Preptober

Outline Your Novel Using Index Cards

It’s a puzzle, LITERALLY.

Outlining your novel with index cards is a lot of work, but it also makes a lot of sense. When I watched Sarra’s video, a light bulb went off over my head. I went out and bought a pack of index cards with four colors.

Act I is pink, Act II, part one, is light blue, Act II, part two is yellow, and Act III is baby green.

And side note: breaking up Act II into two parts makes a lot of sense to me, as well. As I heard someone describe the middle of your novel once – it’s the creamy, gooey filling of a delicious éclair. That’s certainly a better description than what I typically ascribe to it. *ahem*

Are all of my index cards filled out? Nope. Not even close. But laying the cards out and then writing in my beginning scenes and my ending scenes, at least, my ending as it plays in my head now, that could, and likely will, change as I get closer to the end, and then sticking scenes that pop into my head into the puzzle as they come to me, REALLY helped me. It doesn’t give me an exact view of my story, but it definitely gives me enough to start writing. I will add and change scenes as I write because I don’t like to outline fully, I like my characters to “speak” to me as I write, but I think using this method of outlining will REALLY help me as I go through the process and will likely help me not get AS stuck.

Because I’m not going to pretend I won’t get stuck. I will. And my plan when I get stuck is to move on to another writing project. Whether that’s blogging, journaling, writing short stories, or writing anything, really, and then I can get back to my novel with fresh eyes.

I understand my writing self more now. I get bored. I like to flit from project-to-project. I’m used to never finishing something completely as my day job is never ending and I’m NEVER caught up, it’s just the nature of the beast, so to speak. I am a medical assistant and when you juggle 40+ patients a week, scheduling them for testing, appointments, preparing a short synapsis of why they are coming in and comorbidities for my doctor and mid-level, answering phone calls and returning phone calls, addressing messages from my co-workers about patients, covering for other medical assistants when they’re out and all the miscellaneous work, I’m never caught up. All I can do is stay about 24-hours ahead of the “old” stuff. So I’m used to juggling several things at once and I think that’s why I get bored with one project. I like having several irons in the fire, it’s what I’m used to and I thrive on multi-tasking.

Anyway, I’m excited about this “puzzle” approach to outlining and I’m very thankful to Sarra Cannon for sharing her knowledge with us. This is the first time I’ve approached NaNoWriMo feeling comfortable with my “plan.” Which is what, you ask? I’m going to reach my 50,000 word count working on a variety of projects. I will be a NaNoWriMo Rebel because why not? That’s pretty much how I approach life, I bend rules. I don’t necessarily break the rules, but I definitely bend the rules.

I hope this was as helpful to you as it was to me.

And I hope you’re as ready as you can be for NaNoWriMo because, Blogfam, it’s nearly here!

(Pst – you can find me on the NaNoWriMo website under the username: take2max!)

 

Podcast

Podcast: Distracted by Confirmation Hearings

Ugh. I didn’t get any prepping done for my NaNoWriMo project this week. Why? Because I spent a large part of my week watching Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearing. But it was an eye-opening experience, listen why. I also review “Scorned” and “Bring Up the Bodies.” Lastly, I update you on my personal life – bad teeth anyone? Visit Writefromkaren.com for podcast details!

Take me on the go! You can hear my podcast on the following platforms:

Anchor.fm

Apple Podcast

Spotify

Overcast

Google Podcasts

Breaker

Pocket Casts

Radio Public

RSS Feed

I upload a new podcast every week. Thanks for listening!

*TALK” to you soon!

Preptober

Preptober: Daily Word Count Goals

This is my word count schedule for next month.

Let me explain my thought process … the first week of November I am going to be chomping at the bit to get started. I’m always very enthusiastic the first week, somewhat excited the second week, start burning out the third week and then the fourth week I’m motivated to make it across the finish line.

So. I figured the weekends will be my heavy word count days – I will hopefully knock out the word count goals. I figure I can stop, take a break, then come back and keep writing on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s the easy part. My weeks are going to be challenging. I will most likely get up early and knock out 1000 words before work, then sit right down after work and knock out another 1000 words before the day catches up with me and I’m nodding off in my chair. (I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve practically hit my head on my desk because I’m just going to shut my eyes, just for a second and … *SNORT-SNIFF* Where am I?)

I’m taking it easy on Mondays and Wednesdays. Those are my clinic days and by the time the day ends, I’m checked out. I’m mentally tapped out. I’ve dealt with patients and doctors all day, I don’t have any mental stamina left. On Tuesdays/Thursday, I will try and write before and after work again – we’ll see how it goes. I anticipate these days being my biggest struggle, especially if I”m asked to cover another MA on one of those days.

Fridays are also light days. Not because it’s crazy at work but because Kevin and I go out to eat and then do our grocery shopping every Friday night so we’ll get home late(ish) and I will be losing steam by the time I sit down to write anything. I’m not sure I will be able to write 1000 words, but I’m going to try it.

I will probably use the day before Thanksgiving to look at my outline and plan enough for me to cross the finish line because by that point, I’m usually stuck in my head and I’ve convinced myself that what I’m writing is trash and I SUCK – WHY FINISH??

And then the 30th – I’m using as an extra day just in case my count is off and I haven’t done as much writing as I need to – that will be my last ditch effort to make it across the finish line – I wish it wasn’t a Monday, but it is what it is.

I think the total is 53,000 words, or thereabouts. I wanted to give myself a little wiggle room – just in case.

We’ll see how this pans out.

I’m not really worried about the word count – I can write and spew crap all day long. I just need to not worry about whether it makes sense or not, I guess. I’d like to post excerpts here but I won’t make any promises because if it’s really bad … well … I won’t put you through that. ha!

Remember, you can friend me on the NaNoWriMo website if you wish. My username is take2max. We can cheer each other on. Also, if you’re interested in chatting on the NaNoWriMo website, let me know what your username is in the comments and I’ll send you an invite to the Write Away group I created. Or, you can join the group by clicking this link (just know that it will make you sign into your account – so if you haven’t made an account yet, now would be a good time to do that!).

Preptober

Preptober: Finding a Story Idea

I spent nearly all day yesterday Preptober(ing). I learned a lot, I was inspired, I bought a NaNoWriMo t-shirt and I ended the day more confused and frustrated than when I started.

This outlining thing is for the birds, ya’ll. I feel like giving up before I even start and just go back to pantsing it.

However, I don’t want to get to 25,000 words in and completely dry up, like I usually do when I attempt NaNoWriMo. So. I will force myself to slow down and start putting one foot in front of the other and waddle my way through this mess.

Beginning with a story idea.

I found an excellent site that lists a few hundred story ideas. I read through them all and these are the ones that caught my attention:

1.A hair stylist overhears something she shouldn’t while cutting hair.
2.Three friends go on a trip to a foreign country together, only for them each to get lost.
3.A character is sold the “Best Year of Their Life” by an illustrious company, with the caveat that they must die afterward.
4.An adopted child starts to receive tens of letters from people who claim they’re her parents.
5.An adopted child starts to receive tens of letters from people who claim they’re her parents.
6.In the midst of a war, the women of a local town abandon their neighborhood only a week before their husbands and sons return.
7.A dictator forces an illustrious fashion designer to design the new military uniforms for the war.
8.In a series of weekly sessions, a man recalls his experience of Vietnam to overcome his PTSD. – only it’s a woman and she is forced to recall a crime in which she was a major player
9.A character discovers they have the ability to visit the past and future, but at the risk that they’ll lose something valuable.
10.In the midst of a plague-ridden Venice, an inspector begins a series of unethical experiments to find a cure.
11.Three strangers win a getaway vacation together – one is a psycho path and plots to kill the other two for unknown grand prize
12.A diver uncovers government secrets buried at the bottom of the ocean.
13.A woman is called on a mission to save her lover.
14.A character travels back in time, where they realize they are more important than modern day.
15.A character develops the power to alter their personality, but cannot control it.
16.A matriarch deals with a rising male leader threatening her power. – flip it – patriarch threatened by a rising female.
17.A character’s home is split in two by a sudden Earthquake. They must work to find a way to the other side, where something valuable is.
18.Three friends go on a trip to a foreign country together, only for them each to get lost. Series?
19.A closed exit road sends a character on a six hour detour road trip.
20.A character participates in a march for a cause they believe in when violence breaks out against the people.
21.A prostitute meets with her family for the first time in 10 years.
22.A psychiatrist befriends one of their patients only to realize it was a fatal mistake.

All of them appeal to me in one way or another, but there are a few that really spark my imagination. But believe it or not, the idea that has been percolating in my head for several months now is not listed here. I may, or may not, massage that idea into fruition, I just haven’t decided yet. I need to stick to an idea though because I need to start developing my characters.

Also, something else to consider when you’re picking your idea and thinking about when you’re shaping the story in your head:

  1. Start with the unexpected.
  2. Start with action
  3. Start by appealing to the reader’s curiosity – make the reader want to read more to find the answer.
  4. Start with an understanding of your fictional world – if you are confident about your fictional world, it will make it more believable and interesting to your read.
  5. Start with intensity – “draw us in like moths to the flame, but don’t let the bonfire rage so fierce we can’t get close.”
  6. Build momentum – “The first cardinal rule of opening lines is that they should possess most of the individual craft elements that make up the story as a whole. An opening line should have a distinctive voice, a point of view, a rudimentary plot and some hint of characterization. By the end of the first paragraph, we should also know the setting and conflict, unless there is a particular reason to withhold this information.”
  7. Resist the urge to start too early “You might be tempted to begin your narrative before the action actually starts, such as when a character wakes up to what will eventually be a challenging or dramatic day. But unless you’re rewriting Sleeping Beauty, waking up is rarely challenging or dramatic. Far better to begin at the first moment of large-scale conflict.”
  8. Remember that small hooks catch more fish than big ones – “Many writers are taught that the more unusual or extreme their opening line, the more likely they are to “hook” the reader. But what we’re not taught is that such large hooks also have the power to easily disappoint readers if the subsequent narrative doesn’t measure up.”
  9. Avoid getting ahead of your reader – “One of the easiest pitfalls in starting a story is to begin with an opening line that is confusing upon first reading, but that makes perfect sense once the reader learns additional information later in the story. The problem is that few readers, if confused, will ever make it that far.”
  10. Keep talk to a minimum – “If you feel compelled to begin a story with dialogue, keep in mind that you’re thrusting your readers directly into a maelstrom in which it’s easy to lose them. One possible way around this is to begin with a single line of dialogue and then to draw back and to offer additional context before proceeding with the rest of the conversation—a rare instance in which starting close up and then providing a panorama sometimes works. But long sequences of dialogue at the outset of a story usually prove difficult to follow.”
  11. Revisit the opening once you reach the end. – “Sometimes a story evolves so significantly during the writing process that an opening line, no matter how brilliant, no longer applies to the story that follows.”

Sources: How to Start a Story and Ways to Start Your Story Better

I personally like shocking my readers. Nothing too drastic, just enough to make them raise their eyebrows in slight surprise. I love starting with action because I love reading stories that begin with action. The tip that I think I have the hardest time with is starting with dialogue. I LOVE writing dialogue and I always have way too many conversations in my stories – I definitely need to work on settings. However, I’m going to write my story first, and that may be all dialogue at this point, and then go back and put in fillers later. I think trying to stop and write about the setting my characters are in will slow me down and frustrate me. I never have to worry about being one of those authors that info dump on their readers – but, leaving that information out is basically two, or more people, walking around talking each other’s heads off too much and no one is interested in reading that.

 

Video summary:

Word vomit

Analyzing elements of a good story

Ask: What If …

Challenges seem realistic

Get inspired by living your life

A. Pay attention to things that evoke your own emotions

Develop the hell out of everything

A. Character
B. Worlds

Focus on your characters

If you Google story ideas, you will find many, many, MANY more ideas that might spark your imagination. Even if the idea is enough for you to lift your eyebrow and go “Hmm”, keep track of it. You’ll be surprised what your subconscious percolates when you’re not paying attention. And if your subconscious picks a tough moment to tap you on the shoulder, (because let’s be honest – ideas always come at the WORST possible moment), do not hesitate to write it down. Before long, you will have a slew of ideas for future writing projects, and/or, who knows, maybe you can combine a few ideas for your NaoNoWriMo project.

Also – side note – look over your calendar for November and come up with a writing schedule. I don’t know why I never really thought about doing this before, I guess I always just assumed I would write 1,667 words per day. (Where did I get that number? That’s the approximate number to write every day in November to reach the 50,000 word mark). But let’s be real. There will be days I’m mentally tapped out from working a clinic, or I’m so tired I literally can not keep my eyes open so it’s unrealistic of me to expect I will uphold that 1,667 daily word mark. Not to mention, my father-in-law’s birthday, my birthday, my husband’s birthday, my oldest son’s birthday and of course, Thanksgiving is during the month of November, so my time is stretched. I am going to come up with a realistic writing plan for me. I know that weekends will be the majority of my writing time but I really want to get up an hour early before work and then immediately sit down right after work for an hour and write some more will likely work for me. I’m still coming down from an adrenaline high when I get home from work and my brain is still firing on all cylinders., that would be a good time to catch my brain before it checks out for the night. After about an hour of sitting quietly and no longer being overstimulated, it’s like coming down from a sugar high, I just CRASH and I become a bumbling idiot who can’t string two words together, let alone write them.

Anyway, start thinking about your writing schedule and keep it real.

Happy Preptober!

NaNoWriMo

Giving Up on NaNoWriMo (forever?)

So. I’m a loser.

I have given up on my NaNoWriMo project.

As usual, what happens always happens – I simply ran out of steam.

Here’s the thing. Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way. I’ve always prided myself on being a pantser – I don’t outline – it’s more fun to have my characters tell me where to go.

But clearly, this is the wrong approach for me because I get to the point in my writing, I’m like: “Wow, This really sucks. What’s the point? Where am I going with this?

And so and so on.

Please don’t think I’m bragging but I KNOW I can write. That’s never the problem. My problem is, I don’t have any idea where the story is going or how it should end.

And that’s a HUGE problem, ladies and gentleman.

I’m stressing myself out and life is too short for (more) stress. (Work is really stressing me out right. Granted, it’s self imposed, I care TOO much but that’s another blog post).

So. I give up. I’m a quitter. A loser. And I think I’m done with NaNoWriMo.

It’s like Jenna says in her video, every month should be WriMo, not just November, and she’s right. I’m one of those people who put so much emphasis on November and completing this damn challenge that I completely neglect the other eleven months of the year as far as writing. (Warning: Spicy language)

How stupid is that? (Don’t answer that question).

I’m giving up on NaNoWriMo. It was fun while it lasted but I think it has served its purpose for me. I learned a lot about myself doing the challenge and now I’m ready to get serious and actually WRITE. I can’t learn if I don’t WRITE.

And Jenna’s videos have really inspired me. I tell people all the time at work that I hate talking about something to death. Well, I’m doing that with my writing. It’s time to put some work behind my claims that I love to write.

Am I write? (see what I did there?)

I need to be patient with myself and keep searching for a story idea that I’m passionate about. And then I need to teach myself to outline. And then write something. All of this takes time, weeks, months, even, not 30 days.

I’m disappointed in myself, but certainly not surprised. This is a common habit of mine and you know what? It’s time to break that cycle and try something different because the way I’m approaching this writing business is CLEARLY NOT working for me.

So what’s next? I plan on continuing to post Jenna’s vlogs here. I’ve also found a few more writing vlogs that really ignite my flame as well as reader vlogs that I plan on posting here. I’d like to really get into book reviews this upcoming year, maybe do something with the reading group I started on Goodreads but never did anything with. I’m doing this for a few reasons:

  1. Reading never fails to spark the writer in me. I always get ideas when I read other people’s work.
  2. Writing book reviews is writing. It’s also teaching me what I like and don’t like about stories so I can incorporate this into my own writing.
  3. It will help me understand what readers like, don’t like, about a story and again, keep that in mind when I write my own stuff.
  4. I’m PASSIONATE about reading. If I can find a way to make money reading I’d be on that in a HEARTBEAT. Maybe someone will pay me to review books? (I really should look into that possibility).
  5. I LOVE talking about books. I’ve participated in a few online book clubs and I had so much fun with them. That’s why I would really like to start my own online book club so we can actually TALK about not only the stories, but the writing methods as well.
  6. Perhaps organizing a group of readers will eventually turn into beta readers for my own writing. I’ve learned from Jenna how important beta readers are and that is something I need to look into when my own writing reaches that stage.

Honestly, I’ve learned so much from just watching Jenna’s videos. I’m thinking seriously of becoming a member of SkillShare just so I can take some of her classes. She’s sassy, smart and calls it like it is. I respond to that type of personality.

Anyway, I have a lot to chew on and some new things to try for the upcoming year. I’m excited. To me, this excitement I feel is way more rewarding than writing 50,000 of utter crap.

To the rest of you doing NaNoWriMo, may your muse not abandon you. Good luck!

NaNoWriMo

Writing Process Sucks

The part where she’s laying on the bed, her knees drawn up to her chest and she’s screaming in frustration? Yeah, that’s me RIGHT NOW.

NaNoWriMo update: I’m at 14,432 words. I finished my prologue though it’s now so long that I’m pretty sure I could get two chapters out of it. I wrote nearly 1500 words tonight and that was PAINFUL. Not really because of the content, I knew where I was going with it, but because I’m having a hard time finding the mental energy I mentioned early on in this challenge that I knew I would struggle with at some point and that point is now.

I would take a night off but I really want the “update word count seven days in a row” badge. It’s all about the badges, screw the writing. This post is going to publish in the afternoon and by the time it go lives I’ll be at work and counting down the hours until I can go home but writing this right now? I’m completely brain dead and my eyes are slowly clos… ZzzZzZ

NaNoWriMo

Minor Characters Have Lives Too

I definitely need to work on subplots. I’m so focused on the main story that I forget the minor characters have things that are happening to them while the heroine is doing her thing.

Writing minor characters is never really an issue for me, but breathing life into them is.

And I totally agree, having interesting subplots really adds a richness to the story that wouldn’t be there without them.

Note to self: don’t neglect the little people (the minor characters).

NaNoWriMo

Have You Ever Written a Fight Scene?

I don’t think I’ve ever written a fight scene.

I’ve thrown a few fictional punches in my day, but … I don’t think I’ve written, or even imagined, a full-fledged fight scene.

So, Jenna’s advice is intriguing to me and now I want to write a fight scene. It sounds fun. And disturbing. And fun!

There are few people in my life I’d like to punch in the face. Maybe I’ll write a fight scene between me and these people. (Spoiler alert – I’m gonna win).

If you’re writing a story and need to insert a fight scene, here are some tips from Jenna.

NaNoWriMo update: Up to 10,969 words. I thought long and hard on my way home from work today. I’m now working on the project I was going to work on to begin with. I even have the first seven chapters “outlined” and I use that word SO loosely. I’m not even done with the prologue yet and I’m having so much fun with it. I don’t regret the writing I’ve done thus far; I’m looking at it like a warm up, if you will. And I think, in a way, that sort of works for me. I warm up my writing chops so when I get serious about something I’m primed and ready to go. This is another reason I really like NaNoWriMo, I learn so much about my writing self every time I participate and it reinforces, yet again, how much I LOVE writing. I’m not trying to brag (okay, maybe a little) but it’s such a high when my characters just sort of take over and I’m simply trying to keep up with them. If I could just teach myself to harness that creative energy into something organized and cohesive, I think I could actually do something with this hobby.

Baby steps.

NaNoWriMo

You’re a Writer, Own It

What makes you a writer?

I used to see this question around the Internet a lot “back in the day” (like when the Internet was first made available to the public) and the popular opinion back then was, “you’re not a writer if you haven’t had anything published.”

I used to get SO ANGRY when I read this because I desperately wanted to be a writer but aside from having an imagination, I’m also a realist. The odds of actually being published are slim to none. So I thought, why try? What’s the point? It’s never going to happen and I guess I’ll never be a writer.

WOW. What an idiot.

I now champion people who call themselves writers. If you have an imagination and you write stuff down, you’re a writer.

Period.

But for kicks and grins, I looked up what being a writer “meant”, and here’s what I found:

  1. You read, a lot. (ME!)
  2. You talk to yourself (no comment – okay, yes, I do this occasionally)
  3. You go into bookstores just ‘because’ (yep – though I haven’t read a “real” book in years – it’s all Kindle, baby)
  4. You write down your ideas (yes, and then promptly forget where I wrote them down)
  5. Every story you tell is ‘slightly embellished’ (maybe sometimes)
  6. You have a stack of unused notebooks and yet, you continue to buy more (yes!)
  7. You read everything (YESYESYES)
  8. People call you a Grammar Nazi (YESYESYESYES!!!)
  9. You’re a word nerd (YES!)
  10. Your phone is always on silent (I ABHOR talking on the phone)
  11. You’re constantly searching for ‘why’ (you mean you don’t?)
  12. You write in your sleep (actually – I nap on an idea and I wake up with a direction – it’s super weird – and helpful!)
  13. You prefer to be alone (YESYESYESYESYESYESYES)

These are just some fun things that writers may, or may not, have in common. The bottom line, if you write, you’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

NaNoWriMo update: I”m now at 8,895 and I HATE my story. The prompt I’m working from is dark, too dark, and I can’t bring myself to do what the prompt suggests, so I’m trying to dance around it and now my story has veered off like a golf ball that sliced to the right. I don’t think I’ll post it because it sucks. Royally. But who knows, I’m just allowing my characters to take charge of the mess that I’m writing now and we’ll see where it takes me.

This is precisely WHY I should outline my stories. I can write anything, truly, quantity has never been my problem. I can write circles around a laptop but it never goes anywhere. And then I get stuck, and then the story takes a breath on it’s own and before long, it’s jumping off the page and chasing ME around in circles. It’s the quality that I have a problem with. There is no direction.

I’ll learn, one of these years.

Super hard to force myself to write after work today. But I forced myself and trudged through. I can’t decide if I’m going to continue with this story, see where it goes, or just chuck it and start something new. Think I’ll sleep on it and see how I feel tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo

How to Stay Focused On Your Writing

I have discovered something about myself:

I have to have it completely quiet whenever I write (the washing machine noise in the background though .. !)

and

I have to have several windows up at the same time whenever I write.

I think better when I’m not thinking. Does that make sense?

Here’s how I write – I’ll write about 1000 words and then I lose focus. The flow slows down, my characters aren’t speaking to me and my mind starts wandering.

“I wonder what new videos posted on YouTube.”

“Oh look, no one has text me. I’m a loser.”

“I have an idea for a blog post – let’s start a blog post right this second that I have no intention of completing.”

“What is the weather going to be like this week?”

“I wonder if Uniform Advantage has any sales on scrubs right now.”

“I should really get on that podcast idea I’ve had for the past six months and not done anything about.”

“Just one more Jenna video.”

But here’s the weird part -it works for me. At first, I used to get so irritated with myself, “Gads Karen, F.O.C.U.S on the story.” But now, I understand that is how my mind works. I can’t handle outside noise but I need internal noise to focus.

When I don’t think about something, or how to get past a certain point in the story, I think about something else and the answer just comes to me. I need to give my subconscious a moment to handle what my lame-ass consciousness can not, I guess.

So right now? I have five tabs open, along with my writing open, on my laptop. Then I can literally toggle through and give my subconscious a moment to process what I’m trying to do in my conscious mind.

I too have always wanted to be a writer and I’m passionate about it in my mind, but then I sit down to actually do something about it and the lazy part of my says, “Nope, maybe next time.” I’m a writer in my mind but to actually make it happen … is too hard, mom! *whining*

But remember when I quit Facebook, cold turkey, so I could focus on the two things I love doing? Reading and Writing? Well, I need to make that sacrifice worth something, don’t I?

Here’s Jenna’s advice on how to stay focused on your writing. And by the way, I should have warned you ahead of time, but Jenna uses salty language, so if that’s not your bag, sorry. I happen to think she’s pretty freaking awesome.