Tag Archives: novels

5 Simple NaNoWriMo Writing Hacks You Can Use Today

5 Simple NaNoWriMo Writing Hacks You Can Use Today

It’s the first day of NaNoWriMo, and you’ve got some 1700 words of your novel to write today.

Firstly, kudos if you’re taking part. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and with any luck at all, you’ll write and publish your novel.

NaNoWriMo hacks: easy tricks to survive November

Anytime I’ve got an important writing project, I take half an hour or so to plan the project, and to do a mini SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. So that’s our first hack.

Let’s look at some fun tricks to make NaNoWriMo easier.

1. SWOT it first: an analysis is fun, and often surprising

Grab a notepad, or an index card. Use a card if you’ll be writing in different locations; you can take the card with you.

Print SWOT vertically down the page, leaving some lines between the letters.

Now think about:

  • Your strengths, whatever they may be. Maybe you’ve got an amazing outline, and have scheduled each day’s writing carefully.
  • Any weaknesses. Are you terrified because it’s your first novel? Maybe you’re writing in a genre new to you.
  • Opportunities. Can you think of any opportunities which you might get as a result of doing NaNoWriMo? Perhaps you’ll write a bestseller… 😉
  • Threats? You know yourself — maybe you’re worried that you’ll procrastinate, or will get bored…

Here’s why a SWOT helps, even if you just take five minutes to do it very quickly. It gets the benefits and challenges out of your head, and onto the page. Your subconscious mind will begin working on solutions to threats, so that you can overcome them.

2. Do writing sprints with a countdown timer

The first four days of any novel are slow if you’ve done zero preparation — and even if you’ve done lots of preparation. You’re finding your voice for this novel.

However, often the idea that “the first days are slow” can merely be an excuse. When I catch myself getting too relaxed and lazy, I fire up the countdown timer in my phone. Then I write as quickly as I can while the timer ticks down.

Writing sprints of 20 minutes or half an hour are useful — you’ll increase your word count for the day relatively painlessly, particularly if you focus on dialogue. After the 20 minutes, you can go back and fill in the blanks of the scene you’re writing.

3. Create a BIG mind map, and update it daily

I work on several novels and short stories at any one time; my own, and others’. I have a “novel” mind map template, and have these branches from the central idea:

  • Characters;
  • Settings;
  • Story question;
  • Time line;
  • Open loops.

It’s easy to add to the mind map while you’re writing. For example, I might have these branches off “characters”: attributes; physical appearance; REMEMBER.

I have REMEMBER coming off each of the major branches, because there’s always something which I know I’ll forget, especially anything related to minor characters. In mysteries, there’s always red herrings; I need to remember where I planted them, and how I’ll resolve them.

The “open loops” branch is handy. Anytime you leave readers wondering about something, it’s essential you start closing your open loops at around the 60% done mark of the novel.

4. “Outline” at least two scenes ahead: just one sentence is fine

As I point out in Map It, my book on outlines for writers who hate outlines, I’m not huge on outlines. I like to work things out as I go.

One thing I’ve found however: I notice this in my students who prefer pantsing too… if you don’t write down at least a sentence about the upcoming scenes, you’ll block. Or you’ll head down a useless tangent.

Your brief notes for upcoming scenes kick your creative self into action. Those notes make writing easier.

5. Warm up with timed writing: five minutes each day

Speaking of easier writing.

When you sit down for that day’s writing session, do five minutes of free writing first. Just write as much as you can in five minutes.

It doesn’t matter what you write:

  • Ideas for upcoming scenes;
  • Character sketches;
  • Dialogue…

This brief warmup clears your mind, and gets you into a writing mindset. Words and ideas will come more easily.

OK — there you have it. I hope these simple hacks help you with NaNoWriMo — and with all your fiction, for that matter. 🙂

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

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How To Write A Novel: You Need Lots Of Bad Ideas

How To Write A Novel: You Need Lots Of Bad Ideas

Recently an aspiring author in Team Up couldn’t settle on an idea for her mystery novel. “I can’t write a novel,” she told me. “I wish I could, but I can’t come up with any original ideas. Everything I want to write has been done before.”

I asked her to send me a couple of her “unoriginal” ideas. One of them was great. A reality TV show, with six everyday people, shut up in a mansion. The group would perform scenes from famous plays. Each week a performer would be voted out, and someone new would arrive. Then someone in the group is murdered.

“Sounds good to me,” I told my student. “You’ve got lots to work with. Develop your characters, and outline it.”

Here’s the thing. Every idea you think of has probably been done before. So what? You’ve never done it before, and if ten authors wrote the reality-TV idea, they’d come up with ten completely different novels.

Want to write a novel? Get lots of bad ideas

Ideas are everywhere, and of themselves, ideas aren’t worth much. It’s what you do with them that counts.

I love marketing guru Seth Godin’s advice:

“If you generate enough bad ideas a few good ones tend to show up… So the goal isn’t to get good ideas, the goal is to get bad ideas.”

What to do when you can’t get a “good” idea

As Seth suggested, get lots of bad ideas. Then start writing.

If you’re convinced that you can’t get good ideas, try some of these tricks.

1. Try keeping an idea bank

Many writers keep an idea bank. Chances are that you won’t use any of the ideas in your idea bank, but having a cache of ideas will give you confidence on bad days, when you’re convinced that you couldn’t come up with an idea with a gun to your head.

Years ago I formed a habit of carrying index cards with me everywhere. I have stacks of blank cards in my office, in my bedside drawer, in my car, and of course, in my bag. I buy them in bulk.

Every few weeks, I sort through the pile of cards I’ve tossed into a box on my desk. One or two cards get transcribed into Evernote.

2. Good ideas are the ideas which won’t leave you alone

Would I get good ideas if I didn’t have my index card habit?

Maybe, maybe not. Jotting down ideas keeps my mind working even when I’m not writing, so carrying index cards everywhere is useful. When I sit down at my computer to write a couple of thousand words of my novel, I’ve always got a card or two which kickstarts my writing for the day.

You’ll find that when you review an idea card a day or a month later, you’ll know if an idea is a good idea for you — you remember it. Your brain wants to play around with it.

3. “Bad” ideas can become good ideas

I’m always amazed (and so are my students who know this trick) of how ideas can collide and spark something new — something you know you need to write.

You can see this process at work in authors’ novels when you’re reading. For example, I’ve just read The Switch, by bestselling author Joseph Finder. The main character, Tanner, is at an airport when he picks up someone else’s MacBook Air by mistake. The laptop turns out to belong to a senator, who doesn’t want anyone to know that she has classified information on the computer.

I read the novel in a couple of sittings. The two ideas: picking up someone else’s computer by mistake, and the computer has deadly material on it, are simple ideas. You wouldn’t call either of the ideas brilliant. On the other hand, what Finder does with those pedestrian ideas is brilliant.

So, use Seth’s insight. Be happy when you get bad ideas. Before you know it, one or two will combine, and they’ll create a magical idea which inspires you so much that you know that you MUST write it.

Have fun. 🙂

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Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
Genre: Writing
You're a writer. You need to make money from your words. What if you could create AND sell a nonfiction book in just a day? More info →
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Write A Novel: Include A Bestseller’s Vital Ingredient

Write A Novel: Include A Bestseller’s Vital Ingredient

You want to write a novel. You hope that it will sell well; that it will become a bestseller. I just checked, and the first five books on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction bestsellers’ list this week are all genre fiction: thrillers and crime fiction. These books, as do all books on bestseller lists, include a vital ingredient.

That ingredient is: drama.

Write a novel with drama

To write a novel which sells well, remember DRAMA while you write. Drama keeps readers reading.

Many books which are dramatic are quiet books; they don’t feature billion dollar bank heists and explosions. Pride and Prejudice, for example, which has been selling for 200 years, is a charming novel set primarily in a village in rural England.

So how do you add drama to your novel?

How to write a dramatic novel: write in scenes

Start with these elements:

  • A character with a problem he’s determined to solve
  • A setting
  • A story question

The story question is sometimes referred to as the “dramatic question”, which is misleading. To write a bestselling novel, you need drama on every page.

Check your novel now, and if you’ve written 250 words in which nothing much happens, correct that immediately — add some drama, every if it’s just a little bantering between two characters.

4 tips for writing dramatically

As we’ve said, drama needs to happen on every page of your novel. There are many ways you can do that. These tips will get you thinking.

  1. No one gets along. Every character in your novel has conflicts with other characters, or has internal conflicts.
  2. Description is used to reveal character. Again, consider Pride and Prejudice. When Jane Austen describes anything, she does it so that we can learn more about a character. For example, from Chapter 7: “The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner’s shop just over the way.”
  3. Focus on scenes. Jane Austen writes in scenes — this may be why she’s sold 20 million copies of Pride and Prejudice — it’s a very dramatic novel.
  4. You answer the story question, as well many many other questions which you raise along the way by creating open loops.
Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
Buy from Scribd
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Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.