Anonymous asked you:
I’m thinking of participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but I’ve never written a novel before. I’ve only written short fanfics, never more than 15K words and never with any main original characters. Do you have any tips on how to get starting with writing original ideas as well as writing a novel for the first time?
If you’re writing your first novel for NaNoWriMo, don’t fret too much over it. NaNoWriMo is all about the word count, so use it as practice to write longer stories rather than higher quality stories. It takes a long time to get into the practice of writing original stories that are at a novel’s length, so don’t feel like you have to get everything right.
Making the switch to original fiction can be challenging for some people. Those who only write fan fiction may have trouble coming up with settings, characters, and worlds. It’s best to exercise those when making the switch to original fiction.
For NaNoWriMo in general, I wrote a post on how to prepare here.
STEP ONE: OUTLINING & STRUCTURE
It’s a good idea for everyone new to writing a novel to outline before they begin, especially for NaNoWriMo. To outline, inexperienced writers should follow some story structures since writing a novel can be overwhelming at times. Then again, writers of all experience levels may need to follow these structures and outlines.
Plot Structure: All plots follow the basic structure of beginning, middle, and end. However, it gets more complicated from there. Here are some posts about plot structure:
- The Eight Point Arc
- The Monomyth or Hero’s Journey
- Using Video Games to Write a Novel
- A Guide to Developing a Plot
- Outlining Your Plot
- Story Structure Spreadsheet
- Effectively Outlining Your Plot
- The Snowflake Method
- Seven Steps to the Perfect Story
- Novel Outlining 101
- Four Essential Plot Points
But how do you make a plot? Some people start with an idea. Some start with an object. Some start with a character. Some start with a setting. However you start out your novel is up to you. If you have trouble, try using one of the Basic Plots in Literature as a base. Here are some questions you can answer to make sure you have a full plot:
- Who is the protagonist? To have a story, you need a protagonist. The protagonist does not have to be a hero and does not have to be the point of view character, but should be the center of the story.
- What is the protagonist’s motive? The protagonist needs a motive. This is what drives the plot forward.
- What is the main conflict? The protagonist has a motive, but there is conflict that prevents that motive from being reached.
- Who is the antagonist? The antagonist is the character who opposes the protagonist and the protagonist’s motive. The antagonist does not have to be a villain or even a character, but should still have a presence.
- What is the climax? The climax it when the protagonist is put up again their motive and all the story has been leading to.
- Does the protagonist succeed or fail? The protagonist must either succeed in reaching their motive through the climax, or fail.
- How does the protagonist change? How does the outcome of the climax change the protagonist? Characters need to change over time or they’ll be static.
Here are some posts on creating a plot:
- 25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story
- 20 Master Plot Exercises
- Creating Conflict and Sustaining Suspense
- Plot: Developing Events in Your Story
Chapter Structure: Each chapter also follows a structure. This is similar to the structure of plots, with a beginning, conflict, middle, climax, and resolution. Within a chapter can be several scenes, so don’t feel as though you have to end each chapter when the scene ends. The chapter ends when it needs to.
You’ll want to outline the plot, the chapters, and the scenes (though you don’t have to outline all of those things). Your outline can be detailed or it can be basic. I would suggest that writers find somewhere in between, as your story may change while you’re writing it and flexibility in the outline can be helpful. If you write down every detail, you may feel like you can’t change anything and that may lead to writer’s block.
For my outlines, I make a chart. In each row, there is: chapter number, chapter name (if applicable), date during which chapter takes place (good for stories that take place over long periods of time), summary of main plot in chapter, summary of subplots in chapter, important information revealed, characters met, and what the antagonist is doing.
STEP TWO: CHARACTERS
You can’t have a story without characters. If you’ve never created an original character, now is your time to use your imagination. I usually start with a name and everything else sort of comes into place. Others have different methods of creating a character. No matter how you create your character, you’ll need to make them realistic, dynamic, and round.
A round character is one who is well developed and three dimensional. A dynamic character is one who changes over the course of a story. Write your character as human. Give them flaws, virtues, morals, back stories, coping skills, hobbies, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, and more. My tag on character questions has resources on creating a character and my character development tag has resources on developing characters. You’ll also want to avoid writing a Mary Sue or Gary Stu, as they’re flat, poorly written, and unrealistic.
When you create characters, write bios of them and write down every piece of information you put in the story. That way, you”ll be able to keep track of them. Readers can spot inconsistencies.
When writing your character’s back story, you have to think about how it will impact their personality, behavior, and thoughts. It adds depth and reality to characters, as well as the opportunity for connection between readers and characters.
STEP THREE: FORMAT
If you’re looking to publish your novel, it’s best to format it early on so you don’t have to go through giant chunks of text (though you should still look over it).
STEP FOUR: WRITE
Once you have everything ready, the next thing to do is write. You don’t have to write every day (though you should try if you’re doing NaNoWriMo). Don’t go back to edit while you’re writing. Just go through it all and finish.
STEP FIVE: EDIT
Have you finished writing the whole thing? Step away from your work for a while so when you go back, you’ll have a fresh mind and you won’t be sick of going over the same stuff. Now edit.
If you find that you hate your writing, don’t get discouraged. If you hate it, you’ll be able to change it and make it better. However, don’t get rid of anything you’ve already written. You might want to go back to it. Your first revision will probably be quite heavy. Some writers end up rewriting the entire book.
Once you’re done with your first edit, you’re probably not done. Keep editing the major stuff until you think your story is good. Then go through it to look for small stuff like grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors.
After that, get some beta readers. Ask for critiques and consider more revisions if more than one beta reader points out the same mistake.
- Chapter Length: Chapter lengths are as long as they need to be…for older audiences. If you’re writing for younger audiences, chapters should be shorter. No matter what you do, chapters should be around the same length throughout the story for consistency, give or take a few pages.
- Point of View: The point of view is extremely important to your story. It sets up the way the story is told, the tone, and the way certain things happen within the story. Choose wisely.
- Subplots: To add more depth to your story, you can add subplots.
- Title: You don’t have to choose a title right away and you don’t have to stick to it. My tag on titles has some resources and tips for choosing a title.
KEEP IN MIND:
It’s your first draft of your first novel. It’s going to suck. Just write through it and finish it. That’s one of the biggest hurdles to get over when you’re a writer.
For NaNoWriMo, it’s all about word count. Put your focus on that and go back afterwards to fix up the story.
I’ve had an ask from an anon that’s been sitting around in my box for a few weeks now. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to answer it, it’s just every time I’ve read it, I’ve been unsure exactly how to go about it. I’ve even had doubts that I could answer it, even though I’m wholly qualified to do so.
The question was this: I have a character who had a tragic event happen and he’s fallen into a horrible depression. I’m not really sure how to write depression without coming off as being just sad all of the time. Is there more to it? Do you have any suggestions?
After about three weeks, I’ve finally decided to answer. So, dear anon, I do.
Disclaimer: The following article is based on personal experience with depression (your experience may differ if you’ve had it or have it) and some past research. When I make generalizations, I’m correlating my experiences with my research. It is not an all inclusive guide nor is all of the information exclusive to depression. Some can pertain to other disorders as well.
You seem to have this figured out, but you need to understand that a single tragic event isn’t the only cause of depression. It can be, sure. The death of a loved one or another kind of loss can certainly cause it, but sometimes it’s not nearly that simple. Depression can be the result of a single large event, a barrage of large events (domino effect) or a lot of small ones over an extended period. What causes the initial sink is going to vary from person to person. And of course, what causes depression in one person is overcome by another.
Depression can happen to anyone. Even those who appear to have it all in life can be depressed.
The Large Event
Loss – This is broad. It can be the death of a loved one, a pet, the loss of a job, having either you or someone you love become permanently injured, the onset of a disease, the break up of a long-term relationship or divorce, childbirth (some women view it as a loss of freedom), losing a custody battle, loss of a parent’s love in legitimate cases of abuse and neglect, etc. Anything you can think of that would constitute a serious loss in a person’s life fits here and could easily be a trigger for depression.
The Domino Effect
When it Rains, it Pours – Sometimes shit happens in life. We all deal with things that go wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes major loss events happen in close succession. What some call a spot of bad luck is really disaster for others. I would refer to this as a loss of control; when a situation gets completely out of hand and you can do nothing but let it spiral.
The Little Things
They Add Up Fast –Now the definition of “little things” is going to vary between people. For some it can be as simple as a parent or family member forgetting their birthday, not picking them up at school, or missing their dance recital. Seemingly little mistakes can turn into an overall feeling of neglect if they keep happening. For others, it can be a case of favoritism. Perhaps your best friend seems to be favored by the coach of your sports team? Maybe your little brother seems to be the favorite of your parents and could probably get away with murder if he wanted to? Or maybe it’s that overwhelming feeling that no matter what you do, the universe is conspiring against you? Whatever it is, that “little thing” isn’t so insignificant to the person experiencing it. And sometimes, it compounds.
What Does it Feel Like?
A lot of people would define depression as a constant, overwhelming feeling of sadness, but really, it’s so much more than that. There’s a reason it’s so common and so hard to overcome.
The first thing to know is that depression is cyclic. Everyone has their day to day ups and downs but for people who are depressed, those downs may be more significant to them, and more frequent, than their ups. As an example, the feelings of depression can last for several years, and then something really good might happen to lift your character out, and he may be happy again for a while, years even, but eventually depression comes creeping back again. The cycles are different for everyone of course. Some may only last a few days while others last for weeks or months.
So, what does depression feel like? Well, there’s not a single word that can really sum it up because depression is a bombardment of many different feelings, symptoms and attitudes at once. When you’re depressed, you may experience some or all of these.
Sadness – Yes, you feel sad when you’re depressed. But it’s not the kind of sad you can get over easily. It’s not one that someone can try to cheer you out of. It’s deep rooted, and there may be a genuine reason for it that others can understand, or there may not. It may be a sadness that you’ve convinced yourself is real when there’s no logical reason to be sad.
Negativity –When you’re depressed you may view the world from a negative standpoint. Every little thing that happens to you (like not getting that toy you really wanted for your birthday, or missing that concert you had been excited for because of car trouble) is seen as a slight against you. A lot of people would shrug it off, and have an “oh well, maybe next time” attitude but when you’re depressed, that event seems like another item on the list of things preventing you from being happy. People who care about you may start to notice this negative outlook, but you don’t see it as a problem. To you, it’s normal.
Uselessness – Sometimes when you see the world as a half-empty glass, you start to feel like there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstance. When you’re depressed you tend to feel like you’re useless because, through your perspective, you’re constantly the victim. Everything bad happens to you and no matter what you do, you can’t fix it. You don’t even see a point in trying because it’s just not going to work. This is often reinforced by actually trying and constantly failing. Instead of learning from that failure, it’s just another shovel full of dirt to add to the hole. Even if you see a glimmer of success, it’s nothing compared to the amount of failure you’ve experienced.
Envy – You may be incredibly perceptive to the things others have that you do not. You may long for change in your life, want it with every fiber of your being and despise those who have it even if they’re perfectly deserving. You deserve it more. You know you do, because whatever it is will make you happy again, so why shouldn’t you have it?
Burden – You may feel like you’re a burden to your friends and family. You know that you’re depressed and negative, and you feel like you’re annoying the people close to you whenever you try to talk about your problems, even if you really aren’t. You may also feel that the people around you are angry at you even if there’s no reason for you to think that.
Disinterest – The things that once made you happy, being around loved ones, drawing, writing, playing sports, etc, no longer do. You may still want to do that once beloved activity, but just can’t bring yourself to because you don’t see the point. Sometimes you can still do these things, but it takes a great deal of internal struggle to be able to. The future goal’s you’ve set for yourself may become meaningless. You may also just stop caring about basic things like cleanliness. You’ve been wearing that same shirt for a week? Whatever.
Loss of Appetite – You just may not be hungry for anything or you feel that cooking is a waste of effort. Foods you once loved, you may not care for anymore. You may stop eating on a regular schedule, and in some cases, stop eating all together.
Comfort Food – On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may take comfort in food and binge eat. This may result in weight gain which could further your depression because of the negative feelings associated with extra weight.
Low Self Esteem – This may be a cause or a symptom. Sometimes when you’re depressed you develop or already have a poor self image. There’s something you hate about yourself, whether it be a physical trait or a psychological one, and the inability to change it is frustrating to the point of sadness, even if in the eyes of others there’s nothing wrong.
Insomnia – People who are depressed often try to find distractions. You want to stop thinking about how terrible you feel. You go to great lengths to do this, often forgetting about your own health and throwing your sleep schedule out of whack on a constant basis as a result. You may also be prone to all-nighters if you find the right distraction.
Sleep Life Away – On the other hand, if you’re depressed you may just want to sleep all day to stop thinking. You feel like your life isn’t worth dedicating time to, so instead you sleep, hoping that your dreams will be better.
Needy – People with depression just want to feel better. You may crave attention from the important people in your life. Or anyone else who will give it. You want praise, positive attention. You want to hear, to see, to feel something good in hopes of being able to pick yourself up. It doesn’t always work, often resulting in an insatiable craving for attention.
Depression occurs in varying degrees. Sometimes people turn to less than favorable sources to make themselves feel better. Some turn to drugs, alcohol or sex, all of which may develop into addictions. Now I’m not saying that all people with depression are addicts, nor are all addicts depressed. But depression sometimes leads to addiction and when it does, needs to be taken seriously.
Suicide is a touchy topic for me, having known someone to have done so, but sometimes depression gets so bad, that it goes there too. Suicidal thoughts are serious, yes, but there’s a difference between thinking about it and actually making attempts to accomplish it. Suicide is not to be romanticized in writing, nor is it to be glorified. It’s horrible and it’s desperate. Those who do it truly believe that they have no better option in life, that everything around them is caving in and there’s no possible way to get out, no matter how much love and support they may have.
Dealing with Depression
The two major ways to handle it are therapy and medication.
Medication is a mixed bag. There are a lot of depression medications on the market. Sometimes they’re a real help and sometimes the side effects outweigh the benefits. I’m a creative person. I write and I draw. When I was on medication, I didn’t want to do either of those things and felt like the pills were killing my creativity. My mind felt numb, completely disconnected from the person I was before the pills. So I stopped taking them.
Medication isn’t always the right choice and should be discussed with a doctor. In my case, my depression was manageable, so I tried the pills to see if they would help. There are people who are far worse off and may actually need the medication to function in the real world.
Here are some common side effects of the depression pill Zoloft (sertraline) that your character may experience:
- Skin Rash.
- Diarrhea/Upset Stomach.
- Loss of Appetite.
- Weight Loss.
People with depression may also be embarrassed by their diagnosis. They may outwardly act like everything is fine around their peers and go to great lengths to hide their pill bottles. For your character, it’s going to depend on how he feels about his depression. Is it something he’s come to terms with or is it something he wants to hide?
Most people with depression realize they’re depressed, and probably realize they need some help but getting that help is an uphill battle. For years and years I always told myself I’d go chat with someone. I never did and ended up working out my problems with the help of some friends who were good ears. People with depression are really good at making excuses for not doing things. Because some of us are stricken with that feeling of uselessness, we tend to tell ourselves that maybe we’ll have the courage to do something tomorrow instead of today. We rarely do.
For your character, he doesn’t necessarily have to go see a therapist (they are kind of expensive, which can be a factor). But if he’s accepted the fact he has a problem, and is open about it, then I would expect him to at least have one close person that he’d be willing to confide in.
((You guys don’t know steampunk until you head on over to this awesome little slice of heaven over here in Baltimore. This is a repurposed power plant that was built in 1900 that was converted into a Barnes and Nobel. It boasts a good selection of books, has the obligatory Starbucks inside with an awesome view of the city, but also has a really neat and informative aquarium that features wildlife you’d find in the bay! This is one awesome looking place to read. If you guys ever visit me up here in Maryland, we’d totally visit this Barnes and Noble.))
MAN YOU GUYS I REALLY LOVE BALTIMORE THO.
THIS BARNES AND NOBLE. THIS PLACE. IT’S AWESOME. And it’s right by the National Aquarium and holy fuck I love the Aquarium and just…BALTIMORE.
Anonymous asked: How would you write an intermediate-skilled pickpocket?Just research what it takes to be a pickpocket, and then have your character be really good at it. Employ the methods that sound the most risky and complicated, and have him or her get away with it every time.
How Pickpockets Work
Learning How to Pickpocket
Common Pickpocket Techniques
Pickpockets’ Top Tricks Exposed
I thought I should make a list of sites that can help you learn how to deal with people and be an adult and so forth, because it’s not that easy to learn it all on your own!
Feel free to reblog with more recourses.
The Unfuck Your Habitat blog has just saved mine and my fiance’s life.
Obviously, I’m behind. That first gap you see where I didn’t write? I was sick. The second and third? Pure procrastination, in all shame-worthy honesty.
i’m crying rn
I took Sunday off and feel all the better for it — I wasn’t too far behind anyway so when I picked up Monday, it wasn’t too hard. I’m getting more into the heavy dialogue of the story and that’s really helping move things along — it’s always been easier for me to write conversation over description for some reason. :/
Anyway, here’s days 7 & 8 for the meme. :)
→ Day 7 - Where’s your favorite place to hunker down and write?
My desk in the corner of my room. It’s pretty slimmed down from where I used to write — this massively plain wooden desk I’d gotten in a garage sale and was more like a CEO set up in shape and size. It always got really messy because I’d use it as a shelf for laundry and school books and such. Now I have a tall and tiny little table that’s actually meant for kitchens — just enough room for me, my laptop, and my dry erase board.
→ Day 8 - List your current, most up-to-date word count. Are you satisfied with your progress thus far?
13,202. I am okay with this word count only because it was above par for that day and the work got me over a massive bump in the plot lol.