Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Avoid My NaNoWriMo Mistake

Last week I described the major mistake I made before beginning National Novel Writing Month in 2004. "I did not know what I was going to write before I got started." More specifically, I did not know my story.

Pause here for a definition of story. I use Rust Hill's definition of a short story in Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular as my understanding of story, itself. "Something happens to somebody." In 2004, I didn't know what was going to happen or even to whom it was going to happen. ( I was dealing with two characters.) Thus I didn't know what I was going to write about on November 1.

This, by the way, is why I'm not making a traditional NaNoWriMo effort this month. I didn't have time leading in to do the prep work that would have led me to coming up with something happening to somebody and knowing what I was going to write about.

Using The Elements Of Fiction To Create Your Story

Back in 2013, I did a series of posts for The Weekend Writer feature of this blog on finding your story, so I'm going to direct you to many of those. But, in brief, spending time developing the elements of your story can help you create the whole thing. Know your story, know what you're going to write.

This is particularly helpful for organic writers (pantsers) who have trouble isolating plot and working on it by itself. We need to work with the story as a whole organism.
Slide from school presentation

Setting. Consider your setting, which involves both place and time. Why is this helpful? Because certain things can happen in some places and times and not in others. That NaNoWriMo work of mine from 2004 has no setting whatsoever. I didn't use it at all.

Voice. How your character(s) sound can help define their attitudes and personalities, and that will help determine how they will respond to what happens to them and what they may do.
Yeah, another school slide

Character. Focusing on a character can be helpful in coming up with a story for obvious reasons. Something happens to somebody, right? Who this person is will help determine what s/he can/will do. I am not a big fan of giving a main character something to want. I prefer giving them a goal, something to do. Then you can create objectives for that goal, the things the character must do to reach it. Those objectives can become plot points and scenes.

Theme. Many writers say they aren't aware of their themes until they've finished a work. However, if you know it, it can be helpful in creating the story itself. Not sure what to do with a particular scene? Think about how you can make it support your theme. 

Yes, I talk about all this at schools.
Disturbance to Your Character's World. Remember, a story is about something that happens to somebody. We're not just talking a climactic moment here, the last battle scene, the declaration of love, the capture of the bad guy. Something happens to get the character involved in your story, to get him/her started down the road. The aliens land. Mr. Darcy moves to town. A body is found. In children's books, it's often the beginning of the school year, the end of the school year, the start of a trip, a new kid on the street, a parental death or remarriage. It's a jolt to the character's world at the beginning of the story and every thing is pretty much a response to that.

Now You Can Start Thinking Plot. I always say work on an actual plot last, after you've thought about all these other things. All the other things can be very helpful in creating the plot, the series of events that make up the story.

Doing all the above work before starting to write, will mean you know a lot about your story. That's going to make writing easier and faster, whether you're doing National Novel Writing Month or just writing any time of the year.

Faster. That's about time.

But There's More We Can Try

Earlier this year I took a workshop that suggested some new-to-me pre-writing work. Next week I'll touch on that. 

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