Writing a Story: Start Writing

So you know your characters, you’ve created a summary or outline, and now you’re ready for NaNoWriMo!

For those who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, I’m here to give you the down and dirty. Basically, it’s a yearly event which happens in November. The idea is to write a novel in a month. Technically you don’t have to write a complete novel. Rather, you write 50,000 words of a novel in a month from start to finish. It comes out to be approximately 1,667 words a day for 30 days. You are allowed to do prep work before you start, such as creating characters and plotting. Just no writing the actual novel.

In all honesty, this is often the most difficult part about winning NaNoWriMo is writing. It’s easy to fall behind and quite difficult to catch up. A lot of writers are motivated the first few days, but the task of keeping at it day after day can get tiresome. It’s not just of NaNoWriMo, but it can be that way with writing in general.

Just Do It!

One of the things I’ve learned over the past few years is when it comes to writing, you just have to do it. I know, I know… it’s something I haven’t serious done since last NaNoWriMo, but still… that’s what it takes. Writers write. If NaNoWriMo is too much, start small. In fact,I finished I Loved You First by dedicating 100 words a day to the story. Some days I wrote more, but I committed to just 100 words each day for about 3 months, and voila! one day it was finished. 🙂

Wondering Mind

The thing with writing (at least for me) is it’s so easy to get distracted. I sit down to write for an hour and my mind spends 45 minutes of that time wandering. Even if my mind isn’t wandering, I can waste a significant amount of time just thinking about what I should write. Ah! Distractions! The bane of productivity.

I don’t know about others, but I have a short attention span. I’m the type of person who will “multi-task” to keep things interesting. Why in quotes? Well, multi-tasking really is just a way of jumping around from activity to activity, never really giving full attention to any one thing. In effect, it’s less efficient, but it can keep things interesting.

Helpful Tool

A couple of years ago, I found an awesome tool called Write or Die. I loved it so much, I purchased the desktop version for $10. It was one of the best $10 I’ve spent when it comes to writing. Here’s how it works. You set a word count goal for a set amount of time, then go for it. If you stop typing for a given amount of time, Write or Die will send you an attention getter. It can be a mild one, such as the screen slowly turning red (this works best for me) to obnoxious, loud noises (breaks my concentration and distracts me more than helps).

What I like about it is, it forces me to concentrate for a set amount of time. For me, that set amount of time is 15 minutes 500 words. Since 1,667 words a day will win NaNoWriMo, that means, I only have to dedicate 1 hour worth of writing time each day in order to win NaNoWriMo. I typically scatter those 4 15-minute blocks throughout the day as not to be so much of a hassle.

So, I highly recommend Write or Die. I honestly didn’t realize how distracted and inefficient I was, when it came to writing, until I started using Write or Die. It alerted me to the fact I was sitting down to write, but not writing. By the way, I started with the online version, which is free. Give it a shot, if you’re afraid to part with your $10.

Using allotted time effectively

So, you’ve set aside your time to write. You might have even picked up Write or Die. Here’s the thing, it’s hard to be efficient if you don’t know what to write. That’s one of the reasons I like breaking my slots into 15 minute increments. It allows me to consider what I’m going to write when I’m not writing. Then when it’s time to write, I just hit it. 15 minutes of putting down what I’ve been thinking about for hours.

So! Don’t waste time sitting in front of your laptop thinking about what you should write. When it’s time to use your writing time, write, and only write. You can think about what you should write while you’re washing dishes, doing menial tasks at work, changing diapers, or driving in the car. But when you dedicated time for writing, keep your fingers flying across the keyboard.

Only a few days left until November 1. Hope you all are ready. haha I’m not.

Share with us some suggestions you might have when it comes to writing.

Writing a Story: Basic Outlining

Writing a Story: Basic Outlining

Last post we talked about creating a plot summary. Personally, I’m rather fond of outlines. My preference to outlines comes from my college days. I realized back then that creating an outline allowed me to skip around in a paper. Later, I applied the same techniques to my stories. A great outline means there’s no need to write a story chronically.

A while back, I found a program called Character Writer, which includes a section for plotting a story. Since then, I’ve used its formula as a guideline for developing my stories. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll point you in that direction.

What makes Character Writer really useful in terms of an outline, is it allows a writer to use somewhat of a snowflake effect. It begins by prompting the writer to come up with 8 plot points which are later divided into 3 acts, similar to what I suggested in the last post. What I like is it doesn’t leave you on your own when developing those plot points. It provides hints, such as your character is living his/her life and is unhappy/happy with the situation and is seeking/not seeking an adventure. Simple enough, but a little something to get you thinking and a place to write specifics about your characters and story.

Once the plot points are completed, the outline is generated… but it goes further. Character Writer makes a suggestion of how many scenes should be for each plot development. This allows a writer to be as detailed or generic as necessary.

So, today I’ll leave you with an online tool from the same characters of Character Writer. For the most part, it’s just an online version of the downloadable program. It’ll give you a quick feel for how it works and hopefully get you started on your outline for NaNoWriMo.

Character Writer Online Story Tool

Writing a Story: Plot Summary

Writing a Story: Plot Summary

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, it seems like a great time to continue with the Writing a Story series I started last month. If you’re looking for a refresh, check out the last post on Creating a Character here.

Writing a novel comes easy for some folk, not so easy for others. I consider myself one of those people who falls in between. Typically, a scene comes to me from out of no where… a dream, every day life, etc. From there, I start formulating an idea. For the most part, the idea is incomplete and needs time to cultivate in my mind… kind of like yeast.

One way to help the idea grow into something more substantial is taking the time to plot a summary. Take your characters on a mini-journey. Since it’s a summary, it doesn’t have to be in detail. Save the detailed scenes for the real writing process.

Dividing your summary into parts

Start by dividing your summary into parts. Think of it as a 3-part play with a beginning, middle, and end. This will help ensure your storyline is balanced, while avoiding a saggy middle.

Part One – The Set Up

The Introduction. Consider how you want to bring your main character(s) into the story. What are the relationships between the characters? How do they interact with one another? This is a time to show your characters’ flaws and strengths. Let the readers really get to know your characters and start to feel for their situations.

Attention Getter. How do you plan to capture the audiences attention in the first few pages. Keep in mind, many readers decide if they’ll read your book after reading just the first few hundred words. You don’t have a lot of time to pull the reader in. So the way you decide to start your story is extremely important. Again, your summary isn’t about details, but creating the over all feel.

The Problem. Part one is also the place to introduce the major problem into the story. You might also consider subplots, but for the summary, try to focus on presenting the main problem. Exactly what is you character facing? What is keeping your character from finding happiness or completing their goal.

Part Two – Avoiding the Saggy Middle

The Adventure. Once your character(s) have a problem and a bit of direction, it’s time to set them on their path. This is where you develop a general plan for your characters. This is where they do the bulk of solving their problems or reaching their goals. This section should be filled with ups and downs, successes and failures.

Character Growth. This is also the place where your character(s) experience changes. They start to learn about themselves through the adventures they experience. Determine what your character(s) should take away from the experience. And don’t forget, the villain is the hero/heroine of his/her own story. So don’t forget to show villain’s character changes also. Also keep in mind, the hero can fall into evil  just as villains can find goodness.

Part Three – The Conclusion

The Resolution. Your characters have come to the end of their adventures and now to set things straight. Misunderstandings are resolved, characters overcome major challenges (which may or may not lead to happy ending), and the solution to achieving their ultimate goal is revealed.

The Final Showdown. This is the moment your characters have some kind of victory. If you’ve read any of my works, you probably know I don’t always write perfect endings. However, the heroes of the story NEED to win on some level… and that something should be big and worthy. That win might even be the realization that letting go is the best outcome. Or as many Westerners like… lead to a happily ever after or happy for now ending.

Wrap up. And then we have the wrap up. This is the moment you get to send your character off into the sunset.

It’s Not Concrete

One of the things I love about plotting is it really gets me thinking about the story. And though the plot is written, it doesn’t have to be followed exactly… or even at all. Subplots form and characters get a mind of their own. What’s important (at least in my creative mind) is plotting gives a little direction and can really help a writer get started.

Writing a Story: Create a Character

Writing a Story: Create a Character

In a previous post, I discussed formulating ideas for stories. Today, we talk about character creation. Some individuals come up with their characters in the spur of the moment and simply start writing. That’s fine and dandy. Whatever works when it comes to writing a story, I say go for it. I’m not here to impede anyone’s creative process. HOWEVER, some folks might benefit from a few tools and ideas.

Character Writer 3.1

My favorite tool of all time when it comes to character creation is Character Writer 3.1. Rather than go into details, I’ll point you to my review. If you’re looking to get a really in depth look at your character(s) before you start putting your words to paper, I highly recommend this program. By the time you finish all the prompts, you’ll have a deep understanding of your character’s psyche.

Roleplaying Books

It’s time to get your geek on. If you’re story idea is high fantasy or paranormal, roleplaying books can help you define your characters ability. I offer two suggestions for those who don’t know where to start. First up, Dungeon & Dragons, also known as D&D. I’m sorry folks. I can’t continue without sharing this video first.

D&D books are great because they have just about every power imaginable. Not only that, but D&D roleplaying books are full of rules, which might even help you develop boundaries for your story.

For those with a paranormal book in mind, I suggest White Wolf books. Mages, Vampires, Werewolves, oh my! White Wolf has a collection of books, each tailored toward a particular supernatural creature. Check it out. And oh… and don’t forget the dice.

Naming Your Character

I’m a strong believer in the power of names. I was meticulous about choosing names for my children… and lovely children they are. 🙂 I don’t take quite as much care when it comes to my character names, but I do put some effort into them.

Baby Name Websites

One of the great things about many baby name websites is that many reveal the origin of a name. If your character has a particularly strong personality trait, using a search term based upon the trait may be helpful. Also, if your character comes from some place other than America the Melting Pot, a baby name website can help you choose an appropriate name based upon a region.

Name Generator Tools

I have to admit, I’m not particularly fond of name generator tools. However, if you just need a name and don’t really care what they name should be, this might be the answer. Some name generators are more elaborate than others and will allow you to define search terms such as names based upon geographic regions or even fantasy names like elven.

Generic Placeholders

Sometimes a name just won’t come, and that’s okay. Use a generic placeholder until a suitable one comes to mind. I tend to use all caps because it’s easier for me to pick them out in a story… less likely to miss occurrences. One special tip I have for placeholders is to be consistent. The big reason for consistency is the ability to find and replace quickly. For example, using a the placeholder BADASSWEREWOLF can be substituted for Derek in one big swoop.

Character Appearance

Mind’s Eye

I store my characters’ appearances in my noggin. However, I’ll be honest… my characters are pretty faceless. Most of them are lucky to have bodies. Once I log the generic characteristics, I’m good to go. Characters, scenes, etc. are all pictured in my Mind’s Eye. That works for me, but others might need more. So, I present a few resources to breathe a little more life into your characters.

Stockphotos

Stockphotos are a great place to start. Browsing through stockphotos can be rather time consuming but also a lot of fun. Once you choose the stockphoto of your character, you might even be able to use it in your cover art. I love killing two birds with one stone.

Sims

I’ve had my fair share of Sims addiction. One feature the Sims is the character creation process. In fact, one can’t play the game without creating characters to control. Perhaps that’s why I love the Sims so much… control. It’s rather similar to controlling characters in a book. 🙂 The Sims version you use will determine detailed you can make your character.

Daz 3D

You Probably know by now, I’m a lover of Daz 3D. I CANNOT get enough of it. Of all of the options (other than the Mind’s Eye), Daz 3D offers the most flexibility and the greatest ability to fine-tune. My review goes a bit deeper into Daz 3D. And by the way… it’s free.

SO! Characters can evolve throughout the storyline, so don’t feel like you’re confined to your original concept. I typically use a few of the tools above to get me started. However, I allow myself the freedom to change things at any time.