Tag Archives: brainstorm

How Do You #nanoprep?


by Lillian Csernica on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

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November is coming. That means National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo!

This year is the 20th anniversary of NaNoWriMo. Twenty years of hot ideas, hard work, and tanker trucks full of coffee! If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at writing a novel, or you really need group support to get you through that first draft, then NaNoWriMo is waiting for you.

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“Where do I start?” That is the question I hear most often from people who really want to write but don’t know what to do first. The answer is simple: Find what gets you most excited about your project. Is it the main character? Is it the dialogue? Is it the glorious victory of the Good Guys stomping the Bad Guys into the dirt? Whatever gets you all fired up, that’s the key to Writing Every Single Day.

Here’s how I do my #nanoprep:

Pick an idea. For me this means choosing a genre, a time period, and the major location.

  •  Write down a bunch of details about my main character.
  • Do the same for my villain.
  • Brainstorm a rough plot outline.
  • Keep making notes as the ideas start crossbreeding with every new detail I imagine. I try to keep organized from the very beginning. Index cards, Scrivener, a spiral notebook, whatever works. The important thing is to get all those details recorded hot and fresh without thinking too much.

If you’re starting from scratch with a new idea, you need to create a lot of the basic information about plot, character, and setting. I liken this part of the writing process to the way a sculptor begins a new piece. First you have to get your hands on some clay, right? Once you have the clay, then you can start shaping it into a story. Brainstorming all those details is how writers create the clay from which we shape our stories.

If you’re starting with a work-in-progress, that’s great! You’re already ahead of the game. I suggest you come up with a specific goal you want to achieve during NaNoWriMo. Some examples:

  • Finish your draft
  • Flesh out the relationship(s) between the main character and the sidekick, the love interest, the mentor, or the villain. Depending on the type of story you’re after, you can have the main character working on a better understanding of that person’s own mind and motivations. Do be careful to dramatize what happens. Pages of interior monologue are fine when you’re working out the details of an idea. Too much of that can kill your pace and leave your reader hungry for real action.
  • Familiarize yourself with your setting and test the dramatic possibilities of some key locations. If you’re using a well-known setting such as Paris or London, make sure you get the details right.

Remember, no first draft comes out letter perfect. The first draft is where you get to play around, chase ideas up blind allies, start a character off with one motivation and see where that takes you. This is where you get to find out which ideas fit together and which ones tend to muddle up the story.

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Give yourself permission to write badly at first. That doesn’t mean your writing will be bad. It just means you take the pressure off of yourself so you can just enjoy the act of writing. All that really matters during NaNoWriMo is that you WRITE. Just do it. Just get the daily word quota out of your head and onto the paper, screen, bedroom wall, whatever. Just WRITE.

Watch for more tips on getting ready for National Novel Writing Month!

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How to Squeeze More Words Out of A Tired Brain


by Lillian Csernica on November 6, 2016

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I’m sitting here yawning. Yesterday I left the house at 11:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until around 10 p.m. That means ten and a half hours. I spent three of those hours driving.

When I finally staggered up the stairway to my office and dropped my bags, I realized I had 90 minutes to get the day’s NaNoWriMo quota done. At midnight, that’s it. You’ve either written that day or you haven’t.

You know how your car engine sounds when you turn the key and the engine tries to turn over, but it just won’t catch? Yeah. That’s the sound my brain was making.

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I was a bit ahead of the minimum total word count for Day 5, so I was strongly tempted to just let it ride for one day. No no no. I’d signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I’d made the commitment to write every single day in November. Every. Single. Day.

I did cut myself some slack. Make it to the ten thousand word mark, I told myself. Write that much, and you’re off the hook. That meant three pages, or 750 words.

Great. Now what? <sound  of car engine failing to turn over>

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At times like this I brainstorm. I write down every horrible thing that I could possibly do to my characters. It doesn’t have to make sense, really, it just has to be possible within the story content already established. If all goes well, inspiration will strike, the engine of my imagination will turn over, and the writing flows.

Want some specific examples of how I torture my characters and get the day’s writing done? I’m happy to share.

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