12 Days Of NaNoWriMo: What’s In A Setting?

Welcome back to day four of the 12 Days Of NaNoWriMo! If you’ve been doing your homework, your characters now have some weight to them, and they are helping to drive the direction of your plot. The outline of my prose really begins to come to fruition as my characters develop more and more depth in their descriptions.

So, now, it’s time to write your outline right?

Wrong.

Official outlining begins tomorrow, gentle reader. Today is all about your setting.

Where does your story take place? What time period is it? Keep in mind that a story set in 2019 differs in terms of technology and pop-culture from a story set in 2009…and those both differ greatly from a story set in either 1999 or 1909…or 1009.

This is where your first bit of research comes to play. You need knowledge of the what’s what during your specific time and place. To forgo this is to do irreparable damage to your story.

Let’s say that your story is set in a fictional town in 1830. Take some time to research what life was like in the 1830s. Is your town in a developed, developing, or impoverished area? Do your characters live in the good part of town or the bad part of town? Are your characters rich, poor, or somewhere in-between?

Your research should reflect these attributes. If Annamarie lives in on the bad side of a developing town with a middle-class family in 1830, her life is going to differ from Raphael’s life in the good side of an impoverished town with an upper-class family in 1830.

What are the politics like in the town? Are things strict or laidback? Is religion a big deal or an afterthought? How do people react to death? Crime? Education? Health?

Do you see how all of the factors impact the way your outline is formed and how your characters behave?

Let’s use my series the Belle Âme Chronicles series. If the Washington’s home was set in a populated part of the city where the police force was always watching, this storyline would be very different. Not impossible. But extremely different from the advantages the Washingtons receive by living in near-solitude on the outskirts of a lax town.

Would you write a story different when set in Denver versus Detroit? Of course, you would.

So, here we go with tonight’s homework. Write a one-page summary of your story’s setting. What is the environment like? What is the average income level? How is the authority? Do religion and/or politics play a huge role? How does this impact your characters, and do they have it better or worse than most of their neighbours and other townsfolk?

Tomorrow, we will finally be working on your outline! Are you excited? I’m excited! Let’s get this show on the road 🙂

For a sense of camaraderie (whether for NaNoWriMo or for writing in general…or to learn about other indie authors), I encourage you to join my Reader’s Nook on Facebook! It’s free and FUN 🙂

12 Days Of NaNoWriMo: Relating Your Characters To The Plot

Welcome to day three, guys! Yesterday, we created some of your main characters. Remember, they should all have a first name and a distinction. This is important. For today’s work, it’s imperative to know whether you’re dealing with an antihero or an antagonist.

It’s time to start building your plot, and that’s going to happen via character development. Remember how you wrote down a super simple plotline on day one? It’s time to grab that document.

Each character plays a role in the success of your plot, or else they are a worthless character to have in your story. The way to determine the significance of each character to your plot is to draft a short synopsis for them.

Let’s take a look at my character Blythe Washington from the Belle Âme Chronicles series. This is the character description I wrote for her before writing even so much as the first chapter of Down The River:

Blythe Washington – A homeschooling mother who is trying to keep her family unit together while dealing with a barrage of threatening messages from an unknown source. Blythe is an online fitness instructor who mentors her clients via webcam. She was responsible for [redacted for the blog due to spoilers]. Blythe feels like her youngest daughter Jaxyn just “gets” her. Unwilling to put Edwin through the stress, Blythe tries to sleuth down the identity of whoever is sending the anonymous messages to her family.

For those who have read Down The River, this is a pretty accurate representation of how Blythe behaves, not only in the first book, but throughout the entire series. From this one-paragraph description, I was able to create multiple plot points involving Blythe, her behaviour, and her relationships.

These plot points come from Blythe’s character description alone:

  • As a homeschooling mother, Blythe must run “classes” for her children.
  • The Washingtons are receiving threatening messages. Blythe is the one trying to keep things under control.
  • Blythe runs fitness classes while dealing with the above two issues.
  • While she loves all of her children, she is closest to the youngest and gives Jaxyn special treatment and leniency.
  • Blythe decides to go Nancy Drewing for the sake of her family’s stress.

Now, remember that similar descriptions were also written for Nathalian, Edwin, Sevii, Ramona, Jaxyn, and Skats. Each character description permits several plot points, and these plot points all make it easy to pull a prose outline together. See why it’s important to develop the main characters first?

So, that brings us to tonight’s homework: Write a description for each of your characters with 3-5 plot points included for each character. Feel free to bounce ideas from one character to another. If you write a plot point for Character C that could easily impact Character A, add another plot point to Character A’s description.

Tomorrow, we’re going to focus on selecting a setting for your prose, so you may also want to keep in mind what sort of settings each character thrives in and which settings “weaken” them.

For help developing these main characters, take a look at my guide on how to quickly create believable characters.

For a sense of camaraderie (whether for NaNoWriMo or for writing in general…or to learn about other indie authors), I encourage you to join my Reader’s Nook on Facebook! It’s free and FUN 🙂

12 Days Of NaNoWriMo: Selecting Characters

Did you do your homework? Of course, you did! And that means you’ve generated a basic idea for your NaNoWriMo project 🙂

Once you have a basic idea of the plot, the next thing on the list is to determine some of your main characters. What? We’re not writing out a full outline next?

No, gentle reader.

Not just yet.

Your characters help to define the plot. Once your characters become more fleshed out, they will begin to act like Sims with full autonomy while you simply notate their actions. Knowing how your main characters behave will determine how your outline will look.

Not just yet. Your characters help to define the plot. Once your characters become more fleshed out, they will begin to act like Sims with full autonomy while you simply notate their actions. Knowing how your main characters behave will determine how your outline will look.

There is no right or wrong amount of characters to have; some books are character-heavy and others might focus on just one main character. What is important is to make sure that you have your character bases covered:

  • Protagonist: The main character in your story. Even if your character is a “bad guy”, they are still your book’s protagonist while the “good guys” will be that book’s antagonists.
  • Assisting Character: Your protagonist’s “person”. Who the protagonist confides in throughout the story. If your protagonist is an Overland Park accident lawyer, non-human entities like a journal, a plant, or even a goldfish can be the assisting character.
  • Antagonist: The opposition to your protagonist who stands in their way of getting what they want. Your protagonist will need to outsmart the antagonist to succeed on their quest.
  • Boss: This is your biggest bad guy. Often, the Boss either has control over the antagonist or “employs” the antagonist. The Boss is the main enemy, and their character is normally not known for the first 1/3 or 1/2 of the story.
  • Antihero: The antihero rivals your protagonist but is good at heart (though they try not to show it). They will often wind up helping the protagonist defeat the Boss either directly or indirectly, but they will rarely help the protagonist defeat their antagonist, commonly siding with the antagonist if it helps the antihero achieve their own goals.

Pretty simple, huh? And that takes us to tonight’s homework…

Pull up the same document that you used yesterday to generate your plot idea(s). Make a few line breaks, and jot down ideas for each of the character models listed above. Try to include a first name, an age, a gender, and an ambition for each character. Tomorrow, we will develop them further

For help developing these main characters, take a look at my guide on how to quickly create believable characters.

For a sense of camaraderie (whether for NaNoWriMo or for writing in general…or to learn about other indie authors), I encourage you to join my Reader’s Nook on Facebook! It’s free and FUN 🙂

12 Days Of NaNoWriMo: What Is NaNoWriMo?

If you are a writer of any sort, you’ve likely heard of NaNoWriMo, the official abbreviated form of National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is an annual writeathon in which writers from around the world attempt to write 50,000 words between the 01st and 30th of November. Founded by writer Chris Baty in 1999, NaNoWriMo has grown from twenty-one participants in its first year to hundreds of thousands of registered participants each year.

“50,000 words, you say? You must be crazy!”

No, dear reader. I am not.

NaNoWriMo encourages writers to put their words on paper first and focus on making things pretty and perfect later. The editing phase exists for a reason, and NaNoWriMo’s practice encourages writers to vomit their words onto their pages and polish it to gold later.

Think of it this way: Bob and David both decide to build homes. Bob works quickly on putting up a structure for the home, and then focuses on making the home look aesthetically-pleasing later. David decorates and fine-tunes the home as he puts up the structure, leading to a greater chance for something to go wrong and cause him to abandon the home before the structure is complete.

How many times have you started writing a book and found yourself stressed and worried over the simplest things (the right line of dialogue, the structure of a paragraph, how to get from A to B)? A lot, right? Now, how many times has that stress and pause in your work caused you to lose momentum, doubt yourself, and eventually abandon the project?

All authors have that special drive on their computer known as the “Book Graveyard”. It is filled with old projects of somewhere between one sentence and 200 pages in length that just did not make it in the end. Sometimes, a new version of a Graveyard project comes to life later on, but many of them just stay dead.

Churning out your content in a NaNoWriMo-style format dramatically reduces the odds of your book winding up in the Book Graveyard. You need to write approximately 1667 words per day. There is no time to sweat the small stuff.

I’ve spoken previously on this website about ways to overcome issues like writer’s block or getting stuck, but now, I would like to bring you this 12-day series: The 12 Days Of NaNoWriMo. Throughout this series, I will help you to develop this year’s NaNoWriMo project. The final article in this series will be posted on October 31st, 2019, just in time for you to GO, GO, GO!!

Many authors have successfully published their NaNoWriMo projects, including myself, Kayla Krantz, Alan Averill, and even Marissa Meyer. Toward the end of this series, I will walk you through the editing, publishing, and marketing processes so that you may join our ranks 🙂

And so, I will leave you with a piece of homework until we meet again tomorrow.

Pull up a document (whether digital or physical), and write down a basic idea for your NaNoWriMo project. DO NOT flesh it out just yet; just write down a simple idea. Examples include:

  • A young girl hides a dark secret during World War II
  • A strange concoction breaks in a science lab and leads to human/animal mutations
  • A 50-year-old pregnant woman struggles to maintain her sense of normalcy
  • A coming-of-age story for a frat boy

See? Easy-peasy, right?

Write down your simple idea and let it fester in your brain. Tomorrow, we will start turning this idea into a reality as we gear up for NaNoWriMo 2019.

For a sense of camaraderie (whether for NaNoWriMo or for writing in general…or to learn about other indie authors), I encourage you to join my Reader’s Nook on Facebook! It’s free and FUN 🙂

Why Many Authors Have Multiple Projects Going At Once

The thought of writing a book (or a novella, or a short story, or even a poem) may seem daunting, especially for your first piece to publish. As such, the thought of working on two productions at once might sound downright psychotic.

Ignoring the fact that all writers are a tad bit psychotic–especially to the F.B.I. should they ever check our search histories–, working on two projects at once actually helps your projects to reach the finish line faster and with more energy.

Let’s take a look at my two current main series: the Belle Âme Chronicles and Hoodrat Sh!t.

The Belle Âme Chronicles is a dark suspense mystery series of novels. It features psychological manipulation, physical abuse, adult situations, and catastrophic injuries. While I enjoy writing this series, it is not for the light-hearted (despite some comedic bantering between the characters).

On the other hand, Hoodrat Sh!t is a comedy thriller series of novellas involving vampires and other supernatural occurrences. While there are still some darker themes (such as injuries and relationship issues), they are much lighter books. The bewildered, first-person narration of lead character Sem Van Dijk softens the blow of most of his situations, and the descriptions of bodily harm are not nearly as detailed as they are in Belle Âme.

So, what does this mean?

It means that Hoodrat Sh!t is a writing foil for Belle Âme Chronicles.

If I am in an overly-cheerful, hyperactive mood, I don’t want to dull that with Belle Âme Chronicles. Not only do these books take roughly 4x the amount of time to write as a Hoodrat book, but they are far more plot-heavy and involve more intense concentration and adherence to my outline. A lot of focus is needed, whereas Hoodrat Sh!t books are written far quicker and allow for more off-the-cuff insanity and witty one-liners.

Likewise, if it’s a stormy day and I’m in more of a neutral mood, it is hard to pull text for Hoodrat Sh!t out of my head. The zany banter needed for these novellas doesn’t come as freely on these days, but the darker dialogue and detailed situations for a Belle Âme Chronicles text flow much faster.

By having two juxtaposed series ongoing, it allows me to rarely take a day off of writing. If I am not in the mood to work on one book, I can switch and work on the other. If I am not in the mood to work on either, I can at least write a blog or work on a short (under 5000 word) one-shot.

So, what is the importance of all of this?

  1. It keeps me in the habit of writing. Like working out, writing releases those feel-good endorphins that your body starts to crave. You wake up wanting to work on your prose, you think up dialogue for your prose during your daily commute, and you stay up past your bedtime to finish that current chapter. If you start skipping writing days, your body gets out of the habit of writing, and your mind begins to say, “I should write” rather than “I want to write”. There’s a difference.
  2. It keeps me progressing toward my goals. The only way to be a writer is to write. If you want people to look at your work, you don’t want them to say, “Huh. She hasn’t published anything in two years. I wonder if she’s done with writing.” You want your readers to see continued progress and know that more is coming down the pipeline. This keeps them invested in you and a faithful reader.
  3. It gives you a chance to test out other projects. While one example that I have provided is a novel series and the other is a novella series, I still work on short stories and poems when I can. If you are working on one major project but are finding it hard to progress on the series one day, start another small project. Pen a poem that suits your current mood, and post it to your Page, website, or blog. This both keeps you in the habit of writing and progressing toward your goals while simultaneously showing your readers that you’re more than a one-trick pony.