NATIONAL NOVEL MONTH–THE END

Well, not really. Actually not even close. What we have explored here are some questions and exercises to get you started. Some novels are character-driven and others are plot-driven. Only you can find the right choice for the story you want to tell. An epic war story ir mystery would be plot-driven while a love story is most definitely character-driven.

Using the exercises you have done choose those that worked best for you and build on them. And keep in mind that stories are moveable feasts–the way you think the story will go may not be what happens at all. Your characters will speak to you, refuse to do what you think best, and in the end carry you with them to a story worth telling (and perhaps publishing). The trick is to stay with it.

Here’s your final exercise–setting goals short and long-term. List one long-term goal that is both realistic and achievable in the scope of your current life and responsibilities. For example, a long-term goal might be that by the time National Novel Month, 2015 rolls around you will have completed the first draft of your novel. Next write down three short-term goals that speak to how you plan to accomplish that long-term goal. For example: if you are having trouble finding time to write, then choose a time (like getting up an hour earlier each morning) to write and try it for ONE week. Is it working? If not, try something else.  Another short term goal that can work is to break off writing for the day in the middle of a scene so that you begin your next session completing that scene which moves you forward (since chances are you already know what has to happen in that scene). A third short-term goal might be to join a writing group where you will share your work (and be accountable for having something to share).

It’s been fun and as we move into the hectic holiday season remember–your writing is a gift you give yourself. Take care. Anna

NATIONAL NOVEL MONTH–EXERCISE 8:

If you did yesterday’s exercise (#7) then presumably you came up with one and perhaps two key characters.

  • Focus on that first character–is that your protagonist, antagonist or neither?
  • What about that character interests you?
  • What is the back story for that character?
  • What drives/motivates the character? (What does he/she want most?)
  • Who else is in that person’s life and what roles do they play?

Now think about your second character; answer the same questions; and finally answer this:

  • what do these two characters share in common?
  • what sets them apart?
  • are they strangers to each other or do they have a past/current relationship?
  • If the latter, what is that relationship?

NATIONAL NOVEL MONTH–EXERCISE 7:

Today I want you to try my favorite brainstorming trigger–something I call “the what-if game” and here’s how you play.

Working with the settings you’ve created, list three possible opening events for each. Example–if you used big city/hospital/children’s wing three possible what-if’s might be:

What if a pediatrician discovered the child just admitted was the son of a former girlfriend–his first love who suddenly left town and never contacted him again?

What if a child being discharged from the hospital witnessed a crime–drug theft perhaps–and knew the criminal had seen her and now was determined to silence her?

What if a famous actor who does not like children and who is preparing for a role as a physician on a TV series joined the staff?

Come on–you can do a LOT better than that but hopefully you get the idea.

NATIONAL NOVEL MONTH: EXERCISE 6:

Yesterday you made a list of potential settings–places you know something about. Today narrow that list down to the next level–if you listed “hospital” bring it in to what department; if you listed “big city” narrow that to a specific neighborhood. Do this for two levels. Example: hospital–children’s wing–children’s cancer wing; big city–troubled neighborhood–business within that neighborhood.

One last thing decide the time period for this story–historical (and if so be specific)? contemporary? time travel? future?

See you tomorrow!

NATIONAL NOVEL MONTH–EXERCISE 5:

Okay I took the weekend off but  here we go again. This week we’ll do five exercises on “knowing what you know.” The advice a lot of writers get is “write what you know” but the truth is that what most writers know is a LOT more than they think they do. So today’s exercise is for you to list ten things you “know” that might make great settings for a story. (Hint: could be a farm, small town, large city, classroom, hospital, etc.)