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Nov 24, 2012

Help! I'm Just Starting #NaNoWriMo! (Emergency Tip Day 1)

"I'm late starting my NaNoWriMo novel!"

Only a crazy, masochistic writer would start NaNoWriMo in the last week of the month. 

I know. I've done that four years in a row!

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar position. Well, never fear! While I will continue my NaNoWriMo Tips for the month, I'll also show you how to SMOOSH the Tips into seven days! Wacky, huh?

As with my monthly tips, the basic idea is to plan first (four days) and write afterward (three days). Yes, that leaves only three days to write the beginning, middle and end of your novel...you'll need full days, don't expect to do this if all you have is two hours a day. But if you do have a full work day to devote, you can write a novel this fast.

Here it is in brief:

Planning
Day One: Refine Your  Idea - Brainstorm a Log Line and create a Beat Sheet
Day Two: Expand Your Idea - Deepen Your Characters and Spice up Your Plot
Day Three:  Outline Your Novel - Create a Scene by Scene Outline
Day Four: Outline Your Scenes - Scene Helper

Writing
Day Five: Draft Your Scenes - From Scene to Draft - First Third of Your Novel
Day Six: Keep Going on that Draft - Second Third of Your Novel 
Day Seven: Wow, you have a whole extra day to write, plenty of time - Third Third.

If the old time pulp fiction authors could write a novel in 3 days, so can you. Oh, right, they weren't on Twitter. Never mind...

Day One: Refine your idea.

Step One: Create a Log Line
Step Two: Write a Blurb
Step Three: Make a Beat Sheet

Step One: Create a Log Line

By the end of the first day, you'll want to have a beat sheet for your novel. That means you need to brainstorm, research and create a story arc for your novel all in one day. A good way to see if you have a strong initial idea is to start with your log line. A log line is the one line description of your book that captures the "high concept" inherent in your novel... or low concept, if its that kind of novel.

Let's assume you have some sort of vague idea. You need to tighten that up into the two essential elements of story: a person with a problem. Until you have a person and that person has a problem, there's no story, no novel.

Take your vague idea and start brainstorming related ideas. Here's a simple Three Step Guide to Brainstorming Online:

1. Make word associations about your idea until you have at least twenty related words. Pick the three most interesting ones.

2. Google each of those words separately and together. Scan the results for cool stuff that inspires you further.

3. Ask What If...? questions. 

Repeat as needed until you have a character with a problem. Then write down a one or two line summary of that person and problem. Refine the wording until it makes a catchy and succinct a log line.

Example: 

My vague idea: A holiday paranormal / urban fantasy story, like my October Knight story, that revolves around September.

My brainstorming words: September, Back to School, Ghost Hunter

My one or two line summary: Clare is a ghost-hunter, but when she starts at a new school, a ghost manages to throw her out of her own body and take it over. Now Clare is the ghost, and the one being hunted.

My log line: When a ghost-hunter becomes a ghost, she must get her body back from an evil spirit or remain that way for eternity.

Step Two: Write a Blurb

You'll probably have an idea for a blurb, or paragraph long summary, at the same time as you think of your log line. In fact, you might find it easier to write a paragraph than a one-liner. Write it down now. The blurb can be like one you'd read on the back of a book (not giving away the ending), or include the "spoiler" (ending).

You need to know your ending going in, however. If you haven't included the ending in your blurb, write that down too.

When I sat down to write 

Example: 

When I sat down to write the blurb for September Knight, I decided I wanted to have some fun with the story and include a meta-story that pokes a little (good natured) fun at the Young Adult Paranormal genre itself. There are certain conventions of the genre, like Insta-love and the Love Triangle that are totally cliche -- instead of avoiding them, I'd include them but draw attention to them. 

Blurb for September Knight:

I know the rules.
First, I find out that I’m heir to a great destiny and a special power.
Check.
Second, I find myself torn between two hot guys, preferably a vamp and werewolf.
Check. (Ok, make that a vamp and a Mysterious Bad Boy of an Unspecified Supernatural Origin.)
Third, I find my enemies before they find me.
Um. Oops.
Unfortunately one of my enemies has found me first and stolen my body – and my power – and – this is what really burns me –  even my hottie vamp admirer. Seriously? The point is…
Instead of being the ghost-hunter, I’m the ghost.


Step Three: Make a Beat Sheet

Next, you take your summary paragraph and work it into a beat sheet. See the Tips (especially Create a Three Act Beat Sheet) listed below for help with this if you've never made a beat sheet before.


Example: 


Here's the Beat Sheet for September Knight. I use a Four Act structure, but if you're not sure how many acts you want, default to Three--you can't go wrong with Three Acts.

I actually started by writing a one line summary for each of my acts:


WEEK 1: ENROLLMENT
Clare, who recently tried to commit suicide, finds out her father is a Ghulstryker, and so is she. Meets Zola the ghost.

WEEK 2: TRY OUTS
Zola steals Clare’s body and tries out for all the things Clare wanted to do but was afraid to do.

WEEK 3: CHOOSING TEAMS
Clare takes back her body, but then fails at everything and disappoints her parents.

WEEK 4: OPEN HOUSE
Clare takes back her body again: must perform in the play, on the squad and the game.


Then I expanded each of those into three chapters (since I know this book will have twelve chapters).


WEEK 1: ENROLLMENT
Clare, who recently tried to commit suicide, finds out her father is a Ghulstryker, and so is she. Meets Zola the ghost.

1.                1. Labor Day [Opening conflict- Protagonist in daily life]
1                   2. Back to School [Resistance to the opportunity – Meets Two Hotties] 
3.  Open Enrollment [Opportunity for change- Point of No Return]

WEEK 2: TRY OUTS
Zola steals Clare’s body and tries out for all the things Clare wanted to do but was afraid to do.

4. The Theatre Scene [Entering the New Situation] – Zola takes her body and auditions for play
5. The Cheerleader Squad [Meeting Friends, Enemies or Romance]– Zola auditions for the squad
6. The Soccer Team [Problem Brings Them Together.] – Zola tries out for soccer

WEEK 3: CHOOSING TEAMS
Clare takes back her body, but then fails at everything and disappoints her parents.

7. The Knights of the Semi-Circular Table [Problem Drives Them Apart] – Clare takes back her body
8. Flunking [Crisis Hits] —Clare ruins her life and gives the body back to Zola
9. A Better Me [Terrible Secret Revealed]Clare finds out that Zola is a vampire

WEEK 4: OPEN HOUSE
Clare takes back her body again: must perform in the play, on the squad and the game.

10. Performance Anxiety [All Seems Lost]
11. The Rise of Mordrock [Self-Sacrifice & Symbolic Death] – Clare fights to send him back
12. Clare Deals [Final Showdown / Conclusion] –  Wrap up


Here's some other steps to do on Day One:




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