beat sheets

NaNoWriMo: The Half-Way Point with the Tips, Tricks, Tools, and Resources to Finish

It’s the half way point in NaNoWriMo and our Prompt-a-Day project is also half way through, hopefully inspiring you to look at your writing and characters in a new way.

Writers in the Grove now has 10 members participating. One participated last year, so this is a huge leap and we are so proud of everyone.

Because our group is so diverse in writing subject matter, age, and skills, we’ve made a few adjustments to the NaNoNoWriMo guidelines. Those that are willing to stick with the word count as a score card are continuing to do so, report in to NaNoWriMo’s check in for the region. Those who are intimidated by such accounting have committed to write for a minimum of an hour a day.

The same challenges that face the word count writers face the timed writers. What to write, how to say it, self-doubt, self-worth, and the dark cloud of wonder about how this will ever amount to something. The challenge is to let all of that go and just write. Edit on December 1, but for November, just write and see what happens.

We’ve heard from several people that their goals of plotting first went by the wayside as their characters took over. Now they are pantsing it, just writing by the seat of their characters’ pants, as one described it. “I just hang onto my keyboard and hope they take this thing somewhere.”

In the Portland region, we are getting closer and closer to 16 million words for those keeping score. That’s amazing.

NaNoWriMo Day 12 Portland Regional Word Count Chart 2015

To keep the momentum going, we’ve put together some guides and helpful resources and wanted to share them with you.

Novels aren’t written by muses who come down through the ceiling and shoot magic through your fingers and out onto your laptop’s keyboard. Before NaNoWriMo, some teensy part of me still believed that because writing is a creative act, it should feel easy. But fairies don’t write novels. They’re written with one simple equation:

Time + Work = Novel

Stephanie Perkins on NaNoWriMo Blog on the rewards of not giving up on your story

NaNoWriMo Survival Resources – To Get You To the Half-Way Point

The following articles and guides should help you get to the half-way point, or help you through the rest of your month long writing experiment. It is an experiment. Sometimes you know where you are going, and sometimes you have no idea, and sometimes, both are true. Edit on December 1 but keep writing through the month and see where it takes you.

Along the way, hopefully the following will help, inspire, and motivate you.

Prompts and NaNoWriMo Ass Kickers

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NaNoWriMo: Beat Sheets and Story Engineering Worksheets

There are some terms you need to know if you will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year.

  • Plotter: A writer who plots out their story with an outline, which they tend to follow for the most part during NaNoWriMo.
  • Pantser: A writer tackling NaNoWriMo with little planning and forethought, just writing by the seat of their pants.

A few years ago, a new term arose, brought to light by Angela Quarles, self-labeled a Geek Girl Romance Writer. She also offers writing advice, tutorials, and tools to help writers.

In her post about her experience and the lessons learned, she describes the two key types of writers who participate in the National Novel Writing Month challenge, and invented her own type called plotser:

What’s a plotser? A cross between a pantser and a plotter, with maybe a wee bit more emphasis on the pre-plotting.

With Hurricane Sandy and other circumstances, my new agent (signed only on Oct 4) and I weren’t able to coordinate on what direction to take for a sequel to MUST LOVE BREECHES. So for most of October, I wasn’t even sure if I was participating in NaNoWriMo. Then at the end of the month, I decided to take up a premise that had nothing to do with BREECHES so I wouldn’t waste my time writing a sequel she didn’t want.

However, that meant I’d not spent time plotting at all.

I had what I thought was a fun premise and a sense of who the H/h were and so started one day late on November 2. I caught up with everyone over the weekend and was doing swimmingly until about Day 5, then my word count dribbled downward and things ground to a halt. I had no idea where I was going with this and I didn’t like feeling that way. This wasn’t the normal ‘what I’m writing is drivel’ feeling, I really felt like all my characters were just spinning their wheels waiting for something to happen. Like the plot. Ugh.

A local writer friend sagely advised me to take a break for a week, two weeks, to figure out the plot and then do a FastDraft blitz at the end. So I did! I ended up creating a spreadsheet to help myself stay focused on what I needed to discover…

As a result of her experience, she created the Story Engineering Worksheet (Excel Spreadsheet), a spreadsheet created in Excel that breaks down all the elements of a novel into their finest detail. To download, click, on the link or right click and save to your hard drive.

Described as a “mix of the four act/part structure, and beat sheets,” the worksheet is based on the spreadsheet by Jamie Gold called a beat sheet, a worksheet that structures your plot all on one page.

Described by Storyfix in their Lessons for Writers:

The “beat sheet” is a way to sequence your story, using bullets instead of whole sentences or paragraphs.

Yes, this is an outline, but it is more than that. It is a scene structure for your novel built around basic plot points or story arcs. (more…)