NaNoWriMo Is Here

Yep, we have reached that time of year some writers love, and some absolutely dread with every fibre of their being. A few times in the past, I’ve sworn off doing NaNoWriMo – “I don’t have time this year!” – but by the first, an idea has festered in my brain and demands to be written. This year, I actually am resisting the temptation, because I do have a lot going on that will, unfortunately, keep me away from my own writing anyway. I’d rather use what time I have to work on going stuff, than force something else in which will just end up sitting in a virtual drawer until I eventually, one day have time to edit it.

Anyway!

As it is the first day of NaNoWriMo2019, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks and a bit of advice that’s gotten me to the 50K word goal in the past.

1. Remember: It’s a First Draft!

This is important. The point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to end the month with a polished, ready to submit draft. It’s to get the ideas and characters down on paper, and give you something to work with. If you find yourself struggling, not sure what to do next, throw in a flashback. Use the opportunity to explore the characters a little. Write those aspects of them that will get cut later on – those little bits you should know about the character, but the reader doesn’t need to see. And if still get stuck, do something random – aliens appear in the room, a unicorn emerges from the woods, Godzilla starts attacking the city. See what your characters do if put in an unusual situation, and it might help work through writer’s block.

2. Use Dialogue

To extend the word count, use dialogue. Have a character who speaks formally, not using a single contraction – I have instead of I’ve, it is instead of it’s, do not instead of don’t. Maybe a character says like, well, ummm errr I dunno a lot? Little marks of speech like that, again, will help with the word count, and maybe you’ll find out a bit more about the characters, too.

3. Use Music

If you are able to write to music, use that to your advantage. Put on some fast paced, tense music, and it might help your fingers flow that little bit fasted across the keyboard.

4. Change Font

Yep! One thing I was really surprised at by switching from Times New Roman to Comic Sans when drafting was how much flowed out. Like a switch turned in my brain, unleashing a bit more creativity.

5. Get Ahead

On the days where you can, don’t just stop at the target word count. Use the time you have, get as many words down as possible. If you can double your word count on one day, it gives you more leeway later on. Even if you can only write 100 or 200 more words, it all adds up.

6. Don’t Panic About Word Counts

And if you can’t hit the word count every day? Don’t panic! Even if you only write 10 words on some days, you’ve written ten words! Don’t fall into ‘I ONLY’ or ‘I JUST wrote … words’. Life can get busy, and you may fall behind, but 50K isn’t the only goal of NaNoWriMo. If you end the month with something to work with, you’re still a winner!

7. Have Fun!

Seriously! NaNoWriMo is a really great time to unleash your creativity and really play around. Get involved as much or as little as you like, take part in sprints or use prompts or just do your own thing – whatever your preferred approach, don’t forget to take breaks, to look after yourself, and enjoy it! Go wild with your novel, and have fun learning about the characters and worlds you’re creating.

Are you taking part of NaNoWriMo? Any tips you’d like to share?

No Killer, No Filler

writing doesn't need fillers or killers

Ah, writing. It comes so easily, doesn’t it? The words just flowing from your fingertips, the wonderful sound of keyboard keys clanking, being hit, one after the other, over and over until you have a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter…a book…

Full of the same words.

Just. Very. That.

Suddenly. Started. Then.

There are certain words, known as filler and killer words, likely to drag your writing to a grinding halt. Not to say they should be avoided entirely, but if you have the word ‘that’ multiple times in the same sentence, it’s going to make the reader cringe. Writing flows much more smoothly without filler and killer words.

Consider the following sentences –

Just then, the doorbell rang suddenly. She started to walk towards the door, her heart beating so hard that it felt like it would burst from her chest. In order to collect herself, she paused, staring through the obscure glass and picking out the tell-tale blue uniform of a policeman. Then, she opened the door.

Clunky, isn’t it? The prose reads stilted and too lengthy, words jammed in and draining the paragraph of any tension it could create. So, amending it –

The doorbell rang. She walked towards the door, heart about to burst from her chest. Pausing, she collected herself. On the other side of the obscure glass stood a man, in the tell-tale blue uniform of a policeman. She opened the door.

Filler words tend to be exactly that, words which fill the prose without actually contributing anything. Killer words slow it down, make it seem stilted. The best rule of thumb, if you find yourself using them, is to read the sentence with and without a particular word. If it makes sense without, drop it.

Filler words: Just. Quite. Rather. Very. perhaps. Stuff. Really. In order. Had. Literally. Actually. That.

Killer words: Suddenly. In order to. Started. Sort of. Used to. So. Kind of. As. A lot. Out of. You. Then.

Remember, these words can be used, and can, on occasion, prove to be useful. But make sure if they are used, they’re not over-used, and they’re put in sentences only when necessary.

 

Images Used 

Serial Killer – Image by Republica from Pixabay

Notepad – Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Books – Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

Play Time

One thing writers are told time and time again is to read everything they can get their hands on. You cannot be a writer unless you’re a reader; otherwise, how do you know what’s gone before? Plus, reading books allows you to see how sentences are crafted and with a keen eye you can see how a writer has enabled you to feel for a character or, in some cases, to see where they have fallen down flat with this.

But it’s not just in books where aspiring writers can pick up tips. Film and TV, obviously, are brilliant showcases for dialogue, and looking at the way directors frame camera shots and build on relationships between characters can always provide inspiration for tricky scenes. But there’s a further medium that can be looked at, too – video games.

I mentioned before about my love for Bioshock and part of that love comes from the way it’s written. There are twists that are built up throughout the game, great moments of dialogue, and the way it’s written means that, as the main character, by a certain point you’re never quite sure who to trust. And then, of course, there is the ending, which quite honestly had me tearing up. (Well, the ending I saw. There are different endings depending on your actions in game)

Since I finished that game I’ve been playing Fallout 3. Bioshock is a more linear game, where you basically move from one part to the next. Fallout is different, in that you can pretty much explore the world around you at your leisure. You can follow the main story quests, or do lots of little side quests or a mix of both…it’s up to you.

Even with this freedom, story and plot still play a major role. On top of that, the writing – especially with dialogue for so many different characters – has to take into account the potential actions of the person playing. Yes, the enemies have stock lines that get thrown at you as you fight them, but if you listen Galaxy News Radio with Three Dog (a DJ who doesn’t know what a disc is) you’ll hear him mention various places and events and, later, even hear him reporting on what your character has been doing.

The actual plot revolves around your character going out looking for his/her father, and in terms of writing, the game is very good at giving hints as to what your father might be doing, via Three Dog. And there’s a karma system to it, too. You can save certain characters or help them out, giving you karma, or…do other stuff and get negative karma. I assume. I very much help people in the game where I can. And of course, there is one character I care about more than any other, who I just want to be happy even if he keeps running away from me. Just hope he turns up at Vault 101 again soon.

images (1).jpgOne of the other games I’ve been playing is Kingdom Hearts 1.5  – the remake of the PS2 game by the same name, but this version is apparently HD or something and has two of the other games included. I’ve been focusing on replaying the main game; I know when I played years ago I got to the end, but I don’t quite remember if I actually managed to beat the final boss or not.

Kingdom Hearts is a game using characters from Final Fantasy and various Disney films. You play Sora, a FF-style kid who just wants to leave the island he lives on with his two best friends. But when a storm strikes, the friends are separated and Sora wakes up in a very strange town. He meets Goofy and Donald, on a quest to find King Mickey, and joins them hoping they can help him find his friends.

With these two familiar faces, Sora travels through various worlds including Wonderland, Agrabah, the jungle Tarzan calls his home, Ancient Greece, and many others. As for plot, it’s a fairly simple one to follow, but one which does really well in drawing in these characters and having them inhabit the same universe, as the villains gather together to try to take over the world, using the heartless to achieve their goals.

Plot wise, it has some good examples perhaps of how to take existing stories and merge them together or rework them to fit something else. And what with it being a kid’s game, although it is single player there’s a strong message of working together and the importance of friendship. Something to keep in mind if, as a writer, you’re working on writing for kids.

kh That’s only two of the many, many games out there with compelling plots and interesting characters, mainly because it just happens to be the two I’m mainly playing at the moment. There are so many others out there, and I’ll probably come back to this in a future blog post, maybe one about the sort of games I played when I was younger. But if there are any games you’d recommend, or think contain some good tips for writing, let me know in the comments.