Last Minute NaNoPrep

Hello, friends near and far!  I’m back from my October Hiatus.  It was really lovely to have some time off from blogging.  I didn’t get quite as much editing done as I’d have liked, but I have done a lot of plotting for my newest story!

Yes, that’s right: the story I’m going to be writing in November.  As November 1st is literally right around the corner, here’s some last-minute suggestions for NaNoPrep.  Other bloggers and writers and twitter users-have been throwing around NaNoPrep ideas all month long, so I thought I’d join before #Preptober was entirely over.  Ya know, for the writers out there who are frantically plotting and planning as the last hours before November 1st tick by.

the clock is ticking

 

1. Write a Synopsis

On the NaNoWriMo website, there’s a place for you to add a synopsis to your novel.  I found that writing a super brief (and not very good) synopsis helped me feel more prepared for November.  Here’s my synopsis if you’re interested:

Lewis Montgomery is fourteen hours from home.  He doesn’t know anyone, and he’s not even sure what building his first class is in tomorrow – and the lights in the bathroom keep flickering.  Transitioning into adulthood has enough challenges, but add in disappearances and creatures that only he can see, and Lewis begins to think he’s going mad.

Katie Atwood is psyched to be a sophomore.  She knows this campus like the back of her hand, and she’s ready for a non-eventful year full of studying and reading.  Then Lewis sits next to her in bio class, and the world goes to hell.  Strange happenings seem to follow this boy like a shadow, and Katie’s not sure if she wants to stick around to find out what’s really happening.

A college campus, some non-human beings, and a boy and a girl who remain platonic friends.

Okay, so that’s a very bad synopsis.  I haven’t written the book yet (duh), but that will give you a general idea.

 

2. Design a Cover

On the NaNoWriMo website, there’a also a place to upload a cover for your novel.  (Obviously, if you traditionally publish, you don’t get to create your own real cover for your novel.)  It’s a lot of fun to have a picture to go with your ideas.  It also helps you visualize your novel as an actual, completed, shelf-ready book – instead of just a bunch of random ideas floating around in your head.

book cover 8

 

3. Make a Playlist (or three)

Y’all know the drill.  If you write to music, a great way to feel ready for NaNoWriMo (that doesn’t require too much brain power) is to create a writing playlist or two.  Or three.  Sometimes it’s helpful to create a couple, each with a different mood.  (“Angsty music,” “epic battle sequence,” “sad music,” etc etc.)

hairbrush

[if you don’t understand this gif, then feel free to unsubscribe.  Just kidding, please don’t.  Rather, do a Google search for “Veggie Tales,” and educated yourself.]

 

4. Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

This is perhaps the most important.  There’s a snazzy writing book out there called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.  Confession: I’ve never read the book.  HOWEVER, I love the idea: each character needs a goal, a reason for wanting that goal, and something that stands in their way of achieving it.  The best characters are active characters: they’re working towards something throughout the story.  They make things happen.  (As opposed to passive characters, who just kinda react to events that happen to them.)  So part of planning my novel is figuring out what my main characters want, why they want it, and what is hindering them.  Goal, motivation, and Conflict.

Good luck!  Follow me on NaNoWriMo (username: SharpieBeth) and follow my progress!  If you’re also doing NaNo, I’d love to hear your last-minute NaNoPrep tips!

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A College Campus

Hello my lovely writers!  Sorry it’s been a while.  The fall semester just started up here in the US, and I’ve been a little busy.  This is the third week of classes me, which my friends and I affectionately call “death week” – it’s the week when all the first papers are due, every class suddenly has ten homework assignments, a quiz, and fifty pages of reading, and oh by the way you have an exam next week so START STUDYING!

I’m actually pretty on top of my homework-game.  Not so much the writing-game, but, you know, priorities.

she needs to sort out her priorities

Anyways, if it’s been a while since you’ve been on a college campus, let me tell you: it’s an amazing place for writerly inspiration. 

I’ve said before that I view characters as a jigsaw puzzle of details.  Well, if you need some details, look no further than your college campus (if you live on one).  The extraordinary and strange surround us every day in the form of sleep-deprived young adults and strangely-purposed buildings.

Here are some examples from the few weeks I’ve been back on campus:

  • The guy in the coffee shop at 10pm, bare feet proudly displayed
  • The lady in the library whose office has about two hundred books, a spinning wheel, and a beautiful vintage bicycle
  • The guy in a sports jersey watching a football game alone in an empty lounge, standing and pacing as he watches.  His team scores a goal, and he jumps into the air, complete with the fist punch and cry of victory.
  • The girl with twenty body piercings who is the most gentle, quiet, Hufflepuff-like person I’ve met
  • The guy who skateboards around sitting down on his skateboard
  • The professor who curses a lot, has tattoos up his arms, and is passionate about medieval literature
  • The guy who, no matter the weather, is always wearing a trenchcoat
  • Those two girls that you always see together, no matter what.  Do they never get tired of each other?
  • The guy who can’t help but put his feet on the table in class
  • The girl who snorts when she laughs, even when in class

It’s not just people, it’s places, too:

  • The coffee shop with green and black walls, abstract paintings, and metal chairs that feel like they’re from the 80’s.  Also purple couches, mirrors along one wall, and low, pulsing music that makes you want to dance a little.
  • The oldest building on campus, with narrow, catercorner halls and no elevator and little half-staircases every fifty feet.  It smells like a mixture of old carpet and old books, and it’s very easy to get lost in.  Unmarked doors that seem to lead to Nowhere or Narnia.
  • The little courtyard and fountain, with wooden benches and flowers around it.  If you walk there early in the morning, it feels like you’ve just missed the fairies.
  • The quiet section of the library, back where the endless rows of books stand – a place where whispers earn glares, and it feels like if you make too much noise you’ll wake the furniture.
  • The whole campus on a Sunday morning: quiet and empty; a city with sunshine and birds but no people.

College campuses are fun places to be most of the time.  I’d love to hear your experiences at university if you have any unusual ones to share.  Don’t forget: inspiration walks around you every day, not matter where you go.  (It’s just a little more obvious – and more strange – on a college campus.)

Re-Writes & Happiness

writing in class
This is my notebook for my math class.  Only there’s about twice as much novel-writing as math notes in it, because I write in class a lot.

I’m once again finding myself in the vast green land of Re-Writes.  To be honest, I think this might be my favorite part of novel-creation.  The rough draft is hard because I’m not sure where the story is supposed to be going, and then later, edits are monotonous and they just take forever.

But in between those two, there are Re-Writes.  For me, this is the sweet spot of writing.  It’s the mysterious Wood Between the Worlds, where the real story starts to take place.

Right now I’m working on a fun, snarky, YA urban-fantasy novel that I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2015.  After a year and a half of very little love, it’s finally getting the attention it deserves.  Because here’s the thing: in NaNo, I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted the plot to be.  I knew very little going into that November, and just hard-core ‘Pantsed’ my way through the month (in other words, behaved like a Pantser, or one who flies by the seat of their pants when writing as opposed to outlining first).  So then on December 1st, I was left with 50,002 words of cool characters, a great voice, a fantastic world, and very rambling plot.  So now I’m taking all those things and adding characters, tension, and a real plot.  In other words, I’m doing re-writes.

And it’s amazing.  I’ve already written the rough draft, so I’m that much closer to having a complete, ready-to-share-with-the-world story.  (Or at least share with my mom.)  The fact that the rough draft is already done gives me strength and hope.

done the impossible, that makes us mighty

But also, I’m still in the writing phase (I’m creating like 10 new chapters out of nowhere), which is the best because WRITING IS FUN.  And since I’ve written the end of the story (or a version of the end), I know where this needs to go.  I know (sortof) what needs to happen.  I have the bare-bones story, and I can then add in a plot: complete with conflict, stakes, and motivation.

So, yeah.  Remember this quote?

first draft

I love this quote.  I live by this quote.

For this novel, I’ve written the rough draft.  I’ve hauled in the sand.

And now, my friends, it’s time to start building castles.

Questions I Ask Myself During NaNoWriMo

Hello everybody!  The first week of NaNoWriMo is over, and I’ve stayed above the word-count goal every day so far.  I’ve been to two write-ins and they were both amazing in every way possible.  I love where my story is going [usually].

But I’ve had some questions during the week:

  • How many twizzlers can a normal teenager consume in one day?  (Quite a few, apparently.)
  • Why is it that it takes me an hour to write 500 words when I’m by myself, but only ten minutes during a word-sprint at a write-in?
  • Who invented the whole write-in idea?  Are they a billionaire yet?  (They should be.)
  • Where did the Viking logo come from?  And what does it have to do with writing?
  • What the heck even is happening with my plot?
  • WHY AREN’T YOU BEHAVING LIKE I PLANNED YOU, CHARACTER??!
  • Um, hello.  Who are you?  (Me to a character that just showed up out of the blue.  He’s cool though so I’m keeping him.)
  • How does one spell chauffeur?  (I had to google it ’cause spell check had no idea what I was trying to type.  I know, I’m pathetic.)
  • How does one spell dandelion?  (I didn’t have to google it; I got it right on my first try!)
  • What even is a plot?  Why does my book need one?  They’re not important, right??  😉
  • Why doesn’t every human being participate in NaNoWriMo?  THEY NEED TO!
  • How many times can I complain about writing to my friends before they decide they’re not my friend anymore?
  • Is “teleportations” a word?  My [engineering major] friend said yes.  My spellchecker said no.  So I added it to my dictionary.  HAH, NOW IT’S A WORD.
  • How hard is it going to be to change the first chapter of my story from past tense to present?  (I switched after one chapter, and I like it a lot better this way.)
  • HOW DOES ONE WRITE IN FIRST PERSON?? I mean it’s easy to do, but am I doing it wrong?  I guess that’s what edits are for.  The people at Critique Circle are probably going to tear my writing style to shreds.
  • Has anyone else ever gotten a blister on their finger from typing?  Mine’s mostly gone away, but, like, a blister.  From writing.  [PROOF THAT WRITING IS HARD WORK.  Or something.]
  • Coffee, will you marry me?

Some Late Night Ramblings on Character Development.

It’s October 1st.IMAG1488

The leaves on the trees are turning red brown.

There’s a chill in the air.

Fuzzy slippers and hot cocoa are calling my name.

Oh, and NaNoWriMo is a month away.

But that’s just a side note.

What I really want to talk about today is character development.

My characters for my NaNoNovel are all coming together in bits and pieces.

Here’s five things I’m focusing on for each one right now:

  1. Their name.  Okay, yes, it’s sad: I don’t have a name for any of my characters yet.  Okay, I have ONE name.  But the rest are just “the MC” or “The MC’s Friend #1.”  I have a feeling I will spend some time prowling around the Appellation Station forum.
  2. Their backstory.  Obviously, it’s important to know where my characters are coming from.  How their parents act.  Who their friends are.  What their life experience is.  Who they are before page 1.
  3. What they’d wear.  This may seem a bit strange, but I’m really having fun with this.  When we meet someone for the first time in real life, we judge them by what they wear.  And even after that, the way they dress says a lot about someone.  Obviously, I care a lot more about who my friends are on the INSIDE, but how they present themselves on the outside sometimes reflects a part of their personality.  I’ve gone online and printed out some pictures of clothing different people would wear.  So that when I go to write them, I can visualize.
  4. How they talk.  I’ve had issues in the past with wanting to introduce a character but just not being sure how they should sound.  Not every character needs to have a specific “dialect” or “accent” (wher ye’ write all da werds like dis ta convey how dey’s tawking).  However, I do find it helpful to be able to hear a character’s voice in my head.  Is his voice deep?  Does she giggle a lot?  Does he curse?  Does she babble?  Does he say “Aw, man!” all the time?  Knowing how my characters are going to sound ahead of time lets me write dialogue without even thinking.
  5. Their place in the story.  I’ve developed three main supporting characters already (not to mention the antag and another side character).  What is each character there for?  How do they meet the protag?  How do they get along with each other?  Does this character add tension?  Will they surprise the reader?

What are you guys up to this next month?