Wednesday, November 12, 2014

15 WAYS TO OWN NaNoWriMo


How's NaNoWriMo going, all you writers? Today we have a special treat for sci-fi writers. South African author Ronel van Tonder is here to help us stay motivated and successful. Thanks for joining us, Ronel!

And don't forget to enter Ronel van Tonder's giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

15 Ways to Own NaNoWriMo
(and the rest of the year)

With over 300,000 participants this year, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is bigger than ever.  Started in 1999, the movement focuses on writers and encourages them to write 50,000 words within one month - November.

So just how do you go about penning approximately 1,667 words every day to ensure you reach your goal? And what if you're writing science-fiction? It might seem like a massive goal, especially with all the world-building involved.

Here are a few sure-fire tips to help you reach your goal. And don't just apply these to the month of November. Use these tips to convert from an aspiring writer to a published author.

Before Writing:

1) Get an Idea
This seems easy enough. There are tons of different places to pick up inspiration. A song.  An image. A Google search for weirdest pets known to man (not recommended). Read other books in your genre, watch movies, television series, speak to people.

Honourable mention: Pinterest.

You never know what will trigger the next bestselling sci-fi book, so don't limit yourself to only staring into the starry night sky hoping to meet a real alien.

2) Get a Template
This is quite important. Although not crucial, getting a world-building template can save you a ton of time (that you can then spend writing), while at the same time ensuring you don't leave out those uber-important questions.

Like, what is the national animal of the Grukki people of Slerm? This is vitally important (not the national animal, just the template). There are tons of websites offering templates, and I have a Scrivener template available for download on my site. 

3) Start at a Point
Don't try and invent everything in one go. Start from a planet/world or from a character. Something like this:

 - Pink-skinned humanoid creature with spiky blue hair. Believes strongly in the power of positive thinking, and goes around saying things like "just believe" the whole time.
 OR
 - Ice-planet in some distant galaxy - contains only two forms of life - a gigantic walrus-style predator and millions of sardine-style fish

4) Work your way Up/Out/Through
Once you have a world/character in mind, start asking a ton of questions about them to then expand their world/characters. Like so:

 - Why pink skin? Is this because of the UV levels of their seven suns? Why seven suns? Why not four? How would day/night work in such a place? Is the hair blue because of dye, or is this natural? What if you're born with white or orange hair instead?
 - Why ice? Why walruses? Why sardines? How do the walruses not end up eating all the sardines? What do the sardines eat? Why do we care about this tiny ice planet?

As your questions flow around, you start answering a lot of information about your new world, as well as potentially triggering some fascinating plot points.

At this stage make a note of all your thoughts in a journal, don't leave anything out until you're ready to start incorporating the various worlds/character into an actual plot of your choosing.

5) Rinse. Repeat
Do this for every world/character. This process can take days/weeks/months. At some stage you will have to move onto plot construction, or just start writing if that's your style, but some research and world-building is crucial if you don't want to hit a brick wall (ie: writer's block).

6) Goals
Yup. You need 'em.

If only so that you know if you're anywhere close to where you want to be. NaNoWriMo makes this a bit easier, because they recommended 1,667 words per day. My recommendation is not to limit yourself to a word count. Set up a minimum amount of scenes to write in a day. If the scene is shorter than 1667 words, then make the goal for that day two scenes.

Either way, set yourself a goal, put it somewhere where you can see it every day, and make sure you get to it. Don't move over word counts for the next day, because this will add stress to the next day.
However, if you know tomorrow’s going to be a train-wreck of a day (crystal ball not included), then do more the day before to compensate.

When Writing:

7) Do Your Homework
In essence, the research and world-building should have happened before NaNoWriMo. If it didn't, then don't stress. But spend at least 3-5 hours developing a very vague idea of your world before writing. This cannot be stressed enough. Regardless if you're a pantser (writing without planning), or a plotter (writing with plotting), you should have some idea of what you're trying to achieve.
I believe this is the easiest way to avoid writer's block.

8) Don't Interrupt the Flow
Put on your favourite tune. Or make sure you have complete silence by locking yourself in a padded cupboard. Get into your zone (There are tons of helpful articles about this scattered through the interweb. Do a Google search.)

But once you've started writing, don't stop for anything. If you are mid-way through a sentence and can't remember the exact shade of pink of the heroine's cheeks, don't stop writing to go and check. Do what I do:
Then Lytessa turned to him, her *pink* cheeks gleaming in the light of Slerm’s third sun. “Just believe,” she whispered.

Okay, that was terrible, but you get the idea. Put place markers in when you can't remember an exact detail, word, phrase, anything! But don't stop your writing open a thesaurus, do a Google search, or anything else. Just write until you've finished the scene or reached your word count for the day.

Immediately After:

9) Re-Read
Some might say skip this step entirely until you're at the end of the first draft, but those authors obviously have better memories than I do. I recommend reading whatever you've written that day before putting it (or yourself) to rest. I say this because I've often gone back (even the day after), and had no idea what I was trying to accomplish with a character’s theatrically raised eyebrow.
Was he offended? Amused? In some ancient soap-opera? I couldn't say. That was one o’ clock last night after the coffee had run out.

That's why I re-read everything I've written, making sure it makes sense then and there, while the scene is still fresh in my mind.

10) Replace Placeholders
This is the best time to sort out those pesky placeholders. Now you can go back to your template and notes and check... Ah, yes, cerise pink. Now I remember.
Then Lytessa turned to him, her cerise cheeks gleaming in the light of Stiol's third sun. “Just believe,” she whispered.

Okay, sentence sucks, delete. Now imagine if you'd paused to search for that one word?

11) Make Notes
Did your cerise-cheeked heroine just get shot in the left thigh, four inches above her second knee? Better make a note of that. Else she's going to be alternating between limping on the left and right, the bullet wound's going to be moving around all over her limbs.

Except if you have an exceptional memory - then this is probably not necessary. But perhaps you want to make a note to come back to this scene during the first edit and change the dialogue a bit? Make these notes now, while the scene is still fresh.

Don't make major alterations like that now, because that will just cut into the spontaneity of your work. First drafts should be quick and messy, but inspired.

After NaNoWriMo:

12) Write every day
Every, single day. No excuses. One sentence. Four-hundred pages. It doesn’t matter. But make sure that you pen words every day to get your brain into the habit of writing.

13) Don't restrict yourself
Writing a sci-fi? Don't think you can't add some romance in there. Or horror. Or elves. It's your work. Don't be constrained by genre.

14) Create a System.
Make sure to back up the second Tuesday of every month. Send this external hard drive to a secure vault located in the Himalayan Mountains.

Okay, if you’re allergic to llamas then just make sure that you have more than one copy, in more than one place. Use Dropbox or Google docs as a daily storage method.

15) Start Marketing your Book Today
Now! This instant! Before you even have a title.  Before you've even finished your first draft. People are going to want to read your book. Start telling them about it now.


Start collecting fans, groupies and stalkers while your bestsellers is in the first stages of creation, and your book will go places. 
Find Ronel van Tonder at her website or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+

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