Monday, October 31, 2016

5 Tips for Preparing for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and if you are like many writers who make the commitment to write 50-thousand words in 30 days, you need to be getting ready.  There are only a few hours left to put everything into place, so if you still have things to do, here are some things to consider.
1. Get your plot prepared ahead of time. Whether you write by the seat of your pants (like I do) or outline, you should have something ready to get you started tomorrow morning.  If you don’t already have a plot outline in place, you can still get your writing done. You simply need to be ready to stay one step of your writing for the next 30 days.
2. Don't start out cold. Before you end each day, know where you will begin the following day. Have a couple of scenes prepared to get your writing started every morning.  If you hit a spot that where you can’t think of the next scene, then write one you know you will need later. You can always go back and fix it.
3.  Have your characters under control. If you haven’t prepared a character outline or profile, then you need to work on it as you go. Think of the various events you know will need to take place during your book and get an idea of how your character should handle them. That should help you get ready to write the scene. But don’t just write the scene.
4. Make yourself a character profile sheet. Keep it handy and add to it or change it as you go along and develop  your character. You don’t want the person doing something uncharacteristic halfway through your book.
5. Know your ending. Even if you end up changing it, know in advance what youwant your ending to be so you can keep working in that direction. Think in terms of a road map. You may not know how you are going from one location to another but you need to know where you want to end up. 
It may be too late to completely plot your novel now, but if you keep working ahead you can keep writing toward that 50-thousand word goal. Just think about it, every day the goal will be a little less.  If you hit your target tomorrow and the coming days, by next week you’ll be down to only 38,000 words to go! Good luck! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

5 Tips to Increasing Your Word Count

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts next week and that means a whole month of writing and trying to hit the magic count of 50,000 words.  I've signed up (as usual) and hope to again make that magic number and end up on November 30th with a new book.

Every year as NaNo rolls around I find myself trying to think of new ways to get myself in gear to make it happen. How can you get prepared for writing every day or at least every other day for a whole month? Well, here are five tips to think about or to try:

1. Just write. Don't worry about the word count or start checking back to see how many words you have written in the last hour. Be ready to just start writing. If you even have the semblance of a plot this is the week to start thinking about it.  Don't wait until the morning of November first to start considering what you are going to say. Be prepared to sit down at the keyboard and start hacking out the words.  How do you do that?

2. List plot points in advance. That is why I start thinking this week. I will make my list of scenes that I know will happen in the book. Sometimes they are out of order, but that can always be fixed in editing. Sometimes I simply list any scene that I know will go into the book so I have something to start with on the first day.

3.  Don't wait to get motivated. Again, on that morning of November first, don't expect your head to necessarily be ready.  You can hope it will be, but even if it isn't, just sit down and write.  Write whatever comes into your head. That's why it is critical to begin thinking in advance. At least have some sort of idea what you might want to say.

4.  Write about your character. If you don't have something preplanned then write a scene having your character do something that you know will have to happen in the story. Whether it is meeting the villain or the love of his or her life, write that scene and get yourself starter.

5.  Don't worry about order. Simply start writing.  Things can always be fixed, but you won't achieve your word count if you are checking every little detail. The words can be fixed. The scene can be changed, or added to. But it won't get done if there is nothing there.  As Nora Roberts says, "you can't edit a blank page.

So start thinking this week and get ready to go.  I'll be taking time from my own NaNo word count for the next month to bring you new ideas for making NaNoWriMo work for you.

Monday, October 10, 2016

5 Tips to Researching your Fiction

I am always on the lookout for new places to conduct research on whatever project I might be working on. Even though I might be writing fiction it's important to get the details down right when describing a real location or event. We can afford to make up our dystopian worlds. We can't afford to ignore reality completely. Some of the things we do might seem obvious, but even those obvious places to look can hold hidden gems that we can find to make our work unique if we look far enough. We need to be able to look beyond just what is around us for other ways to conduct research.

1. Using the Internet.  Ever since I discovered the internet it has been a wonderful source of research material for me. What could be easier than typing on the keyboard and suddenly whole new worlds open up. We can go back in time, we can look at pictures of far away places, we can look up any subject we might desire.  But go beyond generic places like wikkipedia or google or bing. If you're going to research the Gold Rush in California, look up state locations that list maps or find pictures from the time. Look for thesis material or other research that others have done that you might be able to use to learn more about the time and the setting.

2. Don't ignore the library.  I always enjoy spending time in libraries and just like with the internet the material might all be there in front of you but again, go beyond the main, obvious research tools. Look for texts or books that might be different than what you would find in other locations. Probably the best thing about going to the library is the presence of the librarian. Ask questions. These people always seem to know where you can find anything and everything.

3. Research the location from a distance with whatever is available. Yes, I know we can't necessarily take a trip to Tibet, but look for other small ways to research the location in your own location. Check out communities to see if there is place you might visit that would give you a feel for a place or its people. We're talking restaurants or stores watch for a museum show that might give you what you need to learn. Ask around for people who might know someone who is an expert or from that country.

4. Take a trip to the actual location. This is not always possible, especially if you are writing historical novels where it is not only a question of distance, but also time. Museums are of course always a good idea because you can see artifacts from a certain time period of place.

Recently I got the opportunity to visit the inside of old Fort Bent, Colorado, a location that figures into a book I am writing that was actually only a few miles from where I grew up. The fort was originally built by the Bent brothers as a trading post along the Santa Fe trail. It was a busy post at its prime.

It has been restored to resemble the early days of Colorado. Now visitors can see what life was like in the early days and hear stories of the past from tour guides who have been specifically trained for the parts of their past personas. It gave me a real feel for being in the Old West.  

5. Take a class in the subject. Local community colleges often offer classes that might give you an opportunity to take part in textiles from around the world or photography or a class on biology might give you insight for a project involving a biologist.  If you're writing a police story, take a citizen's academy where you can learn the proper procedure a police officer might use. 

These are just a few local places you can learn to do research without going too far from home. We'll look at more ways to conduct research in the future, but this should get your story started.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

5 Tips for Hitting Your Word Count

Last week I heard a writer complaining that she just couldn't seem to get back to her writing. She was stuck in a rut and her story was going nowhere. But as we talked we both realized it wasn't that she had no more ideas for what to do with the story, it was something else. She had plenty of ideas for what to do. We discussed whether or not it was enthusiasm, but no, she wanted to write. Just our discussion had us both eager to get back to the keyboard and start working on our present story. So what was it? And how to fight it?  We couldn't come to any sort of consensus. We had both been journalists in the past so writing had once been a daily ritual for both of us. So what to do? I came home and started to think about it. How do we get back into writing? I started thinking about some of the things I had heard at a recent writing conference.

1. Try a shorter word count for the day.  Instead of setting that thousand word total, which can sometimes seem so far away, how about setting your goal at 500?  Or at 300 for that matter. I can turn out a 500 to 700-word blog in a fairly short amount of time. Why not spend that time working on a scene instead?

2. Write a scene you've been thinking about.  Stop thinking about what you want your characters to say or do and write it down. Get going on the idea instead of simply keeping it in your head. I don't know about anyone else, but I am always getting story or scene ideas. Sometimes if I am out and about I will write them down in a small notebook so I don't lose them. You can do that at home too. If you get an idea, or think of a conversation, get busy immediately and write it down.

3. Do a character conversation. Simply ask your character a question or two and start writing down their answers. That can not only help you better know your character, but it can also help you once you return to the story. You might even figure out a way to put that piece of dialogue into your book.

4. Start the day with an edit of pages from the day before. I've heard lots of writers do this. It gets them back in the mood to write and gets them started for the current day. The review can be a good way to get back into the flow of the story and make certain you're once again on the right track. It also helps down the road in the editing process.

5. Set a timer. Promise yourself you will write for a certain amount of time. Just like with the word count idea above, you will probably write more than what your original goal is.  That can move you along and get you going for the rest of the day.

No matter what, if you use any of these ideas, they can get you going and before you know it you will have that novel written!

Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...