Tag Archives: outline

#nanoprep How to Choose Your Project


by Lillian Csernica on September 11, 2019

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I am one of two Municipal Liaisons for my region, which is Santa Cruz County in California. In the spirit of helping this year’s participants, both the new folks and those returning, allow me to offer some ideas based on how I get ready for the mad dash from one end of NaNoWriMo to the other.

National Novel Writing Month is all about writing 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 200 pages. 1667 words each day. Half a novel. A full roughdraft, maybe. Whatever you want to write, in whatever way you want to write it. Everybody’s creative process is unique. Feel free to do whatever gets you to the 50k mark by November 30.

Last year I wrote Silk & Steam, the first novel in my Kyoto Steampunk universe. It took me some time after the end of NaNoWriMo to come up with an ending that was really strong. Now I’m rewriting to make the whole manuscript live up to that ending. I want that novel to be the only novel in my head right now, so for this year’s writing project, I need to go in a different direction.

For the 20th Anniversary of NaNoWriMo, I plan to write short stories. Six short stories, 1700 words each. That’s more than a story a week, so this is going to be a real challenge. My best time up to now has been  total of three weeks for writing a short story start to finish with editing and polishing. During NaNoWriMo I’m going for six complete first drafts. This means I have to do a lot of planning before November 1.

Where do I start my planning for six brand new short stories?

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I start with the monsters. The yokai, which more accurately translates as “bewitching apparition,” are the supernatural creatures of Japanese folklore. Each of the seven stories in the Kyoto Steampunk series features a particular yokai. So I need six new yokai, and I’m thinking about a location where Dr. Harrington and his family would be likely to find all six.

I already have subplots in motion given the seven other stories already published. A quick list of where all of my main characters are at the end of the novel provides a starting point for each of them. At the moment I’m considering the possibility of writing each story from a different character’s viewpoint. If I create one basic story and then provide each character’s personal stakes in those events, I might be able to create quite a mosaic that brings the world of Kyoto Steampunk to life.

And so the new stories begin to grow!

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Is there such a thing as too much preparation? The answer to that depends on whether you’re a planner, a pantser, or somewhere in between. I identify as a plantser. I need a certain amount of planning to get the shape of the story. Then I set the timer and throw myself into the scene. On the days when the words won’t come out easily, a word sprint is your best friend.

What do you do to get ready? How do you decide what project you want to work on? I’d be delighted to hear about your process. We’re all here to help each other through the 30 day marathon that is NaNoWriMo.

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, research, steampunk, Writing

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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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, research, science fiction, steampunk, Writing

Reblog: How to Use Index Cards to Outline Your Book


by Lillian Csernica on September 20, 2018

Megan Burgess has some excellent ideas that may come in handy as we all keep prepping for NaNoWriMo!

via How to Use Index Cards to Outline Your Book

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September 20, 2018 · 12:14 am

J is for Journal


by Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2016

One of the most important parts of traveling is preserving the memories of people and places one meets along the way.  The easiest way to do that is to keep a travel journal.  The precise format can vary according to your needs and preferences.  Here are some practical considerations I’ve learned in the course of my adventures.

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Choose a journal that meets your needs.  As much as I love hardback journals, they’re heavy and can be awkward to write in.  A jolting bus ride or a packed train car is not the ideal environment for lengthy accounts of the farmer’s market or museum you just toured.  Better to carry something lightweight that will lie flat when opened or fold over the way spiral notebooks do.

Jot notes and write outlines.   It might be best to carry a small notebook for jotting down key moments which can later be discussed at length in your main travel journal.  The important thing is to enjoy the trip itself.  By giving yourself the option of writing up each day’s adventures when you’re not in the middle of having them, you’ll enjoy both the present moments and the moments of reflection that much more.

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Buy postcards.  These are taken by professional photographers with top of the line cameras.  If you go to a popular tourism site, odds are good there will be postcard packets available which include the highlights of the location.  Not only will you have high quality images to share, you will also have a record of details that might slip your mind.  When I went to Kyoto my mother asked me to bring her postcards of the places I saw.  I bought a packet at Kiyomizudera that shows Mom how the temple looks in each of the four seasons!

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Look for mementos that will fit into the main journal.  Items such as menus, business cards, stickers, brochures, etc. are fine.  Now and then you might get lucky and find something really memorable.  At the temples in Kyoto you can collect stamps done in red ink that show you’ve been there.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a passport for children in which they collect stamps from hands-on science stations at various points around the aquarium complex.

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Get creative with the journal’s purpose.  When I’ve stayed in one location long enough to share memorable moments with the staff or some of the other guests, I’ll have those special people sign my travel journal.  It’s a lot like the yearbooks we get in American high schools.  These days people often jot down their email or website, so this can lead to ongoing friendships!

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Live it up, then write it down!

 

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Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Virgin


by Lillian Csernica on October 14, 2014

 

Yes, it’s true.  As chaotic as my life is, as crowded as my days are, I have indeed signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Why, you ask?  Why do I intend to put myself through the hardcore boot camp of daily word count production?  Two reasons.

ONE:  Today I finished editing Sword Master, Flower Maiden.  I still have to run it by my agent, but I think I am very close to declaring this book FINISHED!

TWO:  NaNoWriMo is a great way to jump start Book 2 in the trilogy, which I have given the working title Garden of Lies.

1700 words per day, every one of the 30 days in November.  That’s about seven pages per day.  When I’m in good form, I can write five pages in 90 minutes.  I’m going to be logging my daily word count on my profile at the NaNoWriMo site, so people can watch my book grow.  They cheer me on, I cheer them on, and we all create literature together.

Do I have the book all plotted out already?  No.  I have this messy pile of notebooks and loose papers and a pile of research about the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, where the book will take place.  Once I hear from my agent and know what to do about Book 1, then I’ll be ready to settle down with the pile of notes and research and see how much I’ve already got.  Having taken inventory and gotten organized, I will then dump it all into the appropriate sections of Scrivener.  Gotta set up my workspace for this new adventure.

I’m already getting excited.  I know how to write fast without thinking too much about it.  I know how to pick my subject and keep that pen moving until the timer goes off.  Will I use a timer?  Probably.  Will I use it every day?  Depends on how well the work is going.  If I hit a dry patch, I might need the timer do nag me into being productive.  Other days I may go wild and crank out all kinds of material.  Bradbury said, “Throw up in the morning, clean up at noon.”

How about you people out there?  Any NaNoWriMo veterans?  Any words of wisdom for this newbie?  I welcome whatever gems of knowledge you see fit to share.

Anybody want to be writing buddies?  I’m not entirely clear on that concept.  I don’t get out of the house without major logistical planning, but I’m sure I can provide some kind of support and maybe even advice.  I’ve written four complete novel mss.  This will be the first time I attempt to do so under such a compressed time frame.  We shall triumph together!

 

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