Monday, November 30, 2015

5 Quick Tips for Editing your #NaNoWriMo Book

Okay, it is finished. This is November 30th and by midnight you should have 50-thousand words on a new book.  Did you finish writing it?  Are there still some holes you've left that you need to go back and fill in?  What do you do now?

Well, other than drinking a well deserved cup of coffee or champagne to celebrate, take a deep breath, give yourself a big pat on the back, and then... well then it's time to get back to work and look at what you will do with all those words. Don't let them go to waste!  Look for ways to finish that story and get it edited for publication.

Where do you start?  Here are some ideas.

1.  Give yourself a day off.  Writing 50,000 words can take some doing, so give your brain a day of rest. (I drink champagne instead of coffee)

2.  Begin editing with passages you know need fixing.  Sometimes there are parts you know you shortchanged. I find that if I go back and work on those areas immediately it makes the entire editing process easier.

3. Edit in small chunks.  Don't think you can make one quick pass through and be finished. I find that the editing process can take up to five passes.  1) to catch those obvious errors, 2) to check for those weasel words that I use too often -- like just, nearly, almost; 3) to look for ways to strengthen your writing -- check for places you can use stronger verbs instead of adverbs, 4) read for the story and whether or not it makes sense; 5) read for pacing -- check to see that the story not only moves along, but that you have some quick places that really move the story forward, and other places where the reader can take a breath before going on.

4. Edit your beginning in depth.  that means looking to make certain you started the story in the right place. Does it start too slowly or so quickly we never have a chance to learn to like the characters?

5.  Edit your ending right after that. Make certain that it completes the promise and the premise that you began with.  Editing them back to back can make certain that they work together.

Then you're ready to go back and begin the serious chore of editing the book in depth, step by step, chapter by chapter.

Read it aloud one last time and you should find that it is just about ready to go. This is a simple list and there is much more that needs to be done in your editing. We'll look at some of those basics in future weeks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5 Writing Tips to Finish NaNoWriMo

With only a week until the end of National Novel Writing month and achieving the goal of writing 50-thousand words, I find sometimes I slow down this last week.  I was able to get totally caught up yesterday after a few dry days, but now I find myself with one week left and that I need to be on track the rest of the way in order to finish on time.

And Thanksgiving is coming, which may mean very little writing time.

So how can I and YOU get through this final week? Here are a few tips.

1.  Go back and re-read your opening.  With a rush to write a full book in a month sometimes we start off all excited and write some great stuff at the beginning but then we start to slough off and not pay attention. Go back to those first pages and look at how you started the book and remember exactly what you set out to do.  That not only gives me new energy for where I am in the book, but it reminds me of a few plot points I might be missing along the way.  I even usually find some extra sentences or details I might need to add in at the beginning.

2.  Check for notes that you might have made along the way.  Again, because of the drive to write as quickly as possible and to finish the book, I often make notes along the way of scenes that I might need to add back toward the beginning of the book. If they're destined to be in the book, then by all means go back and look at where they might belong and add them in. You won't edit until later, but there is no reason you can't add in missing scenes. For instance, your character needs to shoot the bad buy at the end. Is he/she a marksman? Does she know how to even handle a gun? Maybe a scene with her father at a shooting range earlier in the book can help set up a believable ending.

3.  Give your characters another check. This is similar to the last idea, but it is more on the emotional front. Is there a scene you need to show why your character is acting a certain way as you get toward the end? Go back and add that scene in to give your character more depth. We don't want a lot of backstory up high, but sometimes a few lines during the book about a past event can make the character more sympathetic and believable. Add that in somewhere.

4. Don't be afraid to add in a few more details about the location. We want our stories grounded or set in a location we can see in our heads.  Don't scrimp so much that we don't get that feel. yes, we want to keep our plot moving, but sometimes you need to go back and add in a few extra details to give the mood of the character or the feel of the day or the setting.

5.  Re-read parts of the book. We aren't suggesting editing. Don't get bogged down that way, but check to see if there are places you can add details or extra scenes that might be necessary or better explain the ending.  And as you get to the ending, make certain you are being honest with the way the book ends and with your characters. If there are places where you know you need to make your character stronger, go back and fix them in order to get to your full word count.

We have seven days left, so keep on writing and good luck!

Monday, November 16, 2015

5 Tips to Making it Through NaNoWriMo

We're halfway through the month and that means we should be half way through our National Novel Writing Month total or written 25,000 words.  I don't know about the rest of the people taking part in this challenge, but this year I have fallen behind in my count.  I got off to a good start and then attended a retreat that helped get me rejuvenated.  You'd think I'd be farther along.  One of my writing buddies is not only at the halfway mark, she has written 27,000 words.

Now as I turn the corner and begin on the second half of the month I find I need some new inspiration. So what do I suggest now for those others like me who have slowed down to new lows?
Here are 5 tips to get going again or to recommit yourself to finishing and achieving  your goal.

1. Write first thing in the morning.  For the thirty years I was working full time (usually 10-hour days) I always got up and began writing in the morning. Yes, I know some people move slowly at 6am, so I sometimes started with a quick walk. It helped to get my story ideas percolating so that by the time I got back to my desk I was ready to work on the next scene.

2. Start everyday by re-reading copy from the previous day. I know I've suggested that tip before as a way to get started every day with your writing. It can get you quickly back into the scene or if you don't feel like writing, just re-reading what you wrote before might make you want to try a new direction if you think you're going the wrong way.  Actually whenever I don't feel like writing I sit down with my story and take some time just to re-read it. That helps transport me back into that story world.

3.  Start slowly with a writing sprint.  Tell yourself you're only going to write for 15 or 20 minutes -- maybe even 30. Then set a clock so that you know you'll have a reason to stop at that time.  I keep a kitchen timer on my desk so I can do writing sprints anytime I feel like it. I find that knowing I'm only going to write for 15 or 20 minutes can make the writing go faster because I know I can quit at the end. Usually, though, when the timer goes off, I just keep on going.

4.  Go back and check out your character profiles. By now you should be almost half way through the book. Are you ignoring some of the traits you had given to your characters? Are they coming across as the people you wanted them to be?  This isn't the time to go back and reread everything to see if you're heading in the right direction--that can wait until editing, but you should have an idea in your head if you've left things out. Look at including a couple of scenes to fix those problems.

5. Write the ending.  This is one thing I also recommend if  you get stuck halfway through the book. You know how you want it to end, right?  By writing that ending you can start pointing in that direction as you move through the next pages of your book. This is the time to start moving toward that ending. If you are writing a romance, check your conflict to see that it is strong enough to hold you to the end. If you're writing mystery, have you planted enough clues or red herrings to start making some moves toward the bad guy? If you're writing fantasy or science fiction, have  you started pointing at the final battle or discovery that will get the hero and heroine where they need to be for the ending?

One other thing to try might be to take a break for a day or two.  I did that at the end of last week, and while it made me panic this morning when I sat down at the computer I also felt rejuvenated. I was more than ready to get back into my story again and start working.

Now the real trick is to just sit yourself down and start writing. Think of it this way. You're half way through. It's all downhill from here!

Monday, November 2, 2015

5 Tips for Getting Started on NaNoWriMo

It's November 2 which means if you are planning on getting started on NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, you should have started yesterday to begin working on the magic 50,000 word count that you need to have finished by the end of the month. 

I got started and blasted right out of the gate, doing more than the average of 1667 words a day. Okay I only completed a little over 1700 words, but it made my average.  The problem with that is that if you start too slow it can cause problems later down the road. If you don't keep up the average you might find yourself with a day where you have to write 3000 words or then 5000. Get the picture? Pretty soon you are so far behind that you can't catch up.

My biggest problem yesterday was that I had my beginning but after I wrote all that I realized I didn't have any place to go with my plot. I wasn't certain where I wanted to start this morning -- pretty pathetic for day two when there are still 28 to go. So what can you do when you hit a slow patch (like Day Two?)

1. Get to know your characters better.  I spent this morning writing backgrounds for my main character. Yes, I know that is slow going in the first pages and I will probably move a lot of that information around into later chapters so that I don't slow the story down, but it is vital information, especially for someone who writes with only a limited plot idea.

2. Spend time getting to know the location better.  That means writing more of a detailed description of the setting for the story. Again, this is information that will probably fall into place later in the book, but it can be done in the editing process.

3. Write a couple of the first scenes that you know you want in the book. I started out with just the scene I wanted to open my book, and which I had already planned for the beginning, but then I realized there were several other scenes that might not follow that particular character but also needed to be in the first couple of chapters.  I wrote them up and now they will be ready when I get to Chapter Two.

4. Work on your dialogue.  How do you want your characters to sound?  Make them talk right away. Don't get too trapped in all that description. Do a couple of dialogue scenes so that you begin to get a good feel for the characters. 

5.  Introduce some of your secondary characters too. Don't be afraid to put that character sketch of your secondary character up high for now. Again, you can move it down when you edit. 

As you start the book, there are so many directions to head. Don't be afraid to try some of those to see if they might be good enough to stay in the book. You might find they won't work, but some of the writing or scenes can help you make your book stronger later.

Most of all, get up and write!  And keep thinking about your story, even when you're not writing. Make little notes so that tomorrow when you get to the keyboard or pull out your notebook to write, you will be better prepared.

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