A NaNo Novel & More

Planning

Planning: Remainders

Tomorrow is the big day. I’m sure you know that. I’m just reminding you in case you’ve forgotten!

That means, for me, today is the day that I work on remainders. Not just those in my novel, but also those in my life. I’m buying groceries, making a few meals that can be shoved into the fridge and/or freezer and reheated, doing laundry, paying bills, dropping books off at the library (I won’t have time to write for 30 days, nor will I want to — once I have a novel voice in my head, it’s easily swayed, so I stay away from most fiction reading). I’m also making sure that I am caught up on my freelance work, my phone calls and my emails. Life doesn’t stop because you’re NaNoing (sadly), but there’s no reason I can’t get a little ahead of the game.

On the novel front, I’m making sure I have what I consider to be the basics:

  • I know what genre my novel is in (steampunk fantasy)
  • I know my estimated word count for the completed novel (my goal is 60,000 for November; my estimation is that the finished novel will be close to 70-75,000).
  • I have my logline and my synopsis (to be posted soon, for those of you who’ve donated!)
  • I know how many sections (3), chapters (about 12) and scenes (about 40) I will have.
  • I have my word count goal (2,000 words per day).
  • I have my organization and writing program (Scrivener)
  • I have my characters (including most names, appearances, background, etc.)
  • I have my support system in place (it’s a pretty low key support system, because I’m mostly self-motivated and driven, but I’ve also let friends and family know that this month will be nutso).
  • I have my coffee card all paid up (my vital writing space has always been a coffee shop).

I think (hope!) that’s all. That’s enough. That’s a lot. But I’m ready to sit down tomorrow (chomping at the bit, if you will), and I have a plan. Sometimes that’s the most you can ask for.

And for those of you who’ve donated — thank you again! Your super-secret decoder ring password will work for all the rest of the posts through November.

For those who want to donate but haven’t yet, you can donate any time in November, and still get access.

For those who have donated and who don’t mind spoilers (warning! spoiler alert! you’ve been warned!), you can read the log line and (very rough) synopsis for What the Moon Saw here.

Watching the moon rise upon NaNo, s.

***


Protected: Planning: This Book, Revealed

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Planning: Time Off

I know — if you’re doing NaNo, you’re probably in a semi-frenzy at the moment, thinking about writing a novel, planning the novel, planning how to handle the rest of your life while your head is down, putting words on the page. You’re probably thinking: “This is the dumbest idea ever” or “I’m just going to bow out now” or “There’s no freaking way I’m going to finish this.”

You’re probably not thinking about time off. But I’m going to urge you to do just that. You can’t write for 30 days straight and not have your brain go bonk. Not even for something as awesome as NaNoWriMo. In order to win NaNo, you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Most people divide 50,000 by 30 and end up with a goal of 1,667 words per day. If, however, you schedule yourself with three full days off (probably won’t need one the first week, because you’ve been chomping at the bit) and you divide 50,000 by 27 days instead, you end up having to write 1851 words per day. Barely two hundred more each day. And you’ve now got three whole days in which you can back off a little bit from your novel and breathe some. It can reinvigorate you. And if you choose the days ahead of time, it can give you something to look forward to.

Of course, time off doesn’t work for everyone — for some, it means it’s hard to get back to the writing. For others, they must have the same routine every day in order to continue to write. If you’re one of those people, time off might be a bad idea. However, think of it this way: If you still aim for 1851 words per day, it will give you a little extra padding for that final week when you’re running out of steam.

I trick myself in just that way: I pretend the goal for NaNo is 60,000 words, which means I must write 2,000 words per day. This is easy the first week, a little harder the second, much harder the third, and feeling near impossible by the fourth. But I’m already ahead of the game, so by then, falling behind isn’t as big of a deal. And I have my three days off planned out — all three in a row, while I’ll be heading off to the Steampunk Convention in Seattle, Nov. 19-21. Something to look forward to, a place where I’ll be inspired, and three days off to return to the real world and take a breather before I plunge back in for the final week.

Far along the moonlit path, s.

***


Planning: Getting It All Together

If you’ve been following along with the bouncy, trouncy ride that is my planning process, you know that so far, I’ve gotten these pieces into place (in some sort of very basic way, at the least):

I will admit that the first three years I did NaNo, I didn’t have any of the above.

What I did have then was:

  • a general idea
  • a main character
  • a point of view
  • a ‘voice’
  • a crapton of determination

What I’ve discovered is that those early elements were my strengths, the things that came easily to me. I’m good with characters, with point of view, with voice. What I suck at (still) is plotting, planning, and understanding the shape of a novel as a whole. Thus, loglines and synopses freaked me out and scared me and I avoided them completely. So, this is what I suggest: If there’s something about this process that makes you feel overwhelmed, tired, scared or just completely daunted, that’s probably your weakness and there’s no way to get stronger at it than by working on it.

Imagine you go to the gym, and you have really strong arms. You love working your arms — it’s so fun, and you lift a lot of weights, woowoo! But your legs aren’t as strong — you get tired, you get grumpy, your muscles hurt. It’s freaking hard.

You have two options (well, three, but we’re not going to count quitting as an actual option)

  1. Work your arms more and more. Have the best arms in the world. Feel good about yourself. Feel safe and strong. Forget you have legs. They’re there, after all, they get you from one place to another. They don’t need to be any better. Look at yourself after 30 days and see that your arms are fantastic, but your legs are exactly the same as they were before.
  2. Work your arms just as much as they need (and as you need to feel good), then focus on your legs. Yes, you’re going to be grumpy, tired, scared, overwhelmed, depressed, or a million other things. Look at yourself after 30 days and see that your arms are just as good as they always were (maybe a little better) but your legs are also stronger, healthier, better. Working your legs has gotten easier.

Okay, it’s probably odd to equate writing a novel to going to the gym, so you can fill in another analogy if you like. But the truth is, you should know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. And you should be CHOOSING to do whatever it is you’re going to do with them. Plotting is hard for me (I think I mentioned that, right?) but every time I do it, it gets easier. Every time I do it, I understand it better. Every time I do it, it gets lets overwhelming.

So, what’s your weakness? And what are you going to do about it this NaNoWriMo?

Stumbling over the moonlit path, s.

***


Planning: Synopsis

It’s just three days until NaNo officially starts, and I’m hearing a lot of “I don’t know what I’m writing about” going on in emails and blogs and Facebooks. This is an issue that is not at all new to me — the amount of times that I started NaNo (or a novel in general) with no idea what I was going to write about is …well, the amount is far too many. I guess I always felt like if I narrowed my options down too much, I was somehow losing out on all the other ideas out there, or otherwise screwing myself.

But in truth, after having done this a handful of times, I’ve come to believe that if you don’t have one solid, strong, clarifying idea (even if it’s a bad one), then you’re going to spend a lot of time chasing rabbits down rabbit- and gopher-holes for the entire month of November. It’s scary to say, “I’m going to pick this one idea, I’m going to plan it out, and THAT is exactly what I’m going to write about.” I used to rail against it in a way that was akin to a phobia and a tantrum combined. “I WILL NOT GO NEAR THAT PLANNING THING! I WILL NOT!”

And now I’ve become a convert. I must plan. I must have a logline. I must have a general outline. I must know who my characters are and what they look like. Otherwise, I have learned that (for me), the NaNo experience will be good, but the resulting novel will not.

So, I’ve spent the past few days writing the synopsis of my novel. It’s not a good synopsis (yet), but it’s getting there. And it’s helping me see the holes in my story that I would not have seen until I’d written my way to day 20 and then went, “Ah, hell.” Writing a synopsis is scary. SO SO SO incredibly scary. I mean, big time. But it’s also incredibly helpful. Even if you stray far and wide from your synopsis (I always do), even if you aren’t really sure what your synopsis is saying yet. Even if you aren’t sure of anything. Just TRY writing a synopsis and have that learning experience. That’s my suggestion.

My other synopsis suggestion at this point: Don’t stress about getting it ‘perfect’. Right now, it’s just for you, and it’s really just a guideline to help you as you begin writing. No one else has to see it, and it’s probably going to change a lot, so just get something, anything, down. You can always tweak it later.

That being said, here are some synopsis-writing resources:

Or you can do what I do, and use this sort of formulaic outline to put your synopsis together:

  1. A section about your Main Character’s “normal” world and what he or she wants from it (main goal).
  2. A section about the inciting event that sets things in motion (and changes the main goal).
  3. A couple of paragraphs about the big, middle events of the novel (escalating in scale).
  4. A section that shows the novel’s climax AND how the Main Character will handle said climax.
  5. A bit about the wrap-up.

Unlike a blurb or a teaser, in the synopsis, you want to write your ending in detail — because you as the writer need to know a. what the ending is and b. how your character finds the balls to deal with said ending. Even if it changes.

If you’ve already donated and have the password, you’re invited to view the synopsis (and breakdown of said synopsis) that got my first novel accepted before it was written. Of course, it’s good to remember there are a million ways to plan, prep, organization, and all of that. This is just the way that’s worked for me!

Walking in the moonlight, s.

***


Planning: Logline 2

Working on my logline for the novel today, and thought you might be interested in watching the rough draft of it come to life.

Here, as a reminder, is the basic logline idea:

“When [MAIN CHARACTER] [INCITING INCIDENT], he [CONFLICT]. And if he doesn’t [GOAL] he will [CONSEQUENCES].”

Also, if you want to see some loglines in action, check out Miss Snark’s First Victim, where she’s doing logline critiques. They’re great examples, and might just get your motor humming!

And here I go:

1st TRY: When a legendary mercenary promises to save the children of magic, no matter the cost, she has no idea that she will be engaged in a life-long struggle. If she doesn’t succeed, the world of magic will disappear.

NOTES: Ick, right? Boring. We don’t know who the main character is, or who is trying to defeat her. And the stakes are not high enough. Magic will disappear? Who cares? Back to the drawing board.

2nd TRY: When a legendary mercenary loses the magical child she has promised to protect to the G&G, she knows she must risk everything — her heart, her future, her friends and even her life — to get the girl back, unarmed. If she doesn’t, the G&G will use the girl’s magical genes to create a wooded world so dark and bloody that not even the moon will be able to survive.

NOTES: A little overwrought for my standards. And a little too general. There are a lot of big-meaning words (heart, future, etc) but they don’t actually mean anything. Somewhere between those two would be good.

3rd TRY: Crim is the last Petit Chaperon, one of those sworn to protect the few bits of magic that remain in the world. However, the ever-mechanical world has moved on without her, and most days, that means keeping the museum clean and keeping her weapons at the ready, just in case. When she hears word that a magical child has been found, Crim knows that this is what she has been waiting for — she must save the girl. But Crim is not the only one who wants her; the G&G is hunting her as well, and if the girl falls into the wrong hands, everything and everyone that Crim knows and loves will be gone.

NOTES: Not all the way there, but it feels stronger. It’s too long still and unwieldy — you can almost see my brain working as I attempt to figure out what the really important bits are in the story — but it has some of the voice that I’d like to see and it shows more clearly who and what are at stake this time. Also, I realized that Crim does far more than keep the museum clean, which means that I’m rethinking her role right from the start. Lastly, the consequences aren’t yet dire enough to really make for big reading. Yes, all those she loves will be gone, but there’s a world-wide consequence that I haven’t quite put my fingers on yet.

So, a good solid start for a logline, but not quite nailed yet. I’m going to do a synopsis here soon, and usually that helps clarify the logline for me.

Also, if the logline doesn’t quite make sense to your particular way of planning and thinking, I wanted to recommend the Snowflake Method as another way of getting organized. I know that author Kathleen Bradean is using it this year, and I used it once myself in the past. If you decide to try it, let me know how it works for you!

Writing beneath the moon, s.

***


Planning: Word Meter

The goal for NaNoWriMo is very specific: 50,000 words in 30 days. For the first week, I feel like that word count is doable. I’m rolling along, quick-quick. And then I start to sputter. Sometimes, the best way for me to keep going is to keep a very visual tracker of my word count on my blog or homepage. This is true not just during NaNo, but any time I’m working on a longer piece and I have a specific word count that I’m aiming to hit.

Thankfully, there are a number of word meters available out there, including:

  • Honorless, very simple, set your own goal, straight html
  • Yahoo NaNo widget looks pretty. I haven’t figure out how to use it yet, though.
  • Dave’s Scribometer is designed specifically for those using WordPress.
  • Language is a virus also has a simple word meter for NaNo
  • Writertopia has a simple counter bar as well as a very fun graphic counter.
  • Svenja has a nice, pretty one that works on WordPress widgets.
  • Critique Circle offers one that even links to your NaNo wordcount

I tend to use the easiest wordcount meter, so that I can be sure to add my newest page count in each day. Plus, I like the ones that let me choose my colors. I’m all about red this year. Obviously.

If you have any additional word counters that you suggest, let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to add them!

Lost in the wild woods, s.

***