NaNoWriMo 2014

It’s almost November! And you know what that means? NaNoWriMo 2014!

NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is only a few days away and I’m itching to get started. I had two ideas in mind for this month’s project.

Project Ideas

1. “Sweetie” is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel set in Depression-Era Baltimore.

-or-

2. “Buyer Beware” tells the story of a self-centered middle school boy finds an old iPod at a flea market that gives him the ability to hear people’s thoughts.

I asked my kids and they voted unanimously for Story Idea #2. Which one would you like to read?

How will I prepare?

Once I’ve settled on my project idea, I’ll work off an outline. I’ve already laid out the basic 15 beats for Buyer Beware based on what I learned from the wonderful Save the Cat workshop presented by novelist Jessica Brody. So that pre-work is done. If I go with Sweetie, I’ll have to take the time in the next few days to lay out those 15 beats.

Preparation also includes clearing my calendar of all unnecessary lunch and coffee dates, setting times for workouts that don’t interrupt the whole day, and making sure that I note which days I have to go over the recommended daily word count. We will be traveling in November and I’m attending the WPA SCBWI conference this month, so there will be several days when it will be really hard to hit my word count goals.

What’s my plan?

I’d like to hit 2,000 words a day in the first two weeks. That means “BICFOK” or “butt in chair, fingers on keys” will be my mantra. I’ll shove that inner editor aside and work to tell the story. I’ll rely on dialogue a lot, because that tends to be my strong point. I’ll also see if I can add in some character-development scenes, setting description scenes, and work to include sensory information that I often leave out of first drafts. I’m not trying to do these things just for word count but also to strengthen my first drafts and think about including elements that make a good story right from the beginning.

Are you tackling NaNoWriMo this year? What’s your story idea? Good luck!

Homework for Writers: Writer’s Digest January 2011

The next assignment in my Homework for Writers series!

Writer's Digest magazine

January 2011 Writer’s Digest

Writer’s Digest January 2011

Obviously looking to meet the New Year’s resolution crowd, this issue is all about writing and outlining a novel.

– Differentiating between idea theft and simultaneous discovery. This isn’t something I am worried about. This issue lists three ways to tell the difference: Plagiarism is a theft. Trends occur in submissions and not avoiding critique groups out of fear.

– A round-up of ‘literary goodies’ in the Top Shelf section suggests gadgets for writers like AquaNotes, a waterproof notepad for when ideas hit in the shower and the website I Write Like that lets you upload some of your own writing and tells you which famous writer you resemble.

– There’s a good piece on how to fix email blunders. I’ve had my fair share of these but don’t really see myself implementing an email checklist before I hit send. That’s too big of a behavior change for me. Right now I’m just working on slowing down before I hit send.

– A profile of agent Daniel Lazar from Writer’s House who loves historical fiction. I think I could be friends with this guy. In the Breaking In section, I skimmed the books until I saw a YA novel that intrigued me, and was again reminded of the time involved from pitch to publication: over four years.

– I enjoyed the article about the value of a good mentor but actually haven’t found one for my fiction.

– I am working on a YA novel of my own, and my favorite chapter is my first. This issue of WD offers eight ways to write a great first chapter and I think I’ve already incorporated several, including a strong character, the tense, careful amounts of detail. Next is a big article on the emotions that drive our characters is valuable if we want them to live and breathe on our pages. There are basically writing prompts and cues provided here, questions we should all ask ourselves as writers.

– Three secrets of great storytelling: cause & effect, it needs to be believable (even if it’s not real) and escalation – ‘the heart of a good story is tension, the heart of tension is desire.’ Make the reader want what your character wants, or at least know what your character desires.

– When your novel stalls, you realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Good thing I’m a runner. I used to let this common occurrence bother me, limit me, but even though I’ve stalled on working on my current manuscript I haven’t let it get me down. And I haven’t stopped thinking through the story. Just like these tips recommend, taking a step back and evaluating the big picture can help. I need a build-up of ideas in my tank and then they flow right out on to the page.

– The publishing world expects writers to handle much of their own promotion today, and there’s a good article in this issue on the benefits of selecting and working with other writers, in your genre and out, to promote the group of books and benefit together.

Other posts in the Homework for Writers series

September 2010 – The Big 10 Issue

September 2011 – Best Selling Secrets

October 2011 – Get Your Agent