NaNoWriMo, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is National Novel Writing Month, where hundreds of thousands of writers gather to bang out many many words in a month. Many writers skip it and many writers treat it as a yearly pilgrimage to Writing Mecca.
NaNoWriMo is my birthday present to myself each year. Every year, I love it. And every year, I hate it...there's simply too much to do in the tiny little month of November. Why isn't it in January? There's nothing going on then.
I tend to arrive at December 1st a little bit out of breath. And still, I love NaNo.
I love the community, the late-night writing sprints, the before and after parties my local team throws. I love the write-ins, the pep talks, the excitement and uploading my word count. I adore getting the chance to encourage my peeps and watch everyone chase their goals.
Whether you're gearing up for NaNoWriMo or not, I wish you luck in your writing goals this month.
If you're feeling the push to "Go 50K or Bust" you are going to love browsing the new website at https://nanowrimo.org/ . They have totally upped their game over there!
The pep talks are still there, under Writer's Resources in the main menu, but there is also a "NaNo Prep" section that is amazeballs. It is like a mini-NaNoWriMo online class.
Seriously. They now have a NaNo Prep Handbook. Yowza! (Where was that thing 10 years ago when I started?)
So far I've spotted:
- Targeted forum discussions with a schedule. Although we missed most of that, you can still go browse the threads.
The Course Outline
- Develop a Story Idea (September 9-13)
- Create Complex Characters (September 16-20)
- Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline (September 23-27)
- Build a Strong World (September 30 – October 4)
- Organize Your Life for Writing! (October 7-11)
- Find and Manage Your Time (October 14-18)
- There's also exercises to complete
- Social accounts to follow
- Progress stickers and writing buddy contracts
- Webinars to listen to
- A "somewhat binding magical contract
- Blog posts - my fave so far is 20 Questions to Ask Yourself When World Building.
And my favorite...an infographic on "caring for a NaNoWriMo writer" - found here.
I told you. Upped. Their. Game. Even if you don't do NaNo, I recommend that NaNo Prep 101 page. The only thing I miss on the new site is the old "Writing Sprints Timer." So far, I haven't found those but I've sent in a Help Desk question. Here's a list of Word Sprint tools...even though the NaNo one doesn't work anymore. *sob*
But let's not forget about those tips, for all of you who love lists.
Behold...the NaNo Team's "Tips for Successful WriMos"
1. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. (Yes, you can laugh at that.)
2. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do it! But it’s also fine to just wing it.
3. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.
4. Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December and beyond. Think of November as an experiment in pure output.
5. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t.
6. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.
7. Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month.
8. Seriously. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.
9. There will be times you’ll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through.
Above are the NaNo team's words. They have them squinched together into just a few tips, but I spread it out. All this wisdom needs to be heard. (There's years of writing pep talks here.)
Now, for #10, which comes to you from the always-awesome Chuck Wendig.
10. Two-for-one on writing advice - Write and Finish.
Writing requires writing.
Writing requires finishing.
That advice is harder than it looks. As always, I love the way he puts it:
"It helps to look at your NaNoWriMo novel as the zero draft — it has a beginning, it has an ending, it has a whole lot of something in the middle. The puzzle pieces are all on the table and, at the very least, you’ve got an image starting to come together (“is that a dolphin riding side-saddle on a mechanical warhorse through a hail of lasers?”).
"But the zero draft isn’t done cooking. A proper first draft awaits. A first draft that will see more meat slapped onto those exposed bones, taking your word count into more realistic territory."
Now, before I jump down to visit with y'all in the comments, I'd like to address the dreaded phenomenon of the Week Two Wall in the NaNo challenge.
This is that spooky time when the initial endorphins have faded and the grind of the 1,667 words-a-day writing schedule sets in. When the shiny has worn right off our fabulous idea. Words like "can't," "shouldn't," and "haven't" begin to rear their ugly heads.
We all hate those words, whether we're doing a writing challenge or not. So before NaNo starts, I'd like to chat about what I consider to be a NaNo "win":
- Your very best = a NaNo win
- Achieving your goal numbers = a NaNo win (ex: my goal this month is 30K, not 50K)
- Finishing a project = a NaNo win
- Forming amazing writing habits = a NaNo win
I think people get twitchy about some things that don't matter during the month of November. You've seen this fabulous cartoon from InkyGirl, right?
NaNo should be fun.
The only word count that matters is YOURS. So, go forth and write your story. Enjoy the hell out of it...that's what NaNoWriMo is all about.
Do you participate in writing challenges? Do you do NaNoWriMo? For my WriMo pals, what do you do in advance of November to get ready?
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About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
by Julie Glover
The last time I was here, I addressed introversion and extroversion and how they relate to whether we're more likely to plot our novel or write by the seat of our pants.
Given the great feedback on that post, I want to continue looking into how the personality traits identified by the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI) may impact our writing process.
What's the MBTI?
Just a quick reminder that the MBTI is a thoroughly researched and often used measure that describes personality on the continua of four dichotomies.
The result of the MBTI is a 4-letter code with a description of that personality type. For instance, an INFP (like me) is Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving. If you want to know your own code, I highly recommended taking the MBTI itself, as it's the best gauge.
However, you can find a rough version to provide your 4-letter personality type at Human Metrics.
Can the MBTI predict writing process?
The short answer is I don't know. While there are theories and plenty of articles suggesting a link, firm research on this question wasn't readily available. (Despite clicking through many pages of Google results.)
However, having studied and administered the MBTI, the most promising connection could be on the last continuum — judging versus perceiving.
Our common definition of judging and perceiving is not what the test's authors mean. Rather, Judging-Perceiving here describes the structure you use when dealing with the outer world. Essentially, do you prefer to get thing decided and done? Or do you like to leave things open-ended?
The Myers-Briggs Foundation lists this characteristics as identifying Judgers and Perceivers:
- I like to have things decided.
- I appear to be task oriented.
- I like to make lists of things to do.
- I like to get my work done before playing.
- I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline.
- Sometimes I focus so much on the goal that I miss new information.
- I like to stay open to respond to whatever happens.
- I appear to be loose and casual. I like to keep plans to a minimum.
- I like to approach work as play or mix work and play.
- I work in bursts of energy.
- I am stimulated by an approaching deadline.
- Sometimes I stay open to new information so long I miss making decisions when they are needed.
Given those descriptions, one might easily surmise that Judgers would be more likely plotters and Perceivers would be more likely pantsers.
What do y'all think?
Again, through the wonder of social media, I posted a question on Facebook to find out if this theory had any support.
I didn't receive nearly as many responses this time, perhaps because I was late getting the question up. But I also suspect that, while many people know whether they're introverts or extraverts, fewer know their J-P designation. In total, I only had 18 responses to work with—hardly a statistical sample.
At this point, the information is anecdotal, but it's still interesting in that there was an imbalance. Judgers tended to be plotters, while Perceivers tended to be pantsers.
My Survey Results
Obviously, more data is needed! I'd love to hear from y'all in the comments.
Does personality play into writing process?
As I've been looking at theories on personality type and writing process, most of it is conjecture. Which is little surprise, since not only are the four dichomoties of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator on continua, but the whole plotter versus pantser question lies on a continuum as well.
Moreover, what do those terms even mean? Two people who do the exact same thing — for example, outline plot points then free-write each chapter — might differ, with one saying plotter and the other saying pantser. Where you fall on the continuum is largely self-defined. And that's not even addressing other monikers like plontser, plantser, quilter, puzzler, and more.
Even so, I believe personality is a factor. Though maybe the better indication is the whole 4-letter personality type. Perhaps it's ESFPs who are fairly certain pantsers while INTJs are likely plotters, with a lot of good guessing in between.
Since I'm super-curious, I'm hoping to launch an informal study soon to see what connection, if any, there really is between personality type and writing process. If a strong correlation exists, that data could be particularly helpful to writing rookies or experienced-but-frustrated writers who would benefit from changing their approach.
Meanwhile, are you a Judger or a Perceiver? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser? Do you think those are connected?
A long time ago, Julie Glover administered the MBTI in her master's degree internship. While still a fan of personality type, she now writes cozy mysteries, supernatural suspense, and young adult fiction. Be sure to check out Muse Island series, which begins with Mark of the Gods.
While Julie is a perceiver/pantser, her co-writer is more judger/plotter. But they still work well together!
by John Peragine
One of the hardest things to do as a writer is to be organized and business-minded. We want to live within our worlds of fantasy and dare anyone or anything to break us away.
I am one of the lucky few who can say that their day job is writing. It is also my midnight job, my weekend job, my holiday job and my I’m-going-to-be-late-to-dinner-downstairs job.
I write non-fiction, fiction, and articles. A while back I realized that to be successful at writing, I needed a plan and a schedule. Not only for my writing, but for everything else that's part of being a successful writer (that I often procrastinated with).
Writing without a plan for publishing in some form is journaling. It is for your eyes only, equal to keeping those private words locked in a diary stuck under a loose floorboard.
But what if you want to see your work out in the world, have fans, and (hopefully) get paid for it?
I've found no magical formula where publishing and marketing your writing does not take time and effort. The trick is where to spend your time and resources.
Do you post on social media?
Do you write query letters?
Do you network and meet people?
What is the one best way to get your work out into the world?
[That last one is a trick question because there is no “one” way.]
It takes a myriad of cogs and wheels working together. Your job as the writer is to add quality parts, and to keep those parts oiled and maintained daily. Writing is a long game, where progress takes place over time.
Patience and diligence are the keys to a successful writing career.
Below are my Six Daily Activities to build a solid building career.
It seems simple, but writing often gets slotted in after laundry, floor scrubbing, and cleaning the duct work. I joke with my clients that the difference between them and a published author is that the published author finished their book.
Find the right time of day and just write. Some people do better with word count or time goals.
I spend time every day meeting new people or connecting with my sphere of influence. I make sure I keep in touch with the people I enjoy working with. This includes authors, agents, editors, artists, people in the publishing industry, and more. This is done via phone, email, snail mail, or in person.
These connections are vital, not only for your business but for your mental health. It can be lonely, frustrating, and even depressing to be holed up writing day after day. Connecting with other human beings in a meaningful way is important. I network for at least an hour every day in some fashion.
3. Connect with the world.
After I have connected with my sphere of influence, I step out into a larger sphere through the Internet. I blog, write articles, and get on social media. It can be a trap, and so I limit myself, and I have a daily plan of what I want to say and where.
This is how you build your sphere of influence with new people, connect with others you don’t talk to you as often, and also flex your writing skills for others to enjoy. You can let people know what you are up to, and give them the opportunity to see your work.
4. Query people.
I am always looking for the next opportunity. Writing is a numbers game. The more you query, the better your chances of being published.
Look for opportunities from your sphere of influence. I spend at least half an hour a day, sometimes more doing this activity. This can also include creating and signing contracts, or looking for opportunities to present at conferences.
5. Building your writing business.
This time includes activities like working on a website, or social media profiles. I order business cards and look for other swag that I can take to events and making sure my information is up to date, including a current bio and headshot. Old material or pictures that no longer look or sound like you are not effective.
I spend about a half-hour a day on this task.
Every morning I review my calendar and lists of things I want to accomplish for the day, week and month. I create goals for myself. I used to use a lot of slips of paper, but more recently I have organized myself by using my iPad and Apple Pencil. This way I can keep all my materials in one place. I spend about twenty minutes on organizing.
Setting goals and achieving them is important, and they are more likely to happen if you write them down. If you do the math, you realize these activities take 2-3 hours a day. But it is a business and your career is worth it. Commit the time, and the opportunities in your writing career will blossom.
What habits have helped your writing success? Are there things you tried that proved unsuccessful? Please share your experience down in the comments!
Hey, WITS Friends! John is a new member of the Writers in the Storm team and we are excited to have him. Please say hello to him down in the comments! Although he lives in the Midwest, he will be with me (Jenny) on the West Coast later this month when he presents two workshops at the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference (Oct 24-27). We hope to see you there!
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John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, The No Frills Guide to Book Marketing, will be released in Summer 2020.
Hey y'all! Meet Ellen Buikema, our newest member of the Writers in the Storm team. She is currently in a sleepy town in Mexico, writing her latest novel and practicing her Spanish.
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I can write anywhere. Right?
After my husband and I retired from high stress jobs, we sold or gave away most of our belongings and hit the road. I would write as we traveled. No problem. I can write anywhere.
As it turned out, major changes were not good for my writing.
Change #1: My writing pals went to heaven.
Before beginning our journey, I composed on my laptop in the kitchen or at the dining room table, always with a pup nearby keeping me company. Both our dogs crossed over the Rainbow Bridge a few months before our journey started.
Generally, I wrote in quiet. I never stay in front of my writing materials when I am stuck for what happens next. I’d lay on the living room floor and contemplate what to write. Bailey, our black lab and unofficial therapy dog, would often join me.
Change #2: The brain make-over commenced.
We planned to start our journey in Mexico. We’d studied Spanish for several months before leaving the U.S. so we felt confident about the language. But focusing on a second language had an unexpected temporary effect on my writing. Apparently, learning a second language causes some interference with the first one.
According to an article about neuroplasticity, the brain rewires itself all the time. According to the article, “When you change your beliefs, learn something new or become mindful of your habitual reactions to unpleasant emotions, you actually alter the neurochemistry and the structure of your brain.” We are the architects of our own brains. When we shift our perception and learn something new, it alters its neurochemicals as well as structure.
Changing our mind literally changes our brain. Exciting as that is, I didn’t anticipate the new language would temporarily hinder my writing. Code-switching, alternating between languages, is not fun.
Change #3: The journey began.
Stop 1 – Central Mexico
The first place we landed was gorgeous! We rented a home and set about to make it comfy. However, it was winter in Central Mexico, at an altitude of 6000 feet, with a fireplace that provided little warmth in an uninsulated house. Cold breezes blew through cracks around windows, doors, and walls. Brrrr.
Space heaters helped me warm up enough to edit, but new material - No way! It seems that discomfort makes me a cranky minimalist writer. In truth, altitude changes everyone’s brain.
Did you know that high altitude living makes you less hungry?
Excerpt from an actual conversation with my husband:
“Hey sweetie, are you interested in breakfast?”
“No, not really. What time is it?”
“Let me look at my phone. Oh wow, it’s afternoon!”
I researched appetite changes (I like research) and learned that the hormone leptin, which plays a role in metabolism and appetite control, works differently at higher altitudes. Losing some weight I always appreciated but I still wasn’t writing much.
Stop 2 - Western Coastal Mexico
Next, we traveled to western Mexico near the coast. It’s a party town with lots of things to do, great food, and scores of happy tourists and locals. At the first place, every morning began with someone serenading the neighbors. His fabulous singing voice didn’t make up for the 6 am wakeup from the courtyard. It reminded me very much of the movie Rear Window but without the Raymond Burr character.
I still wasn’t getting much writing done.
We moved to a condo with a glorious view of the shoreline with amazing sunsets. But those sunsets didn’t make up for the noise. Open air vehicles, pulmonias and auregas, blasted music into the wee hours of the morning along the Malecon (a thoroughfare) directly in front of our building. The condo was tiny. I developed a syndrome call, “Ooooh, a squirrel!”
Another month with little to no writing.
Stop 3: Quiet neighborhoods are the charm
Since moving into a relatively quiet neighborhood near the port, I am finally comfortable enough to compose new work. Our very patient neighbors help us with our Spanish hurdles (like conjugating verbs) and are patient with our phone translators, which are often out, even while we’re sharing a beer in front of the house.
The Lesson: Know what works for YOU.
From quiet to chaos was quite a lot of adjustment, and it was disastrous for the creation of new material. My husband and I dove headfirst into culture-shock and encountered more noise than I ever imagined.
Now that I’ve settled into relative comfort (and I’m not code-switching languages as much), the writing is coming back. I’ve begun a basic outline for my next YA historical fiction manuscript, and it feels glorious.
All will be well, poco a poco.
Have you had sudden changes to your routine halt your progress? How do you re-focus and get back on track? Share your tricks down in the comments!
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Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents and a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Work In Progress, The Hobo Code, is YA historical fiction.
by Lisa Hall-Wilson
Many people take my deep point of view master classes because they’re looking to create an emotional gut punch for readers. They want readers to feel like they’re IN the story, in real time, and digging deep emotionally is the powerhouse tool of deep point of view.
Many writers have heard of a story arc and a character arc (how a character changes over the course of the story), but I’ve found it helpful when writing in deep point of view to think in terms of an emotional arc. How does your character feel change (this can include thinking and decisions) not just over the whole novel but at a scene by scene level.
Emotion Stems From Doing
Emotions are reactions to things. It doesn’t always feel this way, I know. A thought, something someone says, something we see or hear or touch reaches a memory – it can all spark an emotional response. Emotions don’t spring up spontaneously, they’re caused by an action. Try to keep that in mind, because if the reader can connect what sparked that emotion they can often intuit WHY the character feels that emotion (show don’t tell).
Emotions aren’t a cerebral experience. We feel emotions physically, in a tangible way – it’s not just all in our heads. In deep point of view, the common rule is to avoid using emotion words (love, hate, angry, etc.) because it’s telling. Here’s why: emotions are felt in the body, reflected in how we think and talk to ourselves, how we react to outside stimuli. Emotions force us TO DO something.
When critiquing, I often write “I don’t understand why the character feels this way.” Emotion is the by-product of intention, not the goal. Back to my first point in this section, emotions are reactions – every reaction needed an action to set it off. Donald Maass, in his book The Emotional Craft of Fiction, talks about how story is a spider’s web: a tug in one small part of the web should cause reverberations felt through the entire web. If an emotion can be felt in complete isolation from everything else going on in the story, maybe it needs to be cut.
Facts Don’t Equal Emotions
Ever felt a strong reaction to something but not been able to pinpoint why? We can’t settle for that as writers. Here’s why. We might not be able to articulate WHY we feel a certain way, but if we get curious and ask ourselves why we feel that way, what this emotion makes us think of, what it reminds us of – there’s always context for that emotion.
It’s that context for an emotion that we need to show readers even if the character isn’t consciously aware of why they feel that way. It means that the memory causing an emotional reaction might not be revealed in the same scene where the emotional reaction occurs.
Writers are concerned about making sure a character’s emotions make sense – and fair enough – that’s important – but emotions only have to make sense to that character in that moment. If written well, you shouldn’t need to explain or justify why the character feels that way.
In KL Armstrong’s novel Wherever She Goes the main character is crippled by self-doubt to such an extent that it’s really hard to connect with her initially. But those emotions were visceral to the character and, not very far into the book, small actions cause big emotions. Because of that initial foray into the character’s self-doubt I never questioned WHY the character felt the way she did or why those emotions fuelled her reactions. Because of those painful initial wince-worthy self condemning pages, the decisions the character makes later in the book make total sense (even if it’s something I would never choose to do myself).
Emotions are confusing, irrational, and non-linear. A good writer is able to harness that to her advantage to add tension and conflict to a character’s emotional arc. Emotions aren’t stable; they’re subtle, nuanced, and very individual. They are based on personal experiences, goals, morals, and because of that should be incredibly intimate and individualized.
Yes, readers need to connect with a character, but emotions are the best way to grab a reader. Even if the reader has never shared that experience, they will understand the power of emotions.
Emotional Development Is A Long Slope Not A Steep Climb
Characters should grow and change incrementally over the length of the story. The growing intensity and conflict in the story causes/creates opportunity for emotional change/transformation. Each story obstacle should force greater tension, greater internal conflict, etc.
Many writers get confused with this. They want to write an emotional story and that’s fine, but there still has to be a story arc that causes the emotional reactions. Characters still need a story problem they’re constantly working to resolve. Without that, your story becomes a collection of episodic emotional gut punches without purpose. It won’t feel like it’s going anywhere, it’s a constant train wreck for the character for no reason.
The emotional arc needs to be scalable. It’s fine to start with shock and awe if you want to with your inciting incident, but keep in mind that the mirror moment in the middle, the all is lost moment, still has to out-do whatever emotions were present in the inciting incident.
Emotions Affect The Body
Emotions are primarily felt in the body, and we each carry emotion a little differently. Do you carry tension in your neck, shoulders, or in your gut? When you are stifling back emotions, what hurts – your throat, your chest, sinuses? This is all very individual.
Challenge yourself. Instead of writing that your character is angry, in love, attracted to, envious – whatever, get curious about how that emotion FEELS. How does that emotion affect the character’s body, their posture, their tone of voice, even internally – their throat, shoulders, neck, scalp, feet, etc. Study the body language of people having a personal conversation – even in the movies – and see how most of the time a person’s body language gives away more information about how they feel than their words do. We’re often very careful to guard our words, but emotions practically seep through our pores.
Do you have issues with writing in deep point of view? Are there tips and ideas you've discovered in your own writing? Share them down in the comments!
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Lisa Hall-Wilson is a national award-winning freelance journalist and author who loves mentoring writers. Fascinated by history, fantasy, romance, and faith, Lisa blends those passions into historical and historical-fantasy novels. Find Lisa’s blog, Beyond Basics for intermediate writers, at www.lisahallwilson.com.
If you’re interested in learning more about deep point of view, make sure to check out my free 5 Day Deep Point Of View Challenge happening on Facebook starting October 14th. You can also learn more about my method acting for writers masterclass and membership from the Challenge group – both of those open up the week of October 14th as well.
Join Lisa’s deep point of view challenge group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/5daydeeppovchallenge/