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Writing a Novel in a Month

Writing a Novel in a Month

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Writing a Novel in a Month Each year, The Office of Letters and Light sponsors an Internet-based challenge called

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short). If you ve ever thought about writing a novel, or if you ve tried to do it before and failed, I d encourage you to check out their site and participate in the next NaNoWriMo challenge. In this post, I am going to share with you the tips and tricks that helped me to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge successfully, and what I ve learned in doing so. Speed is of the Essence To complete the NaNoWriMo challenge, you absolutely MUST resist the urge to go back and edit anything you ve written before. Any time you spend rewriting your work is time you re taking away from the goal of cranking out additional words. Remember, once the challenge is over, you have all the time in the world to go back and make your words better. But if you don t have them written there is nothing to make better. So, how do you resist the urge to go back and rewrite? These are the tools and techniques that worked for me, and may help you: y Before you start, brainstorm. Get to know your characters, the locations they ll be in, and have a basic idea for how they ll get from start to finish. Tools like Dramatica, Power Structure, StoryCraft, StoryWeaver, and others can help with this. (Remember, these are just tools. Use them to enhance your writing process not tell you what to write and how to write it. It s your novel, after all.) Create a revision log that stores all the changes you want to go back and make later. Once you make a note in the log, keep writing as though the revision has already been made. Use placeholder text for any person, place, or object names you haven t figured out yet. Later, you can find and replace that placeholder text with the name you decide on. If you feel like it s essential that you have something named before you move on, remember that there are a lot of name generators on the web that can help you. Plot out your novel in a modular way to make it easy to restructure and reorganize later. Write in scenes rather than chapters, where a scene is defined as a specific group of characters in a specific place, doing a specific thing. If the location, group, or activity changes, it s a new scene. Use a novel-writing tool like Scrivener, yWriter, NewNovelist, Storybook, or any of dozens of other tools designed for the purpose. I found that with Scrivener I could store my revision log in the same project file as my novel, so I could easily add to it as I went. Realize that you re only writing your first draft. Like any first draft, it s probably going to stink. That s OK. You re the only one who has to read it right now. And no one will ever read it if you don t get it written.

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I m going to expand on the above points a bit, to help you understand what I mean. Feel free to skip the rest of this article or scan down to the points that interest you.

etc. J. When I decided they were clichés.Brainstorming When I started writing my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel. I spent as much spare time as I could stand with the software through September and October. so this was a major steal. crap.000 words of fiction in a month. I found a copy of Dramatica Pro for same on eBay. the story I was hoping to tell. think about how you can twist the idea so that it no longer resembles the story they read.com] How to Create a Plot for a Novel by Suzanne Pitner o [creative-writing-now. Frey was one of the first books I read on the subject. especially those who are avid readers. Discuss your story idea with friends. I had around 12. As plot ideas came to me.000 words of background material on the characters. Visit your local library and talk to the librarians. Michael Straczynski s The Complete Book of Scriptwriting includes a wealth of good writing tips. well. I abandoned them. My writing was sort of a fictional stream of consciousness from the starting point. the story lines. their relationships. How to Write a Damn Good Novel. II by James N. But. telling it about the characters I envisioned. I incorporated them. Here are some less expensive solutions if you don t have the money (or desire) to invest in a software product: y How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Use the web! Here are a few links I ve found interesting (there are more in the Writing Resources area of this site): o [io9. . and is still one of my favorites.com] The 5 laws of making a story complicated without creating an ungodly mess by Charlie Jane Anders o [suite101. and managed to snag it for $35. I was determined to do better. etc.at] Learn the Elements of a Novel y y y y y y y I m sure you can find many more. Some libraries offer writing workshops and programs that might help you. Frey expands on the first book and offers additional material. Beginnings.What Now? by William Victor o [musik-therapie. I had only the vaguest idea how the story would go. Fiction Writer s Workshop by JosipNovakovich contains a number of exercises to help you find and expand on ideas. I m not suggesting that you need to run out and spend money on writing software. or a friend s bookshelf. The finished piece was. Consider the above just a starting point. If they tell you your story idea reminds them of something they ve already read.com] Tips for Writing a Novel: So You ve Got an Idea -. I did meet my goal of 50. When I finally hit the end of its brainstorming process at the end of October. Although it s not specifically about novel writing. Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress provides some good advice. For 2010. You may find a copy in your local library. a used bookstore. It s normally around a $200 program.

No matter what name I came up with. close the revision log and write as though you ve already made those changes. Unfortunately. Imagine that you ve been writing a story about a man who travels to Europe and meets the love of his life there. Yes. start writing Jane where you were writing Fred and refer to the robbery as though you had written it in from the beginning. The resulting text makes it look like I had that name in mind from the beginning. In chapters 1-10.) Using Placeholder Text Something I struggled with in both of my NaNoWriMo novels was naming the characters and places in the story.Creating and Using a Revision Log If you ve read many books or articles on novel writing. From the next word you write until the end of the book. rewrite Fred to Jane and set up the fact that Jane was robbed at gunpoint in the airport before coming to Europe. you will invariably think of things that should be different in the parts you ve already written. About ten chapters in. not making the revisions as you go means that there can be huge inconsistencies in your novel at the end of the first draft. When I later settled on the name Estervale . I just didn t like it. The key to using Placeholder Text is to make sure that you mark it in a way that uses spelling or punctuation that you wouldn t normally use in the story. and you can always make the changes later before you show it to anyone. you ve probably seen some version of the advice Write your way through to the end without stopping. Maybe your main character should be female instead of male. Anywhere I needed to refer to a character I hadn t named. it is possible I might . It s a first draft. I had the word processor replace [Village] with Estervale throughout the document. Now. you can discipline yourself to let go of that need to change things. Even going through the lengthy plotting process in Dramatica. Leave yourself a note like Fred should really be a woman. Finally. open up your revision log and go back to make the changes needed to properly tell your story. I told myself We ll plug those in later and moved on. as you start writing your book. I just couldn t seem to think of good names for my characters and locations. which I had pictured as a small village. if that makes you feel better. (And you can still call it a first draft if you want to. or maybe your heroine should have two brothers instead of a sister. If you keep a revision log. When you finish the first draft. just keep writing and trust yourself to go back to make the necessary changes once your first draft is written. What do you do? Open up your revision log. For my example above. This is good advice in general. No one has to read it but you. I used placeholder text like [Village] for the name of the main character s home town. Rather than chewing up your deadline time going back and rewriting words (which won t add to your word count or get you any closer to the end of your tale). but it s absolutely critical in a deadline situation like NaNoWriMo. you realize that there are some great things you could do with this story if only your main character was a woman. The temptation is to go back and rewrite those earlier parts to make those sweeping changes. But that s the point. maybe the setting should a space station rather than a train station.

If you ve written the story chapter-bychapter. You might need to adjust the start and end of the file to blend into the new location. and one of them left the room. The scenes are modular in nature and can be shifted about as needed. Instead. and go caroling. I thought this was splitting hairs. As it turns out. When you realize that you want the cookie scene to appear sooner in the story. In the modular version of the above story. or a separate element in your preferred writing tool. if you want to leave your options completely open. the presenter defined the word scene as he saw it. if you had three characters in their living room. you have separate scenes for the tree trimming. All of these allow you to have a master document with sub-documents that you can move about as needed. doing a specific thing. Each scene could be stored in a separate file. over a specific period of time. then adjust the text before and after it. use some other punctuation mark instead. . Or. bake cookies. Imagine you aren t using the concept of scenes as I ve described here. but finish trimming the tree and start making cookies. The Scrivener software lends itself very well to this modular approach. The definition condensed to A group of one or more characters. The writer can shuffle the cards into any order to tell the story in the desired way.have used the word village in the story to refer generically to a village. Your entire story becomes modular . If you planned to use brackets in your story. So would the open source Storybook software. Farther along in your writing. and has one very useful benefit. trimming a Christmas tree. And be sure to list these placeholders in your Revision Log to remind you what they are and that you need to go back to fix them later. and a lot of extra work. and caroling activities. but it could have gone much easier if you d written the story in a modular fashion. By his definition. that s a new scene. make your placeholder text unique like InsertVillageName or some other string you know you won t use in the story. in a specific location. you ve written a chapter of your book where three characters trim a Christmas tree. cookie baking. cut it out of the story. This approach could also be used with the traditional index card method where each card represents a specific scene. If the three characters stay in the room. you had a new scene. you realize that the cookie baking activities should really take place much earlier in the story. but you probably won t have to change anything in the scenes before and after it. fairly easy to do. clean up the text before and after it. It s not big deal. you ll have to read through the chapter until you get to the cookie baking part. paste it into the earlier chapter. all you have to do is move that file earlier into the book. it s really rather logical. At the time. perhaps two or three chapters earlier. By surrounding the placeholder with brackets ( [] ) I could ensure that my find-and-replace method replaced only the placeholder text and not every occurrence of the word village in my story. Modular Plotting In one of the fiction writing seminars I have attended.

I created separate Texts (think of them as text files) for each scene in my story. unpublished. I used Microsoft Word and OpenOffice. . After beating the challenge that year. with a portion of my NaNoWriMo 2010 book open in it. I can have the software Compile all those text files in order into a finished manuscript file. Into each of these text files. Up that point. using tools like Dramatica helps me to think my story through before I sit down to write it. Just prior to starting NaNoWriMo 2010. I received a discount coupon for the Scrivener software for the Macintosh. and story points I wanted to make. I deleted the notes. as ridiculous as it might seem. I got the job done. When I have the story in Scrivener the way I want it.000 words without a problem. For NaNoWriMo 2009. I opened up each text file and started writing the scene I had described in the notes. and hit my 50. which I updated as I continued to write. locations. But just as important as plotting out the story is the tool you use to help you enter and organize your words. Since my primary desktop computer is a Windows 7 machine. I bought a copy. I bought a MacBook so that I could have the software with me when I traveled. I ran through the tutorials provided with it and realized it was a good fit for the way I wrote. By organizing each text file around a specific scene. I was able to move events in the story to earlier or later parts of the book by simply clicking and dragging them in the Scrivener window. I found out that they are working on a Windows compatible version of Scrivener. I pasted the text from my Dramatica brainstorming about what I wanted to accomplish in that scene. Then. I downloaded and used the beta to write my 2010 story. When November 1 rolled around and NaNoWriMo began. For me.) Below is a screenshot of Scrivener in action. I also included a Revision Log among those documents. and I ve been very happy with the software.org and they were fine. I realize that there is a lot I don t know about how to write a good story. (Items in the research folder are not included in the draft that Scrivener compiles for you. this was good news. When I was finished. I was also able to create a Research folder that contained information about the characters. I hadn t owned or used a Mac for about 10 years. This made it much easier for me to restructure parts of the narrative on the fly without actually having to do any revision.Novel Writing Tools Because I m still a fledgling. newbie author.

By clicking and dragging any of the text files in the left-hand pane. you can see that I ve got a separate text document for each scene in the novel.In the left-hand pane of this window. I ve labeled this document as a Scene and indicated that it is in First Draft status. There is also an index card view that allows me to reorganize the story using a virtual version of paper index cards. Below that. I can move the corresponding scene earlier or later in my story line. in which you can see the text for the scene Kevin is attacked . The center pane is the word processor built into Scrivener. . Additional notes can be entered into the Document Notes section if I need more than the Index card holds. In the upper-right pane. I have the index card telling me the name of the scene and a brief description of what happens in it.

I m not going to go into great detail about it here.Since this isn t a review of the software. characters. . project notes. Other similar tools you might want to consider include Spacejock Software s free yWriter 5 software. It may or may not be helpful for yours. Suffice it to say that I found Scrivener very helpful and intuitive for my particular writing style. locations. and items as well as writing your story. which includes features for organizing scenes.

The open source Storybook software also provides tools for organizing your story components as well as drafting the story itself. Each of the thin boxes you see in the left-hand pane represents a modular scene. . As you can see below. I was already using the scene idea. I began writing my notes for NaNoWriMo 2010 in Storybook before switching over to Scrivener. Storybook allows you to drag those around as need between the chapters (the larger gray boxes).

and novel writing products on the market you can consider as well. and is worth taking a look at. some of these tools and ideas will help you in your own writing. (The Mac version can be downloaded as a free trial. . word processors. use a revision log to keep myself from wasting time revising as I go. From now until the release of the finished version.000 words of original fiction in a month. Conclusion Getting a novel written in 30 days is not an impossible challenge. use a modular approach to constructing the story. The keys for me have been to plot out the idea in advance. I ve managed to win the NaNoWriMo challenge of creating 50.) yWriter 5 is a free product as well.If you d like to try fiction writing software and don t have money to spend. Hopefully. and having novel writing software to help me keep things organized. the public beta for Scrivener for Windows is free. There are many other text editors. Storybook is a nice option since it s free of charge (though the free version does contain a few nag messages about donating to the project). Some of these are listed on my site s Resources page. In each of the last two years.

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