Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Tips for Those Writing by the Seat of Their Pants

The front of a mountain bike heading down a dirt path at speed

How’s your story coming along? Is it heading off in a completely unexpected direction? Are your characters rebelling and mangling your carefully planned plot for their own nefarious schemes?

Have you suddenly found yourself facing the prospect of writing by the seat of your pants for the rest of November?

Fear not. This could be a very good thing!

Even if we’ve carefully plotted our story before we started, during NaNo WriMo we all end up becoming ‘pantsers’ to a certain extent. So, with that in mind, I’ve done some research and assembled the following tips on how to make a success of writing by the seat of your pants.

Map What You Have So Far

Put together a high level diagram, list or spread sheet of what you have written so far. This benefits you in at least two ways:

  • Going back over what you’ve been working on may remind you of earlier plot points which you can introduce back into your current chapter.
  • It will allow you to see what kind of tempo your story has up until this point and determine if you need to spice it up a little (add some more action and adventure perhaps).

In this post by Justine Larbalestier entitled How to Write a Novel, she speaks about creating a spread sheet of the chapters you’ve written. She suggests having a ‘content column’ where you can add symbols to show whether the chapter was action packed, people sitting around talking etc. It provides you with a wonderful overview of what you have so far, which you can then use to launch yourself further into your story.

Remember: Keep your map as high level as possible. Don’t get bogged down in the nitty gritty otherwise you’ll lose your forward momentum.

Think About Where Your Story is Going

Allison Winn Scotch wrote a post entitled Flying By The Seat of Your Pants,  in which she says:

I guess my advice is to really ruminate on the action before you put it down on paper. Even though I might not spend my entire day writing, I do spend a lot of my non-writing hours mulling over what’s going to go on the page when I do. I don’t just sit down and write to write…I’ve long since hashed out WHY I’m asking a character to do something and WHERE this is going to lead to in the plot. If their actions make sense and propel the plot forward, then for the most part, I’m safe.

Writing is not just about putting words on paper. It’s about putting thoughts, ideas and feelings into words. For those words to come, you need to have at least the beginnings of these things inside you.

So set aside time to sit and think about where you are going. Perhaps do this while you’re taking the bus to work, walking the kids to school, pottering around the kitchen (Agatha Christie apparently though the best time to plan a book was while you were washing dishes), ironing or doing other less mind-intensive tasks. If all else fails, take a shower.

Resist the Urge to Go Back

While some authors do go back and rewrite during their first draft, this is NaNo WriMo. We have a word count to conquer!

If you decide something needs to be inserted earlier in your novel, write yourself a note (perhaps in caps) on the page you’re currently writing on and then keep going. For example, if you suddenly kill off your point of view character, make a note to ‘change novel to third person’ and then keep going.

Novels come to life in rewrites. In fact, I have recently come across further evidence that the messier your drafts are, the easier it is to revise them. This post at Writer Unboxed proves it.

Live Up the Randomness

As long as you’re heading off in a different direction with your story, why not take advantage of the added flexibility?

Add in new characters, send your protagonist to another country, call in a thunderstorm. Shake things up. Throw in a bit of randomness. Work your new angles and look for ways to make your story and characters even more interesting.

NaNo WriMo provides dares for different things you can incorporate to spin your story off in a new direction. If you’re facing completely new territory with your story, why not try a dare?

Next week Creativity will be providing some extra ideas to help you spice up your story with a little randomness.

Trust in Editing

Writing is rewriting. Therefore don’t panic too much about your first try at the story. Go with the flow and leave niggly problems to the editing later on. It’s far more important to dream big at this stage and see where your imagination takes you.

Here is an example of a well-established author, Susanne Alleyn, who writes by the seat of her pants. In her post Plotting a Mystery By the Seat of Your Pants, she takes the reader through a real life example using one of her own novels.

This example just goes to prove that you should allow yourself to discover new characters and plot points, because there’s a good chance your story will end up in a far more interesting place. And this is perfectly okay because you can always go back and edit later.

If all else fails and you’re really starting to panic, remember this quote from Martha Alderson (author of The Plot Whisperer):

I don’t care how you write the first draft. Just get it written all the way from the beginning to the end anyway you can – pre-plotting, plotting as you write, or writing purely by the seat of your pants. With a completed draft, no matter how wretched you may believe it is, you can then get down to the real work of plot and structure.

In the end you just might discover that writing by the seat of your pants is liberating. If this system works for you, then embrace it!


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NaNo WriMo Week 1 Highlights

Hello all! How did your first week of November go?

Mine went exceptionally well as far as word count is concerned. My draft is a delicious mess of unattributed dialogue, story notes in all caps and odd character moments. Already I’m having some trouble with a particular character who arrived in the story three chapters too early and then refused to turn up to dinner at her mother’s place, which I’ve had written on my plot cards for weeks (she’s going to be a handful, I can tell!).

As a side effect of all this writing, I have all sorts of ideas buzzing around in my head. I’ve been finding new pieces to a story I cooked up last month and I think I’ve solved a story problem for another project which has been bugging me for a couple of years. (Back! Back, I say! All you ideas must wait until December!) I’m making sure they’re being recorded in my journal, Evernote or e-mails so I can come back to them later.

Now, I’d like to implement something special for the month of November. Every Monday I’m going to put up a snippet of what I’ve written during the week, something I liked. It’s not going to be polished, or edited (unless it makes no sense without the changes), just put up to share.

Then all of you are welcome to add your little snippets from your week of writing. They don’t have to be brilliant pieces to blow us away. Just something cute, or funny, or special, or something you feel ‘clicked.’ Use this as an opportunity to realise what you’ve accomplished and get encouragement from your fellow writers.

Everyone is welcome to join in. You don’t have to be doing NaNo WriMo, and you don’t have to be writing a first draft. Share a snippet of something you’ve written this week and feel proud about it.

So here’s my offering. It’s from my first day of writing. My main character, Edward, is getting dressed for a wedding when someone makes an entrance. It was written in quite a flippant (almost P.G. Wodehouse style) manner, which I’ve since toned down considerably as I’ve written further – so it will doubtless not been seen in future drafts as it is now. So I figure it’s the perfect thing to share. (Remember, rough draft!)

At that moment the door to the bedroom where they were dressing burst open and in rushed a very disheveled toddler – his blonde hair looking like it had just been through a car wash, a chocolate smear down one side of his face and a red mark flushing up on the other. His [coat]tails made him look like an oversized cricket.

Running after the little chap came his sister, two years older and dressed as a flower girl, frills about the waist and bows in the hair.

‘Charles!’ she squealed. ‘Charles you’re all untucked!’

Charles scuttled around the room, squeaking and chirping as he ducked out of his sister’s reach.

Henry and Barry watched with great amusement.

‘Oh, Uncle Edward,’ the girl wailed. ‘Help me catch him.’

‘Uncle’ Edward (an honourary title he didn’t mind too much until such times as it necessitated him catching small, chocolate covered children) bent down to grab at the little fellow who, although his legs were spectacularly short and lumpy, made excellent time and nipped straight past him.

‘Uncle Edward!’ wailed the girl.

‘I know Tasha, here he comes again.’

The little tike had indeed effected a u-turn and was coming back past. Edward made a swipe, the urchin altered course to avoid him and blundered straight into a table leg.

Until this moment it had not occurred to Edward how quiet the house had been – an accomplishment considering it was the morning of a wedding and the house was full of groomsmen, parents of the groom and other peripheries all dressing for the big day. It was a quiet, now that he reflected on it, that should have been savoured seeing as it was henceforth convincingly wrenched apart by Charles’ infantile lungs.

Edward squatted down beside the wailing child. ‘There there,’ didn’t seem to cut it somehow, and he was just wondering whether he should try and pick the little fellow up when the child paused to suck in a fresh lungful of air and then screamed, ‘Mummy!’

As far as Edward was concerned, this got him off the hook. If a child bellowed one’s own name, then one was under obligation to render aid – hugs, pats and consolation included. But if the child expressed a firm and deliberate preference for the assistance of another, well what is one to do but find the person the child is calling?

There was no need however. ‘Mummy’ arrived within seconds.

So, there you go. Now it’s your turn. Please share with us a highlight of your week.

P.S. If you’d like to follow my progress, here’s the link to my NaNo WriMo page. Feel free to make me your writing buddy.

P.P.S. If you’re suffering with white page fright or the fear of what your writing will be like, then have a read through some of these quotes about ‘the courage to write’ at A Beautiful Ripple Effect.


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3 Myths About The First Draft

A piece of paper with NOW! written across it

NaNo WriMo starts today! With that in mind, I’ve prepared this post to wish us all well as we start our journey and remind ourselves of the purpose of The First Draft.

The following are 3 myths which we might consciously or unconsciously believe.

Myth 1 – My First Words Must Be Gold, Otherwise I Can’t Start

“I’ve read that the first page of your manuscript is the most important. It’s what hooks the reader. So I have to make the first lines the best.”

That’s very true, but not on your first draft. Your first words will very rarely be gold. More than likely they’ll be green sludge. But that’s not the point. The point is that you put words onto the page.

Editing is a marvellous thing, a process which discovers the gold in your manuscript. But it only works if the manuscript actually exists.

Don’t wait for the gold. Just Start.

Myth 2 – My First Draft Will Be Perfect

“I’ve got a great idea and some really good characters. I’m pretty well set. All I have to do is get it down on paper and I’ll have something to send out to publishers!”

Let’s not beat about the bush here – 99% of first drafts stink. They’re rough, badly spelled, just about impossible to follow and riddled with continuity errors. And this is exactly how they’re supposed to be! 

First drafts are there for us to begin getting the idea down on paper. It’s the first time they properly see the light of day – like the little green shoot peeking out of the ground at the beginning of spring. Most first drafts glisten with potential, but there’s far more work ahead before they’re polished enough to submit.

Therefore they must not be perfect. I don’t just mean ‘they are not perfect,’ I mean ‘they must not be perfect.’ First drafts are your chance to play, explore and gallivant off into territories you’re not prepared for. The messier your first draft the better!

Sometimes you will read back over a 150 page first draft and find one page which tells you what the story is. Then you throw the rest of it out and start afresh with that one page. This is not a waste – it’s a process. Those 150 pages were absolutely worth it because they gave you that one page.

So, when writing your first draft, don’t go back and perfect every sentence, correct every spelling error and rewrite your opening paragraph 12 times till you’re happy. Write with abandon. If you’re writing on paper, then scribble, scratch out, write in the margins, doodle – make it a delightful mess. If you’re typing your manuscript, then type in caps, write scenes as you think of them without worrying about the order, write notes as you go instead of scrolling back up to change it now. Work on creating a happy flow which keeps you moving forward – because momentum is the most important thing.

Don’t let your messy drafts make you feel inferior to ‘published writers.’ Many published writers work on this principle. Don’t believe me? Listen to this interview with Andrea Levy, where she speaks about her first drafts as ‘the meandering of an idiot’s mind’ (29:30 minutes in). She goes to her local library and writes the first things that come into her mind “and they’re bad. The first things I write down…oh no…they’re not good.”

This post from Ann Aguirre over at Writer Unboxed also shows that it’s perfectly okay, in fact preferable, to have a messy first draft. She speaks about how each novel comes differently, some chapter by chapter and others completely out of order.

If the process good enough for them, it’s absolutely good enough for you!

And in case you needed one more reason, in this guest post by Martha Alderson over at Through the Wardrobe, she says:

As a matter of fact, the worse the first draft, the better. Trying for perfection before you know what you are trying to convey commonly leads to procrastination.

Convinced?

Myth 3 – I Must Have My Audience In Mind

“I’ve got to think about the people who will be reading this manuscript and make sure the story appeals to them.”

If you remember nothing else from this blog post, remember this: The first draft is for you.

Your story’s eventual readers will be reading the 4th, 9th perhaps 33rd draft of this story. Virtually no one will read your first draft. It’s for you.

It’s for you to discover your voice, your characters, the plot, unexpected scenes, special moments – to discover your unique story. It’s the opportunity for you to bond with this creation, to form the emotional ties and depths of understanding which will carry you through the following months or years of bringing it to completion.

Don’t let other people get in your way. Shield it if you have to – don’t tell others what you’re writing and don’t let them read it if you feel their comments will break your momentum. This is your creation and your special time with it.

Later on you will consider your audience and the hook on your first page and polish the work to perfection. For now, this draft is a first draft and it’s just for you.

So go write! Start now!

P.S. For those of you who haven’t plotted your novel, here is some great advice from Martha Alderson (mentioned above) about how to plot your story by scheduling it into the four weeks of NaNo WriMo.

P.P.S. Thank you to everyone who took the time to declare their novel. If you haven’t been following the comments, take a minute to pop back past the post and give feedback to our intrepid writers.


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Declare Your Novel!

NaNo WriMo starts in a couple of days. Are you excited? I am!

Do you have an idea of what you’re going to write? If so, tell us about it! Scroll down to the comments and declare it to the world!

We’re all in this together, and we’re all starting from scratch. So if your story idea is rough, vague and/or clichéd it really doesn’t matter. Get it out and get it going!

Telling others about your story helps you in a couple of ways:

  • It provides you opportunity to gauge people’s reaction and interest in your story. Perhaps you can tweak your plot and characters depending on your audience’s reaction. (Although when working on your first draft, I highly recommend you ignore people’s suggestions and just go for it! Leave the tweaks for revision.)
  • It gives your friends incentive to encourage your progress. If they know details about the story, they become invested in the project and interested to know more.

So here I am, declaring my novel! (Just give me a minute to finish biting my fingernails.)

The Colour of Jam

The cover artwork for my new story - a photograph of a chinese corridor lined with green columns.

Edward Cockburn leads a perfectly planned life, teaching IT in a London college, walking his dog (Asimov) and waiting for his ideal woman to come along…until the day he finds out he’s being replaced by a younger teacher.
Desperate to keep his job for another 12 months to qualify for long service leave, he is given only one option – apply for the college’s Teacher Exchange Program and go to China for a year.
Plunged into the culture shock and mayhem of Beijing life, Edward and Asimov are guided through the learning curve by Australian expat Peta. She teaches Edward how to barter, cross the road, snowboard on the subway, order street food and many other essential skills.
As Edward gradually comes to appreciate the beauties of Chinese living, he also falls for Peta. But Peta is waiting for an ideal man of her own. Can Edward sacrifice his carefully planned life to convince Peta that he’s the man for her?

The cover art is actually a photo taken by my father at the Summer Palace in Beijing. If you make the image smaller and squint your eyes a little, it looks like a jam jar on a green background. (Not intentional! A friend of mind discovered that after I made it.)

Okay, so the title, story and characters will most probably change during the writing process, but this is what I’m starting with.

What about you? Tell us about what you plan to work on. (It doesn’t have to be anywhere near as organized as mine! I just had a bit too much time on my hands before November.)

P.S. If you’re worrying about where and how to start your writing, The Creative Penn had this great post on the subject.


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How to Write By the Seat of Your Pants Through NaNo WriMo

A little girl squealing as she shoots down a metal slide.

Okay, we’ve had several posts now about how to prepare your novel, your Creativity and yourself for NaNo WriMo, but what if you’re one of those people who writes by the seat of their pants?

Well here are some suggestions for you on how to make November a success.

Set Aside Time to Write

Keep to a writing schedule as much as possible. If you don’t plan your writing time, it’s all too easy to just let things slide and end up realising it’s November 25th and you’re facing an insurmountable deficit.

Ideas will come if you have a consistent schedule. First you need to get into the habit of sitting down and facing the page.

Expose Yourself to Plenty of Writing Fodder

While it’s all well and good to keep your head down and dutifully pound out the words, don’t forget to actively look for ideas during the process.

  • Watch people as you walk along the street.
  • Pay attention to shops, houses and back alleys during your travels.
  • Notice different forms of employment – postman, window washer, air hostess, bank clerk. Perhaps even take the opportunity to ask your friends or acquaintances for more information on their typical day at work.
  • Read! Read articles you normally wouldn’t be interested in. Read classic books. Read new books.

Find time to get away from your computer and absorb some of the interesting world around you, then inject it into your story.

Select Music for Your Writing

As mentioned before, music can help your Creativity. Soundtracks are created to tell a story, with interesting changes in pace and emotion just waiting to fit your scene. Different tempos evoke different moods, so listen to a variety of genres to find the sound you feel fits with what you’re working on.

Each character’s choice of songs will reveal their personality, age, likes and dreams. Spend some time considering what kind of music would interest them.

Once you’ve got this collection together, why not create a playlist of songs you feel capture your story and characters. Listen to it during your day to provide ideas for your writing.

Keep a Notebook

Once you get into your story, it’s a good idea to have a notebook or a document on hand to record things. Okay, you may not want to write down your plans for your characters, but at least record the details you’ve already written about.

For example, if your character is an orphan, make a note of it so further down the track you don’t suddenly have him call his father asking for money.

Jot down descriptions and history in your notebook so you can refer back to the details easily, instead of having to scroll through your whole story trying to find them.

Enjoy the Process

Have fun while you’re writing, without worrying too much about the outcome. The beauty of writing by the seat of your pants is that you never know where you’ll end up. And if you finish up somewhere completely different from where you started, you can always go back and rewrite.

After all, this quote is very true:

If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you’ll only have to throw away the first three pages. —William Campbell Gault


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How to Prep Yourself for NaNo WriMo

A woman stretching her leg before a run.Maybe you’re one of those people who can prepare your novel before you start writing, or maybe you’re one of those people who prefer to write by the seat of your pants. Either way, knowing you intend to knuckle down and do some serious writing next month, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself.

Note Down Your Ideas

We’ve already mentioned some things you can do to prepare your novel. However, even if you don’t have the time or the inclination to go to that extent, chances are you still have ideas floating around in your head.

The problem is ideas can be elusive little things. They’re there in the front of your mind when you’re having a shower or trying to sleep, but when you want to put them down on paper – well, they’re off somewhere else for the day and will check back in with you later.

So why not get yourself a notebook or piece of scrap paper and jot down the thoughts while they’re hanging around. Then, if you get stuck during November, you have something to refer back to.

Having ideas down on paper also helps when you start to get that nerve-wracking feeling that you may just have plunged in over your head. ‘What craziness is this I have got myself into? What on earth am I going to do with myself for 50,000 words?’ Look at the paper/notebook and know you’ve already got some things to start on.

Decide When You’re Going to Write

Set aside writing time!

‘It’s okay,’ you might say. ‘I’m motivated. I’ll find the time.’

Perhaps you will, or perhaps you’ll get distracted/overwhelmed by all the other things clamouring for your attention. Now it’s true that life must go on during November and there are things which must be done. However, with any goal that you set, it’s a good idea to put together a schedule of some kind to outline how you’re going to achieve it.

First of all, work out what time of day is your best writing time. Morning? Lunch break? Late afternoon? 10pm? See if you can align your writing with your best time of day. This will make it easier for you to get going with your daily word count.

Once you’ve picked your time, then think of specific ways you can use it. Can you get up earlier to write before you head off on your day? Can you find a quite place during your lunch break to jot down some lines? Can you get to work earlier, or work through your lunch break to give yourself some writing time in the late afternoon? What bed time things can you get done before 10pm so you can have an hour or so of private time with your novel?

Declare an Embargo

Make a pact with yourself now that your writing time is sacred. No checking your e-mail. No twittering. Just writing!

Perhaps, if you’re getting up early to write, decide that you’re not going to check your e-mail until you’ve written a set number of words.

Be strict! This is important to you! Make it happen!

Try Out Your Routine Before November

Why not get into a good writing routine now? Instead of starting a brand new routine on November 1, ease yourself into it over the next week so you’re already in the swing of things before the starter’s gun.

If you’ve decided on a specific time of day when you’re going to write, try it out for a couple of days. Does it work? Should you try another time?

Tell Others

Tell your family, friends and work mates about your goal for November .

Some of them will get excited and might even join up too! They may show an interest in your progress throughout the month, encouraging you to keep going.

It will also help them understand why you might be vague and out of contact for a couple of hours a day. If they understand that this is because you’re working towards a goal, rather than just ignoring them, they’re more likely to be supportive.

When others know what you’re trying to achieve, it provides you with extra incentive to keep going. After all, when they ask you how your day went you want to be able to tell them something.

Get Ahead on Your Odd Jobs

If you have a little extra time this month, why not get ahead on some of the things you’d normally be doing next month? For example, can you write a couple of extra blog posts to give yourself some more writing time?

What about that outcrop of mould in the corner of the shower that you’ve been eyeing off for ages? Get it cleaned up now so it’s not plaguing your conscience while you write.

Maybe there’s that button which needs sewing onto your shirt sometime in the next couple of weeks. Do it now!

Or that e-mail you were supposed to write to your friend which is a month overdue already…

You get the idea. Get some of these jobs done now so they don’t impinge on your precious writing time next month. 

Get Excited

Most importantly, get excited about what you’re planning to do.

Why not try:

  • Buying a new pen especially for November.
  • Clearing your writing desk.
  • Making a motivational poster.
  • Designing a cover page for your novel.
  • Envisioning yourself with a 50,000 word manuscript in your hand at the end of November and the elation you’ll feel on completing it – or even just having given it a go.

Gear yourself up mentally for what you’re going to do. This is a great goal. You’re going to have fun!


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How to Prep Your Creativity for NaNo WriMo

A woman standing at the edge of a pool about to dive in.

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity (you can tell from the purple text). I’ve been a little busy lately working on Jessica’s new novel for November so that’s why I haven’t posted for a little while. Anyway, I’m back now but a little out of practice. 😉

I love watching someone launch themselves off the side of a pool, dive gracefully into the water with barely a splash, and then ride the momentum under the water for a couple of seconds before they surface to start swimming. 

Do you know what makes a good dive?

A large part of it is the stance you take up before you dive into the pool. 

Think about it. If you only get yourself ready for the dive during the split second before you hit the water, you’ve got about a 78% chance of belly flopping, which not only hurts but has got to be in the top 5 least graceful ways to enter the water – listed just above sidling in inch by inch with your face screwed up and squeaking about the temperature.

Now, what about when someone pushes you in? Then the whole thing becomes traumatic. Shock. Panic. Water up the nose, down the throat, in the lungs. 

Where am I going with this?

Well, starting NaNo WriMo is like you and your Creativity diving into a project. Ideally you want to get yourself into a good stance before you dive, then launch yourself into the novel using the momentum to give you a head start on your word count. 

However, some of you will only start preparing for NaNo WriMo a day or two beforehand, possibly leading to a rude awaking upon hitting the blank page.

Then there are those of you who will just shove your Creativity into the water on November 1st and expect a miracle. Now perhaps you and your Creativity have an understanding about these things. Perhaps he/she enjoys a good practical joke and may reciprocate in kind with a wild ride to the other end of the pool.

But can I plead with the rest of you? Don’t traumatise your Creativity from day 1. Take a little time beforehand to prepare your Creativity for what lies ahead by trying these suggestions.

Prime the Pump

You can’t start writing on your novel draft until November 1st, but you can still write plenty of other things, for example:

  • Character profiles or a plot synopsis for your NaNo WriMo project. 
  • Short stories based on writing prompts.
  • Journal entries.

The important thing is to start getting into the habit of writing daily. Coax your Creativity into the routine of meeting you at a regular time every day to help put words on the paper. 

Writing is often likened to a water pump, which has to spew out dirty water first before the clean comes through. And I’m sure you’ve all experienced days when the words and ideas spewing forth weren’t up to scratch. But you have to pump them out for the good stuff to come. 

Now is the below par output your Creativity’s fault? No! Just the same as it’s not the pump’s fault that the water starts out dirty. It’s simply a fact of life – things stagnate when they’re not flowing (like melted chocolate and country streams). 

So start pumping now. Move the rusty words through your fingers and out onto the page. Your Creativity needs you to get the inner workings going, so he/she can start creating fresh ideas and words for you in November.

Expose Your Creativity to Interesting Stuff

Remember, your Creativity is like a sponge. You have to soak the sponge in idea juice before you can give it a good squeeze – otherwise nothing will come out!

How can you do this with your Creativity?

Try:

  • Reading good books.
  • Visiting interesting places.
  • Initiating interesting conversations.

Actively search for fascinating facts and intriguing ideas. Deliberately place your Creativity in inspiration’s path. Your Creativity is stuck in your head, so he/she can only see what you expose them to!

Give Your Creativity Time to Mull

The best ideas come after your Creativity has had time to ruminate, or shall we say ‘stew a little flavour’ into the concept you’ve provided. They need to potter off into their own little space, make themselves a pot of maple syrup and ponder on things, stirring them around in the noggin for days (or more!) until the pieces kaleidoscope into something unique and usable.

So give your Creativity something to work on. Maybe it’s just the beginnings of a plot or a theme you want to explore. Perhaps it’s a character you want your Creativity to get to know better to discover their secrets. 

Whatever it is, no matter how small, give it to your Creativity now and allow them free reign to mull it over so there’s something there ready for you when you begin writing…

…because you want dive into November as smoothly as possible. Okay, it probably won’t be a splashless wonder, but a little preparation goes a long way.


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How to Prep Your Novel for NaNo WriMo

50,000 words in 30 days. Sound like a daunting prospect?

‘What if I get blocked? What if I get 2,000 words in and then get stuck?’

You can either spend the next couple of weeks stressing over that question, or you can get to work. Yes, I know the writing doesn’t start until November 1st, but an important trick to winning NaNo WriMo is the preparation. Developing plot, creating characters and researching facts can all be done beforehand.

Here are three tangible ways you can start preparing for your 50,000 words – with examples from my own novel prep.

(If you’re one of those people who can’t or don’t want to prep before you start writing your novel, then I’ll have a post especially for you closer to the start date.)

My Grand Luxe Dialogue Too Notebook

Keep a Notebook

You’re probably already getting little ideas for your story. Where are you putting them? Are you filing them away in the back of your mind for later? I’ve got bad news. The back of the mind is full of holes, moths and mould. Chances are when you return, your idea will no longer be around.

You need to get those precious ideas down – be it on real paper (an ‘old fashioned’ notebook) or in an electronic format (using one of these note-taking apps, my favourite being Evernote). I use both, as I need the flexibility of editing electronic notes when working on my plot synopsis but absolutely can’t do without my pen and paper for brainstorming and mental ramblings.

When choosing a notebook, I find I need to shop around a little. The receptacle for my ideas has to be inspirational. I have to connect with it. When I pick it up, the cover, pages and even the lines have to feel just right. Sometimes it feels like it belongs to my main character. Other times it just feels comfortable in my hand. Whatever the reason, once I’ve found the right notebook, I know my ideas will come more swiftly.

Moleskine notebooks are classic writer indulgences. I also have a very soft spot for PaperBlanks which are superbly gorgeous. My latest acquisition was found in Singapore Airport and is a blue Dialogue Too from Grandluxe (see photograph above). I especially love it because it has lines on only one side of the page, so there’s plenty of room for sticking things or doodling. I’m in heaven!

You may particularly want a notebook small enough to carry around with you, so it’s there whenever you’re struck by inspiration.

I can’t stress this enough. Start writing down your ideas now! Anything and everything. It will be invaluable when you’re stuck for words or in desperate need for inspiration on Chapter 10.

My Vision Board

Create a Vision Board

(Please note that my vision board pictured above is in the early stages so the images are a little sparse. I’m still adding to it!)

A vision (or mood) board is a collection of pictures, quotes, dialog and objects which capture the essence of your story (or whatever project you’re working on). They are elements which inspire you, which have meaning and which convey the concept you’re working on.

You can start with a noticeboard, a piece of foam or cardboard – anything you can put up somewhere and stick things too. Then you can begin collecting things you feel help you to get a handle on the world and characters you are looking to create.

Let your Creativity run wild. This is exactly the kind of thing he or she loves to get involved with. The process may start out slow, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll gather momentum.

While you’re at it, try finding a piece of music which you feel captures the mood you’re looking for. Play it while you work to help you focus on what you’re trying to achieve.

For more helpful tips on creating vision boards, head over to Word Strumpet.

My storyboard

Create a Storyboard

Have you ever watched the ‘Making Of’ feature for an animated movie? They will usually show you at least part of the storyboard they worked on. Often the storyboard takes up entire walls, each little piece of paper depicting a shot or scene which will hopefully end up in the move.

Storyboards work for any kind of storytelling. Mostly they are used for screenplays. In Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat he talks reverently about ‘The Board.’ It’s basically a collection of 40 cards, each representing a scene, pinned to a noticeboard in 4 rows of ten. For more information, read the book as he goes into fantastic detail about how to beat out a story.

Storyboards also work for novels. Laying out important scenes on a noticeboard forces you to see the holes in your story. Where do you need more scenes? Where are your scenes not working for you?

The beauty of storyboards is that they are extremely easy to change. You can move elements around at a whim to see how they would work in a different order. Then you can stand back and muse.

If you don’t feel any of these three options would work for you, don’t panic. The important thing is to get your ideas out of your mind and onto some kind of paper or screen so you can massage them into shape and return to them as you write your draft.

Do you have any favourite ways to prep for your novel?

By the way, Charlotte Rains Dixon over at Word Strumpet is offering free half hour coaching sessions during October. I tried one out last week and highly recommend it!


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NaNo WriMo Has Started!

It’s that time of the year! Crazy November where people everywhere throw chores to the wind and sit down to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Feeling crazy? Why not join us?

My username is jessicabaverstock so if you’ve signed up, you’re more than welcome to add me as your buddy!

My brother and I only got back from my work trip on Sunday, so life (and our apartment) is still in a bit of disarray. Then there was the emergency trip to the doctor yesterday and a dash from the clinic to the hospital when they thought he had appendicitis. Thankfully it turned out to be a more mild problem which can be medicated (no surgery, yay!) but that wiped out my second day of writing.

Still, I shall soldier on. Participation is a win in itself!

Thank you all for your patience last month when I completely dropped off the radar. For a couple of weeks I was just working, cooking and sleeping (and coming down with a cold etc.). I barely got to see any of the lovely city I was visiting, let alone have time to write posts. But I’m back now, and determined to return to the proverbial swing of things.

So, NaNo WriMo! Join in or, failing that, cheer us all on. ‘Every little bit helps,’ said the Word Counter.

P.S. No picture today. Sorry. WordPress is running like a wet weekend at the moment.