NaNoWriMo Calendar

NaNoWriMo Calendar

Hey y’all! Just a quick post to wish you luck for NaNoWriMo and share a cool printable calendar to help you track your work! Click to download the PDF! You are welcome to share but please give credit to Jessica Hawke! A link back to this site would be absolutely...

NaNo Bootcamp Day 10: To Plot or To Pants

Toilet paper: over or under? Peanut butter: crunchy or creamy? Writing: plotting or pantsing? These are the polarizing questions we must ask ourselves. Plotting vs. pantsing is a hotly debated topic among writers. Full disclosure: I’m firmly in favor of outlining, so I’m really not going to give you a balanced look at the debate. I have completed six novels (of varying quality) by plotting, and I have completed exactly zero by pantsing. Therefore outlining is the right choice. Well, I should say it’s the right choice for me. However, if you have tried time and time again to write a novel and have never successfully completed one, this may be something to consider. Have you ever gotten that giddy head-rush, fire in your fingers sensation while you tore through the first few chapters of a book, only to find yourself stuck and stagnant after 5,000 words? If so, you might want to give plotting a try. Outlining works for me and my brain, which desperately needs structure. My pre-writing process borders on excessive. I go through a brainstorming stage with index cards, lay out a physical storyboard, and then create an outline from that. Just for reference, the outline for my last book was about 2500 words, right at 6 pages.   (Before getting into my argument for why plotting is awesome, I’m going to just mention that I use the term “outline” and “plot” pretty much interchangeably here.) Contrary to popular belief, doing all this work ahead of time doesn’t suck the magic out of the story. While the map metaphors for outlining are a bit overused at...

NaNo Bootcamp Day 9: Dossiers

It takes a lot of work to create a fictional person out of nothingness. I mean, it takes a lot more time and effort than the process of creating a real person. At least the actual conception part. The birthing and the diapering and the child-rearing and all that…so, let’s not stretch the metaphor too far. It also takes a great deal of work and time to write a novel. Your brain is a magical bag of holding, but when you are juggling a dozen characters, a compelling plot and a couple of subplot, and trying to remember if you fed the cat before holing up at Starbucks, you’re bound to  drop something here and there. You may forget what color someone’s eyes are, or how old your protagonist was when they made a deal with the devil for a joy-ride on a rainbow-farting unicorn. In previous posts, I talked about exploring goals and motivation, as well as using Enneagram typing to give characters’ personalities a skeleton to build upon. In the last post, I talked about profiling a character to understand what really flips up their metaphorical skirt. Once I have all that established, it’s time to get practical and create a useful writing tool that’s going to help me get through this novel. Each important character in my novel gets their own character sheet. Now, there are a wealth of templates for character worksheets out there. Just searching “character worksheet” brings up over a million results. I’ll share some that look promising at the end. As I’ve stressed repeatedly, I don’t worry about minutiae at this point. This is just...

NaNo Bootcamp Day 8: Profiler

Once you’ve gotten to know your character’s gooey metaphorical insides – not the literal ones, you butcher – then you can start developing a profile for them. Later I’ll be writing a post about creating your concordance, which will include these profiles. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a fan of the “detail everything that your character has ever done” method. Most of it is irrelevant. Let’s be real, I really don’t care what weird crap your protagonist puts on their hot dog unless that ties into the story later. Just an aside, every time I make a statement like that, I have to come up with a situation in which that would be relevant. So, you’re allowed to spend brainstorming time on what your character puts on their hot dog if your story is about evil twins or body snatchers, and the only way the other characters know the protagonist has been swapped is that they’re no longer putting maraschino cherries and sriracha sauce on their Chicago dogs. Gross. (PS – you can brainstorm whatever the heck you want. Just recognize when you’re wasting good creative energy and refocus as appropriate. And random quirks pop up all the time as you write. Just don’t devote all of your pre-writing to filling out endless lists of trivia that won’t make your story any better.) To put it in social media terms, have you ever stalked – I mean, looked at – a new friend’s profile? Under each year, you can see the significant life events, like when they met a significant other, got married, changed jobs,...

Viva la Said!

Said is not dead. When I should be writing, I often find myself searching Pinterest for decadent recipes I will never cook and craft projects I will never make. Since my day job is teaching, I often get sucked into the cutesy world of the Education boards, and I keep seeing these lists of synonyms for said. They all have a cute title that reads: Said Is Dead. (Imagine there is a cute picture here. I am not risking the wrath of a hard-working teacher by criticizing their work.) Let me repeat it. Contrary to what these popular pins keep claiming, said is not dead. It is alive and well and loved by 99.9999% of readers. Sometimes we – and by we, I include myself, friends – are so determined to convey every miniscule facet of our story that we think we must paint the very tone of the dialogue, the exact volume, pronunciation. It’s the same thing that drives us to describe every twitch of muscle in a fight scene, or every article of clothing a person wears. And as vividly as we see it, it actually has the opposite effect on readers. Seriously, tell me how this reads: “I’m going to kill you,” Mary hissed. “Not if I can help it!” John asserted. “Oh, just watch me!” Mary rebutted. “Nuh-uh!” John squealed. “By my grandfather’s kilt, I will!” Mary uttered. And that was with no adverbs! It’s even worse when Mary hisses angrily and John asserts boldly. Those words are so distracting! Not to mention all! The! Exclamation! Points! I would rather watch the Kardashians than read...

NaNo Bootcamp Day 7: What’s Your Sign?

What’s your sign, baby? There are as many ways to talk about characters as there are types of characters. Some people like an archetype approach, some like zodiac, some like exhaustive questionnaires. We’ve already talked about the important stuff. What does the character want? What do they fear? When you’ve figured that out, you’ve got the hard part down. That’s building the creamy center. Because let’s be real. The cream is the best part of the Oreo. The peanut butter is the best part of the Reese’s Cup. The caramel is the best part of a Rolo. Once you get the delicious center cooked up, you simply need to dunk it in melted chocolate and enjoy. (Curse you, sweet tooth.) Please note that I did not say you need to analyze every molecule of the chocolate and account for every bit of sugar and fat and preservatives that go into your character treat. You do not need to know everything that has ever happened to your character, nor their favorite everything, nor what every inch of their body looks like. In fact, I think trying to come up with everything early on can be crippling. I’m currently reading Wired for Story, and Lisa Cron mentions something which I’ve seen referenced in other books on writing. Basically, if you write an exhaustive biography of your character, you’re going to feel like you need to include every detail you’ve created. (Sort of like the common curse of fantasy world-building.) That kind of stuff bogs down the story. If you write an excruciatingly detailed account of your character’s junior prom, then you’ll feel...