Okay, so youâ€™ve made the decision to join thousands of other writers for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2011 project. Now that the first week has elapsed I thought some tips to help you focus might be helpful.
1) STAY FOCUSED:Â Nothing is more frustrating than losing focus and veering from your original story idea. In an effort to eliminate any confusion, write a Logline that merely answers: WHAT IS MY STORY ABOUT? 24-30 words maximum. Think of it as a TV Guide blurb. Print the description out in bold font and keep it close at hand. This description should be fused in your memory so that you may respond to the often dreaded request: â€œTell me what your storyâ€™s about.â€ By committing these lines to memory, you fuse their reality and make your works an achievable goal. At the start of each writing day, read the Logline so that you may focus your thoughts on what you originally intended to achieve.
For example, here is the logline for my latest novel SNARE: One rock star sensation. Two men from her past want her dead. Three others will risk everything to keep her safe. Who will be caught in a trap?
This is the logline that kept me focused while writing the first book in my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series STACCATO: Three world-class pianists. Two possible killers. One dead woman. Who is her murderer? Who will be next?
2) KEEP MOVING:Â If youâ€™re stuck on a chapterâ€”move on to the next one. Make notations as to where you are stuck to remind yourself where stumbling blocks raised their wicked head, dismiss them for now and start another chapter. Keep moving!
3) VISUALIZE REAL PEOPLE:Â It often helps to visualize performers speaking your lines of dialogue. It will also help you â€œseeâ€ these actors employ mannerisms and quirks which make your characters come to life. www.imdb.com will help you research performers you have in mind. Take a look at their films or TV programs and put them in your scenes.
4) CHARACTER SKETCHES:Â Even minor characters should be thought out fully. Create a character breakdown indicating what each character in your piece is about. Quirks, hobbies, downfalls, character flaws, likes/dislikes are all instrumental in creating â€œreal peopleâ€. Â Create a breakdown of each of your characters. One paragraph is sufficient for minor characters, but major players should be detailed to the extreme. You will find that by writing two pages of text about these people you will know them better and be able to convey their reality to the reader.
5) BRING EACH CHAPTER FULL CIRCLE:Â Each chapter should be a short story within itself. Consider if all elements you have included are necessary to advance the plot. Do you really need a flashback within the chapter?Â If flashbacks are too long you risk tricking the reader into believing the flashback is playing in real time. Â Do you really need to throw in that extra character?Â Focus the scene (chapter) where you want to lead the reader.
6) CREATE A HOOK:Â One of the most important elements to integrate is a hook at the end of each chapterâ€”no matter the genre. Your main goal is to get the reader to NOT quit reading. If you reveal a cunning chapter end, chances are, theyâ€™ll be compelled to turn the page.
7) AVOID EXTRANEOUS TAGS:Â If itâ€™s evident who is speaking, cut the HE/SHE SAID tag at end of your sentences. Chances are the reader is going to skip this qualifier anyway. Â If you stay true to what your character is saying, their dialogue (in many cases) will reveal their identity. Instead, throw in a bit of actionâ€”what he/she is doing or reacting to in order to keep the scene active.
8) KEEP A DAILY RECORD OF WHAT YOU HAVE WORKED ON:Â Use a Daily Planner to keep track of all elements you have composed at the end of your dayâ€™s writing. This is also great to remind yourself of details pertinent to your work. Keep this â€œjournalâ€ for your professional output only. Be sure to do a word count when you finish writing and notate this on your plannerâ€”think of it as your cookie at the end of the day.
9) TELL PEOPLE YOUâ€™RE â€œWORKINGâ€, NOT â€œWRITINGâ€:Â Laypeople donâ€™t understand writers or what we actually do. They do however understand â€œworkâ€ and can process this delineation much better. If a family member or friend calls and asks what youâ€™re doing, merely state: â€œIâ€™m working.â€ That usually does the trick.
Congratulations on making the commitment to complete an entire manuscript this month.
Deborah J Ledfordâ€™s latest suspense thriller novel SNARE, The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, is book two of her Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. The classical music themed STACCATO is alsoÂ offered byÂ Second Wind Publishing. Three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Deborahâ€™s award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications as well as mystery and literary anthologies. Please visit her website for free downloads of the first chapters of her novels and previously published short stories.