NaNoWriMo begins on November 1!

Pictures and notes from prep event #1 (Oct 2)

NewMexicoKidGlowing Halo
Pictures and notes from prep event #1 (Oct 2)
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Posted on:
Oct 3, 2010 - 08 19

Katherine gave a great first prep session that was well attended (29 overall). Come read about the event and see some pictures from the day (from our NaperWriMo blog).

If you have any feedback to share on the event, especially on ways that we can improve it for next year or things you found helpful, do let us know in this thread.




KatherineWritingGlowing Halo
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Posted on:
Oct 6, 2010 - 12 51

And, even more -- these are just my ideas, disregard if you don't find it useful.

Getting an Idea

Ideas are everywhere. Look for something that intrigues you and you want to know more about. It can be something you read from the newspaper, a magazine, a Facebook posting, a conversation with a friend, a Youtube video, an overheard remark. Anything can get you started, but test your idea before November. See if it still excites you after you've fiddled with it a little.

If you don't have an idea for a novel, or even if you do, try freewriting. This is taking pen and paper and sitting down in a quiet spot for 10-15 minutes and not getting up, or stop writing, until time is up. Even if you have to write 'I don't have any ideas' until something comes. If you do this daily, you WILL have ideas. I guarantee it. (I don't guarantee it if you use a computer. All sorts of reasons, although some people can freewrite on the computer, pen and paper works better, preferably scratch paper so you know it's just to get your ideas down.) If you have the basic idea, freewriting can give you ideas about things that might happen without your feeling locked into them. You can freewrite about your character meeting a dragon, or an old flame, or....

Getting Started & the Basics

Getting started – write one sentence. Character in the midst of change.

Plot is what the characters do with the situation they are in. It's the logical sequence of events that grow from an initial incident that alters the status quo of the characters. To have a plot you need characters. You also need conflict. Don't forget inner conflict.

Characters – create ones that are real to the reader, and who evoke an emotional response within the reader. Make sure that your characters have a life before they appear in your story and that they are doing something active. A character works out of his/her own necessities. He or she arrives in a book because his/her previous life led to that. Interesting characters often have both inner struggle and inner conflict. Inner struggle isn't related to the plot, it's what the character brings to the plot from the past, because of the plot, the character will have to deal with this struggle.

A character should arrive knowing why they're there and what they're going to do next. Characters should do things, take action. A character all alone should do more than think.

Setting – instead of taking the advice to 'write about your own backyard,' write about a place that interests you. It should be a place you can get to so you can explore it with your five senses, but if you can't, at least make it a place you care about. To write a short story for 'The Journey,' I watched a web cam of Old Faithful since I haven't been there in a number of years.

Dialogue. Come up with THADs, talking head avoidance techniques. This is an activity that is going on in a scene that would otherwise consist solely of dialogue. Chosen wisely, it reveals character, and can contain important information. (Imagine the difference between two characters talking about their prom while shopping for groceries, and while preparing a body for interment.)

Resist the Urge to Explain – RUE, Show, don't tell. Info dumping is bad. “As you know, Bob....” is bad.

Write Scenes
Don't write an essay, write a scene, where a character arrives with a purpose and does something, often interacting with other characters and the environment in interesting way that increase conflict.
Try to plan scenes ahead. Whose Point of View (POV) should the scene be in? What type of scene? If dialogue, what THAD (Talking Head Avoidance Device) will you use? What are the characters' agendas? What is the purpose of the scene?
1. In a scene, characters do and say things in real time.
2. Scenes have beginnings, middles and ends. Note, the end leaves something unfinished so the reader wants to keep reading.
3. Scenes have a purpose. Really good ones have multiple purposes.
4. Scenes move the story along. Can think of a scene as a step up the staircase of the story.

Establish a fact. Challenge it. Establish more facts.

Problem-solution-next problem.
1) Identify and SHOW (not tell) problem
2) Have the character realize he has a problem (even if he's not ready to fix it.)
3) Show a catalyst for change
4) Show solution and/or developing the resources to solve the problem
5) Show success or failure and show conclusion or next problem.

Good luck!

KatherineWritingGlowing Halo
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Posted on:
Oct 4, 2010 - 16 38

Exercises: We picked one of these and got into groups to do them, but they can be done at home on your own--or you can get together with a friend or two and do them together.

A) One sentence exercise. Character in the midst of change. (Can fill in the items below, or come up with your own.)

_______________ never thought he'd beat ____________, then _____________ entered his life.

Though he drove as fast as he could, ____________ knew he couldn't get to ________ before _____________

_________ ignored __________________ until s/he said, ____________

B) Writing Paragraphs Exercise.
1) Write down five sentences about a character.
2) Write a paragraph based on each sentence. (At least three sentences.)
3) Write a reaction to each of the paragraphs.
4) Add to each that it's not going to happen because... (At least two sentences.)
5) Connect the dots. Look for links in the paragraphs.

C) What if exercise. Think of a problem your character is going to have. List the opposite of what you'd expect to happen next. What if _____? Try to come up with ten different what ifs.

D) Conflict exercise. Who in your story can have conflict with whom or what? (The environment can be a cause of conflict, circumstances, as well as people or other beings.) Focus on real differences, not minor things. Think about a parent/child conflict about who the character is going to marry, not about what to eat for dinner. (They may argue about what to eat for dinner, but it will be more meaningful if they're really arguing over the father's third fiance since the mother died.) List as many sources of conflict as you can.

E) Work on plot exercise. List the scenes for a section of your novel. Look for causal relationships to develop. (This happens because of that.) Each scene should contain something that triggers the scene that follows.

F) Picture a scene and list objects that could be in that scene. Toss in something really unusual. (See my earlier post for an example of this. The people who did this on Saturday were pretty enthusiastic about it.)

AmaranthMuseGlowing Halo
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Joined: Nov 6, 2007
Location: Tir na nOg
Posts: 69
Posted on:
Oct 4, 2010 - 11 41

I cannot thank you enough for posting this information since I had a scheduling conflict that prevented me from attending this. I hoped someone might have taken notes or recorded the details, especially as Katherine, you write *so* much and seem to always have great suggestions and ideas at hand.


NaNoWriMo region: Ferndale, MI | Naperville, IL
Genres: Urban contemporary; fantasy, sci-fi; speculative; historical

KatherineWritingGlowing Halo
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Posted on:
Oct 3, 2010 - 18 03

Prep Ideas – things to do while you're waiting to write

Make a collage—collect pictures that could be chars in your novel, props, settings, etc. Glue these all onto a big piece of paper and pull it out once a week during November and write whatever inspires you. One year, the picture I tagged as a minor char had the woman looking cold. I incorporated that into my characterization of her so she always wore sweaters and often tugged at the ends of them to half cover her cold hands. Another year, I found pictures of apartments in Paris for rent and used one of them as the apartment for the main character.

Voice journals – Write these for each of your Point of View characters. This is a character speaking in a stream of consciousness mode. Not dialogue between two chars, but instead one char ranting, or venting, or just thinking about something and writing down every thought. It's a good way to get inside your char's head and pull out a surprising tidbit.

Time line – I use a monthly calendar sheet to jot down the major things that I plan on happening during the story and when and where (if it's a story with multiple locations.) I have a second copy that I use in November to note when things actually occurred. I also start each chapter with the date. I take these out after the fourth revision or so, but since I started doing this, it's much easier to add a scene and not inadvertently make it the day before the previous scene when I'm telling the story in chronological order.

Plot web – write a major character's name in the center and draw lines out for each topic that you need to keep track of

Music soundtracks – create a play list that evokes certain moods to aid in your writing.

List of things – picture a scene in your novel. Now list items that could be in that scene, being as specific as possible Try to add one very unusual thing. For example, if you know that your characters are going to be in a kitchen, you could list:
1. blue coffee cup from Maine
2. seven dishes from a set of twelve
3. white strainer that has a dark stain on the bottom
4. lemon-scented dish soap
5. quarter roll of paper towel in a dispenser that wobbles
6. rattlesnake skin in a plastic dish on a shelf
Do this for several scenes and you'll have some specific details to add to your novel in November. (And the back of your brain may come up with all sorts of ideas for the items.)

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