For those of you doing NaNoWriMo next month, check out my NaNoWriMo prep tag. I’ve done a number of posts with resources (naming characters, story structure, Evil Week, online writing resources) helpful hints, and advice based on my own NaNoWriMo experiences. (I’ve done it a number of times and always finished successfully and early.) For things I’ve posted while doing NaNo, see the NaNoWriMo tag. Over on my author blog I’ve tagged a number of longer NaNoWriMo posts, covering both pre-NaNo and post-NaNo.
I’m not doing NaNo this year because I just have too much work to do on various drafts in assorted series, so I really don’t need to start another book right now! I wish all my fellow WriMos the best of luck as you draft your NaNo novel next month!
I’ve discovered a new online writing resource for novelists that is really quite well done. LitLift has tools to help brainstorming your novel, structuring it, organizing your notes and writing it. You can develop — and write — the whole thing right there online. You can add chapters, scenes, characters, settings…it will help you track where something is, if there’s some detail that you need to track through the book. I wish now I’d known about it before I started brainstorming my most recent manuscript. The Writing Guide and Plotline features are pretty good. The character development has a list of traits and background that you can fill in. Or…you can use their random character generator which is a nifty tool for sparking the imagination: you can select it to generate a number of boy/girl names, and also a general description of what type of person they are, likes and dislikes, traits. The descriptions are so evocative that stories sort of leap out from them. The location generator can either give you totally fictional names or actual place names. Fun! The title generator is a bit generic, but there’s also a random word generator which could be useful in writing prompt type challenges.
All in all, it looks like an excellent way to organize a novel from the first stages on through rewrites. You can create scenes or characters which aren’t attached to any project, but can be later attached to work in progress. You can add/remove scenes, characters, settings, and items to any project. You can also export your work as txt, rtf, or epub. I’m using it to play around with some ideas just to see how it works. All material you create on Litlift is private unless you add something to the Library which will make your story/chapters/book available to others on Litlift for review and comments, or you can make it completely public (though only Litlift members can comment). If you wanted to play around with serialization, this might be a good way to do it without muddling up your blog with an assortment of posts and chapters. This would be a really excellent resource for people prepping for NaNoWriMo. Next time I do NaNo, this is what I’m using for NaNo prep!
If you’re working on a mystery, thriller, suspense, crime, or cybercrime novel (or even if you aren’t) you should check out Lifehacker, which is doing its annual Evil Week this week. You’ll learn how to pick locks, open safes, send untraceable messages, screw with people’s heads, lie effectively, steal passwords, hack computers and networks, and cover your tracks. The link above is for the Evil Week tag, so you can browse previous Evil, as well as keeping up with new posts in this year’s Evil. If you’re planning on anybody doing anything sketchy in your novel, or fear you may be writing your protagonist into a corner, these posts will give you some ideas how you can get your characters into, or out of, trouble. 😉
There are two things that scare people who haven’t done NaNoWriMo — and it’s not the two things you think, not exactly. The two obviously scary things are the number of words and the amount of time to write them. But these aren’t quite what scares people; what scares people and intimidates them is the concept “write a novel in a month”. That idea is actually scarier than the reality. It’s a brain-busting anxiety-inducing way of thinking about something that is difficult but not as bad as it sounds when you phrase it like that. If, instead, you said, “knock out a very short, very rough, draft of a book in a month” that sounds less crazy and more possible. And that’s how you should be thinking about NaNoWriMo. You’re not writing a novel in a month. You’re writing a very short rough draft, trying to get all the essential elements of the book down. Yes, it will be novel length, but at the very lowest possible end of novel length. Any less and you’d have a novella or a very long short story. You’re not going to be writing War and Peace: it’ll be more like the length of a short Agatha Christie novel or a Louis L’Amour western. Pick up one of their books which are less than 200 pages (not counting front and end materal, just the story) and sit down and read it. You can literally read one of those in a single sitting. That’s the length of book you’ll be writing for NaNoWriMo and unlike those novels, yours isn’t going to be a polished-for-publication novel, but a rough draft which will need to be finished, edited, rewritten, polished, etc (after which it may be either shorter or longer than the original draft). In short, it doesn’t have to be really good. Not in November. It just has to be written. Nobody writes great novels in the first draft. But you don’t get to create something good in those second and third drafts unless you write that first draft.
You’re not writing a novel. You’re writing a first rough draft. Never forget that. You’re not writing a 200,000 word epic. You may want to write a 200K epic, but what you’re actually doing is a short rough draft that can be read through in an afternoon. It’ll take you a month of afternoons (or mornings, or evenings) to write it, but 50K is not a huge novel. It’s a very small novel, barely a novel, and nothing more than the rawest of drafts.
Don’t scare yourself with the whole “OMG write a novel in a month” thing. It’s doable, because it’s just a short rough draft. Flesh it out to epic proportions during the winter. Rewrite in the spring. Watch it bloom. See, not scary at all!
For my best practical tip on how to hit the word count goal: see my NaNo Mantra: 2K a day post. That 1667 per day number is just another way NaNo can screw with your head. You need to understand what that number is doing and whether or not it’s working for you or against you. Check out the post and see if you need to finesse the math to make your goal by the end of the month.
Today the Classical Daily Download is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. If the title doesn’t ring a bell, the music surely will, as it’s the organ music in every haunted house movie, ever. (Well, not quite every, but almost.) You can click through to download or stream below (with most browsers). If, like me, you find music with vocals too distracting when you write, the Classical Daily Download is a good source for daily short pieces of music, which can be made into a playlist. If you want more contemporary Halloween music, check out my eerie ambient album, Halloween Soundscape (artist name: Gymshoes) on iTunes, Amazon or other online stores. The tracks are inspired by classic stories. (See liner notes on my Gymshoes Music site.)
I did some posts last year with resources for NaNoWriMo prep and I’ve done a bit this year as well, so I decided to add a tag just for posts related to NaNoWriMo prep, so anyone looking for pre-NaNo things won’t have to wade through a bunch of other NaNo-related posts. Check out this: NaNoWriMo prep for posts on preparing to sit down and write that novel! I’ll probably add a couple of posts to this tag every year, so you know, you’re not going to have huge amounts of stuff to wade through. There’s a lot of resources for writers out there, and a fair amount aimed at WriMos; I’m not trying to be comprehensive. Hope you find something useful! 😀