some sleep. Our climate is both beautiful and dangerous. We have a rainforest, and we have deserts. We’re enormous in size, yet have a sparse, small population.

All the extremes that make up the 49th state are what make the land and its inhabitants unique. Stories of Alaska are stories of survival and ingenuity, because even daily living can be an adventure. Ever been late to a meeting because the drive-thru at Taco Bell is blocked by a moose? I have…

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Ramping Up For Nanowrimo - Bring on the Chaos!

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So Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) begins in six days. Six. That’s less than a week. It’s a maddening aspect of the writer culture that we all ultimately must give in to. We want that bragging right. (Winner of 2009! & no one can take that away from me). But here’s the big question, how does one even attempt to prepare for such a huge feat? It’s 50,000 words. 

First, take a deep breath, remember, it’s just 50,000 words. That’s only 2/3 of the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s not actually that much. You can read 50,000 words in about 4 hours. It’s not that much to actually sit down and write. Now, go into the planning stage:

1. Get Inspired. Write about what you want to write about. It could be literally anything. If you know you want to participate in Nano, but haven’t come up with a totally kick-ass story yet, never fear. You’ve got 6 whole days. This is the time to watch TV, movies, fiddle around on the internet, and seek out inspiration. 

2. Plan your Story.  I know planning isn’t for everyone, but the whole idea of this is a little bit daunting, you just need to go in with an idea of what you need to do. So, I have tips for all kinds of writers: 

3. Create the Cast. Who are your characters? This part is actually pretty fun. But, if you’re looking for some tips…

And once you’ve gotten through all that, you just have to wait 6 days to start writing! 

NaNoWriMo Prep Checklist

As the day to start writing approaches, it feels like a good time to pass on a checklist of things which I’ve found are good to have and get in order before beginning. I’m not talking about a novel outline and character breakdowns, I’m talking about the ‘little’ things which can make your whole month easier and more productive if you use the next few days to gather all this together.


Notepad of some kind + Pens, pencils, markers, preferred writing utensils, etc.
You want to have these at all possible times. Take them with you. Everywhere. Scribble a few notes or sentences when waiting to get your lunch or waiting in a doctor’s office. Do the same during a work meeting (or in class, if you can). Don’t be afraid to stop a conversation with someone to jot down a few ideas as they come to you. If you wait for your standard/scheduled writing time to crop up, you’ll miss great ideas you may get throughout the day.


Copious amounts of your favored beverages — water, juice, milk, coffee, tea, wine, whiskey, vodka, absinthe…
We’re here to write, not judge. Stay hydrated and stay drunk on having happy taste buds.


Easily prepared meals & snacks
Soup is great for November. If you have some expendable funds, keep track of what you have free to spend and have delivery menus and/or apps handy. Also, if you like a particular snack, chocolate, or candy, I recommend getting a stash to see you through some of the especially annoying writer’s block periods and/or to use as rewards when you meet certain goals.


NaNo Playlists
You can build/search for these as you go along, but it can be helpful to take a bit of time before NaNo begins to think about what types of music help you write in general AND what could get you in the mood for working on your novel (music your characters would listen to, music that carries the themes of your book, etc.).


A Planning Calendar
Whether you use an online one, or an old-fashioned (and therefore swanky) paper one, it comes in handy for scheduling writing time, tracking your word count on your own (the NaNo site operates on the honor system until the upload tool become available for verification), and scheduling your life around and, more importantly, for NaNo.

These are just a handful of simple things that can assist you in being prepared to write whenever and wherever the mood or time is right. And if you haven’t figured out your writing space yet, now would be the time to get on that as well :)

Just a tip for when you get stuck during NaNo:

A lot of times the reason we get stuck is because we have an idea of the direction we want the story to go, but no clear way to get it to move that way. Think about the next semi-major plot point you know for sure is coming up, and then work backwards from that point to where you are now. This will help you get writing again because you’ll have more of the details and you’ll be seeing the story on a smaller scale.

Cutting to the Heart of Your Story

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Many times as an editor, I will look at a scene and ask myself: “Does this scene belong? Does it move the story along? Does it change the story in new and exciting ways?” Too often, the answer is, “No, it’s wasted text.”

I recently looked at a novel that had a fantastic opening. The problem was, that that great opening didn’t come until fifty pages into the book. Any editor would have rejected the manuscript long before that.

Every single page was well written. The characters were fleshed out, the character’s voices and dialog were convincing, the details of setting were great.

The problem was that those first fifty pages consisted of people talking, relating their backstories, and introducing themselves to the audience, and it just didn’t work.

So here is a list of things that you might consider when trying to judge if a scene is needed:

1) Do your characters do anything, or do they just think? Too often, I will see scenes where characters just sit and think about what has happened. “How did I get in this mess?” The chances are good that this kind of scene is garbage. You’re trying to lead up to the action when you do this. Instead, let characters think while they are in action.

2) A character or a setting is introduced. This can go, too. There’s nothing wrong with introducing a character or a setting, but you need to have something happen. Nobody wants to read ten pages about grandma’s kitchen, or get an info dump about the first seventy years of her life before she ever comes on stage. That’s all backstory. Yet when starting a tale, too often that’s exactly what we get. The author begins looking for a place to open, and decides to encapsulate the main character’s life up to this point.

3) Two characters have a conversation—but nothing changes. Very often I see conversations that seem to be rather maid-and-butler, where one character says, “Gee, Bob, you know I think we have a major problem,” and the other says, “Yes, I agree.” That’s all a waste.

4) The scene happens in flashback. In many cases, authors will try to drag in some ancient history that is relevant to the story, but the story doesn’t depend upon the reader knowing the information. The question becomes, did I really need it, or was it just window-dressing.

5) The action in the scene repeats something that has happened before. For example, I’ve seen authors write a scene where Joe gets into a fight with his boss. We see Joe thinking about what he’s going to say. We then see a scene where he fights with the boss. We then see the boss repeating it from his view. We see Joe thinking about how it went. In other words, we’re shown the same fight from four different angles. In this case, the author is like a director trying to figure out how to film a scene from the best angle. He might try moving the camera a few times, but for the purpose of the story, it’s still only one scene that he needs.

When I was young, I would spend a great deal of time on a scene or a description, often to find that it just didn’t work as well as I wanted. I found that too often I was straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic.

A scene can only be justified in a few ways. Before you write a scene, ask yourself, does anything change in the course of this scene?

For example, does a character get new information that spurs him onto an unexpected course of action? An example of this might be: My CIA agent suspects that he is being followed, and takes steps to evade his pursuer—ultimately getting into a shootout. This kind of change hints of a new conflict that of course can be expanded upon.

Does the character change his mind about something? For example, perhaps your character Sarah has always thought cowboys were a bit … silly. Then she meets Duke, and suddenly finds herself wanting to follow him home to Wyoming. That emotional change in her, once again, leads to an expanded story.

Sometimes when a character changes his/her mind, it’s not an emotional change but an intellectual change that occurs. For example, a character might be sold on the idea of taking out a new life insurance policy by his wife … never dreaming that she plans for him to die in the very near future.

All in all, the chances are excellent that if nothing changes in a scene, then it can be tossed away.

Never get emotionally attached to a scene. With each scene, as you consider details of characterization, character motivation, setting, and dialog, ask yourself, “What can I cut to good effect?” Get to the heart of the story.

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Get a new FREE e-book. I have a new book available for nanowrimo—100 of my favorite kicks along with inspirational quotes from other authors. Watch for it at mystorydoctor.com. You will be able to download it for free there when it is up.

If you’re looking for a little more inspiration for Nanowrimo, I currently have two books for sale in the nanowrimo bundle, which has twelve writing books for only $15. This is a fantastic deal, so check that out, too.

Last of all, we will be putting all of our workshops up for a 20% discount this week. Just enter the word “nanowrimo” as your coupon code.

NaNoWriMo Tip: Make A (Ridiculously Long) Playlist

If you’re like me, music inspires your writing. If I don’t have the right music to write to, nothing works. So I advise you to make your playlist now so you can get into your writing groove right away! Find a band whose sound fits your story’s style. Look for scores from movies of a similar genre to your story. If you’re looking for similar titles to one song that’s just right, use YouTube to ferret out more songs. You can even make playlists on YouTube and listen while you write!

Remember, the longer your playlist is, the less likely you are to wear out the creativity you’ll get from hearing those songs all month!

Here’s a few examples from my own playlist. I’ve got a lot of influence this year from Vampire Weekend, Lilly Allen, Birdy and The Portland Cello Project.

anonymous said:

Seeing as you were just talking about villains, I want mine to start off as someone who is nice and good but then something happens that makes her turn into the villain of the story. Could you give some examples of events that could make someone into a villain?

Well, like I said before, villains are people just like every other character in your story, so what would change their mind and/or make them take action is the same as what would change anyone’s mind or make them take action.

Just, please, if your villain is a woman, don’t make their motivation to be villainous revolve around a man (betrayal by a man, revenge over the death of a man—not because these aren’t legitimate reasons to change your behavior, but because tHEY’VE BEEN DONE TO DEATH and women have desires and motivations outside of their relationships with men. Really, they do).

Also, it’s important to remember, as you said your villain starts out “nice and good” that your villain could still be “nice and good” but be a villain because they believe what they’re doing is “nice and good.” Your villain doesn’t have to turn evil.

All that said, your villain could become villainous because:

  • Something opened their eyes to a different way of thinking. This could be an event, a situation, a loss, a victory—anything that makes the person see the world differently than they did before.
  • They’ve always had these dormant beliefs or feelings and something suddenly brought these feelings to the surface.
  • They have been brainwashed or manipulated into thinking what they’re doing is right.
  • Related to the first point, the villain could discover something about their past or the people they care about that shocked them (like finding out your father is a serial killer or something) and shook the foundation of what they knew about the world.
  • Basically anything that made the villain think differently about the main conflict of your story and want to actively change or encourage the conflict.

If you guys have anything to add, feel free to reblog with comments!

Last time I talked about how to decide between different ideas swirling around your head. Today’s post focuses on choosing a story’s direction once you’re set into a plot.

It’s happened to everybody—that moment when you’re staring down the 24 barrels of where the scene could go next. She could jump into the lake! She could sink the boat! She could try signaling another boat with smoke? flags? waving her arms around? She could take over the steering wheel! She could take a nap! So what happens next? And how am I supposed to know? 

Outlining your novel’s basic plot arc will help you determine your long term goal—you know she can’t not get off the boat because she still has to go meet the other character in the coffee shop to prep for the big raid on the nefarious underground mobsters. What you don’t have with your plot outline are the little details about how to get from scene A to scene D.

Here’s a tip: Take the time at the beginning of each writing session to sit, reflect on where you left off your story, consider what you’re writing today, and formulate a basic plan of attack. Outline the basics of three or four scenes you hope to get to today:

Dinner is an introductory feast with the rest of the Compound. There’s a great display of magic to impress the newcomer. The four Elders enter. Cyrian doesn’t get along with the Air Elder. Cyrian sits with Mornda and Dusam. He hasn’t entirely healed; he’s on-edge, still a little feverish, and tires easily. Dusam asks all the questions—where is he from? why is he here? who is he looking for? He answers as truthfully as he can without revealing his status within the Guild. The culture doesn’t tolerate people like him and he knows it—if he slips up, he’ll be removed from the Compound and further from his goal than ever. He will be more willing to sacrifice clarity than tell the absolute truth.

This gives you a basic to go off of when you start writing. Take no more than 10 minutes to jot down your notes. Then get started! Your sparse scene outline will help start your mind thinking about your characters, your world, your plot. If you have a cinematic imagination like I do, where you can virtually see the scenes like a movie in your mind, these little descriptions are like scene directions.

Here’s another tip: Try to look ahead. What kind of an impact to your story will this outcome or that outcome of the scene have? If she lays down on the boat and takes a nap, knowing the boat is sinking or outside of her control, that will mean that she won’t be able to do certain actions in the future. If the boat is sinking and she takes a nap, she’ll likely die—or at least have a great struggle to survive—she won’t be able to make her appointment with her colleague at the coffee shop, and unless someone takes her place, there won’t be anyone to accompany her friend in the takedown of the mobsters. Is that okay? Is the general outcome of the storyline still on track with your general impression of where you want the story to go? If it is, explore that possible turn of events. If it’s not, think about whether that outcome is more interesting. Is it more intriguing to continue the story from another character’s point of view? Are the events in this outcome more exciting than they are with another outcome? Consider a few of your favorite options. You can choose to write them all and see which one you like better, or you can just hitch up your underclothes and just choose one. Once you choose, stick with it. For better or for worse, write your first draft with your gut inclination.

A final tip: You can always come back. This is not your final draft. This is your first draft. First drafts are for exploring. Write the craziest outcome you can think of, or whatever you feel best serves the story. If you finish your draft and it feels too flat, find a key event where you may have chosen the easy way out and switch it up. If your draft feels too crazy, find an event that feels just a bit too improbable and change it to feel more natural. There’s nothing stopping you from taking different routes once you’ve tried a few. Writing is not a one-way road.

anonymous said:

What's your writing regimen? Like, how do you motivate yourself, and get past that blank screen (or piece of paper if you write by hand)? Is it any different if you have a deadline?

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Honestly? My writing regimen is different for every project I work on because I need different types of environments/motivation depending on what sort of writing I’m doing. The blank page feeling is always rough, and I have a few different ways of pushing past it that vary by the kind of writing:

Academic paper: Do one stage of outlining and doing all my citations and concrete details and quotes. Do another stage of filling in all the blanks. Do one more to edit. NEVER do more than one stage in a day.

My creative writing honors thesis: Emotionally prepare, have the direction figured out, and write that week’s section in one sitting/one day. Avoid speaking to anyone in the middle and don’t stop except for food. Lie down and breathe deeply afterward.

Long-form personal creative writing: Make a rule of one paragraph per day and don’t break it no matter what. Try to do the paragraph in the morning and let inertia carry me forward. After one, another five paragraphs will come naturally. It’s a quick goal to hit, but it gets you going enough that you can keep writing without even realizing.

Non-drabble fanfiction: Have the rough outline on the document with each main point on a separate line. Start writing and delete the outline points as you get to them until the fic is done. Keep fellow fans close on skype to have an outlet to quickly ask characterization questions or do a mini-brainstorming session.

NaNoWriMo/Holy SHIT there’s just a lot to write and it needs to happen quickly: Blindfold myself and type with an audible timer on. Set something (I have a stuffed panda) on top of my head to balance. The blindfold + balancing + writing will basically take up all the room my mind has to wander. Just keep writing and don’t delete anything.

In general: Resign myself to trashing the first/first few paragraphs I write. Once I’m done/at least a few pages ahead, I look back, realize what’s unnecessary, and delete it. So I just start writing even if I know it’s weak and let the stronger part of the scene coax itself out.

Hope this is relatively clear and not too nonsensical. Some writers are consistent in their habits. I just flail around until I figure out a good regimen for that kind of writing.

NaNoWriMo’s coming up soon and I’m going to be working with The Recorders again since I didn’t get very far last year.Mostly because I didn’t know who the villain was going to be.Turns out it’s this imbicile.I’m doomed.

He’s based loosely on the Greek character Hypnos,and can change from a human to a phoenix ,but I don’t know if there’s actually an inbetween form he can take on.There probably isn’t (and a good thing too because he looks damn silly),I think I just like drawing his trenchcoat turning into feathers.

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