May 29, 2012

camp nanowrimo: ready your cabins

Mr. Bingley helps me plot out my Camp NaNoWriMo book.

The June 2012 Camp NaNoWriMo session kicks off Friday. If you are participating, congratulations and best wishes for a successful session.

Before heading to your cabin to write 50,000 words in 30 days make sure your backpacks and sleeping bags ready to go. As a two-time NaNoWriMo participant and winner, the No. 1 most important item I suggest you campers to pack is a well-planned and -developed story. I tried both sessions of Camp NaNoWriMo last year without a plan, and I fell spectacularly short of my word-count goals. That's why I'm such a believer in preparedness now.

Here are a few of the planning tools I use:

•  Character Sketch: Give your character a name, description and back story. I cut out pictures from magazines and write out key facts to know about them. Well-developed characters are important. Readers will follow a story if they care about what happens to the character.
As a note, do not get too bogged down in the process that you never get around to writing. There is no need to know your characters' various childhood pets and teacher names unless those facts are absolutely crucial to telling your story. Remember: brevity is beautiful and simplicity is sweet.

•  Before and After: This is a good resource for developing both your characters and plot. By determining where each main character is before and after the story will help you fill in the plot points in the middle. For example, if your character is a broke, single, soon-to-be college grad before and a successful book editor/wife to a wealthy entrepreneur after, something has to happen to get her there. That is your story. Story is what happens to a character

•  The 10-Scene Tool: I first read about this in James V. Smith Jr.'s The Writer's Little Helper and have loved it ever since. Most commercially successful books have 10 key scenes to move the story along. This includes the opener, conclusion and conflicts that set the rising action. Knowing your 10 main scenes will help with pacing and ensure you drive your story in the right direction.

•  Sell It: Write down what you imagine will appear on the back cover/inside flap of your book. Whatever you put there is the most important part of your story. Make sure to keep that in mind. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to do and serves as an excellent writing exercise.

•  Working Synopsis: Write a paragraph or three about the main action that will occur in each chapter in your book. Doing this legwork in advance will give you more freedom to focus on generating quality word count during the month. And this is called a working synopsis, because it is not set in stone. If something in the story changes as you write it, let it happen. Just go back and update your working synopsis to reflect the changes. This, along with the back cover synopsis, can also be beneficial resources later when you try to query the finished project.

•  The Ultimate Plotting Kit: To make this you will need index cards, an index card holder, pens
 and a highlighter. Using the note cards, create an abbreviated version of your character sketches, 10-scene tool, working synopsis and anything else you might need. Once complete, you will have a mobile novel kit that can go anywhere with you. One reader mentioned that she set aside each chapter card when she was done with it, because it gave her a sense of accomplishment to see that pile get shorter. I love that idea.

With this advice, campers, go forth and prosper/spread your wings and fly/reach for the stars/some other nerdy cliche of your choosing.

I believe in you. You can do it.

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