Monday, October 14, 2013

Strategies for NaNoWriMo - 2013

There is nothing NaNo about this WriMo
So, I'm on the fence this year about actually participating in NanNoWriMo. I haven't taken part since 2008 and find that the time of year just isn't conducive to writing consistently. I'm definitely going to step up my output though and I've developed a strategy for cranking out those 50,000 words. And, while I might not participate, I can highly recommend taking part in NaNoWriMo for the inspiration and challenge. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month, which happens every November. Established in 1999, the nonprofit organization aims to motivate writers to produce a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It's a daunting task, to say the least, as it forces the author to crank out 1666 words a day for 30 consecutive days. But, it's possible. And, having just finished my sequel, I need a goal to recharge my writing engine. The trick to NaNoWriMo is to have a game plan. Here's mine.

In the past, I never approached NaNo with more than a whim and a vague idea. This can lead to burnout and frustration when the initial idea runs out of gas (as they often can). I've been brewing up a story lately that I think will work very well in the NaNo setting. It's a young adult (YA) post-apocalyptic paranormal series that I plan on telling in short episodes. It revolves around a young man who is living in a world changed by a cataclysmic event that wiped out almost all of the Earth's population and left the landscape a smoldering remain. When finished, I'll publish them as an introductory series to my YA writing under my own name.

In a sense, I've been preparing this story for a while. I've been jotting notes down for this story for the last three months, right after the initial idea came to me. It all started with an image. I saw it and thought, "That's got a story in it." At moments, I've thought over scenes and characters and tried to lay them out in an order that makes the most sense. I've now got more than enough to write several "episodes" and have written about 4000 words so far (don't do this if you're actually participating in NaNo... that's cheating).

With several weeks to go until November 1st, you should be using this time to plan ahead. Now is the time to plot, lay out that chapter structure and at least have a game plan in place. Trust me, it's so much easier to approach NaNoWriMo with a plan, than hope something comes up as you're writing. My plan involves having a full outline of each section before starting. Essentially, breaking it down into five 10,000-word episodes. A chapter in a book runs anywhere from 2000-2500 words in my usual writing, so the goal is to have 4 to 5 chapters per episode.

Sometimes it's easier to get a grasp when you see it layed out:

Episode 1 (10k words)
     Scene 1 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 2 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 3 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 4 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

     Scene 5 (2k)
          (Characters, Setting, Conflict)

Episode 2 (10k words)

Rinse, repeat as necessary until you've reached your goal.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes: "This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard." Writing a novel is a difficult process and NaNoWriMo asks you to take all of that difficulty and try and condense it into a 30-day period. Remember that your goal here is a first draft that reaches 50,000 words. It's often more about turning off your interior editor and putting words to the page than creating something magnificent the first time through. I hope maybe I've given you some direction into how to make the challenge a bit less steep. It's not a bad plan for approaching any story, but when faced with a tight deadline and a seemingly insurmountable word count, it's often best to break it down into more manageable portions.

Good Luck! Are you doing NaNo this year? If so, do you have a plan? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Giving My First Library Presentation

Several months ago, I wrote an article on Social Media for the Independent Author, so when the
opportunity came up to do a presentation at a local library (actually 45 minutes from me, but now we're splitting hairs), I thought this would be a great topic to discuss. The presentation was to be 2 hours with 1.5 allotted for me to talk and a half hour for Q&A.

When I started putting the presentation together, my first thought was, "How am I going to fill 2 hours?" By the time I was done, I was afraid of going over. Social media is such a dense subject that can often rely on the knowledge of the audience. In this case, I had prepared my presentation with no real idea of who my audience was going to be.

Being my first solo talk outside of a professional environment, I didn't quite know what to expect. Hosted at a library, the presentation was open to the public. I arrived early and set up the room, discovering that the open blinds made the screen impossible to see. Great, I thought, now my audience was going to be in the dark... trying to stay awake during my presentation. With about five minutes left before the start, my first guest arrived. Phew! Worst case scenario, I was prepared to sit and chat with one person. I was not prepared for there to be no one at all. That might have burst my bubble just a little. Then another showed and another until there were 8 people there, looking at me eagerly. Now the pressure was really on.

Two hours later, we wrapped up the last bit of Q&A and they gave me a round of applause. At that point, I actually felt a bit embarrassed for it. Over the course of the morning, I felt more like I was just up there having a conversation than speaking on a particular topic. It was a nice feeling though and the overall response was fantastic. I've been in touch with some of the attendees since and have been a bit overwhelmed by the gratification on their part. It was a great feeling to be able to pass along, what I considered, just a small amount of knowledge and perhaps get people thinking about things in ways they hadn't before.

I really enjoyed every aspect of giving the presentation. My wife just shakes her head and wonders how I can get up in front of people and talk. That's the easy part for me. Stick me on a stage any day. So long as I know my lines, I'm good. When I forget my lines, that's when the nerves kick in. And, while presenting isn't for everyone, I highly recommend adding it to your arsenal of promotional tools. I don't expect to sell many books by presenting, but I hope to create relationships with writers who will recognize that I'm just trying to help and someday might be able to return the good will if they have a chance.

If you would like the 52-page PDF version of the presentation I gave, just sign up for my newsletter and send me an email (andyraneauthor[at]gmail[dot]com) with "Social Media for the Independent Author" in the subject line. Or, if you already receive my newsletter, just send me an email. If you're in the NJ area and are interested in having me give this presentation (or another on the subject of writing or publishing) for your writers' group or library, please let me know.