Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

>Revising a Nano Novel, Pt. 2: Evaluating

>Last week, we explored getting perspective on a Nano novel and why you should revise it. Today, we’re going to look into evaluating your book first so the revision process is not so overwhelming.

Evaluate First
Before you start hacking away at your book, take some advice from a writer who’s made big mistakes in that department: evaluate before you edit. Why? Because in your zeal to make your novel the best ever, you may throw out passages or even whole scenes that don’t deserve it.

When revising Dead Locked, I went on a rampage and cut all kinds of material. Most of it, however, crept back into the book because it served the story well, even amidst drastic changes. So I urge you to view your rough draft as a foundation to build upon, not a building in need of demolition. This is the approach I’ve taken with The Jester’s Apprentice and things have gone much smoother! If you chip away at the story (versus taking a sledgehammer to it), what the story needs will become clear.

Therefore, read with a lighter touch and focus on the structure of your novel first before you start fretting over wording. Examine the overall story and make note of holes or gaps in the main plot and subplots as well as the pacing. Is the story tight and believable? Do you explain how and why things happen as they do? Do you have too much happening in some spots and not enough in others?

Pay attention to your characters, marking the ones that need fleshing out. Do all of your characters come to life on the page? Do you have enough characters? Or too many? Do all of the characters have a reason for being there? Think about setting too. Are your characters anchored in a place and time? Don’t forget to list any information you need to research to be accurate and/or believable.

But don’t just focus on what’s wrong with the story. Also be aware of what’s right. It’s easy to read your own work and hate everything, but it’s more productive to be fair and also see what you like in the story, even small things. When I read The Jester’s Apprentice, I marked everything I like or loved, including images and dialogue. At the end, I had a lot more things I liked about the story than I thought I would.

Revising a NaNoWriMo novel may take patience and time, but that’s the case with any novel. Don’t just give up because it takes work. As I said last week, you’ve already tackled one of the hardest parts – writing a complete first draft! So keep going and finish that book!

On another note, I just wanted to mention that the Read an Ebook Week sale at Smashwords ends Saturday. Dead Locked is 1/2 price until then! Just use the coupon code RAE50 at checkout.

>Revising a Nano Novel, Pt. 1: Perspective

>Revising a novel can be daunting no matter what. Never mind when it’s a bit…messy. And writing a novel-in-a-month often means a messy first draft. But don’t despair. Just because your book may look like a wreck doesn’t mean it’s unsalvageable.

Reading with Perspective
I wrote The Jester’s Apprentice in January 2009 (originally it was titled Philippa’s Neverending Series of Pointless Conversations). I got wrapped up writing Dead Locked that same year and forgot all about Jester’s for a while. Months later, I read the draft for the first time and felt sorry for the two people who had read it.

Well, while I worked on DL, Jester’s kept nagging me. There was at least one good thing about the story so I imagined I would just scrap everything else and start with that. I had all these ideas, which totally changed the story, when I read the draft again (over a year later). This time I saw things with a new set of eyes. For one thing, I had learned a lot about novel writing since then so I read with more experience. Second, the physical and emotional distance from the novel helped me read with more optimism. I saw the book’s potential, not just its pitfalls.

First drafts always need breathing time. Or, rather, you do. You won’t necessarily make the right decisions when you’re too close. If you wrote a novel-in-a-month last November, you’ve had about three months to leave it alone. Maybe this is enough time. Maybe it isn’t. I needed more space from Jester’s, but I also had another project in full swing to finish. If you’re unsure if you’re ready, pull out your manuscript and read it. Your reaction may gauge if you’re ready to start revising.

Now, you may ask, ‘Should I even bother?’ You may think that meandering, padded, confusing manuscript is more trouble than it’s worth. But look at it this way: you wrote a complete first draft of a novel! It’s not an undeveloped concept in your notebook. It’s not an outline. It’s not a series of false starts. It’s a complete first draft of a novel!

Do you know how hard it is to write a book? Yes, you do! Because you just did it in November. Or January. Or some other month. You wrote a whole book. A whole book that just needs a little TLC and it’s ready to go out into the world. You already did one of the hardest parts of the process and you made it to the end. Why quit now? You have something this close to being done. So now I ask, should you bother?

I’m going to assume you said yes to that last question because I tell you that it is worth revising. Whatever the problems, your novel also has all the energy and excitement that you felt when you wrote it. You can always make technical improvements, but you only write with your heart once.

So you’ve got perspective, now you want to revise. Where do you start? Next week we’ll uncover the secret first step to a successful revision. Well, not really. But I will show you how to evaluate your novel so the revision process starts out smoothly and doesn’t overwhelm you. Stay tuned!

Photo by Cory Doctorow

>Go NaNoWriMo Writers! The High of Week 1

>This is just a shout of encouragement to all of you participating in NaNoWriMo this year! The first week is always thrilling as you pen those first few thousand words and start to see your ideas – vague or clearly defined – come to life.

If this is your first time around, I suggest you make this week count as much as possible. Circumstances differ, but I learned my first time around that aiming to get a little ahead the first week didn’t hurt. Just stick to your plan and get as close to your daily and weekly goals as possible. Life will happen during NaNoWriMo but don’t get discouraged. Just keep trucking.

If you know you’ll have days when you won’t have as much time – or any – to write, plan for it and set larger word count goals on days when you do have the time. While it may not matter so much this week, it can be a lifesaver in the weeks to come. Plus, as I said, life does happen. The more you write early on, the better off you may be at the end of the month.
Don’t get stuck trying to make everything perfect. I loosened up as time went on but I found the first few days tough in that regard. I thought too much and wrote too little. Just relax and write. It’s a first draft after all and isn’t supposed to be perfect. You’ll have plenty of time to revise after November.

How is NaNoWriMo going for you so far? What is your story about (if you know!)?

Photo by seyed mostafa zamani

>Get Ready for NaNoWriMo 2010!

>It’s hard to believe it’s already that time again! I’m sure a lot of you are prepping – at least mentally – for NaNoWriMo this year. I’m not participating this time around, but I’ve tried two different approaches to getting ready to write a novel-in-a-month in the past. The first time, I got a concept the night before I started and winged the entire book. The second time, I did a little planning about two weeks ahead of time. How did each approach go?

Winging it landed me in some trouble. By the end of the month, I had plenty of words, but the last few days I was writing frantically just to finish the story! I kept writing and writing and couldn’t figure out how to wrap things up. I did make it but just barely. However, I had such a blast the entire month that everything that went wrong with the story paled in comparison. If I had had time I would have started all over again the next month.

Planning certainly helped my story move along easier. I still had surprises but the plot was a lot more cohesive than my first attempt. So that was nice even though I had a lot more trouble making my word count last year. On the downside, I really didn’t enjoy the process as much. I did have a lot of other things going on that month that kind of sapped my fun, but I do think part of it was that I was almost too prepared. I know that sounds odd, but I think the planning, while useful, diminished part of the fun – at least for me.

Now everybody’s different and if I do NaNo again in the future, I’m not planning a lot beforehand. If you’ve done NaNoWriMo before, what is your favorite way to go about it? If you’re trying it out for the first time, what’s your approach?

>Get Ready for NaNoWriMo 2009!

>Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this November? In less than two weeks the word frenzy is on! This is my first year as an official participant. I wrote a novel in a month on my own back in January and loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to go again in November. Though still a newbie myself, I made a list of dos and don’ts after January’s experience. I’m much better prepared this time around and so I thought I’d pass along what I learned.

Keep it simple. My plot got a little out of control last January. In the words of Tim Gunn it morphed into ‘one hot mess.’ The story had its good points but I overcomplicated the plot for the time I had to work everything out. My advice: streamline your plot. While I did manage to tie up my loose ends, I was nearly hospitilized in the process.

Stay in modern times. I wrote a medieval mystery last winter. While I do know quite a bit about the time period, I don’t know it all and I didn’t always have the time to look things up. I got frustrated and ended up with a lot of placeholders and generic descriptions as a result. So unless you know everything about the time period or you do your research before November, I suggest keeping your plot in the modern world.

Write what you love. For all my research issues in January, I do love both the medieval period and mysteries so I had a lot of passion for my story. Pick a genre and a subject that you love and it will push you through the dark hours in November.

Write what you know. Unless you do spend a lot of time researching beforehand, it helps to stick with things you’re familiar with including settings, careers, cultures, and hobbies/interests.

Planning doesn’t hurt. In January, I spent about five minutes the night before I began brainstorming for a plot. But I kept wishing I had thought things through a little more before I started writing. If you’ve written a novel-in-a-month before, you know there’s very little time to think once you start. So this year, I’m taking the next couple of weeks to get my plot worked out, think about my characters (and name them all), and do any research I know I need to do.

If you’ve never written a novel in a month, I promise it will be the most thrilling, painful, and revitalizing experience of your writing life. If you’re unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, definitely check out the official website and consider joining this year. And if you’re a NaNoWriMo vet, pass on your words of wisdom.

NaNoWriMo here we come!

>Leaping Out of My Comfort Zone: Writing a Novel in a Month

>Most of you have probably heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’ve never participated and this past November (when the contest takes place), I had too much going on personally to take part. Instead, I decided to do it by myself in January 2009. So I buckled up over the last week of December 2008 and told myself there would be no wriggling out of it. I was writing a novel in 31 days.

I’ve never written a novel in a year or more nevermind one month. The NaNoWriMo challenge is writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, or around 1,667 words a day. NaNoWriMo creator Chris Baty recommends giving yourself a maximum of one week to plan. The way my life went in December, I had a few hours to scrape up a vague premise and main character. So on January 1, 2009, I knew I was writing about a young woman in medieval England who was marrying a complete stranger and leaving her home and family.

The first day or two of writing I thought, “This is going to be the worst novel ever.” I walked along with my main characters, feeling them out, seeking out a plot. At one point, my biggest aspiration for my main character was that she would have a baby! That would have been fine too but the characters started speaking and dealing with each other and pretty soon the main storyline was charging ahead. In the end, I wrote I pretty satisfying tale and actually exceeded the word minimum by about 10,000. More importantly, I wrapped up my story, which had some exciting twists that even I didn’t see coming.

Will I do things differently the next time I write a novel in a month? Yes and no. I knew going the historical route would be difficult. I have a decent knowledge of the Middle Ages but it drove me nuts ignoring details I didn’t have time to research. So next time I’ll stick to a modern setting. I also found the plot got a little more complicated than I desired. The hardest part was wrapping up all the loose ends. I did well but afterward I realized I’d still missed something. I’ll definitely keep things simple the next time around. I still won’t spend much time planning ahead though. I like not knowing exactly where it’s all going.

Would I do it again? In the middle of January I was ready to start again in February. And at the end, when I was burnt out and struggling to finish the story, I still wanted to. So yes. When November 2009 rolls around, I hope I can participate. If not, I’ll do it on my own again. I came out seeing character development in a whole new light. Writing short assignments of 300-500 words now seems like nothing. And I see my writing from a whole new vantage point.

If you’ve never written a novel in a month, I recommend trying it. You’ll be scared, excited, and frustrated, sometimes all at once. But when you finish and have the first draft of a book in front of you, I promise you won’t regret one minute of it.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What was your experience?