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Boil down your novel to one question 

It's that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us! I am not participating this year as my main priority right now is revision and I'm not in a place to really work on something new, but good luck to everyone who is!

I was thinking about the years I did participate in NaNoWriMo. I always approached it as a "plantser"--a hybrid between a plotter and a pantser. I had some vague idea of the plot at the beginning--or sometimes I might even have a reasonably detailed outline--but it almost always changed as I was writing it.

One of the most challenging things about NaNoWriMo for me is figuring out plot. If you're anything like me, your plots can get a little complicated. Sometimes when you're in the middle of writing, you can get so bogged down that you don't even really know what the story is about anymore. If your a pantser, you figure it out after you write your first draft (or while you're writing it). If you're a plotter, you figure it out before. But at some point, you're going to need some plot structure. 

There are tons of ways to think about structure. The three-act structure, the hero's journey, etc. Today I'm going to give you a really simple way to think about plot structure. If you could boil down your novel to one question, what would it be?

Every narrative arc in a novel, movie, TV show, etc. can be summed up in one main question. Will Dorothy make it back home to Kansas? (The Wizard of Oz). Will Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy end up together? (Pride and Prejudice). If you have a series of books, there may be one question driving the whole series (Will Harry defeat Voldemort?) But each book needs to ask it's own question.

I think this is a good way to think about plot when you're in the middle of drafting because it doesn't mean stopping to make a detailed outline. It just means taking a few minutes before you sit down to write to think about what is driving the plot of your book.

So this week, I encourage all of you--especially those of you who are in the middle of your NaNoWriMo projects--to take some time and see if you can boil the plot of your novel down to one question. If not, you may need to think about the plot structure and figure out which question should be driving the plot. Is it a question of characterization? Will your character learn or grow? Is it a question related to some journey or quest? Will your character achieve his or her goal? These are all some good things to think about as you power through. 


5 Tips to Survive National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 

Well, folks, it's that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts in November. This is the magical time where so many of us writers will try to achieve the lofty goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I've got five tips for y'all that will help you survive.

1. Let yourself be creative. You are not going to get words written if you are constantly second guessing yourself. If you are a planner, don't be afraid to veer off course. If your story starts taking a turn you didn't expect, just go with it! Let your imagination run wild. This is a time to really revel in the joy that comes with the creative process. It's easy to get caught up in word counts and publishing goals, but don't forget why you love writing in the first place.

2. Turn off the voice of the critic. Everyone has an editor or critic voice in their head. This is the voice that constantly says things like "this is boring" or "all of your characters sound the same" or "is this too much like TWILIGHT?". NaNoWriMo is not the time for that voice. So tell her, "thank you for your input" but don't listen to her. Put her away in a little box and when November is over, put away your draft for a month or so, and then take her back out when it's time to start revising.

3. Find some inspiration. You want to keep yourself in the zone where you feel excited about your characters, your world, your story. Make a Pinterest board with images that remind you of your characters or your settings. Make a Spotify playlist of music that gets you in the mood to write. Watch movies with the same themes. Keep yourself inspired and in that creative mind frame.

4. Stay healthy. Don't skip out on sleep because you need to stay up to get that word count in. Don't skip meals or trips to the gym because you need to write. I promise you the writing will go a lot better if you are keeping yourself healthy. Even if you can't manage to get to the gym, make sure you take little walking breaks here and there or try using an extender that allows you to stand up when you write. Have healthy snacks handy like fruit, nuts, granola bars, yogurt, etc. And don't forget to drink lots of water!

5. Don't be too hard on yourself. If you get to the end of November and you've only written 30,000 words, you may feel like a failure. But you have still written 30,000 words!! 30,000 words you may not have otherwise written. Don't feel like a loser because you didn't "win" NaNoWriMo. Anyone who writes anything at all for NaNoWriMo is already a winner in my book. So celebrate every word you have managed to get down and keep writing!

For more tips on NaNoWriMo, check out the #ProjectWriteTube 2016 playlist. #ProjectWriteTube is a video series put together by Tamara Woods where a bunch of us WriteTubers create videos with tips about writing and NaNoWriMo to get everyone pumped up. I did a video last week about whether or not NaNoWriMo-ers are real writers. (Spoiler alert - they totally are.) Check that out, and check out the whole playlist! There are some really great videos on there. Speaking of WriteTube, I know it's been a while, but I recently updated my WriteTube list so check that out too!