NaNoWriMo Is Not the Name of Pocahontas's Sister

So NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow–I hate that abbreviation but what are you going to do?–and millions of people will sit down and start to type. Since I’ve been writing a lot lately, I thought I’d give it another try this year, but although I can find my dashboard on the website, I can’t find the place to put in the word count. It hasn’t started and I’ve failed. Then I thought I’d cut and paste their explanation of what NaNoWriMo is. Couldn’t find it. Either I’m inept–a strong possibility–or their website needs work. So I went to Wikipedia:

National Novel Writing Month, shortened as NaNoWriMo (na-noh-ry-moh),[2] is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel from November 1 until the deadline at 11:59PM on November 30. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing and keep them motivated throughout the process. To ensure this, the website provides participants with tips for writer’s block, local places writers participating in NaNoWriMo are meeting, and an online community of support. The idea is to focus on completion instead of perfection. NaNoWriMo focuses on the length of a work rather than the quality, encouraging writers to finish their first draft so that it can later be edited at the author’s discretion.[3] NaNoWriMo’s main goal is to encourage creativity worldwide.[4] The project started in July 1999 with just 21 participants, but by the 2010 event over 200,000 people took part – writing a total of over 2.8 billion words.[5]

There you go. Write 50,000 words in November and . . . I forget what they do for you. Writing 50,000 words should be reward enough.

So who who’s playing this year? And what are you writing? Tell all.

The Monday Street First Act Character Map

I’ve talked before about character maps. They seem like a complete waste of time–my McDaniel students are never enthusiastic when I assigned them–but they’re the best way I know to see the relationships between and among the characters. Toni and I have added enough characters to the first act of the story that by now that we need a map. Here are the relationships in the first act:

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The Birth of Whatsit

Sometimes people ask, “How do you think up these things?” I always say, “Thinking has nothing to do with it.” At least not in the logical-planning-train-of-thought kind of way. Another good thing about collaborating with somebody is when you’re done discovering a character, you have the e-mails to show you how you did it. So here’s how Whatsit came out of the nowhere and into the here, done entirely in e-mails (although this stuff was embedded in emails about other things, so this was background noise most of the day):

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Discovery Drafting

Every time I write a book, I have to learn how to do it all over again. I panic every damn time. One of the hardest things to remember is that I don’t really know what the book is about until I start writing. That is, my first (and second and third and fourth and . . ) draft is a discovery draft. I don’t know what I’m writing about until I see what I say. Continue reading

Questionable: How Do You Make a Collaboration Work?

Kate wrote:

Here’s my question: How do you find other authors to write with. I’ve tried one joint project, but two out of four of us quit after our second session. They cited other commitments, but who really knows.

Obviously they need to be writers/people you trust. And I’m selfish, I want them to be better writers than I am so I can learn from them.

Do you have to find writers that write in the same style? The same tone? How exactly does this magic work?

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Something New in Discovery: Quick Starts

Collaboration always has its difficulties, and one of them is getting everybody together at the same time, on the same page (so to speak). This time Toni and I are going full speed, but Krissie is in the middle of finishing a rewrite and moving her daughter home from college along with several other things, and she’s not going to be able to join us until November (aka next week). Toni and I are generating pages of e-mails and chat transcript, and it’s damn near impossible for us to keep it all straight, let alone Krissie coming in cold turkey on Nov. 1, so Toni and I decided a couple of days ago to do Quick Starts, named after those pamphlets that come with new electronics so you can get up and running quickly without RTFMing. Continue reading

Building a Protagonist Visually

Welcome to Discovery Month on Argh. It’s what I’m obsessing on right now, so you’re stuck with it.

If there’s one thing that’s a given about writing fiction, at least the way I write it, is that you find out most of what you need to know by writing the story. But when you’re collaborating on fantasy set in a world that you’re making up as you go, you do a lot of discovery with other people first. Continue reading

Brainstorming Setting

Setting is more than location. It’s time, geography, weather, and people. It’s the wallpaper for your story, and just like wallpaper, poor choices and inadequate preparations can destroy the whole room story. We’re in the middle of brainstorming our setting–Toni and I at this point are obsessed–so I figured I’d give you an idea of how we’re doing it. Also, I don’t have time to write a blog post.

The working title for our book is Monday Street because that’s not just the location, that’s the state of mind. Continue reading