Tagged with "novel writing"
A Novel is Not Just for November
Category: Writing
Tags: writers abroad online writing community nanowrimo novel writing first drafts

If you've been around the writing circuit for some time, you'll know all about the annual writing challenge known as NaNoWriMo. Short for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in the month of November and the idea is to write 50,000 words within the month. It started way back in 1999 with 21 participants and last year, in 2017, the challenge attracted over 400,000 participants.

Now there are some who are sceptical of the challenge; 50,000 words for instance does not necessarily make a novel but that's not the point. Well, not for me anyway. As with most writing advice and suggestions, it's all about what suits the individual. I have taken part 7 times and achieved the goal five years out of those. And from those words I've produced at least three (and a bit) full length, self-published novels and working on a fourth. So, I guess it works for me.

The challenge is getting that dirty first draft onto paper with the notion that it will not be the polished article­ – it will be the beginning of something.

The month of October has been deemed as the preparation month; put some thought in now and during November all you have to do is write the words. Here are some of the tasks you could be thinking about to make sure that your NaNoWriMo goes as smoothly as it can.

For Your Story:

  • Ideas – well at least one would be a start!
  • Character Development - get to know your major players at least
  • Plot - at the very basic a Beginning, Middle and End
  • Scene list - as brief or as detailed as you like
  • Timeline - rough sketch or detailed
  • Research – especially if you write in a genre which demands realistic facts or world building if you prefer the stuff you can make up

For Your Life:

  • Menu Planner – for main meals; have a cook and freeze fest so you don’t have to think about it
  • Other Work Must Do's – lots of us have other commitments, how can you clear your desk for the month ahead?
  • Play List – Like to listen to music as you write? Put together some inspiring music to help you along
  • Friends and Family – tell them what you are up to and how they can support you
  • Goodies – Chocolates, wine, a good film; whatever floats your boat and will serve as a treat when you hit that word count

For me, it's about motivation over a concentrated period of time. And having proved to myself that I can do it during November, well then I can achieve it any month of the year. If I put my mind to it.

Remember: A Novel is not just for November.

How To Build a Snowman (Any Time of The Year) Tags: writing plotting character development novel writing writing methods snowflake method for writing a novel

How To Build a Snowman (Any Time of the Year)

I know, sounds impossible doesn’t it? But hopefully it got your attention.  And when I’m not talking about the cold white stuff as such, it will make more sense.

When I realised during NaNo, that my story was going to be a lot bigger than I’d originally planned, I nearly threw in the towel. It was day thirteen (ominous enough). I had a sore throat, a thumping headache and so curled up on the sofa with my Kindle. Scrolling through the unread items in the library I came across How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. This method wasn’t new to me but I hadn’t read the book. It’s not a long book, in fact I didn’t put it down until I had read ‘The End’.

Randy explains the method using familiar characters and stories from childhood. Goldilocks is the protagonist and the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs feature but it is by no means a fairy story. It takes you through the ten steps of the Snowflake Method demonstrating each one with examples of how it works in practice and more. I have never read a How To book like it. At first I thought, ‘this is stupid’ and then two hours later, I reached ‘The End. What can I say?  I’m a simple girl at heart and love a fairytale.

There are three reasons this method works for me:

  • Plot or Character Driven: First and foremost it solves this age old issue  as the steps alternate between the two, interweaving each so that both are given equal consideration.  Makes sense when you think that a story can’t do without either.

  • Small Steps: The steps for both plot and character build on one another. The analogy with the snowflake fractal is that it starts small and then becomes more complex. The actions range from writing a one sentence plot synopsis to detailed scene summaries and character point of view sketches to character bibles.

  • Ease of Change: The most important thing for me is the ability to backtrack at any point of this system. I have a scatter brain. My ‘what if’s’ can cover three or four pages and I like to play with different scenario’s to see what impact they have. This way means that I don’t have to rewrite reams and reams or discover half way through thousands of words that it’s not working.

Much of the work produced by this method will come in handy at the publication stage.  It provides material that will market the story in a succinct, snappy style. It can also be used, in reverse, for an existing Work in Progress which may be floundering for whatever reason.


So no need to don your hat, gloves and coat. You can start using snowflakes to build your snowman in the comfort of your warm writing place, and not just at Christmas - or November for that matter.

Organising Your Novel Tags: novel writing organisation writing

Following on from Jill's earlier blog about research, thought I'd share the system I use for trying to get myself and my work in progress organised. However, if you saw my desk at this moment you wouldn't believe a word of this!

Writing a novel means collecting and gathering lots of information and when a writer needs to find their writing voice they want all the important facts to hand.

Writing a novel isn’t just about writing. Writing is the easy part for many writers. Information, facts, thoughts and ideas are the fuel which feed the writing fire and organising them in a systematic way will not only save you time. It provides writers with the inspiration and motivation to get to ‘the end’. All that is needed is an A4 ring binder, some dividers and a little time.

Publishing The Novel

It’s a strange place to start but thinking about what the finished product will look like provides and maintains inspiration. So think about the book cover the title and the artwork. An additional talent for drawing could come in helpful for sketching a cover but if not design something which visually represents the novel, including the authors name. Stick the cover on the front of the ring binder.

It is also useful to write a brief blurb like the ones you see on the back of books, which summarise the story without giving away any secrets. It doesn’t matter if any of these things change as your novel progresses, at this stage it’s about a work in progress.

Writing Targets

For any writing project, it is useful to set realistic targets. Produce a title page with any other ideas that may have cropped up about the title. Record the start date of the organiser and a brief synopsis of the story. This will need reviewing as the novel develops but putting some markers down will help writers begin and keep going. In this section, a proposed word count and daily, weekly or monthly targets to achieve that might also be useful

Writing Research and Information

The rest of your organiser should be organised in as much or as little detail depending on preference and need. It depends on the story but it’s useful to include some of the sections detailed below:

  • Timeline – a simple structure highlighting the major events which drive the story and any back story that might be relevant. This will ensure that the events will run smoothly when writing them and provide an easy reference point for checking.
  • Characters – Each main character should have a detailed outline, which provides the information that brings them to life and record those details that need a consistent approach. Minor characters can have a similar but less detailed profile.
  • Research – depending on the genre of the novel at least one research section will be required to keep all the notes which are relevant to the development of the story. Depending on the extent of research needed it may be necessary to separate research into sub sections for ease of reference.
  • Chapter sections – a sheet for each chapter provides a useful outline. Some writers don’t like planning too much in detail but they provide a useful overview of what has been written and can provide the motivation to continue. Depending on individual preferences other details can be included such as characters appearing in the chapter, point of view, setting, and any plot notes for the following chapters.
  • Synopsis and Queries – a section for the synopsis and details of potential markets will eventually provide a record for submissions.

The only way to finish a novel is to sit down and write it. However, spending a little time thinking about what it might look like, organising thoughts and ideas and keeping a reference of ideas and thoughts can make the process a little easier.


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