Tag Archives: outline

Pre-JuNoWriMo Checklist

JuNoWriMo is just around the corner! Wow. April really flew right by us, and May is for all the planning, excitement, and preparation we like. Hopefully, you’re ready and feeling good about getting prepared. Here’s what you should get in place this month:

  • Premise – Who is your main character? What does he/she want? What stands in the way? Boil your entire novel down to one sentence.
  • Milestones – Know the turning points in your story.
  • Get to know your characters – You can search the internet for their faces, role play and take personality quizzes as them, and interview them. Be sure to figure out what they want, what they like and dislike, where they spend most of their time, where they live, how they react to various things, who they like and dislike, and what they look like.
  • Writing space – Choose nice, comfortable places where you are likely to feel inspired and be productive. Now is a good time to stake out those coffee shops, delis, libraries, and bookstores in your neighborhood to see which have the right noise-quiet balance, availability of writing fuel, and comfort.
  • Schedule – Some people have to juggle things around and/or squeeze in writing time here and there, 15 minutes at a time. That’s fine, but if possible, it’s nice to set a time to write every day. Routine is good!
  • Develop a plan for the worst – You may decide you don’t like your novel any more. You may get bogged down at work. You may question your ability to write a novel. You may get off track and end up writing something that’s not quite what you planned. You may not hit the daily goals you set for yourself. What would you do? All of those things can be scary/discouraging when they happen, but they can all be overcome with [cue dun-dun-dunnn] a plan! Make a list of your three worst JuNoWriMo nightmares, and decide how you’d deal with them. They won’t be so scary after that!
  • Research – If there’s anything you’re not sure of, look into it. If some parts of your novel absolutely must be factual, do the work now. Research can be quite the time-suck, especially when you’re just looking for a way to procrastinate. Protect your writing time. Keep June research-free by getting the facts in May.
  • Writing tools – Computer, netbook, Alphasmart, notebooks, binders, pens, pencils… Make sure they’re there and ready with lots of space/ink/storage for your word avalanche.
  • Support system – You need people in your corner! Tell people what you’re doing, but only the people who will encourage you and be positive about the challenge you’ve chosen to take on.
  • Meal planning – We highly recommend cooking lots of freezable meals or cutting deals with spouses. You probably won’t have much time for meal preparations, and when you have some, you’ll want to spend it writing, or in the forums.

Well, that about covers it! If you manage to get those things all sorted this month, you’ll be well on your way to a successful JuNoWriMo season. Be sure to look out for more blog posts which will help you out with accomplish some of the tasks mentioned here.

Pep Talk Week 1: Three Tips for Reaching Your JuNoWriMo Writing Goals by Nina Post

When Fel asked me to write a guest post for JuNoWriMo, I was happy to do it, though, honestly, I was expecting a stadium talk with proper AV equipment. And where are the Ahlgrens bilar marshmallow cars and Puolukkapore lemonade that my contract stipulates must be provided without substitution?

During 2012, I wrote five novels and had three novels published. I’ve started on my third novel for 2013, and my fifth book (Extra Credit Epidemic) will be published in July. The following tips are a few things that work for me.

Break it down

Break down your JuNoWriMo goal into parts. If you want to pull a series of all-nighters, go for it, and revel in your ability to do so. But whatever your schedule, you want to know that you can consistently achieve more, that you can do this over and over, that this doesn’t have to be a once (or twice) a year thing. So manage your project: figure out what your daily and weekly word count should be, then modify it to fit your schedule. Be accountable to yourself.

Also, keep track of your output: when you write, when you do your best writing, your daily word count, and if you timed yourself (like with the Pomodoro Technique).

Blaze through your first draft

Do not think of this as the defining work of your life. This is *a* work — I hope one of many for you, so keep moving forward. If you’re having trouble making a choice in your draft, think about it for a few minutes, then decide on something. Aim for sustained focus and momentum.

If you want to write faster and get more done, sketch out even a minimal outline. Some writers are resistant to any outlining, and that’s fine. It’s a guide, and my outlines are always flexible. I have a lot of wiggle room, and always change things along the way. If you haven’t outlined before, try doing just one sentence for each chapter or scene, or sketching out a few major turning points.

Spend a few minutes visualizing what’s going to happen in the next day’s work. It also helps enormously to stop at a point where you know what to write the next day, so you can get right back into it.

When you reach an obstacle

Here are some ways I deal with obstacles in the writing process.

  • Talk it out with someone who’s on your side. JuNoWriMo gives you a community of people working toward the same goal at the same time. But this could also be your spouse or your pet iguana.
  • Write out the basics of what you want to do in the scene, and write down questions for yourself to return to later.
  • Think about what pisses you off. Condescending idiots? Bad dentists? Horrible neighbors? Put them up as obstacles for your character, and take ’em down on the page.
  • Have your good character do something bad or your bad character do something good.
  • Add a third person to the scene.
  • Do a little research — you may see something that sparks an idea.

I hope you take away something useful from these tips, and that JuNoWriMo proves to be a fun and productive experience for you!

nina postNina Post is a fiction writer who lives in Seattle. She is the author of Danger in Cat World, Extra Credit Epidemic, The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse, The Last Donut Shop of the Apocalypse, and One Ghost Per Serving. For the latest updates, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.

 

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You might also be interested in:

3 Keys to a Writer's Block Free Life

3 Keys to a Writer’s Block Free Life

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On Scene Lists: Building a Novel

***This post is one of several in our prewriting series. To read the first post, click here.***

Hopefully you’ve been making great progress on your prewriting and are almost all ready for June. If you’ve been following the steps in this series by Aaron Pogue, you will go into JuNoWriMo prepared. It’s the best way to start!

Today Aaron talks about writing a long synopsis, the biggest weapon in your prewriting arsenal.

Aaron Pogue

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This week, your big JuNoWriMo prewriting assignment is to develop a long synopsis, or scene list.  Here is a brief description of a scene list:

A scene list is primarily useful as a prewriting or editing tool. It forces you to map out the actual structure of your story, down to the very building blocks, and then gives you an easy place to spot errors or weak points, to tinker and rearrange.

To make a scene list, you start at the very beginning of your story, and write one to two paragraphs describing what happens in every scene. When you’re finished, you’ll have your entire plot down on paper — every twist and every turn — without all that messy set design, characterization, and description.

That’s certainly how we’re using it this week. Today I want to go into a little more detail than those two short paragraphs give. Continue reading

On Narrative Scenes: Choosing Your Scenes

***This post is one of several in our prewriting series. To read the first post, click here.***

Today in our series on prewriting for JuNoWriMo, Aaron Pogue talks about writing a scene.

Remember, you’re free to write as much of your novel as you’d like beforehand, but you can only count the words you write in June toward your 50,000 goal.

Aaron Pogue

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This month we’re reviewing all the parts and processes that go into developing a story. Our goal is to put together a complete prewriting package to do some of the heavy lifting for you when it comes time to write a novel in June.

So far, if you’ve been following along, you have Characters, you have the elements of a Plot, presumably you know your Setting, but we still have to discuss how you actually write the story. What do you do to convert that story idea we have so well documented into an actual story?

Thinking in Scenes

The answer is writing scenes. Scenes are the building blocks of any story. Whether it’s a poem, a bit of interpretive dance, a Great American Novel, or a major motion picture, a story is told in scenes. A story told without clearly defined scenes is, essentially, a synopsis. This is how we separate storytelling from summary.

No matter what time frame you’ve chosen for your story, it probably contains the potential for an infinite number of scenes. You could use flashbacks and flashfowards to give the story context, you could have a play-within-a-play, or dreams or hallucinations – you could write a thousand scenes into a narrative that only actually takes place within a single room, over a span of a couple minutes. It would probably be dreadful, but it could be done.

The point is, the story idea that you have already developed contains within it a boundless sea of scenes. A few of them are gripping, immersive. Some of them leap out at you, defining moments in the path from the Big Event to the stunning Climax. Most of them are irrelevant.

Choosing the Scenes

Your job, as the storyteller, is to choose which scenes you are going to include in your story. That’s it. Once you have a character list and a premise, most of the scenes can be extrapolated from there, but it’s up to you to choose which scenes to present to your audience.

For an excellent example of that, just consider the Harry Potter books. He’s in school the entire time, right? For the first five books, at least, he’s spending most of his time in classes, presumably, but how many scenes can you remember where he was in a classroom? They are far fewer than the scenes in the dining hall or the common room, scenes on the Quidditch field or (most common) skulking down shadowy corridors.

Of course, there are scenes that take place in the classroom – often highly dramatic scenes that jump immediately to mind – and that’s precisely the point. She could have included thousands of classroom scenes, but instead she chose just the ones that served the story best, and implied all the hours spent bent over a textbook or scribbling down notes.

When it comes time for you to convert your story idea into a story, there is just one rule you must remember: every single scene must move your story forward.

Believe me, you will write scenes that you absolutely fall in love with but that don’t measure up to that one rule. And, painful as it will be, you’ll have to cut them out of the story. That is the price writers pay. Apart from the rejection letters, it’s really the only one — having to remove something so beautifully crafted from your masterpiece. It’s necessary, though.

Writing the Scene

Before you can start cutting anything, though, you’ve got to get it written. We’ll start on that with this week’s big writing assignment.

Come back tomorrow, and we’ll move you a big step closer to your JuNoWriMo novel with a little bit of practice writing.

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Related Posts:

The Conflict Resolution Cycle

On Narrative Structure: The Mock Table of Contents

JuNoWriMo Features Authors and YOU

The Conflict Resolution Cycle

***This post is one of several in our prewriting series. To read the first post, click here.***

The last few weeks we’ve been looking at a strategy for prewriting your novel. It’s the perfect way to get all ready for JuNoWriMo and to fight off that first bout of writer’s block that threatens to strike by way of the blank page.

Even better than that, I’ve found that doing prewriting for my novels gets me all amped up about my story in a very effective way. It gets me excited about my novel and shoots me with that burst of energy to take off at high speeds when June 1st hits.

Here’s Aaron Pogue with the latest in the series.

Aaron Pogue

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Today we’re moving on to the Conflict Resolution Cycle worksheet. It’s a questionnaire/assignment I cooked up a couple years back to force a writer through the questions necessary to convert a story idea into an actual narrative.

Most of the questions explain themselves, so instead of opening with a big long introduction, I’m just going to dive right in. Continue reading