Prepping For NaNo

Over the years, I have made a sheet of tips from numerous places.  Sometimes advice given to me by writing teachers and professors.  Sometimes, questions that teens have asked that has required me to think on the answer or ask others for it.  As I prep for NaNo, I’ve decided to share them.

  • Stress causes writer’s block, as does lack of sleep.
    • This means if you have a big test or presentation on Monday and you are worried about it, you probably won’t accomplish much writing on Sunday evening regardless of how much you may want to write
  • While writer’s block is usually the result of stress, there are things you can do to work through it.
    • Go for a walk, exercising helps you get creative by sending extra blood into your brain.
    • Take a shower, stand there until the water runs cold. Showers are nice quiet places to think and hot showers stimulate blood flow and help with relaxation.
    • Meditate
    • Go read a book – I keep two or three dozen short story books around my computer desk and when I feel writer’s block strike, I read a short story from one of these books.
    • Make some new characters for a different story. Creating characters helps stimulate the creative side of the brain.  – I almost always have a dozen or more characters just lying around for me to use at a later date in something.
    • Realize writer’s block happens to everyone who has ever tried to string sentences together to tell a story.
  • Have a routine.
    • Even though I work from home, I try to wake up at the same time every day. I try to turn on my computer at the same time every morning.  I try to take a lunch break at the same time every day.
    • Before I start writing on any “novel” that morning, I practice writing with either a writing prompt, creating a character or two, and/or by writing a blog post.  These things warm up my brain and get it ready to write.
  • It’s okay to delete huge sections of text.
    • I can’t count the number of times I have started over on a book or the number of times, I’ve decided I hate an entire chapter and just deleted it.
  • Spelling, grammar, proper page formatting, your typing skills, none of them matter when you sit down to write. These things are fixable after you have gotten your ideas out on the page.
  • Just because your story starts one way, doesn’t mean it won’t change.
    • Embrace those changes. No matter how well you have your story plotted out, your brain is constantly adjusting the story as you add words.  This means your story may be vastly different than what you planned it to be.  This is okay!!
    • The only author I know that can plot so intensely and detailed there are absolutely zero deviations from the outline is James Patterson. And while I do like most Patterson novels, I sometimes find them difficult to read, as if it was over plotted and it doesn’t feel or sound organic.
  • You are your audience!
    • Only under special circumstances will you ever write anything for someone else. These usually include formal papers and formal writing assignments in English classes.  Although I did once write a story for one of my closest friends when she got married.
  • If you are stuck, read what you have already written.
  • Embrace your creativity!
    • I grew up with words on the brain. I wanted, no needed, to get those words out onto a page most of the time and I would write during study hall and on my lunch break.  Unfortunately, some of my not so creative classmates thought it was weird that I wrote for fun.
    • And that too was okay!! Creativity is a sign of intelligence, deep introspection, and a mind that doesn’t conform to all the standards of normalcy.  It is not something a non-creative will ever understand and even with your expanded vocabulary (another bonus of writing and reading), you will never explain it where they can understand it.  Don’t let them stifle you, just because they don’t understand and therefore want to make you feel bad about it.
  • Use Your Friends & Family
    • Once you have something written, give it to your mom or a good friend to read. In junior high I had three friends that read all my short stories along with my mom.
    • Those Alpha Readers may discover something you missed or something you should add.
    • If any of those people respond negatively to something you wrote, evaluate why. Did they dislike it because they don’t like to read that kind of story?  Are they envious that you can be creative?  If you can’t find justification for why they didn’t enjoy it, don’t let them read anything else.
  • Don’t get rid of anything
    • You may hate a handful of pieces of your writing. You may decide they are terrible.  Put them in a folder on your computer and just let them sit.  Time brings new perspective.  Something you think is awful or stupid today, you may decide is great in a year.
    • I’m talking from experience here. When I was 22, I deleted every short story and novel I had written up to that point because I decided I wasn’t good enough to be an author.  I would give a lot to have all those pieces back.
  • Almost any problems that arise in a story can be fixed.
    • I have gotten to the end of novels and realized I forgot to wrap up the main plot of the novel.  That’s why everything starts as a draft.
  • Most writer’s practice by writing short stories.
    • I love to write short stories, even to this day.
    • Even Neil Gaimen (author of the book Coraline) writes short stories to stimulate his brain.
  • In real life, first names have power, they are part of your identity.
    • The same should be true of your characters. This means if you hate the name Ashley, don’t make it the name of a main character.  And you may hate Ashley just because you don’t like the way it sounds or because there’s a girl that’s mean to you named Ashley.  Your feelings towards the name will transfer into your book and the reader’s will know you hate your character named Ashley, even if they don’t know why.
  • Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more
    • Writing is a skill, no different than playing a musical instrument. You must practice it.
    • Sometimes that practice is sitting down and writing. Sometimes that practice is sitting down and reading a book about how to craft a good plot.  And even reading a fiction novel counts as practice.  I don’t just write books, I get to read them as part of my job!!
  • When all is said and done, what you have written is yours!
    • Despite the fact that I have now published more than 25 books, I still have two reactions every time I release something
      • I’m nervous none of my readers will like it
      • I feel like King Kong because I have written a book that I think is worth sharing with the world.
      • And usually about a week after the book has published, I regret it. My brain says “oh you should have done this,”  “You should have done that section differently,” “You should have made her have wings,” “You should have changed the plot to include X,” and I will second guess myself, even as people tell me how much they liked it.
      • ALL of these emotions are completely normal!
      • I even hate a few books that I have published. And that is also normal.
  • You are the God of your story
    • You created every character.
    • You created the setting.
    • You created the plot.
    • You rule the universe that you created.  You may do exactly what you want.  If you want Pirates with laser cannons to battle zombies from the lost Continent of Atlantis, go ahead.  Most of the time, you don’t even need for your characters to understand.  The only people that need to understand are you and your readers.
  • Finally – Writing Should Be Fun!!
    • Writing even as a hobby is work.  Even if you do not publish your stories, you are flexing the “muscles” of your brain.
    • It is normally exhausting.
    • The difference between writing a story and running a marathon is that one is mental exhaustion and the other is physical exhaustion.
      • Both will help you sleep.
        • Both will help improve your mood.
        • Both are healthy.

Now go forth and NaNo or write a short story or create a character or copy this list and print it.  Or whatever….

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