Whether you are preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or simply working on your novel, here are 6 techniques — plus resources and tools — to help you reach your goal.
1. Recommended Books
Since you are working on a book, I figure you also like to read them, so here are some titles I’ve found useful.
2. My Guide to “Fast Writing”
Elsewhere I’ve created a compilation of the tips and techniques by other successful writers on novel writing preparation based largely on Rachel Aaron’s techniques for achieving 10,000 words per DAY(!). There’s also a handy PDF download to take with you.
3. Plot Development Worksheets
Novel Storyboard Worksheet : A PDF storyboard for noting events and characters by chapter.
Traditional Plot Development Storyboard : A PDF storyboard that breaks down traditional fiction arc into the standard 20-chapters used by mass market paperbacks for decades.
Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! Storyboard Worksheet : The high-concept fiction plot technique taught by screenwriter and teacher Blake Snyder condensed into a PDF storyboard format.
Chapter Storyboard Worksheet : This PDF Storyboard is good for breaking a chapter down by scene; especially useful for keeping multiple locations and character point of views clear and in sequence.
4. Character Development and Profiling
Heroes and heroines, even just protagonists and antagonists, can often get fuzzy in the heat of trying to write a novel in a month, so I started using a Target Audience Profile worksheet used by marketers to help keep them straight and unique. Try completing the Target Audience Profile Worksheet and writing a profile of your main characters to keep on hand. It helps when trying to answer that magical, musical question “What would this character do now?”
After creating a basic demographic profile of a character, I add things like some background on influential family and friends, and key incidents in the character’s life like bullying at school or winning a competition that had an impact. Often getting stuck or blocked in a project indicatesI haven’t really defined a character (or any of them) well enough to clearly know how he or she would react or respond to the situation.
5. Visual Techniques for Developing Plot and Characters
A number of writers I’ve met use collage to prepare for their writing projects. Bestselling romantic comedy author Jennifer Crusie has a collection of them now and here (Wild Ride Collage) and here (this one is more about the process).Basically it’s similar to doing a visualization collage. I’ve had fun with this and found it especially useful when I can see certain events or scenes in my head, but haven’t figured out how they tie together. In the list of recommended titles at the top, your find one for Visioning, which is about more than just story collage.
Begin by focusing on the title or theme of your story. Next collect images and words from magazines or other media while focusing on your theme or title. You can even collect found objects that seem to fit (I met one author who actually creates sculptures for his writing projects). Once you feel you’ve collected enough stuff to start, grab a large sheet of paper — or a box if you want to go 3-D — and start assembling your images, words, objects as it moves you. Jennifer Crusie and others talk about leaving placeholders for characters or story elements when they feel something is missing and tracking it down later.
Some authors draw or paint a scene from their story.
6. Create Something Motivational or Inspirational and Put It Where You Write
I met several who actually create the book covers to inspire them throughout the whole process and keep the mood and another (a screenwriter) who created the movie poster.
My absolute favorite was a writing friend who persuaded a bookstore employee to give her one of their old bestseller list cards. She carefully replaced the #1position with her book title and name and then hung it up in front of her workspace to keep her writing daily. She also created book covers to place in front of her workspace and individual character collages. Her next book didn’t make #1, but it made the list!
There’s no right or wrong way to do any of this. There’s just your way. These are all simply a way for authors to use a different part of their brain in solving plot and character development. Give it a try. If nothing else, you’ll have a conversation piece.
The goal is to get to know our characters, get a feel for their story arcs, and inspire us to keep our backsides in our chairs and our fingers on our keyboards until we have our book (or at least 50,000 words and the basic spine of our book).