I mentioned Nanowrimo in my first post. And now that it's July, I'm going to go into a little more depth. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is in November. However, the Nanowrimo website runs three events throughout the year in which the goal is to write 50,000 words(your goal can be different) in a month. One of these events is held in July. I'll be participating and hopefully run my word count from 10,006 to somewhere closer to 60,006.
What to Expect if Participating
As with most wesites, the first thing you're expected to do is to build a profile on yourself and your project. Once you've done that, you can move on to finding your "cabin." This cabin will be formed based on age range, genre, or other things, depending on who you want in your cabin. You can talk to your cabin, ask for advice, give advice, start up conversations, etc. via your cabin message board. You can also keep track of your cabinmates' progress. Knowing that others can see your progress can motivate you to meet your goals. The progress tracker you allow you to input your daily word production, and according to those numbers, it will tell you when you will meet your goal and what you have to write per day in order to meet your goal. Since I'll be participating in this, I won't be able to make any lengthy posts over this month. However, I will post daily word updates that share how much I've written just during this month and my accumulative word count for my novel. Wish me luck!
The characters of your novel are what drives the plot. Well developed characters are essential to a successful book. But how do you do create believable and engaging characters?
Give Your Character a Motive for Everything They do
Every action of your character needs to have a reason behind it. Your hero/heroine doesn't just wake up one day and decide they are going to save the world. Something inspires them to do so. Whether their motive is becoming rich or overthrowing a corrupt government, your character should have something that drives them. And don't only give them one main motive. When your character eats, it's because your character is hungry, not because they are taking revenge on the villain who killed their family. Likewise, not every decision they make is for that single driving reason. Allow other conditions to push your character in certain directions. Do you want your character to investigate a building? Give them a shady character to follow to that building.
Develop a Type of Dialogue Associated with Each Character
The significant amount of your character's personality originates from what they say. If you are writing your novel well, then as your readers become familiar with your characters, the audience should be able to differentiate between your main characters without dialogue tags. Maybe one character speaks formally, never cursing and never using contractions. On the other hand, one of your characters might slur their words and curse explicitly. Then again, what makes your character's dialogue unique might be more subtle. Perhaps they say like, like, a lot or use certain phrases frequently. Whatever it is that makes their dialogue unique, just make sure you remain consistent. Don't give them an accent on one page and then neglect to write it that way on the next page.
Give Your Characters Habits and Hobbies
Yes, maybe your character is busy plotting to overthrow an evil tyrant, but that doesn't mean they don't knit in their free time. Everyone has habits and hobbies. Make your character whistle when there's an awkward silence or play with the hem of their shirt when they're uncomfortable. Write in a way that when something happens, the audience can anticipate how the character might react. Oh, that guy is singing? The character is definitely going to break out some sick dance moves. Did that person just mention how short she is? He's about to receive a fist to the face. You get the point. And in those moments where there seems to be a lull in your plot, let your audience discover some quirks or hobbies of your character. Maybe your character is waiting for the arrival of the enemy force. How does he/she spend the time? Do they draw a picture, write a letter, whittle a piece of wood, go to a bar or a brothel? The readers don't know. Let them know.
Make Your Character Change in Some Way
Every protagonist needs to change by the end of your novel. Now, this doesn't mean you can simply cut off their leg and say, "At the beginning of this book, my main character had all of their limbs, and now, they're an amputee." That's not what I mean. Something within the novel causes your protagonist to change a viewpoint or a characteristic that was important to them. Maybe they realize that they had been unintentionally working to the benefit of the enemy, and now, they are forced to rethink everything that they had thought to be true. It can be anything. It just has to be something fundamental about that character that is warped or replaced. Without this change within the character, you are left with a flat, dimensionless character who has failed to benefit or learn from their experiences within the book.
It can be a struggle to avoid repetition of words- Especially, the word said. Dialogue is good. You want to incorporate a lot of it within your story. It helps develop characters and add realism to your story. However, when you use dialogue, you are inviting the risk of overused words. How do you prevent this from happening?
Actions Before Dialogue
When you have a new character begin to speak, simply add an action directly before they talk in order to identify the speaker. For example:
Instead of- "We should go," Mary said.
Try- Mary turned her gaze towards the smoke. "We should go."
By identifying the speaker beforehand, it becomes unnecessary to add a dialogue tag after the spoken words. This strategy will create better sentence fluency and prevent overusing the word said. I've found this technique incredibly helpful.
Now, this doesn't mean you need to eliminate the use of said altogether. When used sparingly, this word accomplishes its purpose without distracting the reader from the story. In my opinion, there are few words besides said that you should use as dialogue tags. Leading to my next tip...
Don't Use Words Such as Laughed or Spat
Often times these words can come across as cheesy. And think about what you're writing. Take the following sentence for example. "You have cheese in your hair," Jane laughed. Is that actually feasible? Can someone laugh words? No. You speak words. Not laugh or spit them. Other words such as acknowledged, commented, and exclaimed are acceptable, but the dialogue and the character's actions should be enough to convey the emotion behind it. If you apply those tips to the previous sentence, you end up with something like this. "'You have cheese in your hair,' said Jane, holding a hand to her mouth as her cheeks turned red and laughter escaped her lips." This illustrates the scene much better than the first sentence while retaining the use of said. See? Said isn't bad, merely easy to overuse. However, if you want to eliminate said altogether, you could write, "Jane held a hand to her mouth as her cheeks turned red and laughter escaped her lips. 'You have cheese in your hair.'" By incorporating the action before the dialogue, you eliminate said.
Always carry a notebook with you. Inspirations for your story come from everywhere. Be prepared for those sudden moments of light bulbs going off.
When you write, it's helpful to be somewhere without internet connection. We all know how hard it is to concentrate on your writing. Especially when there are cat videos waiting for you on youtube.
If you ever think that your writing is boring or predictable, just remember: You wrote it. You know what's going to happen. You've poured hours of your time into reading, re-reading, and editing your work. You know the plot by heart. For your audience, it's their first time hearing it. They don't know your story like you do.
When you write your book's first draft, don't go back and edit it. You'll never finish. Make it your first priority to simply reach the end before you attempt to correct your mistakes.
Listen to advice people give you. You might think that your precious darling is perfect just the way it is, but it's not. Your writing can always be improved and many times the readers are able to pick up errors or faults overlooked by the author.
Avoid adverbs when possible. A verb should be to stand by itself.
It's unnecessary to write your book in chronological order. Write the chapter you want to write. Eventually you'll start to be able to piece the parts together. This can prevent writer's block or encourage you to actually sit down and write.
Don't expect everyone to enjoy your writing. People have differing opinions and certain preferences. I know that there are people who can't stand some of my favorite books. You need to learn to overlook these people and appreciate those who love your writing.
Find other writers to review your work. I know that sometimes you can be reluctant to share your writing with others, but you need to get other's advice in order to improve your work. Don't settle for sharing with friends, parents, or someone who happens to be an avid reader. It's important to have other writers see your work. They are not emotionally attached to the story like you are, and they have the expertise to advise you and aim you in the right direction.
Day 1 of My Journey:
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to publish a novel. It's not an uncommon goal either. Many people aspire to become authors of published works and I've made the decision to share my journey towards publication with anyone who visits my blog. I hope that by describing my experience of drafting and (hopefully) publishing my novel, I will give others the chance to learn from my mistakes; I'm sure to make many. If you decide to follow me along the way, that's awesome. If not... eh, that's your decision.
Every couple posts, I will give a word count of my novel, so you can keep up with my progress, and I'll constantly be sharing tips and helpful websites/apps. I encourage suggestions for future posts. If you have a question, let me know. If you want advice, I'll do my best. I hope you'll continue to read about the road of a bibliophile who dreamt about becoming an author.
So, here goes nothing.
Random Tips, Tricks, and Habits of Good Writers
For all of those who wish to write a novel, but lack the motivation:
If you don't know about Nanowrimo, it's a website that helps push you to write 50,000 words in a month. It might sound insane, but I promise that even if you don't reach that word goal, it will start you in the right direction and help you develop healthy writing habits. Even some of the most talented writers will tell you that the hardest part about writing can be sitting down to write. Check out the link below if you're interested.
I haven't participated in the actual event, but I did a down-scaled version of it in my creative writing class, which puts me at my current word count of 10,000. A tenth of my approximately 100,000 word goal- a reasonable length of the kind of fantasy novel I want to write.
Want to further develop your writing skills and add to your vocabulary:
I know that you've heard it before, but I'll tell you again. If you want to be a good writer, you need to be an avid reader. Reading develops writing skills and inspires ideas that you can incorporate within your own stories. And be open about what you read. Don't only read from one genre. You need to have a broad horizon to be able to learn new things from a variety of topics. Aim for at least a book per week. Some of you can read more than that (I know I can), but others have a hard time with this. Just like writing, the hardest part of reading can be sitting down to read. Set 30 minutes out of your day for reading. Guard this reading time fiercely. Do the same for your writing time. Don't allow anything to interfere.
In my next post, I hope to cover character development.