Tag: JuNoWriMo

Character Profile Sheets (CPS) – Part 2

Character Profile Sheets are a great literary tool that help you in profiling your characters, especially the main characters of your story. They not only help you in being consistent with your character’s traits throughout your story or manuscript but also help a great deal in creating as well as painting the character arc you desire for your story.

Generally, a Character Profile Sheets consists of the main physical, mental, emotional and social traits of your character’s life and personality along with their general likes and dislikes, their taste in music, their occupation, and stuff like what they like to eat, what they don’t their allergies and different kind of health issues, etc, etc, etc. Basically, your Character Profile Sheet consists of everything about your character.

Character Profile Sheets can be as long or as short as your want them to be, but my advice would be to keep them detailed because detailed Character Profile Sheets lead to good characters and good characters leads to good characterisation. 

Another great thing about Character Profile Sheets is that it greatly helps if you get stuck in a writing slump. Working your characters is a great way to jump start your brain to getting into the right mindset to start writing again.

Check out my video on Character Profile Sheets on YouTube or listen to its podcast on iTunes.

When it comes to Character Profile Sheets there are three things that you need to remember:

  1. If you are a punster then start with a basic Character Profile Sheet to begin with and add details as you go further because starting with a detailed Character Profile Sheet can be very overwhelming. But if you are a plotter then you can straight away start with a detailed Character Profile Sheet.
  2. No matter how long or short your character profile sheet is or how detailed or summarised it is always make room for character’s background in it because character background is very, very, very important an you need to be consistent with it throughout your story. Take it from someone who has written a book with a lot of characters, always make a room for character background in your Character Profile Sheet.
  3. Your Character Profile Sheet will evolve as you make progress with your manuscript so always keep on revising your Character Profile Sheet along with each and every single draft of your story. Otherwise, there’ll be either no point of maintaining a Character Profile Sheet or it’ll get too confusing for you and ruin your manuscript.

So that’s Character Profile Sheets for you. If you want a ready reference with links to some really good Character Profile Sheets then read this article – Character Profile Sheets (the links are the end of the article.)

If you have any questions or doubts or want to discuss Character Profile Sheets with me then leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Here are some more writing-related articles:

Thanks a lot for reading!

The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

 

As almost all the plotters would swear by, outlining a story helps a writer greatly in making sense of the story for the readers. We, as writers, know what our story is and how it plays out, the difficult bit is to put in into words in a systematic way and have it make sense to its readers the same way that it does for us. And this is where the story structures come into play.

I used to consider myself a hardcore plotter until I finally realised that I’m more of an intuitive person who writes by the seat of her pants as much as I rely on planning my stories. So now I try to find a balance between pantsing and plotting. And I personally see story structures as an adventurer’s maps – you can have all the adventures you want to have by following your intuition, but occasionally you need the maps to take you where you want to go, especially when you get lost or stuck.

I used the 3-Act Structure for plotting my first novel, Deceived, but for my second and third manuscripts, I needed something more extensive as they are more complex than my earlier work, so I used the 4 Act Structure. In this article, I’ll be introducing the 4-Act Structure and its benefits and use. If you wish to know more about the 3-Act Structure then you can read the following articles I wrote a while ago:


The 4-Act-Structure: Introduction

the 4-act structure

What is the 4-Act Structure?

The 4-Act Structure is basically the broader version of the 3 Act Structure in which the elaborate ‘middle’ is broken into two separate acts. This method is very popular among writers especially those who write lengthy novels and the ones who struggle with the ‘infinite middle.’

  • Act-1: Setup of conflict
  • Act-2: Build-up
  • Act-3: Crises
  • Act-4: Resolution

Here’s a simple diagram to depict the 4-Act Structure:

This image is subject to copyright.

What are the advantages of using the 4-Act Structure?

There are many advantages to using the 4-act structure, just like any other outlining tool:

  1. It helps in dealing with the overall story better, in an organized manner (just like any other story structure.)
  2. It assists in specifically dealing with the problematic middle of the story – the 75% part of the story that is a bit vaguely structured in the 3-act structure of story writing.
  3. It encourages in figuring out the problems with the story plot and in combing out the plot holes that would inevitably make your story weak.
  4. It helps in understanding what exactly your story is lacking in order to make it into a near-perfect manuscript.
  5. It even aids in recognizing, and then getting rid of, the redundant scenes, side stories and subplots.
  6. It greatly helps in dealing with the most coveted enemy of any writer – writer’s block, when you get stuck in the inescapable limbo.
  7. It also serves, for many writers, as a quick fix to complete the drafts within a particular timeline. It’s not necessarily a short cut, but can definitely be viewed as an answer to many plot-progression related problems.

When should the 3-Sct Structure be used? Before starting the first draft, in between or at the of the nth draft?

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve discovered the hard way that it’s always best to first write the first draft by the seat of your pants, no matter if you consider yourself a planner or a pantster, because the first draft has to be as unadulterated and pure as can be, and that would be possible only if you let your imagination take over your mind and the muse and instinct guide your hands. The story structure, whether it is a 3-act structure or the 4-act structure or even the 9-act structure, should be applied for the first time to the first draft once it is complete. Then as you progress, it depends on how often you want to adjust your story according to the structure; you can do it while you write or revise your drafts or before or after that. It is entirely up to you.

I have come to realise that if the story structures are applied to the story in the initial stage of the conceiving of the plot, before or right after beginning the first draft (which is far too complex and difficult than one might think) then it corrupts the authenticity of the plot that otherwise might have been and makes it feel constrained. And such writing often results in an amateurish end product.

If you want a simpler story structure for your story, then read this: The 3-Act Structure: In Detail


If you are suffering from a writer’s block or are facing difficulty in getting ahead with your story, here are some articles I recommend:

Point Of Views (POVs)

Point Of View, casually known as POV, is one of  the most important literary devices that is used in fiction writing. Determining the perspective from which the story is told is often the making or the breaking point of a novel.

If you make a wrong decision, your readers will be highly disappointed due to lack of plot coherence, and not only this, choosing the wrong POV also affects the bonding between the main characters and the reader, thus, affecting your novel on the whole. But if the point of view is chosen well, the readers will not only love your story and develop a memorable relationship with your characters but will also respect your writing and look forward to reading your other works.

Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that the choice of point of view and its execution shows the writer’s ability, efficiency, and dedication to their story. And in order to make the right choice you need to have an in-depth and precise knowledge about all the POVs before settling on one (or more) for your story.

Definition:

Point of View aka POV is the perspective from which a story is told. Point Of View is what can be called as the voice that tells the story to a reader.

Following are the 3 types of Point Of Views (POVs):

First Person Point Of View

In First Person POV, the narrator is a character himself/herself. The story unfolds as a first-hand experience of the narrator or it can be said that the character is narrating the story.
The information is unreliable as its scope is limited depending entirely on the main character’s knowledge of/in any situation. For instance, if the character is delusional then it creates a problem if you’ll write the entire book from his perspective.

The First Person POV has recently garnered a lot of popularity as a lot of new authors are using it. The advantages of First Person POV is that the reader can relate to the main character quite easily and the bond that follows is very strong. But of course, it requires a high level of expertise to pull it off.

The pronouns used in First Person POV are – I, me and mine.

Types of First Person POV:

  1. First Person Central POV: When the story is told from the point of view of the main character it is known as the First Person Central POV. This helps in developing an intimate bond between the main character and the reader. It often includes internal monolog, personal feelings, etc, which help in making the reader understand the main character inside-out.
  2. First Person Peripheral POV: When the story is told from the point of view of a secondary or a minor character, who can also be an observer, is known as First Person Peripheral POV. This POV is detached and neutral and provides an objective look at the main character.

Popular books written in First Person POV:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Penryn And The End Of Days Series by Susan Ee
Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Second Person Point Of View

In Second Person POV, the narration is addressed from one person to the second person.

The disadvantage of this POV is that it is difficult to relate to. It is a form of direct speech and the narrator or the character refers directly to the reader as “you.”

The Second Person POV is rarely used in fiction-writing, though there are some authors who use it for writing their novels.  It is mostly used for instructional writing and how-to books.

The pronouns used in Second Person POV are – You, your.

Popular books written in Second Person POV:

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
If On A Winter's Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino
You by Caroline Kepnes
All The Truth that's In Me by Julie Berry
Booked by Kwame Alexander
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Third Person Point Of View

Third Person POV is the point of view in which a narrator (generally, the one who is not part of the story) tells the story.

This is one of the most widely used POV and most of the early literature and classic novels are written in this POV. A lot of contemporary writers still believe that only the stories written in Third Person POV are good, but of course, it’s their personal opinion.

The Third person POV helps the readers understand the main characters from a distance and many believe that this is what makes it so interesting and capturing.

The pronouns used in Third Person POV: He, she, it, him, her, they, them, its. 

Types of Third Person POV:

  1. Third Person Omniscient POV: Omniscient = All-knowing. In Third Person Omniscient POV the narrator knows and reveals the feelings, thoughts, and/or motivations of all the characters (at least partially.)
    Eg. Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman.
  2. Third Person Limited POV: In Third Person Limited POV the narrator knows and reveals the feelings, thoughts, and/or motivations of only a single character, the main character.
    Eg. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling.
  3. Third Person Objective/Dramatic POV: In Third Person Objective POV the narrator knows and reveals no feelings, thoughts and/or motivations of any of the characters. Rather, the narrator reveals only the facts and details about the story.
    Eg. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Popular books written in Third Person POV:

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
Maze Runner Series by James Dashner
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Watch my video podcast on POVs:

If you have any doubt regarding POVs or want to share your experiences or anecdotes then please leave a comment below.

Further Reading:

Freewriting – Everything You Need To Know

Freewriting is a very important prewriting technique that not only helps you to get over your writer’s block, but also to tap into your sub-conscience mind and see what all ideas and stories are hiding there.

Most of the times, we get stuck while writing a story, or an article, and simply don’t know what to write next, and sooner or later we find ourselves facing the age old problem – “What to write?”

The only thing that can solve this problem instantly is Freewriting. So, now you know why Freewriting is so important.

Today I will not only tell you what Freewriting is but also show you how it is done using a demo I recorded a few days back. I’ll also tell you how to pick up main streams of thoughts, or, as I like to call them, nuggets of gold, from any Freewriting session. (in order to watch only the demo, watch the second video: Ep. 04 – Freewriting Pt. 02)

Here’s my video podcast on Freewriting:

What is Freewriting?

Freewriting is a prewriting technique in which a writer writes continuously (without stopping) for a predetermined period of time, paying no heed to grammatical mistakes, typos, sentence structure or even the general order of words and sentences.

The whole point of doing Freewriting is that when the writer runs out of things to write consciously, he or she will unintentionally start to write unconsciously if they keep on writing. Don’t bother about what you’re writing. Simply keep on pushing till your predetermined time is over. As soon as the time’s up, stop writing. If you’re in the middle of a sentence, complete it and then stop entirely.

It unclogs your mind and starts a downpour of ideas. Most of the ideas will be crappy, but, trust me, you’ll find at least one idea that’ll be worth working on.

Remember, that it doesn’t matter how much you write or what you write, the only thing that matters is that you write.

How to do it?

Freewriting is the simplest of all writing techniques because you really don’t have to care about anything much other than writing. Following is the step-by-step method to do it:

  1. Grab a pen & paper, or your laptop and open your writing screen.
  2. Set a timer for a particular time (anything between 2-30 minutes.)
  3. Write non-stop, without getting distracted by anything, and by that I mean ANYTHING! If you don’t know what to write, then simply start by writing that, “I don’t know what the hell to write but I’m writing anyway….” and so on.
  4. Stop only when the timer goes off.
  5. If you feel that you have more thoughts coming to your mind, then do another session of Freewriting in a similar way.

Freewriting Demo:

Are there any rules?

Yes. Following are the thumb rules of Freewriting:

  • Write in a distraction-free environment.
  • Don’t bother with the grammar or vocabulary.
  • You can write about absolutely anything
  • You can even write scenes or dialogues this way
  • You can even write about a particular topic in Freewriting sessions.
  • Don’t stop till the timer goes off.
  • If you’re new to writing then start with a Freewriting session of only 2 minutes and then gradually increase the time period
  • You can have multiple Freewriting sessions in a day.
  • You can also do a second round of Freewriting session, immediately after the first one.
  • Never delete your Freewriting sessions. Save them on a disk or on a cloud service (personally, I use DropBox.)

What to do next?

When you’re done with your Freewriting session, follow it through by selecting its and bits of ideas out of it:

  • Read what you’ve written.
  • Make notes – highlight the ideas you think are workable.
  • Work on these ideas in your next Freewriting session to get more flesh on the subject.
  • Keep on doing this till you know what are you going to write about and what are you going to write.

Freewriting will help you tremendously in not only improving your writing habits but also to find some of the best ideas you’ll ever come across. Freewriting is a lifesaver when it comes to writing First Drafts, because it is when you write the First Draft of your project you always get stuck wondering what to write next, and that’s when Freewriting comes in handy.

***

If you have any questions or doubts regarding this article then please ask them below in the comments sections and I’ll try my best to answer them as soon as I can. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comments as I always love listening to all my readers.

Thank you for reading!


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


The views expressed in this article are my own. This blog is under strict copyright laws and all trademarks have been registered.  If you want to use content on your own site, you must ask permission first before you do so under the restrictions. Thank you!

All About First Drafts

A First Draft is one of the most basic entities of fiction-writing and it lays the basic foundation of a novel. If you’re a writer then you probably might have come across this term more than a thousand times already, and if not then you’ve come to the right place. Just for the sake of it, I’ll start this article with the definition.

You can watch the video podcast of this article on YouTube here:

Fiction Writing Ep. #02: All About First Drafts.

1. What is a First Draft?

A first draft is the first thing you write about a project, a book, a blog post (like this one) or even an idea in general. It simply means writing down your initial thoughts in order to figure out the project as a whole.

First drafts are mostly the unplanned version of an idea. It can even be fragments of a concept written together to help you move further in your story or project later on.

20160713_143304
First draft of Deceived

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

– Terry Pratchet

2. Why is the First Draft important?

First Draft is not important, it is VERY important. If you won’t write the first draft of your novel, your thoughts will be scattered all over the place and you’ll struggle endlessly to put your ideas together coherently in a sensible form. Eventually, you might be able to get your thoughts organized, but it’ll waste a lot of your precious time.

A first draft helps you in discovering your characters, plot, and story-flow, and in building the three main pillars of your project – beginning, middle and ending.

The most important thing and the point of writing the first draft is to get the story on paper. To get it out of your mind and into this world. It’s like giving birth – unlikable to watch but necessary altogether.

It doesn’t have to be perfect because your next drafts will take care of that. All you have to do is, WRITE IT DOWN.

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.

– Shannon Hale.

3. What is the purpose of writing a First Draft? 

The main purpose of writing the first draft is simply getting to know what your story really is. And in order to do this just let go of any fear and qualms you have about your project because the first draft (FD) is something that you write for your own self.

Don’t worry about the complicated things like story structure, sentence development, world building, character development, conflicts, exposition or other things like that because you’ll be working on these elements later on. NOT in the First Draft.

So, before starting out, be clear about what the FD really is, so that you won’t give in to the editor inside your head and leave your FD halfway like many writers do.

First drafts are simply the raw form of your story; it’s a skeleton in the earliest of stages. Most probably you’ll be working for months on this project after the FD is done, so you can clean it up later on. LEAVE EVERYTHING ELSE FOR LATER, simply get the damn story out in your FD. It doesn’t matter if you’re following a sequence or not or if you’re are simply writing random scenes (I do this a lot in my FDs) or if you’re writing the story backward. It does not matter as long as you’re getting the ideas of your story on paper. It’s totally OKAY! What really matters is that you WRITE.

Remember, most of the time (actually, all the time) the final product is miles away from the idea that you initially began with. So don’t waste your time on detailing or organizing your FDs as it might not even make it to the final MS. But it is still important for you to write the FD because that is what will get you to the final MS.

“The purpose of the first draft is not to get it right, but to get it written.”

– John Dufresne

4. How to write a First Draft?

There’s no specific way of writing FDs, but to help you get an idea, following are the two ways in which one can write a First Draft:

Two ways of writing the FDs:

  • Simple Method (Recommended for beginners and pantsters.)

– Sit in a comfortable place and use a simple writing software that you are comfortable with and start writing without worrying about anything, especially not about editing or spelling mistakes.

– Start writing. Just try and focus on your story and forget about everything. If you feel the urge to edit, then simply console yourself by thinking that you’ll edit it in the next sitting.

– Continue writing this way (preferably every day) till you’ve got the entire thing written.

That’s it, you’ve just written your FD!

  • Advanced Method (Recommended for plotters, fantasy writers and for novelists who use specific timeline.)

– First of all, write down the rough outline of your story by using single words or only a few words to make sure you understand what’s to come where.

– Then create an equally rough timeline just so that you have a sense of the timing for whatever events you’ve planned for the story.

– Sit in a comfortable place and use a simple writing software that you are comfortable with and start writing without worrying about anything, especially not about editing or spelling mistakes.

– Start writing. Just make sure that you’re keeping a tab on your story outline while writing. More new ideas will come to you with the help of each outlining point. This will make you write more and get a better perspective of your story.

– Continue writing this way (preferably every day) till you’ve got the entire thing written.

That’s it, your FD is ready! By following this method you have a more elaborate and a clearer FD, which will help you while writing your second draft.


Note-I: Use a writing software that you’re most comfortable to use. Don’t get confused or mislead into using complicated software that you don’t know anything about. [I use Pages and/or Word for Mac. It helps me think straight and write fast.]

Note-II: As I said above, there’s no specific way to write FDs. You can write FDs in any way that is totally different to the ones above.
Again, it doesn’t matter. This is just something I came up with in order to help writers understand First Drafts better.

5. What to expect from First Drafts?

  • Rawness
  • Plot holes (Lots of them!)
  • Rough and incomplete storylines.
  • Raw sub-plotlines
  • Rough timelines
  • Half-built characters
  • Imperfect scenes
  • Weak endings
  • Inconsistent exposition
  • Flawed conflicts
  • Loose ends (a lot of them.)
  • Last, but not the least, tons of ideas!

“The first draft of anything is CRAP, but it’s infinitely better than NO draft.”

– Ben Arment.

6. What NOT to expect from the First Drafts?

  • Perfection
  • Adequacy
  • Complete Scenes
  • Final Story
  • Finished Characters
  • Brilliant Storyline
  • Magical endings

In short, First draft is the first step of a long staircase. You’ll have to be patient; there’s no other way.

 

What to do after completing the First Draft?

Rest? Take a break?

No… Do not take a break from your story after completing the FD. This is where a lot of writers go wrong (at least, as far as I know.) So trust me when I say, this is the right time to plunge deeper into your story.

When you’re done with the FD make sure that you re-read it a couple of times. After doing this you are ready to organize your story.

Move on to the next step of Character Development and Detailed Planning.

Read my articles on:

And then? Brace yourself for writing the Second Draft! (I’ll be writing a detailed article, just like this one, on Second Drafts (SDs) soon. So stay tuned!)

You can watch the video podcast of this article on YouTube here:

Fiction Writing Ep. #02: All About First Drafts.

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Terms Used: 
FD - First Draft 
MS – Manuscript
SD – Second Draft

***

If you have any questions or doubts regarding this article then please ask them below in the comments sections and I’ll try my best to answer them as soon as I can. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comments as I always love listening to all my readers.

Thank you for reading!


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


The views expressed in this article are my own. This blog is under strict copyright laws and all trademarks have been registered.  If you want to use content on your own site, you must ask permission first before you do so under the restrictions. Thank you!

Editing Vs Revising

Many times, new writers and authors are faced with the age-old dilemma where they have to revise and edit their manuscripts. But only some of them really know the difference between the two.

In this short article, you’ll find the basic difference between “editing” and “revising” that will help you differentiate between the two easily.

Editing:

Editing involves minor changes that polish your manuscript technically by focusing on the following:

Sentence structure 
Punctuations
Spelling mistakes
Typos
Grammatical errors
Pointing out mistakes in the already revised text

While editing, the overall story remains the same. Here, fixing sentence structure is the priority.


 

Revising:

Revising involves major changes that refine your manuscript mechanically by focusing on the following:

Rewiting exsisting thoughts in a better way
Adding new thoughts
Adding new necessary details
Deleting unnecesarry details
Refining the story flow 
Enhancing character development
Using better words and phrases
Rewriting paragraphs to make them better
Clarifying ideas
Enhancing plot growth

While revising, the overall story changes as per requirement. Here, fixing the story as a whole is the priority.

The 3-Act Structure: In Detail

In order to utilize the 3-Act Structure efficiently, there is a need for a systematic sequence of elements to be followed that carries the story forward.  In the 3-Act Structure, each act has some particular story moves and by following these particular set of acts, you can rest easy that there will be no place for errors in your story.

If this structure is new to you and you’re wondering about what the hell it is, then check out the first part of this article- The 3-Act Structure: Introduction.

Here’s a list of the 3 biggest advantages of using this structure:

  1. It helps you to stay connected to the theme/idea/plotline of the story.
  2. It helps you to look at your story from a broader and better perspective.
  3. It helps you to recognize the unwanted elements in your story and helps you in cleaning up your story.

Here’s a chart that I made which will give you the gist of this structure.

3-AS by Heena Rathore P. (All rights reserved. Please contact the author before using this image.)
3-AS by Heena Rathore P. (All rights reserved. Please contact the author before using this image.)

ACT-I

Introduction

  • Introduction to the MC(s)
  • Introduction and laying the foundation of the fictional world (in case of Fantasy)
  • An introduction of the circumstances surrounding the MC and the secondary characters.
  • An introduction of the main relationships.
  • Introducing the main hook of the book.
  • An introduction to the conflict.
  • Establishment of the main relationships that were introduced earlier.
  • Introducing the antagonist (or, at least, hint stuff about him/her.)

ACT-II

1) Complication

  • Elaborate the conflict by making more difficult and dangerous.
  • Introduce a backstory through flashbacks or an old memory (or in any way you want) in relation to the conflict.
  • Make the MC solve/fight the conflict in his own way.
  • Keep the antagonist in motion. Make him do something. Anything. Don’t leave him out otherwise the plot will get boring.

2) Destruction

  • Destroy the MC physically and/or emotionally after he tries to solve/fight the conflict.
  • This part should be the lowest point in his life.
  • Make sure to make it look like there’s no way out.

ACT-III

Resolution

  • Show MC getting over his fears and disappointment (add a convincing source of motivation.)
  • Defeating the antagonist or being defeated himself (whatever suits your stories.)
  • Make sure to clean up- explain anything that needs an explanation. Do not leave any loose ends.

So, these are the 3 Acts explained to the best of my knowledge. There are innumerable variants of the 3-Act Structure but this is the one that I follow. It’s my own version and it works beautifully for me. I hope that it will help you as much as it for me. I wrote my first novel, Deceived, using this method and, therefore, I trust it completely.

I’d like to conclude by giving you a small advice- 50% to 75% is the mark where most of the stories go weak. So, pay special attention to the 2nd part of Act-II, i.e., the Destruction part.

What about you? Have you ever tried the 3-Act Structure?
Leave a comment below and I promise to get back to you ASAP.


 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

5 Keys To Writing 50K Words In 30 Days

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and everyone is going nuts preparing for it. And why the hell not? It’s the biggest writing project or festival of the year! well, at least for the creative writing community.

For those living under the rock, NaNoWriMo is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.
– Wiki

In the year 2014, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and having no idea how to write so much in 30 days I failed miserably with less than 2000 words. It was my very first attempt to write my first book (or for that matter to write anything substantial.) That year I hated NaNoWriMo from the bottom of my heart and decided never to take part in it ever again. Sigh… If writers are one thing, it’s dramatic.

Anyway, after a few months, I came to know about JuNoWriMo and decided to give it a try as it is not as hyped as NaNoWriMo and thought “What the heck.” Failing in NaNoWriMo 2014 helped me understand my weaknesses. So I chalked out a rough plan and went headfirst with a bowl of determination and a solid outline for my novel. And… I not only completed the first draft of my book with 52K words but also developed a habit of writing 2K per day.

After that the very next month I took part in Camp NaNoWriMo in July 2015 and won it with 64K words! It was the second draft for Deceived. Since then I’ve been writing 1K per day (on and off), which is actually quite good according to many big writers. Still, I try to write more whenever possible.

In this journey from 0 to 1-3K words per day, I learned a lot of lessons. Now I always look forward to all the NaNoWriMos, Camp NaNos and JuNos every year because today I have something that I didn’t have that first year, and that is confidence. Now I know what it really takes to get 50K+ words in 30K. And to help others who are struggling to get those dreaded 50K words done this NaNoWriMo, I’ve come up with 5 keys that are the most important factors for cracking NaNoWriMo and even to write a good amount of words daily even after NaNo.

5 Keys To Write 50K Words Within 30 Days

1. Planning:

I used to think that I was pantster, but it took me almost 8 months of pantsing to realize that I’m a hardcore plotter. Pantsing is not something that people really understand. Most of the people like to believe that they are one because pantsing does not require any preparations. They think that it is easy. But what they don’t know is that pantsing is not as easy as it seems. You really need to be a hardcore spur-of-the-moment pantster otherwise you’ll be staring at a blank screen for most of the time.
If you are struggling with your writing then more than 90% chances are either you think you are a pantster or your planning is falling short. Now when I say planning I’m not talking only about outlining your novel. No, planning also includes deciding or preparing a plan about what all you need to get done in the next 30 days. It can be as easy as making a simple bullet point list of stuff you need to get in NaNoWriMo.
Remember, the more you plan the easier it will be for you to write. At least, you won’t be facing the “Blank Screen Syndrome” and wondering “What the heck should I do now?”

Being a hardcore planster, I do a LOT of planning when it comes to my novels. For poetry, I write by the seat of my pants. It takes a lot of time, discipline and patience to plan your novel, so do a bit of research before you start planning and learn some tricks of the trades such as Character Profile Sheets, the 3-Act StructureFreewriting, First Drafts, different Point Of Views, the concept of Writer’s Block and Naming The Writer’s Unconscious and the difference between Editing & Revising.

Word of Advice: If you ever feel stuck somewhere you can try mind mapping and brainstorming.

Read my article on Being A Planster at Portobello Book Blog.

 

2. Setting Goals:

Just setting a simple aim or a deadline won’t work if you really want to hack this 50K code. You need to really think the goals through. Anyone can do the math to know the average word count they need to write daily in order to complete the 50K limit done in 30 days.. but how can you be so sure that you’ll be writing each and every day for the next 30 days?
My advice (at least to novices) is to keep at least 4 off days, let’s call them Zero Word Days – ZWDs, while planning because you’d need at least 4 days off if you want to write efficiently, especially when you’ve hardly written anything at all regularly before. I can write up to 1K to 3K words daily, even in non-NaNo months, still, I prefer keeping 4 ZWDs because it’s always better to be prepared for the worst.

And get this, even if you don’t need all the 4 ZWDs, you’ll only end up writing more than 50K the way I ended up writing 64K words for Camp NaNoWriMo 2015. So instead of having a goal of 1.6K per day (50K/30), try writing 2K per day. That way even if you don’t feel the need for any ZWDs then you’ll be writing 50K in just 26 days.

If you feel that you are under some sort of writing pressure, then use one of your 4 ZWD and take that day off (if you’re following my way then you have the absolute liberty to take it easy and enjoy for 4 days.) Go out and watch a movie. DO NOT sit in front of the laptop and sulk watching other’s progress because it will lead to writer’s block. Just relax and forget about writing for a day. The next day you’ll be surprised to see that you’ll be ready to write again and that too with a renewed sense of excitement.

Sticking to the word count is great, but never, and I mean NEVER EVER, stop yourself from writing more than the everyday word limit. Someday you might feel like you can have a 3K day or a 5K day and maybe even 10K day. Do it! Whatever you do don’t stop. And from the next day do what you’ve been doing earlier. Stick to the word count. The idea is not to write less than 2K.

 

3. Writing In Intervals Or Slots:

I love this way of writing and I prefer to call it SLOTTING. I’m not sure about everyone, but so far I’ve interacted with more than a hundred authors and what I’ve gathered so far is that writing in slots is always better, and even more effective, than writing in one sitting. Now there are exceptions but I’m talking about the most common cases.

For slotting, you can write either in word-slots or in time-slots:

  • Word-slots – In one sitting I can easily write 1K. So, if I sit 3 times a day to write my novel or any other project for that matter, I can easily write 3K a day. And that is exactly what I do. I always settle for 2-3 slots a day. Morning, afternoon and/or evening. This way I can write without stressing out and can easily get other stuff done too.
  • Time-slots – If you want to write in time slots, then start with 1/2-hour slots, 2-3 times a day, no matter how much you write, but at the end of the day make sure to complete the minimum number of words you’ve set as your daily target.

If you are a beginner and want to write 2K per day like I explained in the previous point, then you can go about it like this: Write 500 words in one sitting, 4 times a day. But 4 times is a lot, isn’t it? So what you can do is write 500 words, then take a 20-minute break. Do not write in these 20 minutes. You can either read something or do a house chore or better yet take a nap! Then after 20 minutes write another 500 words. Repeat this in the evening. This way you’ll be writing 2K per day very easily.

 

4. Determination:

This is where most of the people balk, especially in the long run. You really need to be determined about writing and completing your goals. Don’t let anything or anyone come in the way of your writing. Write like your ass is on fire and the only way to save it is by writing… Just write!

If you’re struggling with a particular scene, then leave it and move on to the other one before you get irritated and stop writing altogether. If you like quotes then I’d suggest you write some of your favourite ones on a post-it or a note card and put them up on the wall just above (or next to) your writing desk, where you can see them while writing.
If you feel like quitting, think about why you started writing in the first place.

Also, you’ll have to be determined to achieve all the goals you’ll set for yourself. Instead of focusing on writing 50K within 30 days, try and focus on writing 2K every day (or whatever your goal is.) This will make all the difference.

 

5. Prioritising:

Ah… Now, this is an important one. Sometimes we get so excited about writing that we totally forget about other things and just write madly. It’s okay to do this if you have some really great idea that you just can’t miss, but doing this, again and again, is not as good an idea as you might think. Trust me, it’s not a healthy practice. If you choose to go on like this, then sooner or later you’ll be overwhelmed and develop a writer’s block. And we don’t want that, do we? The only solution to this problem is to prioritize.

Remember, each and everything is important. If you’re writing that doesn’t mean that you have an excuse to leave the house dirty or make other family members do your work. Nope, it’s not acceptable. Once in a while, it is okay but being a writer is not about writing in November only. You have to write each and every day of the year, so set aside time for everything that you are supposed to do. Remember you won’t get the time, you’ll have to make it.

Writing is your craft, your love; don’t make it a punishment for others.

I’m a fitness freak so along with all the house chores and writing I need at least an extra hour for my walking, jogging and yoga. So, I get up at 6:00 am and make it a point to finish my exercise and yoga routines by 8:00. And then I carry on with my day like any normal day.
So, all you need to do is prioritize stuff and make sure that you do all the necessary things.


Note: All the pictures used in this articles have been taken from Pixabay unless stated otherwise.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Converting Files to E-Books

I’m well aware that all the Scrivener users are probably feeling smug right now, but in no time even the non-scrivener-folks will be full of smugness just like you fancy pants.

I know firsthand how irritating it can be after you’ve finished your MS and you don’t know how to convert it into a readable e-book format. It is really annoying to not be able to read your precious book on your e-reader after all the handwork you’ve put in it. After months (or years) of waiting, it’s only fair to be able to read your book as an e-book. But how?

After a little bit of research on the internet, I finally came up with a permanent solution.  Ta-da! I found a great free software that can be easily downloaded and quickly installed and can be used offline. It converts the files pretty quickly and you can choose from quite a huge variety of e-book formats.

This amazing software is CALIBRE. (You can download it here.)

It is a one-stop solution for e-book management and works beautifully. You can visit their page and easily download the software for Windows as well as MacBooks.

Converting files with Calibre is not only hassle-free but also extremely quick.

Step-by-step guide to convert a file to various e-book formats:

  1. Download and install Calibre from here.
  2. Open Calibre by double clicking on it’s icon.
    Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 12.30.02 pm
    Calibre icon

    Calibre home screen
    Calibre home screen
  3. Click on ‘Add books’ and select the file that you want to convert into an e-book.
    Here I’m selecting the .doc file of my book, but you can choose a file in any format.

    Select your book or any other file you want
    Select your book or any other file you want
  4. Now, after the book is added to Calibre’s library (it takes only 3 seconds), select the book and click on ‘Convert books’ icon.Take two minutes and observe the window that appears on the screen. Do not rush because this is where you’ll select the format, book name, series name (if any), author name, publisher name, cover design, and other crucial stuff.Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 11.32.20 am
  5. After filling up all the required fields select the desired format (epub, mobi or any one from the long list) from the top right corner of this window. After selecting the format click on ‘OK.’
    It takes around 10 seconds (or less) to convert your book/file into the selected format. GO to step-6 if you’ve converted in your desired format. But, if you want to convert the book into more than one format, select the same file again from home window and convert it to desired format. Don’t worry at this point because all the converted books will be saved under one folder only.
  6. Now to check the book(s) right click on the file in the library and select ‘Show in folder.’ There will be a folder with your name (author name) in the window that pops up. Open it and there you’ll have another folder with your book name and in that you’ll have your book/file in the format(s) you selected along with the original copy.
    Folder with author name
    Folder with author name
    Folder with book name
    Folder with book name

    My book in the formats I selected (mobi, epub and txt)
    My book in the formats I selected (mobi, epub and txt)

There you have it, your file or book converted into various e-book formats. To get it on your reading device, simply copy the appropriate format and paste it in your device or transfer it via DropBox.

Here’s my book on Kindle (it’s the un-edited copy I created for a few author friends to get their testimony):

I hope you’ll find this article helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or doubts.

Did you already know about Calibre or do you use any other software to convert files? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.


All the images used in this article are my own, except for the featured image.

Featured Image Source: Pixabay

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

JuNoWriMo 2015 Winner!

And I’m done! Slogged a bit in these past few days but finally I made it!
Total word count: 51,284 words

I’m done with the first draft of my book with chapters in details and scenes in super details. Now, I’ll be joining Camp NaNo for editing my first draft and simultaneously writing the second one. Hopefully, I’ll be done by 15th of July… fingers crossed!

I’m so, so, so thankful to ‪#‎JuNoWriMo‬ for making it possible for me to write the entire first draft in 1 month (considering that I’ve never written anything of this magnitude before!) I’ll be sending out my second draft to two of my proofreader cum beta reader friends (Willow and Dagny) by the end of July. Then I’ll be editing the book again after receiving reports from them. So there is a lot of work still remaining… Hopefully I’ll be able to get my manuscript to the publishers by September…

I’d like to thank Vishal for being such a sweetheart and helping me with everything. I know I was a crazy, emotional mess this month and this book wouldn’t have been possible without you! Love you always!!! ❤

I’d also like to thank all my dear fellow writers at JuNoWriMo (you guys are the best!) I met a lot of beautiful writers here and made a lot of wonderful friends. They helped me stick to my goals and all the pep talks were really helpful! I’ll be dropping by JuNo’s page every once in a while even after the WriMo is over…

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The main badges I earned in JuNoWriMo

And following are the snapshots of JuNoWriMo Word Tracker for this year:

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