Thursday, November 3, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day 3 - Books for Success

If you haven't read Day 1 or Day 2, why don't you?

If you have read them, thanks! I really hope I can help, inspire, and make you laugh to break up some of the scary and difficult times NaNoWriMo can bring even in week 1. But I also promised some tips and tricks so here they come.

I don't only have coffee to prod, wine to lubricate, and sleep to percolate my way through NANoWriMo or any writing project for that matter. I have a bunch of writing books, too!

Hard at work on last years NaNoWriMo
Of course, I'm not going to suggest reading a whole book before writing your NaNo or even during your NaNo. NaNoWriMo is definitely all about writing the first draft, getting the words on the page, or at the very least sitting in that chair, everyday, and trying. You don't have to learn everything about plot and structure first or describe every possible characteristic of your protagonist before word 1, just write.

However, when you're stuck, these books are chock full of exercises, provocative questions, and suggestions that might just knock you back into the groove.



Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern is a book that was required for my first creative writing class. We read the first two parts, "The Shapes of Fiction" and "A Cautionary Interlude", then referred often to fiction writer's alphabet. Stern's explanations are in plain language and full of excellent examples. Making Shapely Fiction is the first book I'd recommend for anyone wanting to improve the writing, especially short fiction. Novel writing is a different beast but "The Shapes of Fiction" is still a great tool. I like to have this book by my side especially during NaNoWriMo. If I'm ever stuck for what to write next, I simply choose a shape, ie onion, day in the life, juggling, etc and write that shape for awhile.

If you're a planner, you'd  probably utilize the next book, What Would Your Character Do?, before you start any novel, as a pantser, I use it most during revisions.

This book gives you a plethora of questions and situations to put your character through to fully understand motivations and keeping his or her decision-making consistent and believable. For NaNoWriMo, I use it a lot like Making Shapely Fiction, in that I open to a random chapter, let's say "At the Airport", and let the questions like "What is your characters basic attitude as he waits?" or "A family with whiny children sits down next to your character. What does he do?" guide me. Whether these scenes get cut later or added permanently doesn't matter, for now they get me writing and that's what's most important. Plus, writing some random airport scene keeps my counter going up, allows me to explore my character, and maybe even lead my plot over all into new and exciting directions. So . . . I think my NaNo character might visiting an airport as soon as I'm done with this post.


Finally, Writing the Breakout Novel promises a lot in the title and I can't swear that it will make you best-seller at the end of it, but again it is a great book and workbook to start with if you're a planner and plotter and another great revision tool for the pantsers among us. It's only the workbook I'm suggesting as a NaNoWriMo aid. Any of the exercises are great way to jolt your mind into thinking in a new way about your scene or chapter, as long as you don't get too bogged down with stopping everything and answering the questions like its writer, Donald Mass, orders. You can always go back and work carefully through the workbook and it's accompanying book (this is true of all of these suggested books, by the way) once your novel is written. For now, simply mull over questions like "What is the overall problem [your protagonist] must solve? What additional problems can she face? Not complications to the main problem but altogether different problems?" and then answer them by creating those problems in the next scene, chapter or whatever.

These are the three books I keep by notebook all through my NANoWriMo's to help me out of my writer jams. What books or exercises do you use when you write yourself into a corner? Answer quickly then get back to those novels!

I'll be back here tomorrow with more NaNoWriMo insanity or sanity as the case may be.