Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 Writing Advice from Indie Authors

Happy NaNoWriMo Eve! While the rest of the world fears ghosts and goblins today, the intrepid writers who are about to embark on a month-long sprint to a 50,000 word novel have much scarier specters looming in front of them: writer's block, empty coffee pots, and massive word count goals!

So if you're looking for some last minute advice or need a pep talk to get you started, here is some advice just for NaNoWriMo writers from some of your favorite Diversion Books authors.

Pushing New Adult by Mia Thompson
New Adult books are what close the gap between YA and Adult novels, where the protagonists are generally set at ages 18-25. The genre has been known to focus mainly on Romance, but have started to branch out into all sub genres massively in the past few years.

My New Adult books, Stalking Sapphire and its sequel, Silencing Sapphire, both have the sub genre Thriller/Mystery.

Before I sit down to write my series, I ask myself two questions: What do the NA readers expect? And, what experience do they wish to have? To answer these questions, I think of who my readers are.

They are the 20-Somethings; they’re past their childhood stage, but haven’t figured out who they are as adults yet. They are ALL about experimenting and rebelling against the restrictions they had as teens.

Since my readers push boundaries, so should I. The characters, narrator, and plot should mirror that boldness and push the envelope on absolutely EVERYTHING.

To me, NA is not only about emphasizing the matters that were banned in YA, but also about reflecting on the questions that arise after someone has soared past the point-of-no-return of childhood, and are hanging in suspension before they enter the absolute madness that is adulthood.

Mia Thompson is the author of the new adult thriller series Stalking Sapphire and Silencing Sapphire - both now available for all eReaders.

Writing YA in a Month by Suzy Vitello

Writing a YA novel in a month is totally doable! The first draft for my debut, The Moment Before (out this January) was written in a little over two months (not during NaNoWriMo, so I set a slightly different word count goal). But here’s my advice on marathon drafting: find a voice that will go the distance through those long hours, and take five-to-ten minute walk/stretch breaks every hour.

The other thing I did with this book that I’d never done before is plot it out. Normally, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser. However, once Brady’s voice and the setting came to me, I knew I needed to figure out the plot to make sure my narrator wouldn’t take me on a wild goose chase of language and rumination. The main thing I did to that end was to make sure that every chapter finished on a somewhat suspenseful note. Here’s a blog entry I wrote back when I was drafting the book (which had the working title, Raising Cheer).

Suzy Vitello's debut novel The Moment Before releases in eBook and paperback on 1/14/14. You can read more writing advice at her blog.

NaNoWriMo: Why It Works by Kathryn Johnson

"Why should I sign up for and participate in NaNoWriMo?" "If I'm going to write a book, can't I just rent a cabin in the woods somewhere, hunker down and write in blissful solitude?" "Isn't it counter-productive to write with thousands of other writers looking over my shoulder?"

These are the kinds of questions new and lightly experienced authors of novels ask me. Honestly, there is no reason why you can't fly solo. For some writers, that works beautifully. But for many of us, writing without emotional and intellectual support results in stalled books. We zoom through the first chapter with enthusiasm, then run out of steam. We start questioning ourselves and have no one to turn to for encouragement. We begin to nitpick at our manuscript, fussing over individual sentences or words. And finally, we just give up in frustration.

This is why some authors are still agonizing over the same story after fifteen years. It's why writing fast, chasing down a first draft in just a few weeks, works. When you shut down your internal critic and let your subconscious do the heavy lifting, you can blast out a very rough but complete version of the full story without worrying about the fine tuning that can come later--like spelling, punctuation, or setting details. All of that can be saved for later revisions. If you find yourself succumbing to the temptation to fuss over the perfect word for a sentence in Chapter 1--and thereby lose momentum--there are opportunities for others, who know full well the traps we fall into, to dig you out of that hole you've tumbled into and set you back on task.

November is one month out of your life. Challenge yourself to write as much as you can, as fast as you can for four weeks. Make your writing a priority for four weeks and celebrate as the pages accumulate!

Kathryn Johnson also writes as Mary Hart Perry and is the author of Seducing the Princess for Diversion Books. She'll be doing a series of seminars in Washington D.C. on Saturday to help writers plan for and jump into NaNoWriMo. More information is available at the Smithsonian Associate program.

Writing Epic Fantasy: Start with Your World! by Garrett Calcaterra

Michael Moorcock cranked out some of his classic Elric novels in three days. J.R.R. Tolkien, on the other hand, took twelve years to write Lord of the Rings. While their approaches to the writing process couldn’t be further apart, the one step both of these fantasy greats had in common was that they created a fully thought-out fictional milieu before they began writing. Taking a lesson from the masters, here’s four tips for developing your fantasy world:

Start with the Fantastical Part – What makes your story a fantasy story? Is it the presence of mythical beasts? Is there magic? Determine the premise of your fantasy component and then use it to determine how civilization evolved based on the presence of your fantastical element.

Chronicle the History of Your World – Just like our characters need back stories in order for us to understand their motivation, our fictional world needs to have a history. Are your denizens indigenous to the land or did they migrate from somewhere? What wars and catastrophic events shaped civilization? What religions emerged? Was there a golden age of civilization that your denizens look back upon fondly? What menace is now present in your world?

Draw a Map – Most fantasy novels involve a quest of one sort or another, and that entails travelling. To help you visualize the landscape, create a map of the world you created. Name the cities and towns. Name the forests, mountains and seas. In addition to being fun, this will also help you further understand your world.

Set Your Characters Loose – Your characters now have a rich backdrop in which to be themselves—put them into action! Only a small portion of your world building will end up on the page, but having gone through the world-building process will expedite the writing process. Plus, the tidbits of exposition sprinkled throughout the story will make the reader feel the weight of your vast world even though they only see small portion of it through your characters’ eyes.

Garrett Calcaterra is an author of dark speculative fiction, including Dreamwielder for Diversion Books.

Whether you're a pantser or a plotter, writing poetry or hard boiled mysteries, all of us at Diversion Books wish you luck on your quest in November. Write on!

And if you're celebrating Halloween rather than preparing for writing a new novel, don't forget to check out Diversion Books' selection of horror and thriller titles. There's a scare for everyone!