Archive for the ‘Writing a Novel’ Category

h1

NaNoWriMo – Here We Go!

October 26, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Participant

It’s NaNoWriMo time again! What’s that? Don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? Why, it’s National Novel Writing Month, of course! Time for all the little novelist wannabes write for 30 days to finish a 50,000 word draft of a novel. I have been aware of NaNoWriMo for years, more like a decade, actually. But I have never truly participated.

Oh, sure, there was that one year that I jumped into the fray a week into November with no prep but just a concept. About a day later, and a full month of day job, rehearsals, and other scheduled activities ahead of me, I quickly recognized the futility of the effort and abandoned the project.

But here it is, just within a week before kickoff, and I have time ahead of me. I’m jumping in full-force with the same novel idea. But this time I have a little prep time to formulate characters, an outline, and general themes that I can work with.

How much is too much or too little prep time for writing a novel in 30 days? When I first heard about NaNoWriMo I figured that the participants jumped in with no concept, no prep, and literally created and wrote an entire novel from scratch. I now know that it is allowed to do prep prior to beginning on November 1st. I also know it is certainly allowable to have an unpublishable product by November 30. It’s all about getting the words down. Participants can always edit and revise later.

I’m seeing that some folks have been prepping for weeks, writing entire character biographies, sketching story and plot structures, and formulating entire chapter and scene outlines. I can see the advantage in that. But since I just decided that I am tossing my hat in the proverbial ring with less than a week to go, I have minimal time. But I am encouraged by my ideas. I am taking my same concept from my previous attempt (it’s a good concept!), and fleshing out some characters, organizing a loose outline, and by Nov. 1st I have a hazy blueprint to work from. The rest will all come from my noodle as I write.

So if you haven’t already, begin your preps and do the steps so get ready for the big day! For my jumpstart, I found a very useful set of novel writing templates from the Evernote blog here:

https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2017/10/02/12-creative-writing-templates-planning-novel/

Happy writing!

Advertisements
h1

5 Useful Motivations for Daily Writing

August 25, 2015

Write Every Day!Fiction writers do not have it easy. Unless you’re Stephen King or John Grisham who are paid advances at the mere hint of a new novel, you are expected to write “on spec”, or on your own volition with no promise of publication or reward. Writers tend to do this anyway because we have an inherent, instinctual, and obsessive need to get our ideas and stories on some kind of media.

So without the promise of a large publishing advance or even a wink that our novels will ever see the space between book covers, we have to find our own motivation for BICHOK (also known as ‘But In Chair, Hands On Keyboard’). Here are five things that can help you BICHOK more frequently:

MORNING PAGES

One of my favorite motivational gurus is Julia Cameron. For years her famous workbook, The Artist’s Way, has been rousing and inspiring writers and artists to do their best work. One of the core activities, whether a writer or other creative type, is to write down a stream of thought longhand on three pages of paper every day. She calls it Morning Pages, but some of us don’t do the hard-core morning routine and simply call it ‘Daily Pages’.

It is meant to provoke and synchronize the day and task at hand. It helps clear the mind and focus on the next task: writing your novel. Morning Pages doesn’t have to be neat. Just write about whatever’s on your mind.

A website has neatly and conveniently created an online space to do Morning Pages. The site is called 750words.com. The concept is that three handwritten pages is about an average of 750 words. Good typers (and slow writers, like me) can log on and do their morning (or daily) pages at their convenience and even save time doing it.

LEAVE YOURSELF A CLIFFHANGER

The rule of thumb for novel writers is to leave each chapter with a cliffhanger in the action so the reader is eager to move on the next chapter. You can do this trick to yourself with your writing. Before you put down your pencil or close your laptop, leave a scene in the middle of your thought. That way you will find that you are motivated to BICHOK the next day to continue to the scenes exciting conclusion.

WRITER REWARDS

Much like Visa rewards, you can set yourself up with a rewards program that provokes and excites you to BICHOK. A reward can be simple like a sweet treat, or a glass of wine or champagne after completing your daily goal. I like to motivate myself with small purchases for finishing a certain number of daily goals with a new pen, or a shiny new journal.

THE WRITER’S SANCTUARY

I find that a weekend holiday to a beach hotel, or a nice B&B is a great getaway for some focused and concentrated writing. However, we can’t have our holiday retreats every day.

A writer should set up his or her own daily writing sanctuary that is welcoming and comfortable. It can be a separate room in the house, but doesn’t need to be. A kitchen table or nook can work fine for some folks. What is important is having a welcoming space with reasonable lighting, a cozy temperature, and an appropriate comfortable chair. Additional elements might include soft background music (Mozart is renowned for helping concentration and opening channels of creativity), or even a window to a beautiful outside setting.

PARTNER UP

Finally, enlist a writing partner. If you have someone with whom you can check in, and even compare daily word counts, you have a great motivator. A little friendly competition can be a good thing that helps each of you put words down and complete a writing project. If you don’t have close friends who write, find a local writer’s club and recruit someone you can join with.

It is important for authors to get the words out of our heads. Having a space to write, and motivation to BICHOK every day will help make happy and satisfied writers. Do what you need to do so that you write every day. If you have other thoughts on daily writing motivation, I welcome them here in the comments.

Now, go write!

h1

Do You Write With Verve?

August 13, 2015

Verve

Do you write with ‘verve’? Do your readers devour your books with verve?  Do you even know what the heck is verve? Webster defines verve as:

the spirit and enthusiasm animating artistic composition or performance: VIVACITY

Other definitions include “with vigor and spirit or enthusiasm”. Synonyms include ‘zest’, ‘sparkle’, ‘charisma’, ‘brio’, ‘gusto’…and there’s a lot more but I’m running out of room for my point.

Verve is not just a descriptor of performance, but also for the expression of ideas. When you write, you are writing action, thoughts, dialogue, description, all which have to be interpreted by your reader. A reader should be swept away and immersed in the words he or she reads, as if the story is actually happening right now in their imagination.

Using verve in your writing gives the words on your page/screen more life, more animation, more oomph. Take, for instance, the following short but familiar narrative:

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none

Compare to:

The crusty, wiry-haired old dog whined under the rotting wooden table almost sounding like a whimper. Emma, the last of her nine siblings to survive past the age of 90, patted her old friend on the head, pushed herself upright from her chair, wincing with the painful effects of arthritis, and teetered to the lone cupboard in the corner. If there was any food in the modest but dusty little three-room cottage it may be found there. Emma reached up her gnarled hand, pulled the small handle, and creaked open the cupboard door. She raised herself on her tiptoes to see better, but it was no use. Not a scrap of food was left. She nodded in resigned confirmation, walked back to her chair and patted her old friend on the head again.

Does one or the other have more ‘verve’? Do you notice more animation, brio, or gusto with one narrative over the other? With all due respect to our famous nursery rhymes, the first stanza of Old Mother Hubbard tells a succinct and direct story, but it lacks verve.

The animation and life you put into your writing is what keeps a book in a readers’ hands. Don’t fall into the trap of “then this happened, and then that happened”. I found myself getting sucked into that pitfall when trying to steam ahead and write my story as quickly as possible. But in doing so I found my verve lacking considerably. I have once again found my verve and I hope you do too.

h1

How Writing a Novel is Like Pac-Man

May 18, 2015

Pac-ManSee if this sounds familiar: you’re writing a novel. You have big ideas and really get into the writing process. But your big ideas are really just general plot points and not specific details on how your character gets there. During the process your brain has to come up with thousands of choices about what your protagonist does. At a crossroads do you make him go left or right? Does he take the road less traveled to an exciting and unique adventure, or a safe path toward certain over-done cliché story lines?

I am reminded of one of my favorite video games: PAC-MAN. Pac-Man was MY game as an adolescent. I played it every chance I got. I was hooked I saved, bartered, and even sold every Star Wars action figure just to get quarters so I could play another game of Pac-Man (and am I now terribly regretful I sold of my Star Wars stuff – oy!). I was good. Really good. I won Pac-Man tournaments (which gave me more quarters just to stuff back into the video game), and I could play for hours on just a few quarters. But getting good took practice. I had to learn when to turn left, and turn right at just the right time, and memorize the patterns so I could do it again. Took a lot of trial an error.

When I write it feels like a game of Pac-Man. I have to turn right, or turn left, and see where it takes me. And eventually I make hundreds of decisions that make sense and gets me to completion. The completion, of course, is getting my hero through an impossible maze against terrible obstacles and completing his or her goal.

So get to it. Start writing and making decisions. The first choice may not always be the best, but trial and error will get you through a maze of impossible tasks to finally complete your novel.

h1

A Bookcase Full of Writing Reference Books

March 18, 2015

BookcaseI have a bookcase. A tall one. I live in the city of the world famous Powell’s Books. So yeah, my shelves are stacked and overflowing with books. One particular genre of books taking up precious space on my bookcase are those from the writing reference section. Dozens upon dozens of books face me each day as I pass by begging me to “Write That Novel”, and exclaiming, “You Can Write Romance!”. I have encouragement from Julia Cameron and her Artist’s Way (and btw, I’m counting today’s blog as part of my morning pages.) And I have all the forensic procedures and poisons I can swallow (sorry, that pun just had to happen.)

Now the big question I’m sure you are begging to ask is, “so have you read all those books?” Of course not! They’re for reference! When I need to know how to pick a poison I have just the guide. If I need a plot structure helper I know where to go. I would say I’ve read close to one-third of them. And many of them I have not even cracked open. So the point is why own so many how-to books if I don’t read them, or even open for a quick reference.

To me it is encouragement. I have succeeded in writing online articles and content, but I am committed to writing a novel. Each time I stop by Powell’s Books I browse the writing reference section to check for another used copy of a handy and helpful writing guide. A novel full of 70,000 – 100,000 words requires a bit more creative thought, planning, outlining and plotting than a simple 300-700 word article. And by a ‘bit’ I mean exponentially harder. My books are my mentor. Stephen King encourages me in his On Writing memoir. Janet Evanovich tells me How I Write and I can model her example.

Could I write without all these books? Sure I could. And so could you. But if writers didn’t need encouragement and support there would be no MFA programs in creative writing. And the Artist’s Way would never have been published. And the Writing Reference section at Powell’s would be boarded over and in its place would probably display blank journals. So I cherish my books, unopened as some of the may be. But I’m confident that when I finish my first novel the investment in my writing reference shelves will have paid off.

h1

NaNoWriMo – Here We Go!

November 2, 2014
Participant-2014-Web-Banner

NaNoWriMo Participant

Six years ago I attempted NaNoWriMo but failed on an epic scale. I was unemployed and writing articles for a partial living. And on no single day did I want to write 2 -3 thousand words for article deadlines, and then try to write another couple thousand words for a novel. I tried a few days and left it dead in the water.

Cut to six years later I’m sitting here in my living room on October 28 and realized, “hey, NaNoWriMo is just a few days away!” So I logged on and brushed off my old account and updated everything. I have full time employment, but no other serious commitments the rest of the month, so I decided I would throw in my metaphorical hat into the ring for a NaNoWriMo prize.

And in the spirit of the challenge, I would not start any pre-writing or outlining before the challenge started. I also knew I would have to start a day late as November 1st turned out to be a day with my daughters. Nothing would come between that.

So today I pulled out a few of my old Moleskines and read through some of the story ideas I had. I found about four or five good ideas, and chose one. Then I started writing. And with football in the background, daughters fighting with each other, and dinner having to be made, I still whipped out over a thousand words in just a few hours. I can catch up to the daily average easy with that stat in mind.

So off I go, into the wild blue yonder of November, the National Novel Writing Month. I’ll keep you posted.

h1

Maybe I Should be Pub Pop

April 2, 2013

It was many moons ago that I coined my online name as Coffeshop Pop. That was back when I was mostly spending a good deal of time at coffee shops writing online content for various websites. Don’t get me wrong, I still am looking for that perfect cup o’ Joe, but sometime during the interim I found another Pacific Northwest specialty – India Pale Ale.

I’ve always been a porter or stout drinker when I happen by the local pub. But a few years ago my wise and retired father introduced me to the joy of IPA. I never was a fan of IPA, and I think it was due to trying a taste here and there of weak versions. I like my beer to have flavor. So one taste of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA and I was hooked. Wow! What flavor! The bitter hops and strong alcohol content is right on tap for a beer lover who likes their beer strong.

But I digress…

As a beer-lovin’ Pac NorWesterner I find myself more often frequenting the long list of craft brew pubs in the area rather than coffee shops. As I sit now with a new IPA recipe in hand from the local McMenamins I stop to consider that “Pub Pop” is more appropriate these days. And here I am on day #2 of unemployment with my trusty notebook ‘puter in front of me typing out a bit of prose and a blog post.

But the scene is infinitely more interesting than ye olde coffee shop. I used to try to find inspiration from the business-type folk who rushed in to Starbucks for a non-fat soy latte, shaken – not stirred. In retrospect their pant suits, ugly ties, and blue tooth ears lacked of character and provided little inspiration whatsoever.

Now I am not in the midst of vegans with long beards, alongside carnivorous burger-eaters who drive hybrid automobiles with bumper stickers that say “COEXIST”. I hear conversations not of baseball or football, but of composting, concerts, local plays, family anecdotes, and of course, conversations of great beer. There is spontaneous laughter, gaiety, enthusiasm, and even heartfelt moments.

I find inspiration here at the pub. And I hope that the colorful characters on whom I eavesdrop find their way into my writing. I’ll have another, please. Prost!