Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ready, Set, NaNo!!!

It's here - the big day. Big month. Big everything.

The queen of suspense, Mary Higgins Clark, said about first drafts:

Writing a first draft is like clawing my way through a mountain of concrete with my bare hands.

Isn't that the truth?

Well, the point of NaNo is to write so fast that you - sometimes - forget that your hands are dripping blood. It's a stellar way of turning off your censor (we all have one of those little suckers) and just get those pages out.

So am I doing NaNo?  Well, sort of. In spirit. 

It seems I am NEVER at the start of a new book when November rolls around. Today I'm finishing putting in notes on my first draft of Blood Moon, the sequel to Huntress Moon. And as much as I hate to do it, I know that what I really must do is NOT look at the manuscript for a while before I reread the thing and launch into the next draft. So instead of writing, what I'm doing is a research trip up to San Francisco (I know, I have such a tough life).  I need to be in my locations and figure out how certain scenes and sequences work physically. Which is definitely writing, but it's not NaNo writing.  

But I'm using the Nano energy to set goals: by the end of the month I will have a book that I can get out to beta readers.

And of course, I'll be posting Nano prompts throughout the month. In fact, here's a list of helpful hints if you find yourself stuck.

1. Keep moving forward – DO NOT go back and endlessly revise your first chapters. You may end up throwing them out anyway. Just move forward. If you’re stuck on a scene, just write down vaguely what might happen in it or where it might happen as a place marker and move on to a scene you know better. The first draft can be just a sketch – the important thing is to get it all down, from beginning to end. Then you can start to layer in all the other stuff.

2. Keep the story elements checklist close at hand for easy reference.

Or if you prefer the elements in a narrative:

3. Before you start an Act, review the elements of the act you're launching into. Or if you're stuck, review the story elements of the Act you're stuck on.

4. As you're writing, you will find out more about your story. Write the premise again, and make sure you have identified and understand the Plan and Central Story Action.

5. When you’re stuck - make a list.

6. Do word lists of visual and thematic elements for your story to build your image systems. Start a collage book or online clip file of images if that appeals to you. Great thing to do when you're too tired to write anymore but still have a little time to spend on your book.

7. Remember that the first draft is always going to suck.

8. You can always watch movies and do breakdowns to inspire you and break you through a block.

Good luck, everyone - and feel free to stop in and gripe!



All the information on this blog and more, including full story structure breakdowns of various movies, is available in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks.  Any format, just $3.99 and $2.99.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amaxon DE

Amazon FR

Amazon ES

Amazon IT

If you're a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories.

Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE


Cherise Kelley said...

Ironically, I just finished a first draft not ten minutes before this post came in my email. In the spirit of Nano, my plan is to go through it completely every day until November 15, adding those layers of meaning you so aptly laid out.

This is great stuff, and I thank you for all these tips you have put forth for beginning writers. You gave me the confidence I needed to go for it!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Cherise, fabulous, congratulations on that first draft!!!

But I beg of you - please consider putting it aside for at least a few days before you jump right back in. This is the hardest thing for me to do, personally, but it really is the best thing you can do IF you don't have a publisher breathing down your neck.

Go celebrate for a little instead!

Monique DeVere said...

You have such a wonderful gift for breaking down creative barriers and explaining the basics that is awesome, Alexandra!

I've been following your blog for a while, and I just wanted to tell you I think you're amazing! You do a wonderful job of sharing your knowledge. Keep up the good work.

I did a series on fast writing, where I interviewed a number of authors. I wish I'd interviewed you on this subject because this post really hits the nail on the head! :)

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...


I'm interested in the "Screenwriting Tricks for Authors" book, but don't see a Smashwords link. Is there another way to buy a PDF of that?


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say thanks so much for all of your great info. Recently purchased both of your screenwriting books.

Quick question. How do I do a search for something on your website? I can't find a search space. Sorry if this is a stupid question but there is so much information there and sometimes I like to go back an look at something.

Thanks so much - your stuff is terrific!