Final NaNoWriMo Preparations, otherwise known as ‘Don’t Panic’!

It’s almost here. Later this week is when we all start worrying about our word counts and comparing it to other people’s. In an effort to calm the impending storm that begins on November 1st, here are a selection of final tips that should help you ready yourself for the big challenge. 

First, let’s consider practicalities: 

Housekeeping
cleanDo as much as much of it as you can, now. Clean your room, stock the fridge and empty the wash basket. Cook extra as part of every meal so you can freeze the leftovers later. For whole month these are the things that will be left neglected as you strain to squeeze out as many words as you can per day. So, give yourself a head start and begin the month of November with a tidy house, fully stocked kitchen and a few emergency meals already prepared. 

Stock up on Snacks
Linked with the tip above, ensure that you have some (healthy) snacks to get you through some of the slumps you will encounter throughout November. Snacks that are edible whilst typing are the best kind. And, if you want something like chocolate M&M’s – make it a rule that you can only eat one for every sentence you type, If you’re not writing, you’re not allowed the treat. 

Get a Reward Buddy
If food is going to play a part in your rewards system (like earning that chocolate bar for when you hit 5,000 words) make sure you have someone onside who will only let you have it once you’ve actually reached that target. In other words, no cheating. This is important for any reward you might put in place. If it’s something you’ve earned there is nothing more satisfying that having someone else present it to you in an official mark of celebration. 

Once you’ve got these in place, here are a few things you can work on to help with the writing come Thursday:

Character Objective
Make sure you know what your main characters want more than anything in the world. Then spend the whole of November taking it away from them. If you understand your character’s main motivation (what they want and why they want it) it is much easier to create plot twists and, eventually, give them their happy ending. Even better, it can help you inject conflict into every scene – especially if you have an antagonist whose objective runs counter to your protagonist’s. 

Shape your first line
onceuponatimeWe all know how important first lines are in novels. Sometimes it can make the difference between whether I read a book or not. So, if you’re chomping at the bit to get started, work on crafting the best opening line you can. Where will you begin? Which character will appear immediately and what will they be doing? How will you hook a reader in just one sentence? Once Thursday begins, you’ll have the perfect start.

Figure out your ending
This can either be taken literally, or figuratively. You might need to know exactly how your novel is going to end in order to be able to work your way towards this from your very first line. If you know this, then you will automatically start placing things into the story to ensure that this ending is possible.

However, if you’re a pantster and have no idea where you might end up (which is part of the fun) think about how you might want a reader to feel at the end of your novel. Do you want a happy ending or would you prefer something more bitter-sweet? Do you want your readers to feel excited and pumped up by the end, or calm and contemplative? Hopefully, this will help you determine the mood of what you’re trying to achieve. 

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So those are my final few tips to prepare for the challenge of 50,000 words in just 30 days. If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo and want to buddy up – please add me on the site. My username is ankhofbastet.

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Good luck to everyone taking part. But, remember – whatever happens, you’re bound to end up with more words in November that you would have a written without the NaNoWriMo push: so be proud of any progress you make, even if you don’t manage the 50k goal.

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Writing that dreaded Synopsis

I think putting together a synopsis for a novel is one of the most challenging aspects of writing for ‘new’ writers. I am certainly finding it very difficult. How am I expected to sum up a story that it has already taken me around 90,000 words to tell in only a page or two?

There are numerous methods and techniques out in the either of the web that can help you write a synopsis, and most of these are centred around the various basic story structures that should come together to form a novel.

The basics of a good story...

The basics of a good story…

Here are a few that I’ve been finding useful*:

  • If you need to be taken through every step – maybe because you aren’t clear on your plot, or like to be thorough – try How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel by Glen C. Strathy. This is a Seven Step Programme that will help you identify all of the key points for both the emotional aspects and main arc of your plot
  • If you feel that you have a good grasp of your story and characters, Synopsis Writing Made Easy by James Scott Bell might be better for you. This is a good paragraph by paragraph guide to synopsis writing that starts out with the premise of your novel in just one sentence!
  • I also really like How to Write a One-Page Synopsis, written by Amanda Patterson. This is a great, quick reference to the synopsis writing process – providing you know your main plot points.
  • Finally, I had an excellent recommendation from a friend – actually, my new critique partner, – who has been struggling with a synopsis herself recently. She suggested I check out Dan Wells’ Seven Point Story Structure, recommended by the Self Publishing Toolkit. Not only do they offer worksheets to get you started, but Dan also has some awesome videos on YouTube (Part 1/5 here).
    Having read my friend’s brilliant synopsis yesterday this technique most definitely works.

* It should be noted that if you’re writing a synopsis for querying always check the submission guidelines to see what the agent/publisher expects. 

The biggest issue I have is that my novel doesn’t conform to the standard story structure. The story does – but the novel itself does not. Whilst I have my main story arc (written in 3rd person) between this there are three instances of 1st person story flashbacks from different characters – all of which also have their own story structure included.

Therefore, as it stands, I officially have four stories in one. Writing a standard synopsis, therefore, doesn’t really sum up my novel as a whole. In order to get around this, I’m going to have to play around a little longer with different techniques and see what works best. I suppose I can take solace in the fact that at least it’s not as complex as Cloud Atlas – for which I discovered this basic synopsis.

Once I’ve got a version I’m happy with I’ll be sharing my new synopsis here so you can see how I got on. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the plot of my novel, check out my current ‘book blurb’ on my Novel’s Page.

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Have you struggled writing a synopsis, or did you breeze though it? Any tips or links would be gratefully received via comments. Or, alternatively, Tweet something for my attention @CatLumb