Preparing for NANOWRIMO 2015 will you be ready?

But it’s not November, so why bring up NANOWRIMO in October? (National November Writing Month or NANO for short)

Nifty Badge for last years winners

Reasons to prepare before November 1:

  • So you'll know what you are writing about
  • You can call your characters by name instead of A and B
  • Have your story anchored in a location
  • Decide what genre you want to write
  • Amass collections of photos of settings to help you describe location
  • An excuse to look through Pinterest for photos of clothing characters might wear
  • So you aren’t stuck because you don’t know if the city you are using has a duck pond, and it is really important to know because your character meets her greatest challenge there
  • Brainstorm at least 3 outlandish things that can happen to your character that will pull the story forward— go there when you are truly stuck and can only type I don’t know what happens next, over and over
  • Get Scrivener if you don’t have it. (See download on the side bar.) You can use it for 30 days. Yes, if you get it now, you will run out of time if you use it every day before NANO starts, but it’s not that expensive, and it’s much better to figure out what this program can do BEFORE NANO begins. You can store all of your ideas, photos and research there so you’ll be ready to attack NANO day 1. The downside to doing it this way is when you win NANO you won’t be able to use the prize coupon. You decide—pay now and be ready or pay a discounted price later and spend precious time figuring out where you put all your ideas so you can move them to Scrivener.
  • Decide how many words you need to write to make the 50,000 word count. Remember, in the USA, Thanksgiving is going to eat up some of your writing time. Sorry, couldn’t help but use that pun. Pace yourself, remember this is a marathon not a sprint.
  • If you are in charge of meals, get those crockpot meals stored in the freezer (see Pinterest for millions of ideas) so you can pull them out in the morning
  • Order some NANO merchandise before NANO starts to encourage you to BE THAT WRITER THAT FINISHES 
  • Grab your official participant badge and add it to your site

If you’ve never participated in NANO, you might think this is a waste of time to write fast and messy. I thought that too, until  I participated and Hearts on the Road, A Bride’s Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee and Mind of Her Own were all picked up by traditional publishers. (Shameless plug, click Diana's Books tab at the top for more information.)

So, what are you waiting for? Get Scrivener, start collecting, and be ready to write November 1, because the  Pencildancers want to read your books!
Official signups!

NANOWRIMO Tips for getting prepared
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Floating Body Parts

Liz here: 
Arms flinging around. Eyes rolling across the room. Hands and elbows sitting on tables and desks.


Watch out!

Body parts are flying everywhere!

When I edit a work of fiction, I examine many different elements that make up a great story. They have to work together to weave the tale. Floating body parts is one of the biggest problems I run across. Even experienced, published authors throw in a few floating body parts (FBP) from time to time.

Let's start with a definition. A floating body part occurs when the body part seems to come detached from the character's body and act on its own. OK, I'm not very good with definitions. Perhaps a few examples will help you to understand what a FBP is.

1. She rolled her eyes. This is the classic one. It sounds like she popped her eyes from their sockets and rolled them across the room. Can't you hear them scratching by on the hardwood floors?

2. He flung his arm over her shoulder. Oy. It sounds like a bad sitcom. I can see his arm flopping around like a dead fish.

3. She put her elbow on the table. Ouch. That must have hurt when she ripped it from her body. And who cleared it when dinner was over?

Not every author or publishing house would agree that you need to get rid of FBPs. Purists will insist you get rid of them. No matter your view, FBPs are a problem for some. FBPs pop them from the fictional dream the author works to create. They remove the reader from the story world. Your audience stops and scratches their heads. That's the exact opposite of what you, the writer, want.

So, what's the fix? First of all, learn to find FBPs. Some aren't as obvious as this. You have to train your eye.

4. Her fingers drummed in impatience on the counter. (Must have been weird to see those fingers dancing by themselves.)

5. He ran his hand through his hair. (Oh, what a nifty invention. A hand and a comb all in one. Note: I see this with fingers, too.)

6. His eyebrows jumped up. (I didn't realize eyebrows had such strong little legs.)

If you see that the body part is acting on its own and can make up a funny little comeback like these, it's probably an FBP.

How do you fix these? Some are pretty easy. For example, a simple rewrite of number four will correct the problem. She drummed her fingers on the counter in impatience. VoilĂ . No more FBP.

Others require a bit more creativity. This is why it's good to get rid of as many FBP's as possible. By doing so, your writing gets stronger. You're more creative in your descriptions. Your writing is better and tighter. Take the sentence where he flung his arm over her shoulder. Let's think about how to rewrite that.

All of the sudden, he pulled her into such a bear hug that her teeth rattled. Why did he have to squeeze her so hard?

See how much better the description is now? The reader gets the picture even more clearly than they did with the sentence with the FBP. And it's fresher.

Of course, there are some floating body parts that are acceptable. I wouldn't question this one. She lifted her head from the pillow. It works without breaking the flow of the story. It's like anything in life. Moderation counts. Just keep FBPs few and far between. And please, please, I beg you, don't let her throw up her arms. That's just plain gross.

How would you correct some of the sentences with floating body parts? What unusual FBPs have you run across?

RUE in your writing.

Jennifer here:

Less is More
Best-selling author Jerry Jenkins is well known for writing RUE in the margins of his students’ papers: resist the urge to explain. Don’t tell us what the character is feeling. Show us how she’s acting. We will relate to that and attach the corresponding emotion. Now you’ve drawn us in and are letting us actively, emotionally participate in the story.

When I judge contests, I see so many writers trying to explain a character's emotions, going on for several sentences to make sure that I’m understanding what the character is feeling. But that it just waters it down. Several well-placed words are much better than sentences. You want to pick just enough words, details, descriptions, scents, etc. to evoke the emotion in the reader.

Think about that evocative picture of John F. Kennedy, Jr. saluting his dad’s coffin. You don’t need to say anything more than that to feel a tidal wave of emotion. You don’t even really need to see the photo. In fact, if you tried to explain it, you’d water it down and create less of an emotional punch.

Leave it to their imagination
Stephen King said in On Writing that when he wrote Carrie he didn't describe the main cheerleader because everyone would picture "that girl" from their school days. Their cheerleader and all the corresponding emotions they had about cheerleaders and high school. That’s a much more effective way of reaching readers' emotions than telling them what to feel.

I dislike when I've pictured something in my mind and the author is describing it differently. For example, the layout of the house. If I think the kitchen in on the right and now she telling me it’s on the left, I can’t picture it. I can't come around to her way of thinking, and it's a disconnect. It's also why I'm not a big fan of faces on book covers. It's never how I imagine the characters.

Use details for maximum impact
Give your characters objects infused with meaning, like a locket or a pocket watch. It could even be bigger like a guitar or a classic car. We as readers know that particular object has great meaning. So when the hero takes off in the ‘66 Mustang he restored with his dad, we know he’s doing more than just taking a drive. Being in the car makes him feel close to his dad, so maybe he’s looking for wisdom or peace. As a writer, you don’t have to lay all that out. As readers, we know how we’d feel in that situation, and pulling on our own emotions will create a deeper connection than just telling us what to feel.  

You want just enough pertinent detail to pull on those emotions. Glasses can be important if the character pushes them up when he's nervous. Then you don't have to say he's nervous, you can just show him pushing up glasses. Or twirling her hair. Or fiddling with her necklace. When the reader makes that connection, they're feeling that emotion. And when a reader makes an emotional connection with your characters, the won’t want to put your book down.