Tag Archives: Nanowrimo

Novel Writing: Creating the Rough Draft

pencilsI’ve always been a writer. I started my first book in early grade school, all written in child’s scrawl, pencil on paper. It was a fantasy story about mermaids from a child’s point of view, not to mention from a child’s mind. I did three drafts of the story, of which I thought of at the time as being a novel, but now in my adult years can properly label a novelette.

This story never got beyond the rough draft stage. In my child-level experience, I thought that you sat down and wrote what came to your mind and when you finished the draft, that was it. You could send the novel out into the world.  For the sake of the planet, it is fortunate that this story remains locked in a file drawer where only I will see it. Trust me. It was the right choice.

I know now that this is far from the truth; a novel is born in the revision process and fine-tuned in editing. Yet, in that singular experience as a child playing at being a novelist, I had the right idea. Rough drafting is a matter of sitting down and writing with abandon whatever comes into your mind and getting it down on paper as fast as possible.

The results are often a mess.

I cringe when I read my raw roughs. The adverbs leap at me. The passive voice drags me down. I wonder how this mass of jumbled words will ever appeal to a reader and become a book I could be proud of. Yet, it does happen. I have published a book and sold short stories to magazines. More books will come in the future.

Below are four books on the rough draft process that I personally have found to be excellent guides for me. Through them, I have relearned the spirit of drafting that I stumbled upon as a small child and tap into my creative muse to good effect.

no plot no problem by chris baty

No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty

It is fair to say that my relaunch as a writer during my mid-forties is due to Nanowrimo. This is a writing event that pushes the aspiring author to compose 50 thousand words toward the rough draft of a novel. I attempted Nanowrimo for a few years without success. I wondered if I would ever break through the writer’s block that held me back for almost a decade and be able to tell stories via the written word again. In 2010, I had an idea for a science fiction book that grabbed me. This epiphany combined with an Alphasmart 3000 to write with and the purchase of the Nanowrimo guidebook: No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty. It is what allowed me to write my first 50 thousand word rough draft of a novel.

Baty describes in the book his idea of writing a rough draft in the space of a single month and setting up quotas to propel you to finish. Quantity is the goal, not quality. You are to turn off your “inner editor” and write. This allows your inner muse to break through and get your ideas down on the page. If you are a writer who is not sure how to get started, No Plot, No Problem will teach you how to develop an organic style of writing.

on writing stephen kingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I want to say up front that I am not a fan of Stephen King. I do not read or enjoy horror as a genre and I have only read one or two of his books. That was enough for me. However, his memoir about being a writer is fascinating. I do not have a single writer friend that has not recommended this book to me when learning about the fundamentals of writing. King touches on his life and people and places that have inspired him. In many ways, this memoir is also a master class on learning to write and living as a writer. If you are wondering how to begin writing, this is one of the main books you should add to your personal library.

outling your novel km weilandOutlining Your Novel by KM Weiland

This book is a late addition to my writing library, but it stands tall among the other volumes. When I first started drafting, I was a pantser who wrote by the seat of my pants. My work was organic and the characters did what they wished. In the end, I hope that it all made sense.

During my second year of writing, I realized that meandering through a story did not create the tension and conflict that makes for a great plotline. I needed to learn how to plan or outline the main elements of my story first. The resulting first draft was easier to revise and edit, speeding up the process of my publication flow. Outlining Your Novel is both a book and a workbook to teach you methods to create concise outlines for your stories. Weiland gives many great tips that I’ve found helpful. I read her blog regularly.

90 day novel alan wattThe 90 Day Novel by Alan Watt

As I prepared for Nanowrimo in 2012, I had a particular problem. I was returning to my original science fiction world that I created in 2010 and wanted to work on its sequel. The sword-wielding engineer and champion of the book, would not speak to me. I could not picture her. I didn’t know her background. I knew where she fit into the story, but without being able to envision her, I was dead in the water.

The 90 Day Novel saved my bacon. The first 30 days of the system are a series of questions to help you write about the hero of your “hero’s journey” story. I used this book to develop my heroine starting in the beginning of October. On November 1st, I started Nanowrimo and not only was the heroine clear in my mind, but I had plenty of plot points figured out to propel her to her destiny. While I have not used the rest of the system, it mirrors much of the experience of Nanowrimo with a few individual twists. If you are looking for a guide to help you develop a main character and a general storyline for a rough draft, this could prove to be an excellent resource for you.

Wendy Van Camp featured on CHANGES Vlog Series

Changes Vlog

On January 7, 2015, I was interviewed by Sally Ember, Ed.D. on her YouTube video series entitled CHANGES. This is an hour long freeform conversation between authors and the host that range on a variety of subjects. Our conversation was about science fiction books, literary conventions, steampunk as a genre and a little about myself as an artisan jeweler and author.

I hope you will join me on CHANGES and enjoy the program.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-OOvBXtGRM

Novel Reference Journal

Neo and Notebook

Every author has their own process of writing a book. Mine has developed over the past six or seven years to use National Novel Writing Month to jump start a single long term project each year. I use the energy of my fellow wrimos to push myself to writing, but there is more to the process than simply showing up for write-ins during the month of November. I also set aside the month of October to plan my novel and December to do the first rough editing of it.

One of the first things that I create for a new novel project are an outline, character sheets, location and object descriptions. I start by brainstorming ideas in a composition book, writing these down by hand with my fountain pens in ink colors that suit my mood. I condense these ideas into plot points in another section of the notebook until I have a rough story line.

At this point, I move the plot points into my computer, using each bullet point as a scene file in my Scrivener program. I don’t name chapters or try to lock them into position, I’ll wait and finalize that once the rough draft is completed. My file names are simple descriptions of what happens in the scene with a little more detail written into the “index card” portion of the Scrivener file. In the research section of Scrivener, I set up my reference files. This is not the final step in my process, although I realize that for many people this is the point where they would start drafting because they write their stories in Scrivener via a laptop.

I find that I do not enjoy writing my novel draft in Scrivener, there is too much temptation in the internet or other distractions if I am in front of a computer. Instead I like to draft with a digital typewriter, a machine known as an Alphasmart Neo. The Neo has several advantages in the drafting process. First, it has zero internet connection and it keeps me from distraction when I write. The machine is difficult to edit on so it keeps me moving forward in the writing process. I tend to write around 50% more words when I use the Neo as apposed to writing a draft on my desktop. Finally, the Neo has the advantage of not needing a power plug. I can write anywhere on a couple of AA batteries for 700 hours. However, without a laptop to view Scrivener, I also have no access to my reference notes when I’m on the go. This is especially critical when I’m out at write-ins for Nanowrimo in November.

Filofax Writing Journal with NeoMy solution is to create a second reference book, but instead of keeping it digital, I write it on paper. This way my information is always available to work along side my Neo and I don’t need to rely on finding a power plug or to rely on my smartphone. In years past, I’ve used a personal sized Filofax to organize my notes. The personal size was small enough to tuck into my writing kit and the rings allowed me to move the papers into a different order. However, after a year or two of this system, I began to discover that the smaller page size was too small for all the notes that I like to bring. It forced me to write everything smaller or to print my information by cut and paste onto pre-punched paper that was not suitable for the fountain pens that I enjoy writing with. I longed to move up to an A5 size Filofax, but the binders are rather expensive.

This year, I was browsing the A5 sized Filofaxes, intending on picking one up for my yearly reference journal, when I happened upon the Staples ARC system in Junior size. Junior is the same size as A5. I could choose covers of polycloth (plastic) or of leather. The pre-punched paper came in lined notes, quads, or projects. A “notebook” purchase with a polycloth binder came with .5” rings and 60 sheets of notepaper. It was the right size and more than enough pages to create a workable reference journal for my novel project, with room to expand if need be. The price was a mere $14. I decided that it was time to try something other than a Filofax.

I purchased the following for my 2014 Nanowrimo Journal:

    A black and white polycloth cover
    .5” black rings
    Black A5 plastic dividers with stickers
    One plastic ruler
    A pair of large rubber bands designed to keep the journal closed

When I brought the journal home, I organized it with the black section dividers and labeled each section with the following:

    Outline
    Characters
    Locations
    Objects
    Notes

ARC Journal - Outline IndexAt the front I placed a 2014 Nanowrimo Sticker to decorate the journal a little. I labeled the project, my name and the year. It will make this easier to look over years later when it is in storage. My Outline section has two parts. The front of the section has a checklist of all the scenes of my novel. Behind this index, I write the scenes again, but I also put in a paragraph description of what the scene is about, basically the information that is in my Scrivener “index card”. My ruler stays in the scene summaries at the point where I’m writing the story to make that section easier to find.

At the end of each writing session, I will upload the text from the Alphasmart into Scrivener on my desktop. I check off each completed scene in the journal index so that I know it is done when I’m away from my computer. No more accidentally writing the same scene twice, I can see my progress in my work, and I gain the satisfaction of writing that check mark. It is a little reward for me.

This year, I’m continuing work on a novel I started back in 2011. Several of the scenes for the story are already completed. They are in a different Scrivener project file so I don’t count them toward this year’s word count, yet I want to see them in my outline so I get a good idea of where all the scenes fit in the story. They are incorporated in my checklist and summaries, but I have pre-checked them in the index and wrote a note in red ink in the summaries to let myself know that these scenes are already finished. Again, I don’t want to accidentally write scenes that I do not need to.

ARC Journal - Outline SummariesThe other sections of my notebook contain my character sheets, location descriptions, object descriptions and a section for notes. Mainly the note section holds blank pre-punched note paper for the ARC Journal so that I can add new pages on the fly.

One of the surprises I had with the ARC Journal is that the paper is of a heavy grade that is very friendly to my favorite fine nib Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. The Coleto Gel Pen that I use for color coding also works well with the paper. I like the way the note paper is printed. I feel it gives my journal a more professional look. The final extra I purchased for the journal were the rubber bands. I use one to keep my ARC Journal closed and it works flawlessly. The ARC tucks into my writing kit smoothly, never opens or mangles the pages, and the polycloth seems to slide into my bag far easier than the composition notebooks or Filofaxes I’ve used in the past.

I write with a lapboard under my Alphasmart Neo and I’ve discovered that the pull out mouse board that comes with it makes a perfect ledge to hold my ARC Journal. It keeps it off the tabletop at coffeehouses so my notebook doesn’t get smudges or wet if a coffee drink happens to spill nearby. I’ve been very pleased with this year’s journal during my writing adventures.

What sort of notebook do you use? Let me know in the comments.

Article by Wendy Van Camp – Nanowrimo: A Writer’s Workshop

My article, Nanowrimo: A Writer’s Workshop, has published on Lit Central OC Magazine today. This is a magazine that features writers from the Orange Country area of California. The editor is DeAnna Cameron, the founder of the OC Writers. The magazine features articles about the process of writing, book reviews, and author spotlights.

Alphasmart Neo and Samsonite Shuttle Case
Alphasmart Neo

National Novel Writing Month starts Nov. 1 every year. People from all over the world gather together in coffeehouses, libraries, and other public locations to write 50,000 of the rough draft of a novel in 30 days. It is a time of writing madness. You set aside the regular activities of your life and focus on getting words on the page.

Read More: Lit Central OC Magazine

Android Apps that Writers Love

Last year, I made the switch to an Android smartphone and have been discovering the wide world of Android apps. While I still resist obtaining a full sized tablet, I find that the larger smartphone covers most of my on-the-go needs. For writing, I favor using my Alphasmart Neo as a digital typewriter combined with a paper notebook and fountain pen for rough drafting or my full-sized laptop loaded with Scrivener for editing and revising. I tend to not use my smartphone for actual writing.

This is a review of apps that I have found useful on my Android smartphone that I use for research or as a supplement to my Neo and notebooks. I did not want to make this into another “Evernote, Dropbox, or GoogleDrive” review that you see everywhere else. These are Android apps that are not commonplace, but could have a useful place in your writer’s app toolbox. I have not been asked to review the app by the developer nor do I have any financial stake in their product. These are simply my own opinions.

Rory’s Story Cubes
$1.99
Also available as physical dice or as an iPad app

This app consists of 9 cubes that you roll to create combination. Use the images on the dice as the basis to form stories. There are millions of combinations. When you are stuck forming a new story, sometimes these dice can help you tickle out new ideas from your muse. Having the dice in your phone apps keeps them all in one place and able to use when ever you have a free moment.

Android Troper
Free

I like to browse through a website known as “TV Tropes”. It is a great place to find articles about television programs and the tropes behind the storylines. In the tabbed browser you can set the app to hide spoilers, put it in “night mode” when reading in a dark area so it is not too bright. It has a great search feature too.

Simplemind
Free

This is a simple mind map app that imports easily into its desktop client. The export options are somewhat limited, but I feel that its simplicity keeps you more focused on the task than on making the map pretty. Since it is free, it is not a bad little app to add to your writing app toolbox.

Habit Streak Plan
Free

A trick I like to use in my bullet journal is to create “chains” of activity. I make a note of each day that I perform a certain habit. For instance, I have a chain for every day that I write, every day I work on the revision of my novel, and even each day that I exercise. This app allows you to do your chains on your android phone and help you build a streak of habits that make you a better writer.

What is nice about this app as opposed to using a paper notebook is that it will prompt you to report on your success each day. It also allows you to create more than one chain at once. Of all the chain building apps on android, this is the one that I like the best.

Baby Name-o-Matic
Free

One of the more difficult tasks for me to do when writing is naming my characters. A baby naming app is perfect to help in this case. This app not only will suggest names for you, but it will tell you the meaning of those names. It has 10,000 of the most popular baby names in its database. I try to not rate the names, that way it doesn’t narrow the names choices that it gives me.

Clockwork Tomato
Free

I’ve been a huge fan of the pomodoro time management technique and often use it to help boost my word counts. This android app helps to streamline the timing aspects, and being on your phone it makes the timer extremely portable. I can use this app at home or on the go at the coffeehouse.

Write
$3.99

While I personally do not write on my smartphone or have a tablet, the one writing app recommended by my friends that use android tablets is Write. It has a minimalist text editor interface which makes it great for taking notes, writing chapters and it imports/exports to Dropbox and Evernote among others. It has a word count feature which is necessary for Nanowrimo, and a search function for your notes. CNET calls it the “best android notepad apps for students”. If you do need a word processor for your Android Tablet, this is the one to check out.

Nanoprogress
Free

I have covered this app once before in a post, but it is a good one and bears repeating. One of the features of Nanowrimo is the word count graph on the website that helps to motivate you to reach your goals. This is the app that will do it for you. It is a simple, free app for your Android tablet that will help you keep on track at any time of the year.