Tag Archives: novels

Writing A Novel: NaNoWrimo And You

Writing A Novel: NaNoWrimo And You

You’re writing a novel, but you decided to skip NaNoWrimo this year. Or you started NaNoWrimo with huge enthusiasm, and stopped. Please don’t feel guilty. If you’re new to writing fiction, it’s almost certainly better for you to practice on short stories, rather than trying to complete even a short novel in a month.

Over the past week, I’ve received messages from writers who feel like failures. A couple wanted to do NaNoWrimo, but something came up. Several other writers started NaNoWrimo, and wrote steadily, but then stopped “just for today”. They didn’t start writing again.

Please don’t feel guilty. You’re not a failure as a novelist or anything else if you didn’t start NaNoWrimo, or if you started and quit. If you started, be glad of the experience, and cheer up. All the writing you do teaches you, and you’ve learned a lot, even if you think you’ve “failed.”

NaNoWrimo is a challenge for new novelists, because…

1. Novels are hard to control, even if you’re written one or more novels

Novels are very hard to control. Even if you’re someone who loves outlining, a novel takes off in directions you didn’t expect. Alternatively, if it doesn’t take off, and you hew closely to your outline, your characters never come alive. You begin to resent them, and stop caring about them.

Once you’ve gained a little experience, you’ll be thrilled when a novel takes off in unexpected ways, and you’ll know how to get it back on track. It’s almost impossible to do that without a few novels under your belt, however.

2. If you don’t write have a writing habit, writing 1,700 words a day is too much pressure

Here’s my goal for fiction every day: a thousand words. That’s all. Of course, I hope to write 3,000 words a day, or more, if I can. If I can’t, then 1,000 words is fine.

I’ve been writing for many more years than I care to think about, and I still keep my daily fiction word count goal low. Here’s why — pressure.

Fiction’s easy, as long as you can get yourself into a fictive dream while you’re writing. You can’t get yourself into this mind state when you’re feeling pressured, it’s impossible.

Setting yourself a word count goal of 1,700 words a day for NaNoWrimo is huge pressure.

Relax, give yourself time to build your writing muscles

Writing 50,000 words is hard. Turning those 50K words into a novel is even harder. If you’ve yet to complete your first novel, give yourself time. You have plenty of time, all the time in the world.

Here are two ways to prepare yourself to write your first novel.

1. Write ten short stories — take as long as you like

Yes, ten short stories. Take as long as you like to write those ten short stories. Writing short stories has one huge benefit: you get into the habit of completing your stories.

Some writers get into the habit of starting novels, and never completing them. Writing short stories is a great way to get into the habit of finishing what you start.

Every story hits a wall at some stage. When you have a little experience, you expect this. In fact, you realize that hitting the wall is a good thing. You’ve just got to find a way under, over, or through the wall. When you do this, you’ll complete your story.

2. Write for five minutes a day for a month

Writing fiction is very different from writing nonfiction. You need to pretend to be someone else, and write as someone else. You experience what your story person experiences, and you write about it.

Rather than scaring yourself to death by saying: “I’m writing a novel!” sneak up on it. Write fiction for five minutes a day, for 30 days. You don’t have to write more than a few sentences. Anything you get onto the computer screen is fine. You’re teaching yourself a new mindset.

Initially, you’ll feel uncomfortable. Soon, you’ll realize that imagining is fun. Then you’ll be well on your way.

You may even write a wonderful novel for NaNoWrimo next year.

Free writing programs to kickstart your 2016

Free writing programs

I won’t be blogging much between now and the end of January 2016. To help you to have a wonderful writing year next year, I’m offering you several of my older writing programs, completely for free.

Your first download is Six-Figure Writer’s Toolbox: From a Day Job to $500 a Day.

I hope that somewhere in the one of the free writing programs, you’ll have one major AHA! moment, which changes your writing life around.

BTW, an apology — the material’s unedited, so I know that there are some dead links and other kerfuffles in there. Please forgive.

Your first free download will arrive in an email message. More information here.

Writing Fiction Made Easier: Get Out Of Backstory Hell

Writing Fiction Made Easier: Get Out Of Backstory Hell

I’ve just looked at this blog’s stats for the past 12 months, and this post on backstory (kill it) is by far the most popular post. I’m not surprised. When you’re writing fiction, backstory is a challenge for new authors.

To reiterate from that post:

Resist the Impulse to Explain

New writers start off great. They get the woman in the trunk of the car (or create some other hot action which starts things off.) Then they feel they need to explain who the woman is, and how she landed in the trunk of a car. They go on for pages and pages. RESIST! Please do not do this.

How to manage backstory: remove it when you’re editing

Important… Don’t worry about backstory in your first draft. Just write.

Remove ALL backstory when you’re editing.

You can add backstory into your novel/ novella/ short story, very carefully after your “slash and burn” editing fury. Restrain yourself. Only a sentence or two at a time. And only if you must add it for the story to make sense.

Here’s what a new author’s backstory hell looks like

I work with lots of writing students, so I may be more sensitive to backstory hell than most.

Here’s a common problem I see — messed-up scenes.

Not only does the new author cram backstory into a scene until the scene’s mangled beyond repair… he crams yet more backstory into the backstory.

Here’s what that looks like:

  • the scene starts. You settle down for an enjoyable scene between two characters, then the author inserts…
  • backstory 1, of one of the characters…
  • in the middle of backstory 1, you get backstory 2, the backstory of the other character…
  • Finally the author remembers he’s writing a scene. So you get a snippet of the scene (by this time the reader’s head is spinning like a top). After just a few paragraphs of the scene, the author inserts…
  • something or other, which may be backstory, or maybe it’s a flashback, who knows?

Sadly, readers have long-since stopped reading.

Forget backstory, PLEASE

Just kill it wherever you find it.

Keep your story moving forward.

Write in scenes, remembering that a scene happens in the present moment, just like a movie scene. There’s no room for backstory in a scene.

I blame advice like “write a character bio” for backstory hell. As I said in Kill Your Backstory:

If you’ve been happily creating character bios, and other junk, stop it. Who cares what flavor of ice cream your main character prefers?

The best way to create character bios is to do it while you’re writing. Yes, you need to remember that your main character’s eyes are brown, not blue, and that he lives with his Uncle Jake, who’s going out with Selma from the diner.

I copy and paste all this must-remember material into a single “characters” document in Scrivener. Then I open that document in Quick Ref while I’m writing the novel.

If you’ve been creating lengthy character bios before you start writing, STOP IT. Otherwise you’ll be tempted to insert all this junky material as backstory while you’re writing.

The benefit of killing backstory: a plot, and more fun writing

I’m convinced that authors cram in backstory because they’re nervous. They’re writing a scene, there’s conflict, so the author wants to explain that conflict. Stop explaining. Just write the scene.

Not only will you end up with a PLOT, and a story which readers enjoy, you’ll enjoy writing it. too. 😉

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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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Writing Fiction In Scenes: The Big Secret

Writing Fiction In Scenes: The Big Secret

We’ve often talked about writing fiction in scenes. Whether you’re a pantser, or an author who lives by his outlines, scenes help you to keep control of your novels, serials, and short stories.

The most important scenes in fiction are your “big” scenes. In a romance, they’re the scenes in which the main characters become romantically involved. In a mystery, they’re the scenes in which you artfully drop clues to either guide, or mislead, your readers.

The BIG secret: work out your big scenes, and write towards them

Even if you love outlining, it’s all too easy to lose track in your fiction. If you’ve written a novel or two, it’s happened to you. You’re meant to be writing a romance, yet here you are, a quarter of the way through your novel, and the hero’s nowhere in sight.

You can avoid those disasters by deciding what your readers expect from your genre. In a romance, it’s … the romance. In a mystery… the mystery. In a horror novel, readers want to be scared out of their wits. Genres are labels, and readers expect to consume what it says on the tin.

What do readers expect? That’s your clue to your big scenes

Please write down what readers expect. Don’t imagine that because you’ve read science fiction since you were in high school, you know, and can meet readers’ expectations. Yes, you know. And you’ll forget.

So make a list.

Then, make a list of the big scenes.

If you’re writing a romance:

  • The hero and heroine meet;
  • First stumbling block to their relationship;
  • Another stumbling block;
  • They like each other, and eliminate one block;
  • They do/ don’t consummate their relationship. If they do, then you’re writing a steamier kind of romance, and the consummation happens at the midpoint of your novel;
  • Etc.

Discovering your big scenes helps if you dislike plotting

There are ways to make plotting simple and fun. You can let your plot grow organically, if you list your big scenes before you start writing. Then work out the stepping-stone scenes you need to move from one big scene to another.

We talked about Scenes, Narrative and Chapters, and said:

A scene can be 40 pages, or two paragraphs in length. I know “pages” have zero meaning in ebooks, so let’s assume that a page is 250 words, and 40 pages are 10,000 words.

Most of my scenes in short stories and novels are around 1,500 words. Some may be just 400 words. Others — the “big” scenes — will be longer.

Let’s say that you have six big scenes in your novel. (You can use the “big scene” method in short stories and serials too; you’ll have fewer scenes, and more scenes respectively.)

You estimate that your big scenes will be 2,500 words. That’s 15,000 words out of your novel — say 20,000 words, because chances are your big scenes will run longer.

If you list those scenes as A, B, C, etc across a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard, it’s easy enough to decide what you need in the scenes which lead up to a big scene.

Try it yourself on your current novel. Decide on your big scenes, then decide what needs to happen to get to those points.

There are any number of plotting methods. You’ll vary your method with each piece of fiction you write. However, you’ll always need a way of identifying and making the most of your fiction’s high points — your big scenes.

Have fun. 🙂

Hot Plots: Craft Hot-Selling Fiction in 5 Minutes (or less)

How To Write Commercial Fiction With Hot Plots

The big secret of making money from your fiction is writing a lot. And publishing strategically and consistently. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program ensures that authors can make money from short stories, and all kinds of fiction. Moreover, whatever you’re publishing, you have a global audience.

You’re about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you’re writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. Discover Hot Plots.

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