NaNoWriMo—Training Lean, Mean, Writing Machines

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Yesterday Jami posted about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I really hope you guys take her class because she is truly a gifted teacher. Today, I want to talk a little bit about what writers (especially new writers) can gain from NaNo.

NaNo Teaches Endurance 

I remember years ago thinking, “Wow, if I could just write a thousand words a day, that would be AMAZING.” When I looked at professional authors, it was like watching a marathon runner—all the while knowing I couldn’t run a flight of stairs without requiring oxygen and possibly a defibrillator to restart my heart. I so struggled to get words on a page, and Lord help me if I saw something shiny.

Of course, after years of practiced discipline, I generally have a thousand words written by breakfast. When I fast-draft (which I do for all my books), my average is abnormally…

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Fiction Writing: Prepare Before You Start

Writing a fiction novel is doing something fun and creative, which fulfills the advice to do what you love. Yet, the storms come when a writer starts a novel without the necessary background in place.

This gave me the idea to blog about what I’ve learned during my journey to write a novel and I’ll spread out the steps and how to incorporate them over several posts.

My first step started with the concept.

Every minute spent on the prep and outline of my novel supported me during the process. I developed a complete concept and plot, and I managed the story to the end.

Step One:

CloudsDecide Your Overall Concept

Years ago, my first attempt at writing a novel centered on two characters perfect for story building. After a lot of notes and careful character description, I wrote the first pages. A few hundred words later, I stopped. All the big decisions wrecked my momentum. I never plotted the story and the writing stalled.

To avoid my mistake make certain to craft a concept, which will move the characters to the story’s end.

Answer this question first:

What type of genre will keep me interested while writing thousands of words?

The books we love to read come to our minds. However, a historical suspense, though fun to read, involves a lot of research and strategy. Those who love to read, study, and search history may choose this genre, but if that doesn’t describe you then you might pick a genre you want to research.

Many lists of genres exist ( Book Genres from The Guardian) and you can pick something general or specific. It depends on your approach to the story. A plot that includes the paranormal may need room to evolve and bring in other concepts and creatures. Stories based on a real situation may benefit from a specific genre to keep it on track.

Next, answer this question:

Where and when do I want my characters to live?

Look back at the last question and decide what place you want to research. The place and time you’re willing and eager to devote time and effort on fact-finding.

A town, city, farm, outer space, new universe, new planet, anything you can describe and use to give your characters somewhere to live, visit, or explore. The past, present, or future gives the story something to describe and bring substance to the characters and their journey.

Then answer this question:

What is the purpose of telling this story?

If your story has no purpose than the readers will wonder why they spent so much time reading it. At the end the conclusion should resolve something in the story.

An emotional reaction at the finish gratifies the reader, allows them to find closure in the story, and anticipate the next book. Any novel, which stops with loose-ends and a “to be continued” better conclude at least one main aspect of the story. A hook for the next book in a series only works after the plot’s resolution.

What is your process before you write the first word of a story? Do you have any advice for those who struggle with this?

The next section is character development, and I will write out the way I developed my characters in the next installment blog post.

I hope you enjoyed my post and look forward to talking with you!

Thanks for visiting my blog,

A.G. Zalens

My Novel Beginnings

Starting my new blog is the perfect place to explain how my novel came about – something my family and friends must already be bored with.

Some background: as a teen and young adult I only read a handful of authors and genres: romance, mystery, or classics. At that transitional age I felt anything described as teen, young adult, or childrens were too young; refusing to even look down those aisles at my local bookstores.

When the Harry Potter books began filling end-caps; I placed them firmly in the “too young” category, which I wouldn’t acknowledge. Then the first movie hit theaters − and being the movie enthusiast that I am, I watched it: loving it. Immediately afterwards, I sought any information available about the movie. Discovering the series of books, in which I had already written off, as an avid reader they were intriguing to me. I bought the first book: I was hooked. J.K. Rowling opened up a whole new world of teen and young adult books for me, though I was still skeptical about many out there; eventually falling back into my old favorites.

Now you may wonder what that has to do with my plot, well after reading several Harry Potter books I thought to myself “I can come up with a fun story like that.” Of course, I didn’t – not right away at least. I did imagine a sci-fi idea with potential, but there wasn’t enough substance to warrant a full novel and I didn’t even start it.

Several years later with that small idea in the back of my head, pushing it around my mind, trying to craft enough to write about, continuing to have little to go on; a dream involving a rescue mission by several tough individuals filled my night, remaining vividly pictured until morning. Going over this interesting dream the next day, it occurred to me: a similar plot and characters could provide the material I was looking for to enhance my sci-fi spark.

From there I needed a destination, thinking of a summer trip I went on one year, realizing it would be best to write what I know; I was happy with the results. Then a background idea from ancient stories rounded out the rest of what I required.

I was finally excited about writing my story and telling everyone I knew about this great idea. I received some polite encouragement but mostly confused expressions (mainly from the “light” readers or those unfamiliar with young adult books.) Yet, I wasn’t discouraged.  I was ready to write.

Throughout my life I’ve come to realize I’m a much better writer than speaker so I put fingers to keyboard: a year later I’m close to completion, thrilled about my story, moving forward to finishing it, with aspirations of getting it published.

When it’s completed I hope everyone will love it as much as I do!

Thanks for reading my blog. Let me know what you think.

A.G. Zalens