[Write On Wednesday] Test Your Premise

This month’s writing prompts all acknowledge the fact that November belongs to novelists. Whether you write longer fiction or you don’t you can use this month’s prompts to nudge you forward in your writing practice.

bottle on a beach short story spark from StoryADay
Photo by Vova Drozdey on Unsplash

The Prompt

Take an idea you have thought “I could write a novel about that” and test it as a short story

Tips

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Test Your Premise”

144 – Mastering The Middle

Last week in the podcast, I shared five tips for a successful NaNoWriMo. Lots of people have told me it helped get them through the first week so: yay!

victory

In this week’s episode I talk about the difficulties of reaching the middle of creativity challenge at the exact same moment you reach the midpoint of the novel.

(Short story writers, stay with me because a lot of what I’m going to talk about applies to you too!)

You are not imagining things: this is hard. The middle of a novel is the notoriously hard, and the middle of the challenge is hard for different reasons.

The Midpoint of the Challenge

The midpoint of the challenge is tough because you’re tired. The novelty has worn off. You’ve started to question why are you ever decided to put in all this work. And you may feel that your story isn’t worth the effort.

Allow me to help.

Continue reading “144 – Mastering The Middle”

5 Tips for A Successful NaNoWriMo

It is November and you know what that means? The whole writing world has been taken over by NaNoWriMo. 

As someone who has been participating in and leading creative challenges for over a decade, I have some tips to help you make the most of this month of extreme creativity.

Continue reading “5 Tips for A Successful NaNoWriMo”

StoryADay+NaNoWriMo Mashup Pt. II

Last year I got together with Marya Brennan, the director of NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers’ program to talk about short stories.

We had so much fun that we decided to do it again this year. This time we took a close look at Flash Fiction. Here’s a replay of the livestream.

If you have any young people in your life, they may want to enter the NaNoWriMo YWP’s Flash Fiction Contest, running now (closing date: May 31)

118 – UnStick Your Writing During NaNoWriMo, Part 2

Advice about how to get unstuck when you still have 30,000 words to write!

RESOURCES:

Unsticking Yourself thread on Twitter: https://stada.me/unstuck

Tony Conaway’s article on public readings: https://stada.me/tonytalk

Further reading: What To Do When You’re Stuck In The Middle of Your Novel, (https://stada.me/wdstuck) from Writer’s Digest, with advice from the excellent DIYMFA book by Gabriela Pereira 
James Scott Bell’s book: Write Your Novel From The Middle

Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

117 – Getting Unstuck During NaNoWriMo – Part 1

NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writers’ Month, is well underway. By this point in week two your story might have become a little bit, well, stuck.

In these next two episodes I share tips and advice from myself and others about how to get unstuck when you still have 30,000 words to write!

 

Unsticking Yourself thread on Twitter: https://stada.me/unstuck

Tony Conaway’s article on public readings: https://stada.me/tonytalk

Further reading: What To Do When You’re Stuck In The Middle of Your Novel, (https://stada.me/wdstuck) from Writer’s Digest, with advice from the excellent DIYMFA book by Gabriela Pereira 

James Scott Bell’s book: Write Your Novel From The Middle

 

 

Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

091 – Regrouping PLUS: NaNo Rescue!

For all you NaNo novelists out there, deep in the belly of a fast-written novel, I have a suggestion for a way to revitalize your writing and your excitement about your project.

For everyone (else?) I talk about regrouping: it’s November: There’s still time to rescue some of your writing goals for this year, and set yourself up for a successful writing year in 2018.

 

LINKS:

The StoryADay Serious Writers’ Accountability Group (SWAGr) – http://bit.ly/2zPC6l1

Austin Kleon – a sample newsletter – http://bit.ly/2meYazT

Ryan Holiday on how & why to keep a ‘commonplace book’ (AKA Interinsting Things Log) – http://bit.ly/2mfjGEp

 

 

Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

Brainstorming & Outlining for People Who Hate Outlines

We have to tell stories to unriddle the world - Alan GarnerThis post is for people who are having trouble getting past the exciting beginning of their story and into (and through) the mushy middle. It works for novelists and short story writers.

Beyond The Beginning

Starting a story can be hard. But once you get started, the excitement carries you through some initial world-building, character-developement and scene setting. Then what?

Then, you get stuck, going around in circles, with your characters doing stuff, but not really going anywhere (either literally or plot-wise).

This is the perfect time to outline the next part of your story and start thinking about where you want to go from here. If you hate the thought of  outlining, think of it as brainstorming. You do this in your head, if you’re a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants), but sometimes it can be helpful to catch some of your ideas on paper.

Brainstorming (Not Outlining)

If you’re not a natural outliner, don’t go crazy with this. You know you’re going to write something that captures your interest and throw out the outline, or maybe a new character will do something unexpected and interesting. So don’t outline. Just brainstorm a few questions like:

  • What is my character’s main desire?
  • What is stopping her from getting to that desire?
  • What does a ‘victory’ look like, in story terms and for my character?
  • How can I make things worse for her?
  • How can I make things even worse for her?
  • Who does she need to ally with to help her reach her ‘victory’?
  • Who/what is the antagonist and what does it/they want?

Even if you’re not a fan of outlining, keeping these questions (and the answers you discover) in mind as you write, will help keep your enthusiasm high for your story.

Revisit these questions every few writing sessions, or after every couple of scenes. Map out what needs to happen next to advance your character’s journey. Let future ideas dance around the back of your brain.

Then add another scene to your story.

More Resources

I’m posting these with the caveat that you should use as few of these as possible and ONLY when you are absolutely, dead stuck. Do not think these will help you if you aren’t actually writing. You must be writing your story for these resources to make any meaningful contribution.

Worksheets

Jill Williamson has a fabulous resource page full of everything from Novel Brainstorming Worksheet and one for short stories, to scene planning worksheets (one and two POVs), to character archetypes, genres & subgenres, even a worksheet for thinking about your characters’ hobbies!

Larry Brooks has a one-page checklist to help you plot out your novel. I find this one a little overwhelming, but if you take it step by step (i.e. write  your way to a point when you’re stuck, then consult his list to see what you need to think about for the next quarter of your story) it might be more manageable. You can also find his Character Checklist here.

Books To Get You Unstuck

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is one of three books they’ve written (along with the Negative Trait Thesaurus and the Positive Trait Thesaurus) that can help you if your characters are feeling flat.

Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula by Stuart Horwitz. Can’t recommend this enough. It takes a fresh look at how to keep your plot interesting, by examining through-lines of themes and imagery and character traits rather than focusing on the old ‘Plot point I”, “Plot point II” “Dark Night Of The Soul” structure, which I find really unhelpful. This book, on the other hand, make small explosions go off in my brain. If you’re resistant to the idea of outlining, this might be the book to help you keep your story on track, nevertheless.

Million Dollar Outlines (Million Dollar Writing Series) by Dave Farland. Unashamedly commercial in outlook, this book is stuffed with examples (mostly from the movie world) of what makes a compelling story, what readers are looking for (even down to age and gender breakdowns) and leaves you feeling totally convinced that anyone with a modicum of talent and the will to persist, can do this and maybe even make a living at it. Why not you? Hoo-ah! Also stuffed with practical advice on how to make YOUR story sing.

Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between by James Scott Bell. I found this very encouraging, particularly his insight into what the ‘midpoint’ of the novel really is, and the kind of moment you can write for your protagonist that crystallizes both the midpoint and what comes next.

Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation by Mark McGuinness. This book won’t tell you how to write a novel, but it will help you think about all the ways your poxy brain is holding you back, and how to make it work for you, instead. This is not your average ‘rah-rah, tell yourself you can do it’ book. McGuinness uses everyday examples and his background as a coach to show you how different types of motivation work on you. Grounded in academic studies, this is a chatty, accessible and inspiring look at how you can free yourself to create.

Other Resources

The Snowflake Method – From Randy Ingermanson, this is another wonderfully logical way to avoid the whole inverted-triangle, unhelpful story structure plotting that drives me crazy. It helps you focus on the key points of the story you want to tell (which you’ll discover while going through his exercises). It has the added bonus of creating your story summary and proto-marketing materials before you’ve even written it (which is the part most people say they hate even more than writing the thing in the first place).

This works even if you’ve started your novel. I was stuck at the half way point of a novel I’d been tinkering with for years, when I came across this method. Spent a few hours following Randy’s advice and pounded out the second half of the novel in a couple of weeks!

 

NaNoWriMo Word Count Tracker

I know you lot are always up for a challenge. A significant portion of the crew here takes on NaNoWriMo each November.

So I have a gift for you.

A Month Without Math

NaNoWriMo Tracker from StoryADay.org

I’ve created a word-count tracker that dynamically calculates how many words you need to write every day to hit your targets. It works whether you faithfully write 1667 words every day, or whether you binge-write 5,000 then sleep for 48 hours before writing again. Just plug in your numbers and the spreadsheet will tell you your remaining daily average number of words required to hit the magic 50,000.

But That’s Not All

If you hit the minimum daily number of words required to stay on track, the spreadsheet rewards you by turning the ‘Words Today’ cell a happy bright green.

NaNoWriMo Tracker with green gold stars

When you hit the magic 50,000 words, all the remaining “Words This Month” boxes turn green too.

(It’s silly, but it is incredibly motivating to see those little green boxes stack up!)

Available Everywhere

(as long as you can access Google Drive, that is).

This is a Google Sheets document. That means it’s stored in the cloud and you can update it from anywhere you can log in to Google: on your phone, in the coffee shop, in bed, from your laptop, during meetings (ahem!)

Easy To Use

This comes with foolproof instructions including “Where to type” and “Where not to type” and “how to use this again next year/for other projects”.

NaNoWriMo Tracker instructions

Download a copy now, to your Google Drive (you’ll need a free Google account) and use it with my best wishes for a frantic, fiction-filled month of creativity!

Good luck!

Julie