NaNoWriMo Tip #7: Chapter doesn’t work? Fix it in “post.”

THE-HOUR
Both my husband and I have broadcast backgrounds. One very important lesson we learned in those previous gigs serves us well when we're editing text articles or, in the case of National Novel Writing Month, novels:

Should you feel something isn't working on your project, you can always fix it later.

Broadcast producers can always rely on post-production: the time spent in the production booth, editing the footage shot or recorded for the project. If, while shooting the segment, what you're getting on camera runs too long (exposition; needless scenes, etc), or the subject stutters or talks too much (dialogue) — you rarely say "Cut" and start over. Instead, you'd wait until you were in the studio and saw the raw footage to determine which scenes needed to be trimmed.

The same goes for your manuscript. You job over the next few weeks is to put the story on the page. Afterward, you'll go through it page by page, chapter by chapter. If something reads false, go ahead and chop and dice it, until it reads to your satisfaction. 

This won't happen in second draft either. You'll go through several drafts before you're truly pleased with your work.

Even after it sells to a publishing house (YES IT WILL SELL; YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT) you'll get notes back from your editor on how a scene or character should be tweaked. Then it will go through copy edits, where someone with a better grasp than you of grammar and syntax will take a shot at it, as well.

Because when it's ready for its public debut, your readers deserve the best story possible.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

The photo above is from the BBC TV series, THE HOUR, which is one of my favorite shows. It looks at broadcast journalism in London, during the 1950s.

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READ YESTERDAY'S  TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: How many times do you read a chapter before you write the next one?

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #6: When your “backstory” should be the story.

HarryPotter

During National Novel Writing Month, many an aspiring novelist will start with a great character. He will know his hero backwards and forward, as if he is his very best friend.

He'll describe how the hero looks, down to the cleft in his chin. He'll know about his childhood, his teen angst, his tribulations and his desires.

But now that it's time to give his hero something to do, the writer stalls out.

Why does this happen?

Because in this case, the backstory is the story.

So why not move it front and center?

If you can answer yes to these four questions, then the Muse is trying to tell you (HELLOOOOO!) that the better book to write starts where your hero first intrigued you:

1. When describing your book to others, do you find yourself spending more time describing your hero's past, but get stuck on telling what will happen to him in the book?

2. Is half of what you wrote in your synopsis his backstory?

3. Did it take all of Chapter One to describe your character before you realized you had nowhere to go with Chapter Two?

4. Do you find yourself rewriting the details of your hero's past, because it's more interesting than considering his future?

Take a broad hint: There is gold in the hills of his backstory.

Harry Potter is a perfect example of this. Can you imagine if J.K. Rowling had started her epic story with, say, Book 6 The Half-Blood Prince — when Harry was already at Hogwarts and just realizing his true role in a world turning darker, more sinister? Surely this book in the series and the seventh, could  have been tweaked to stand-alone…

But consider how much was gained by knowing so much more of Harry's backstory.

That's because it was never just his backstory. It was the story.

Bottom line: start at the real beginning: when you first realized that your hero intrigued you.

Maybe it was when he did that old-soul thing at age three. Or when he had his first kiss. Or when he accidently drove his parent's car into the lake.

Not all stories were meant to start where we want them to begin. Sometimes they start earlier, or later.

If you start your story at a point that is most interesting in your character's life, your readers will be sucked along on his journey, too.

So take them along for the ride. 

It ain't the prequel. It's the beginning of a wonderful friendship between your hero and your reader.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you: Which character's backstory would you have liked to have read about, as a book?

For me, it is the character of Ethan Gage, in the wonderful historical suspense series by William Dietrich. We know that Ethan once studied under Benjamin Franklin. it would be a hoot to see his antics stateside, before we're introduced to him in Napoleon's Pyramids.

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #5: Show, don’t tell.



Because your goal each day of National Novel Writing Month is a word count, it's very easy to fall into a common trap: writing long passages of narration or exposition.

In other words, telling your readers, either via a narrator or the omnipotent third person, what is happening to your characters.

Do yourself a favor and FIGHT this temptation. 

Why? Because what you're doing is "telling," not "showing," your readers.

Instead, craft your scenes with dialogue. It is much more interesting to your readers to have your characters talk to each other. 

No doubt, narration or exposition is also important: for adding atmosphere, for setting up your scenes, for describing where the scenes take place, or how the characters look or feel.  

And it utilizes takes more words than dialogue.

But if your characters don't verbalize their thoughts to each other, they aren't interacting normally.

For the majority of us, telepathy isn't a human trait: all the more reason your characters need to open their mouths to express their feelings.

If you're having a hard time moving from tell to show, pretend you're writing a play. What dialogue would you add to each scene? 

Snappy dialogue. Snarky asides. Anger. Heartfelt revelations. All of these expressed emotions make scenes come alive, and make your readers laugh with — or more importantly, fall in love with — your characters. 

This NaNoWriMo first draft may not be on par with Arthur Miller or Edward Albee or William Shakespeare, but it will go a long way to being completed if it engages readers.

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? Certainly not you!

(c) 2100 Josie Brown.

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HERE'S YESTERDAY'S TIP…

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NaNoWriMo Tip #4: Meet your word count first; edit it later.

JacksonPollock
One analogy about the tips you often hear regarding National Novel Writing Month is to imagine your your sentences as strands of spaghetti that you toss onto the wall of your manuscript.

As with any wall that gets covered with wet noodles and tomato sauce, at some point it either looks like a mess—

Or, like a work of art. 

After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Remember: you are your own Jackson Pollock. This project is just the first of your many masterpieces.

You'll have a natural inclination to go back, re-read it, and edit what you wrote.

Don't.

Why? Because the whole purpose of NaNoWriMo is to put as many words on the page as you can in these precious thirty days.

If you''re spending an hour — or worse yet, a full day — honing a specific page (or paragraph, or sentence) you will NEVER make your word count. The sheer weight of writing — and endless re-writing — are like ankle weights strapped onto a marathon runner: well before you reach the finish line, you will collapse in exhaustion.

Right now, you have only one goal: those 50,000 words, which is about two-thirds or half a standard manuscript submitted for publication, depending on the book.

After your thirtieth day, having reached your 50,000 words, most definitely you should re-read your story.

And re-read it again. And again.

And rewrite it. Continually.

Take note of misspellings, phrasing that is awkward, scenes that are deadly, and characters who don't move the plot forward.

The time you take to reshape your manuscript is what makes it a masterpiece, not how many words it is, or that you even finished it.

Your characters have to be engaging.

Your plot has to challenge them, give them moral dilemmas.

Your story has to be satisfying to your reader.

But your first step is to move that story from your head to the page.

Because ultimately, others want to read your masterpiece, too.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Okay, now, tell the truth: Are you meeting your word count? And tell me why, or why not…

— Josie