October 25, 2012

meet your future three-peat nanowrimo winner

Vote for Laura as NaNoWriMo winner!
My name is Laura Chapman, and I am officially announcing my candidacy for National Novel Writing Month 2012.

In my third term of completing 50,000 words on a novel during the month of November, I will work harder, smarter and hopefully finish the month a little saner than in years past.

I will stay healthy by drinking plenty of water and getting my Vitamin C -- no colds for me this year. I will not fall (too far) behind on my blogs. I will make a habit of writing throughout the community with fellow NaNoWriMo candidates. I will support my fellow writers with pep talks.

Vote for me, and all of your wildest dreams will come true.

OK, seriously, I am as excited as ever to participate in NaNoWriMo for a third consecutive year. Though my attempts at Camp NaNoWriMo have been less successful (maybe there's just too much sun to write in the summer), after crossing the 50K finish line twice before, I am motivated and ready to do it again.

Part of my plan for success is just that: having a plan. If you followed this blog last year, you know some of my tips for planning. You can read about it here.

Another thing you already know about me if you follow this blog: I frickin' love index cards.

What can I say? Every writer has a crutch. Laura Ingalls Wilder needed her 5-cent notebooks and pencils. Ernest Hemmingway needed a stiff drink. And I need 100-count packs of 3x5- and 4x6-inch index cards to be successful.

Now this year, I am taking my plotting to a new level. Instead of writing down one chapter on each card, I created a more detailed scene-by-scene writing synopsis. Then, I printed off the finished synopsis and glued each scene to its own index card.

I also marked down my top 10 scenes as part of the 10-scene plotting method, which really did help me come up with the outline of the story. I came up with those 10 scenes first then filled in the blanks. Incidentally, after some last minute inspiration, a few of the 10 scenes changed, but I have an even stronger story.

Why go this detailed and kill so many trees? Well, for one, I will not be throwing away these cards. I consider them personal mementos, so think of it as me creating an art project.

Secondly, by having each scene on a card, I will be able to focus more specifically on what needs to be written each time I sit down. Once I finish it, I can put that index card in the discard pile (which is actually its own section in my index card holder). I think I'll feel an even greater sense of accomplishment by being able to regularly put a card in the discard slot.

That's another new twist for me this year. Instead of focusing completely on word count each time I sit down to write, I am going to focus on completing scenes. I've had a few authors suggest it to me, and it makes sense. They say it allows them to better think about what they are writing. It also removes some of the angst associated with, "I need XX pages or XX words, today." In return, they are producing more content than ever.

If I find this not working, I'll go back to daily goals of specific word counts, but I am already a fan of this approach.

With that, I'll leave you with best wishes for your own writing endeavors, and a few links for you to check out if you are looking for plotting ideas that might help you. Quick note: Don't let the plotting keep you from writing. It's easy to get too detailed too soon and never start writing that first chapter. Use these as a tool, not a hindrance.

•  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.

•  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. 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 purpose of your story. Consider it a thesis or mission statement.

•  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.

•  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.

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.


  1. Laura, I am so impressed with you and all of the other brave souls who participate in NaNoWriMo every year! The organizational skills and dedication that are required for this event are truly mind-boggling! I could never do it because I am so NOT a planner. I take my hat off to you and wish you the very best in your literary endeavors next month! Can't wait to read one of your NaNoWriMo stories!

    1. Thank you, Tracie! I'm not ready to make any official announcements yet, but if all goes well, we should see at least one or two Laura Chapman novels out in 2013. I'm thinking it's time to give this Indie author thing everyone's talking about a try. :)

    2. You go, girl! As my dear mother once said, "No one can read your books if they're just sitting on your hard drive." :)

  2. This is fabulous, Laura, and overlaps what I do, but you have added some new aspects for me to consider. Watch out Staples! There will be a run on index cards. I have my scenes digital (I was planning to have two open documents, but your way sounds like more fun! Thanks for sharing so generously. This is my first time, and I am pumped!

    1. I'm so excited for you. NaNoWriMo is truly an exciting -- if sometimes exhausting and frustrating -- experience. I look forward to reading more about how your adventure goes.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, m'lady. I look forward to writing with you as you go for your second gold medal!