The 3 P’s: Preparation, Plotting and Planning

Everyone is getting totally hyped about NaNoWriMo which begins in just 5 days, and I’m no exception. I’m taking part for the first time this year and whilst I’m excited about the whole process, it’s quite a daunting task to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. So, how do we adequately prepare?

Plotting and planning, that’s how.

When I wrote my first novel, I wrote a basic story synopsis, a few details about the main characters and chapter outlines. Trouble is, once I started writing, my chapter outlines sort of went out the window and I found my story just had a momentum all of its own. Consequently, it ended up longer than I anticipated yet I don’t see this as a problem. You see, I didn’t have a deadline or a set word count so it didn’t matter. Taking part in the NaNoWriMo challenge is a whole new situation.

To achieve the 50,000 word count in 30 days means an average of 1667 words per day and that will take some serious preparation.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

First off, I’ve downloaded some really cool software from one of the NaNoWriMo sponsors called Write Way. This is only a demo version, but the features it contains will be invaluable in helping to prepare, plot and plan and I’m going to use it to full effect.

Having decided on my theme (which is a complete departure from my novel) and probably the most important thing to do, I’m now plotting the story trying to focus in on how it will develop through to its conclusion.

My next step will be planning each chapter so that the story doesn’t get away from me.

Finally, I’m going to design my key characters and do my worldbuilding so that when we get to the starting line, I’m as prepared as I can be.

So, how are you going to prepare? Have you got any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear how your preparations are going and if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you the very best of luck!

Pouring Emotion Into Your Writing

A few months ago, I was asked by my dear friend Beth Hautala to write a guest post for her blog ‘Writing Word By Word’. It was the first time I’d guest blogged for anyone and I was a tad nervous about it (wouldn’t you be??), but it was really well received and so I thought I would share it here with you all.

So here are a few thoughts, techniques and practical ideas for writing well-rounded, emotional characters:

 

Without putting some emotion into writing, it becomes an amount of dead words on the page. There’s no point in telling a reader how someone feels in a particular scene, if there’s no emotion behind it. The reader wants to connect with the character you’ve crafted. They want to understand what makes them tick, and relate to them emotionally.

So the big question is, How do you go about accomplishing that?

I have a few techniques I use and I’d like to share them with you. Perhaps you do something similar, maybe you struggle with this, maybe you have some techniques of your own that you can share with us. I hope some of this will be useful to you!

As I write, I find a massive amount of material by drawing on my own past experiences and likening them to my characters. For example, if I’m writing about a breaking heart, I think back to when it happened to me. Then I try to remember how I felt at that time and I make notes. —Not only about the actual emotions, but also how I reacted, how I behaved for a few days afterwards, and how I related to people around me. In addition, I try to recall how others behaved towards me—my friends and family— the support and comfort they provided, (or not) and the sort of things they said.

Interaction with others is also crucial to understanding emotion. Everyone you meet has a story to tell and most love to share it. I listen carefully to the way people phrase their tales and the tone of voice they use, I watch body language, facial expressions, and make note of what they do with their hands. —Put all of this together and it builds a powerful picture. Again, I make notes the first chance I get. If you do this on a regular basis, you will come across a wide range of stories and emotions that can be catalogued and filed away for future use.

A couple of months ago, one of my colleagues was acting a little strangely and I enquired if she was ok (as you do). And then I got her story. She’d recently suffered some trauma and was having medical treatment. She had so many mixed emotions about the whole thing—one minute she was hopeful, the next, worried and frightened. Her face was expressive, particularly her eyes, and she moved her hands quite a lot. This was a veritable smorgasbord (please don’t think I’m unsympathetic toward her, it’s actually quite the opposite), and I made notes as soon as I was able.

Finally, as I am working through the expressions and physical demonstrations my characters might emote, I try to imagine myself in the situation I’m writing, then analyze how I would react and what I would feel. Again I make notes. Sometimes it’s just a list of words, other times entire sentences detailing the situation.

I always transcribe my notes in my laptop as I’ve found that pieces of paper can get lost, no matter how well organized or careful I try to be. Also, don’t forget to back work up. Nothing is worse than days or even weeks of lost work.

As I write, characters I design must have emotions that readers can relate to and empathize with, or I feel I haven’t done my job properly. They have to be real, complex, and well-rounded. Nothing accomplishes this more effectively than making sure I’ve given them true, situationally-appropriate feelings.

Gosh, this is scary!

I’ve toyed with the idea of setting up a blog for absolutely ages and now I’ve finally done it. But this is where it gets scary – are people going to want to read what I write?

I suppose, as a writer, I shouldn’t think like that – after all I do hope to have my novel published in the not too distant future – but nearly every writer I know has suffered from this panicky thought at least once. So, how to get past it?

Believe in yourself: If you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to? Think about it this way – if you believe in the world you create on paper/screen, if you believe in the characters you’ve so painstakingly crafted, if you believe in your plot lines and your story as a whole then you should also believe in yourself. As writers, we pour so much of ourselves into our stories/novels/poems – we have to so that our readers can connect with our characters – therefore, it stands to reason that maybe, just maybe, we have more self-belief than we are aware of.

Think positive: Alot of people believe in the power of positive thinking and I’m certainly one of them. Sure I have days where I just want to bury my head under the duvet and gorge myself on chocolate (knowing damn well I’ll beat myself up for it later), or I’ll allow nagging doubts to creep into the labyrinthine corridors of my mind when something goes wrong. Yet, I strongly believe that negative thinking attracts negative energy and vice versa so I try my hardest to be an optimist. I do find that I write better when I’m in a positive frame of mind!

So, now, with a smile on my face and a steady pulse, I’m ready to push the button on this, my first post on my new blog.

Welcome to my world.