If you are a mostly solitary writer like me, the prospect of joining a writer’s group may seem overwhelming. Maybe you don’t even know where to start. But I believe having the support of other writers is essential to a satisfactory NaNo experience. And so here are a couple tips to join or form your own group.
1.Talk to your friends. If any of them are writers you might have a ready made writer’s group – that is if you feel comfortable sharing with them. I know sometimes it’s better to have people at a distance take a look at (and yes, critique) your work and keep your friends in their supportive role.
2.Check MeetUp. I know, it’s one of those meet people online sort of sites. But they have specific groups for writers. It might be worth a try.
3.Check your local library. Sometimes libraries host writing groups, and if you live in a city you’re sure to get a diverse group there!
4.Check NaNo. There are write-in groups and forums for a bit more distance, if you aren’t interested in actually meeting people in person.
5.If you are in college, there may be a campus group for you to join. Or, you may be able to find other writers in the English department. It’s not the only place to find them, but it’s the one place that’s a guarantee.
Good luck finding your group!
Next time: Caffeine
It’s true that reading and writing go hand in hand. That’s why, while we are getting ready to write a novel in 30 days, we need to keep reading. It will keep our creative juices flowing, keep our minds sharp. And keep reading during NaNo too.
And while we’re talking about it, join NaNo. They have tons of resources, and when the going gets tough during November, having hundreds of people to talk to will be invaluable.
Next time:Writer’s group
Paper, phone app, pencil, pen, Word, Scrivener. We have a lot of choices when it comes to what medium we use for writing. I know plenty of people (myself included) who like to handwrite everything before transcribing it onto the computer. I also know that (it would seem) the majority of writers type their first drafts.
Most of the time, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. And to be fair, it still comes down to personal preference. HOWEVER. When writing for NaNo, we must keep track of our word count, and that is easier with a computer or phone based system. Sure, we could count the the words we write, even count a few pages and do some quick math with averages and multiplying, but that would take an excessive amount of time. We could transcribe everything, essentially doubling our time working on the book, but we’re already pressed for time.
For these reasons I highly suggest typing from the start, because it will make the process smoother. I plan on using google docs because I can access it from any computer, and from my phone. That way I can write during down time when I’m out as well as during my designated writing times.
Whatever you choose, though, is perfect for you.
Next time: Keep Reading
So, we have our characters, our conflict, our general plot. Now for the stuff that ties it all together: events. Think of several big things that are going to happen in your novel. Maybe your main character gets kidnapped. Maybe they kidnap someone else. Maybe they go to the moon and realize they forgot to bring enough oxygen to get home (does it even work like that?). Just make a list of the things that you think should happen in your book.
Got the list? Good. Now, number them (or put them on separate note cards or whatever works for you). Try to organize them into a path that goes from inciting incident, to roadblocks, to climax, to resolution (and everything in between, of course). Don’t worry about a detailed outline. Don’t worry about having everything perfectly worked out. Just give yourself some guidelines for when we finally get to write this thing!
To clarify what I mean, I’ll share a bit. Some of my plot stepping-stones are: a girl takes a name, the secret message, enemy in the camp, mother’s passing. Get the idea?
Of course, if you want to outline a little more fully, do it! I like plot paths because when I try to outline, I feel like I never have enough details, or the right details. And then I feel constricted to only write what I have outlined. Plot paths give me more freedom, which in turn helps me write more.
Next time: The Medium
…into believing you can do it.
So let me tell you something: I am the first to say I can’t do something. It’s a real problem. And so this is probably the most important piece of advice I can give, and it doesn’t end when NaNo starts. It doesn’t end when NaNo stops. It never ends.
You have to tell yourself you can do it, even if you don’t believe it. Example: I’ve picked up running in a more intense way than I ever have before. It’s hard. Really hard. At first I didn’t worry about how far or how long I could run. And then I challenged myself to run to a nearby street. Turns out this street is almost a mile away. And so now, every time I’m at the gym, I coach myself into running a mile because I know I can, no matter how hard it is. And you know what, I’ve written a novel before. Not in thirty days, but that’s not what’s important. What is important is that I’ve done it.
Even if you haven’t written a novel yet, or much of anything, tell yourself you can do it. The more you say it, the more you believe it. And you’ll get it done.
Next time: Plot Paths
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been preparing for NaNo all month and, without really meaning to, stopped writing. This is bad because we’re falling out of the practice of writing, so writing for two hours a day come November is going to be that much harder. Sure, during normal novel prep it is pretty usual to only write snippets or notes, but during NaNo prep we’ve got to keep ourselves in the habit of writing.
Easier said than done, I know. We’ve all got such hectic schedules, so many distractions, and so much to think about. Heck, I almost forgot to write this post today. And when I remembered, I thought about skipping it altogether. But that would’ve have been a disservices to you and to me.
So here is my encouragement: write a little bit every day. I don’t care what. A blog post, a novel scene, a poem. Whatever you want. Just be sure that you keep writing.
Next time: Coach Yourself
I think we are all aware that to write a book means we have to do at least some research.* During November, our focus should be on writing, not research. So while you still can, get at it. I recently picked up a book about Genghis Khan, not because I’m planning to write about the Mongol Empire, but because I’m planning to write a fantasy novel where the main culture is nomadic, but not entirely herders. The first thing I thought of was “Mongolian” and I went with it. Of course, there are lots of nomadic societies, and I’m sure I’ll be researching some of those as well.
Anyway, research is going to be very important. And what’s more important are NOTES. Be sure to take notes while you read (even if you are reading on a website) so that you A)know where you got the information (in case you need more, or context), and B)have the information readily available.
Good luck with research!
Next time: Keep Writing
*I used to think that writing fantasy meant I would never have to research anything ever. HAHAHA. But at least I get to research things that I think are cool!
It’s late coming today (and will be again tomorrow) but here I am with today’s NaNo Prep tip, and it’s all about scheduling.
Last week we had you do a time hunt – looking for open chunks of time and time wasters. I started by recording everything I did for how long, but being busy that just didn’t take. I was acutely aware, however, of how I was spending my time all week. Aware enough that I’ve cut back on my time-wasting activities already.
Anyway, now that we have a record (or are aware of our time-wasting habits) we can begin to schedule ourselves for the month of November. Yes, some people might have this easier than others. If you have a set schedule for school or work, it will be easier to block off chunks of time for that and use what you’ve got left to your advantage. For others of us who work irregular hours and may have just started a second job (the reason for my lateness of today’s post) it might be a little harder, especially if we don’t have our schedules very far in advance. But I still encourage you to use this step when you get your schedules!
Things we should schedule: writing (duh), sleeping (can’t be productive if we don’t get enough sleep), exercise (important for every month of the year!), meal-prep time and meal clean-up time, commute and work time, and yes, relaxation time. With these things scheduled, you should have a fool-proof agenda for getting your novel written. Of course, we can’t plan for unexpected events, so always do as much writing as you can whenever you can!
Next time: Research
I’m guessing a lot of you know about the types of conflict. I’m talking person vs. person, person vs. nature, person vs. self and person vs. society. Okay, got those? Now throw them out the window. It’s not that these aren’t useful, but we aren’t in English class and we don’t need to adhere to strict formulas. We are writers after all, and thinking with this four-type system leads to 1)writing ourselves into corners, 2) trying to stick to a single type of conflict, and 3) forgetting about all the other conflicts out there!
Okay, so when we are thinking about our protagonist and our plot, what fits and what doesn’t? What sort of obstacles are there to the protagonist achieving their goal (aka, what stands in the way of the plot being completed)? For my character, it is being sheltered from a wider truth – that her society is not the end-all-be-all, and that she has to grow up and work with different types of people to achieve her goal. Those are stumbling blocks, but with a little work they can be molded into some great conflict.
So have at it. Go make your conflict!
Next time: Schedule yourself
Like choosing your MC, choosing your plot is highly individualized, and pretty obvious. You need some sort of plot to participate in NaNo, since it’s key to stories. So really, I don’t need to go into the whole, plot this plot that speech.
I will say, if you are struggling, check out the book “20 Master Plots and How to Use them.” I was skeptical at first (anything that says “master list” is pretty much ignored by me) but I’m really glad I picked it up. It doesn’t tell you how to write or what to write, but talks about different types of plot and key elements of each one. Pretty useful.
Anyway, if you are struggling with this one, spend the weekend on it and things will turn out alright. Oh, and remember we’re still time-hunting!
Next time: Choose your conflict