Draft to 50K: Point of View

Blank to 50K(2)Point of view is the essentially the narrator’s position, how the story is told. Ideally, you should decide this before you start writing, though I’ve been known to switch partway through a book. In fact, when I first wrote Fatal Impulse, it was in first person. I got all done and my editor suggested third person. I changed the manuscript (a HUGE undertaking!), but think it was a better book for the change.

Here is a brief overview of each common POV, along with my bewares and tips:

First Person

This is the “I” version. The story is told from the viewpoint character’s point of view. That person must be able to see, hear, taste, smell and feel everything that you write.

Beware: it is very difficult to really get into your character’s head, and to avoid telling the story.

Tip: Get closer. For instance, instead of saying, “I heard the boom of thunder,” say “The window glass vibrated with the boom of thunder.”

Third Person

Third person is the he/she version. The story is still told from a character’s point of view, but through the filter of the author. Again, the person must be able to see, hear, taste, smell and feel everything that you write.

Beware: Headhopping is a common mistake. Remain in one character’s head per scene or, better yet, per chapter.

Tip: Add internalization. Much can be said by what the character thinks as opposed to what he/she says. Sharing your POV character’s thoughts is a way to put your reader in the characters head. There’s no need for italics or saying he/she thought. Simply write the character’s thought. The reader will get it. Trust me.

 Second Person

Second person is you did this, you did that. The story is told from the reader’s point of view. The narrator tells the reader what is happening to him.

Beware: This should be used sparingly. It can be jarring to the reader, and is tricky to pull off.

Tip: In short bursts, this can be useful because it truly does put the reader in the character’s shoes. Read the first chapter of Harlen Coben’s The Innocent for an example of how this can be used effectively.

Blank to 50K: Characters Bring Your Writing to Life

Blank to 50KWe’ve determined you want to write a novel, and you’ve committed to getting the first draft written in 30 days. Great. What now? Where do you begin? Some writers start with the plot, others with characters. Either way is fine. Personally, the characters are usually my starting point. They talk to me, take form in my head, and then I figure out what they’re up to. If you’d rather start with plot, go for it – but you’ll have to wait until next week for my tips.

Character Sketches

These are highly touted, and there are lots of worksheets and templates available on the internet. I use Scrivener, and often use their templates as my jumping off point, but that template is very basic. I suggest you do two things:

  • Write a detailed character sketch, at least a couple of pages. See the bottom of this post for a free copy of my worksheet.
  • Write an autobiography – your character’s life story from his/her point of view. A page is fine. This doesn’t have to be long, just focus on the high points – what is important to your character.

Character Spreadsheet

You need a spreadsheet for every novel/series you write. This helps you keep track of who you are writing about. Actually, it does a lot more than that – your spreadsheet can become your writing bible. It tells you who did what, when they did it and where they were. But for right now, keep it simple. All you need is a list of characters, so you can fill in the details for each character as you create their sketches. This is also a great place to keep track of tags that you use to cue your reader as to who the character is. For instance, in my Diamond J series, I use “Wranglers” as a tag for Beau, and I use “red hair” as a tag for Beth. Very simplistic, but I want those things to instantly remind the reader of that character. Another great example of this is the Harry Dresden series. If you hear duster and staff while you’re reading a Jim Butcher book, you know Harry is the character in play.

If you’d like a copy of my Character Sketch Worksheet (Word format) and my Character Spreadsheet (Excel format), please enter your name and email below and I’ll send them to you.

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Blank to 50K: Why you should let me help you write your novel

In the past few weeks, I’ve talked about the fact that everyone wants to write a book, asked why you want to write a novel, and advised you to write what you read. But I missed an important step . . .

Why should you listen to me?

I’ve done it, plain and simple. I have participated in National Novel Writing Month eight times and finished every single time as a winner.

http://lorilrobinett.com

My 8th National Novel Writing Month WIN!!

Even better than that – I self-published my first draft through Lulu and sold twice as many copies as most self-pubbed authors do. Then I took that (very) rough draft, rewrote and polished it, submitted it . . . and I happily signed my first publishing contract with CaryPress. It was released in 2014.

http://lorilrobinett.com

I’ve been published in Well Versed, “The Storyteller,” “The Heritage Writer,” “Writing for Dollars!”, and “Secrets & Strategies.”

I led my National Novel Writing Month region to Top Ten status (number of words / writer) every year I served as Municipal Liaison. I helped others finish the first draft of their novel in 30 days or less . . . and I can help you do the same thing.

Rev your engine up. Let’s go.

Are you ready?

How to Write a Novel: The First Draft

Blank to 50K(1)I’ve been writing for a long time – semi-seriously for over 10 years. I spent years on the first draft of my first novel. And it’s still not finished. So, how did I break through and finally FINISH a first draft?

  • Recognize that a first draft is an imperfect grouping of words, sentences, paragraphs. It is perfectly simply because it exists. It’s not supposed to be perfect.
  • Declare your intentions. You need to be accountable. You don’t have to tell the world, but tell a good friend. And have them check your progress.
  • Decide what method to use. There’s the snowflake method, or Holly Lisle’s index card method, or you can just fly by the seat of your pants. It doesn’t matter what you use this time. This time is all about learning and experience. If it works, use it again. If it doesn’t work, try something else next time.
  • Treat writing as exercise. Writing is like a muscle. Do it daily, and it will get easier.
  • Start. You can sit and think forever, but that doesn’t get that first draft written. You have to actually sit your butt in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and type.
  • Slog through. The middle is mucky. You’ll get stuck, the forward movement will be slow. Just keep going.
  • Finish. Find a way to wrap things up. It doesn’t have to be the perfect ending. You’ll polish it later.
  • Finally, put it away. Give the draft time to percolate and let yourself get some distance before you go back to revise. And celebrate. You did what very few people actually do.

Winning National Novel Writing Month (reminiscing . . . )

Aside

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In honor of NaNoWriMo and all those who are currently returning to the real world, I thought I’d share something I wrote in 2009 after winning. I hope you enjoy it:

I don’t know why I’m surprised that December is nearly half over. It happens faster and faster each year. I used to think it was because I was getting older and quit looking forward to things so much (you know, when I was a kid I couldn’t wait for Christmas but it seemed to take forever to get here . . . the watched pot never boils – like that). But now, I think the world is just spinning faster. I can almost hear the wind whistling past my ears.

Oh, wait . . . that was just the cold, December wind. Never mind.

It has been 21 days since my last post.

Oh, wait . . . I’m not giving my confession.

Sorry. My NaNo fried brain isn’t functioning quite right just yet. What I wanted to tell you is that (drumroll, please . . . ahem . . . really – make that drumroll sound or drum your fingers on your desk, whatever works best for you) . . . I WON!!! That’s right, you are now looking at (sort of) one of the proud winners of National Novel Writing Month 2009. I finished with a grand total of 50,629 words. (OK, I’m bowing now . . . thank you, thank you . . .).

What was my secret for success?

1) Write every day. My goal was to write 1,667 each day. (Some days I made it, some days I didn’t.)

2) Don’t read.

3) Use every available moment. If you work, eat at your desk and write yourself an email. Carry a notebook with you. If you commute, carry a handheld recorder. You don’t have to dictate your story, but you can talk to yourself – what if this, what if that, how can you screw with your main character’s life . . .

4) Bribery. I want a Nook so bad I can taste it. So, I promised myself that if I win, I’ll buy one. Now, I’m just waiting for the money to appear. (wait! what the? there’s no prize $$ for winning NaNo? Dang!!)

And how do I feel about my winning story, Gateway to Hell? My story is just getting wound up, just started at about 47K words, actually, and part of me really wants to finish it. But first, I need to get through the holidays. I’ve got a house to decorate, Christmas cards to make, dinner rolls to make, gifts to buy. And since I’ve only got 2 weeks ’til the Big Day, I think I’ll take a break from writing and focus on the holiday and family. Probably should, since I kind of neglected the fam last month. So, my plan is to smother them with attention for the next two weeks, and then start a serious rewrite of Denim & Diamonds. Those characters have been talking to me again (and so have my characters from NaNo ’08. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m schizo. Then again, for a writer, is that a bad thing?), which is like slipping into my favorite pair of faded Tommy jeans on a Sunday morning. It feels right. Who knows, maybe with a touch more suspense and a dash more sex . . . it might end up being a whole new book!

So, that’s how I did it and those are my writing plans now that NaNo is over and I must return to the land of mortals . . . what are yours?

Post NaNoWriMo Blues

2013-Participant-Twitter-Header

I haven’t participated in NaNo for the past couple of years, but I miss it. Still keep up with the NaNo site over November, and when it’s over – and after I congratulate all the winners and see how my buddies did, I realize just how amazing the movement that is NaNo is. It’s AMAZING! I’m so proud to have been a part of it in past years.

I can’t help feeling a little sad in December.  I’m proud of the winners, for persevering, and for making writing a priority for 30 days – a mere 1/12th of the year. I know that many of those folks are now feeling depressed. They miss thinking about story,  characters, plot, setting, tempo. They miss the frequent emails from writing buddies.

But now that I’ve transitioned out of NaNo and into writing throughout the year, I feel more like a true writer. I feel pulled in 20 different directions at times, but my writing is consistent. I have one novel polished (and an editor has requested the full – cross your fingers!!), another novel in rewrite, and several novels drafted.  I have made writing a priority throughout the year, and I feel as if I’ve made real progress in my skill set since I’ve done that. NaNo was wonderful for teaching me how to turn off the dreaded Internal Editor and push through that first draft until I reach “The End.”

NaNo Lessons:

  • Turn off the Internal Editor
  • Start the story at the beginning
  • Tell the story
  • Write the ending
  • Every first draft is PERFECT in that it exists

Have you participated in NaNo? If so, what did it teach you? And have you continued to participate?

National Novel Writing Month Withdrawal

This is the 2nd year in a row I haven’t participated in National Novel Writing Month. And it bums me out. I won NaNo eight times – every year I participated, I ended the month with a first draft that I was proud of. Last year, I decided that I had outgrown NaNo and owed it to myself to finish something, and take my writing more seriously. But I still miss NaNo. What do I miss?

  • The challenge of writing 50K words in a single month
  • The feeling of camaraderie that came from the psychic connection with writers all over the world
  • Write-ins fueled by caffeine and word wars
  • The word count bar growing day by day
  • The forums (especially NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul)
  • Earning my purple bar
  • Last, but not least, making writing a priority

<SIGH>

Maybe I need to do my own version of NaNo this month. I think I need a write-in . . .