how to

adventure
this guide has it, along with gratuitous usage of stock photography.

a practical guide to winning National Novel Writing Month while keeping your sanity (mostly) intact

write a novel in a month

there are
tips, tricks, and recipes for elaborate espresso drinks included in this manual

writing
you’re going to be doing a lot of it this month

16

Manual by Amy Suto
Fortuna productions

Prelude “The Point of No Return”

P B
bunch.

eople ask me, “Amy, why do you write a novel in a month? Are you too rushed to come up with anything good? Do you sleep? Why don’t your socks ever match?” I can answer all but the last of those questions, for the only logical conclusion for persistently mismatching socks is that the dryer happens to eat one sock of every color until there is no pair left in the

Tip!
Write first, edit later. Don’t mix analytical and creative processes.

ut as to why I write a novel every November, all I can say is this: art comes from adversity. Not like ‘I live in Compton’ adversity, but rather ‘I’ve got two days to left to churn out and additional 12,000 words and I haven’t slept in a week’ adversity. Art is messy, art is put together than torn down. Art is crumpled chapters and scratched out sentences. Art is working and re-working something until you get it right.

Tip!
The invention of caffeine has made sleep vaguely optional. Try double shot espressos.

The Process

Crafting Your Plan of Attack

Stage One: Find Inspiration. This is the stage where you focus in on a single idea and cast of characters. You find the core of the story and then elaborate on it in the form of an outline, where you flesh out key details and scenes. Outlining is perhaps the most difficult part of writing. You’re making huge story decisions, and you haven’t actually stepped into the shoes of your characters yet. That’s why I’m a fan of writing character bios and backstories before you begin your outline, so you can craft compelling character arcs. This part of the process should be done before November, so you can make the most of the next stage. Stage Two: Find Motivation. Stage Two is about starting your journey and keeping the fire of motivation burning as you move forward into your month of noveling. You will face trials and tribulations during this month. You will want to give up. This is why pep talks are a wonderful, beautiful thing, and why you should write one to yourself to open during your darkest hour. Keep your favorite book nearby to remind yourself what you love about writing. Stay strong, and keep writing! Stage Three: Find Success. Once you reach “The End,” realize that your journey is only beginning. However, also realize that your success is also derived from the fact that you wrote a novel. In a month. Even if you didn’t finish, you went on a journey so many others haven’t even considered undertaking. And that’s a reason to feel proud. Now put the draft away for a month, and come back later to revise. You can do this!

Writing is Re-Writing
The truth about your first draft

Rough drafts are just a jumping off point. It’s the clay that you get started with. You can’t make a bowl or a meticulously shaped pumpkin sculpture if you don’t have clay, and you can’t re-write and revise your novel into its final form if you haven’t written a single word. And, chances are, by the time you’re done revising your final draft, you’ll realize that most of your rough draft has been changed and re-written, if not completely transformed.

How to Outline
Creating Your Roadmap

Tip!

Step One: Pinpoint Your Concept. Summarize your novel in one sentence. Once you’ve got a coherent story that you can describe in one line, expand that summary to one paragraph, then one page. Step Two: Discover Your Characters. Delve into the backstories of your characters, and decide in advance what their fatal flaw is. Play with pairings of characters who are opposites in order to create conflict and tension. This is the time to sketch out character arcs and decide how you want your characters change from the first page to the last. Step Three: Divide Your Story into Sections. It’s easier to tackle a novel if you divide it up into parts, much like how screenplays are divided up into acts. I like to model my novel after screenplay beats, with three “act two”s that feature a different leg of the journey marked by key, midpoint-like reversals. Step Four. Sketch Out Key Scenes. Decide what key scenes and reversals are going to go into what sections of your novel. This is the time to decide what the ending of your novel will be.

Tip!
Find photos of key locations and characters to add to your world

Tip!
Pick the sound track to your novel: find songs that describe each character.

Don’t give up. Everyone loves an underdog hero -so be one. Finish strong.

1

Tell everyone you’re writing a novel. Make them hold you accountable.

2

Write yourself a pep talk on day one, to be opened in your darkest hour.

3

Finding Motivation
Braving the Journey

No matter how far behind you are, there is always a chance to catch up. We all love underdog stories for a reason -- so live your own! Espresso and the light bulb exist for a reason: so procrastinating novelists like us can pull all-nighters in the final week of November in order to reach 50k. 10,000 days are not out of your reach -- and 20,000 word days can happen, too! This year, I had to write 12,000 words on the 30th in order to win. I outlined the remaining scenes of my novel, sat down with enough caffeine to power a small country, and powered through the rest of the novel. It’s a day I’m not likely to forget.

Tip!
Try and work in details from your daily life into your novel for authenticity

Tip!
Every day is a new chapter. Be courageous, write something bold.

1

Write every day. If you don’t, you’ll begin to forget about the world you’re creating, and you won’t be able to jump right in as quickly for the next day. Immerse yourself. Commit.

2

Always carry a notebook with you. Jotting down fifty words here and there in line at Starbucks or while you’re stuck in traffic can really add up.

3

Approach each day as if you’re starting fresh. Don’t be afraid to run with a new idea or go in a different direction. The first draft is about experimentation!

4

If you find yourself running out of steam, re-read your favorite book. Reconnect with what you love about writing and storytelling.

Caffeine

A writer’s guide
Espresso drinks = best form of caffeine. If you want to go hard core, drink straight espresso shots. However, these are disgusting so if you can’t handle them drink them in lattes and caramel macchiatos, which are by far the best kinds of espresso drinks. (But only get caramel macchiatos in iced form.) If you need less of a caffeine boost, try chai lattes.

The Token Elaborate Espresso Drink Recipe
Because this is critical to your month-long
Ingredients: 2 Cups of Milk 1 Cups of Espresso 3 or 4 tbsp canned or fresh pumpkin 2 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp vanilla 1 tsp cinnamon plus extra to sprinkle on top 1/2 tsp nutmeg plus extra to sprinkle on top Whipped Cream *Pumpkin Spice seasoning may be substituted it for the cinnamon and nutmeg. Directions: 1. Measure out two cups of milk and pour into a small sauce pan. 2. Add pumpkin and sugar to milk and heat over medium high heat. Whisk thoroughly to combine ingredients. 3. Prepare your coffee/espresso. 4. Once the pumpkin milk mixture begins to steam, reduce heat to low, add vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir with whisk over low heat for 15 – 30 seconds or blend in a food processor. 5. Pour pumpkin milk mixture into two coffee cups. We transferred the mixture to a glass measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring first. 6. Add coffee/espresso, approximately 1/2 C each. This is a recipe for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, a perfect themed drink for November!

Staying Strong and Carrying On: What Happens After November

Stage Three

are where you can tear your first draft to shreds, then build it up again so it’s a stronger, more intricate story

revisions

1

First, bask in your accomplishment and set aside your draft. Distance yourself for at least thirty days, so you can come back with a fresh perspective.

2

Rewriting is all about finding problems with your draft, fixing them, sharing your draft with others who find more problems. Rinse and repeat.

Tip!
Only show your early drafts to trusted readers. They’ll be honest without ripping apart your first attempts.

Tip!
Need an inspiration break? Go make the cover for your book! This will help you visualize the overall tone and style of your plot.

When can I be done?
The road from first to final draft
Depending on the difficulty level of the novel you’re trying to write, novels can take anywhere from 1 to infinity years to complete. Sometimes, a few drafts and a polish is all it takes. Other times, you have to hit the boards and do a page one re-write to get on the right track. Some authors refuse to read their books after they are published, because all they see are things they could have changed. When you can no longer improve on your novel, and any more drafts would prove to be a step back, congrats! You’ve reached the final draft. Now go start book two.

Anyone Can Do It
Write a Novel Today
Creative writing isn’t some ancient Aztec voodoo practice. It’s a process that anyone can engage in should they want to. It’s a chance for us to step outside our daily lives and escape into a world all our own. National Novel Writing Month provides a judgment-free zone and a safe place where you can write the novel you want to write. You don’t have to share your work with anyone, because, ultimately, this month is all about you and tapping into your creative potential. By writing every day, you’re forced to continuously delve back into your story world on a consistent basis, and by doing so you not only form a helpful habit, but you also strengthen your creative thinking skills. So what are you waiting for? This month is going to happen no matter what-- so you might as well write your novel!

outline
map out where your story will go

write without boundaries and worries

write

Tips!

revise
the real work begins here

Stuck on a chapter? Make a list of all the events that wouldn’t happen next.

Try freewriting. Write about anything for 15 minutes to improve your creativity.

Feed your brain, do research! Keep a journal of your findings.

Find your writing spot. Going there will put you in a creative mindset.

about the author
Amy Suto

this is her
in her natural element: a coffeeshop
Amy Suto is a screenwriter, espresso connoisseur, and the architect of the cloud-based screenwriting software program, Page 85. Page 85 is set to launch in 2013, and you can find out more at AmySuto.com or Page85.com She’s won National Novel Writing Month five years in a row, and plans to continue her winning streak for... well, pretty much the rest of her life. She’s kind of addicted. Send help! Amy’s past novels include The Manila Problem, which is an anthology of short stories centering around special manila envelopes that change the course of the characters’ lives. But, because she’s Amy and can’t write a straight drama to save her life, there’s a twist that may or may not affect every single story in the book. She’s written four feature length screenplays, and is currently studying Writing for Screen and Television at the University of Southern California. When she’s not writing, she’s either running or eating danger for breakfast. She dabbles in half-marathons and 10ks, and occasionally makes short films. You can keep up with the shenanigans that make up Amy’s life over at her website AmySuto.com, where she also blogs about screenwriting and the merits of overconsuming caffeine.

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