Top Tips from Sasperella’s Story Shack

10 days to go? Surely not.

I was supposed to have had TWO NaNoWriMo planning sessions by this point – this was going to be the year I got all prepared and stuff – but instead I had a Life Crisis and am now moving house. Stupid October. Never liked it anyway.

So that now I’m back to thinking about NaNoWriMo, what’s to do? I’ve discovered two new techniques for implementation this year and a new bit of tech to work with (you know how I love to have love affairs with new bits of tech that I then forget about three days later).

Numero Uno: Exercises in PRODUCTIVITY

Thanks to one wise Yorkshirian NaNoer I’ve now discovered the Pomodoro Technique (and all it’s pretty printables!). It’s fairly simple. You write a list of things you want to do then work on them in timed chunks of 25 minutes with a short break in between and then a longer one after every fourth chunk. Having a set time period in which to complete something is a technique that works well for me: I’m motivated by a deadline and spurred on by the growing anxiety that comes from worrying I’m not going to meet one. It’s a stressful way to work and CAN result in numerous mini writery breakdowns (fun!) but in my world of writing, stress = success. Which is why I find Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die (“putting the ‘prod’ in productivity”) utterly invaluable. You’ve got a certain amount of time (which you decide on) in which to write a certain number of words (which you decide on), and Write or Die layers on the stress (to a level that YOU decide on) until it’s done. Thanks Dr. Wicked, for making stress-based writing so much fun!

Numero Dos: Exercises in PLOT-UCTIVITY

See what I did there? I combined the words ‘plot’ and ‘productivity’ into a new word which means ‘your ability to plot productively’. WOW! HOW CREATIVE OF ME!

It’s all well and good being productive and bashing out hundreds (thousands?) of words a day, but what the hell are you going to write about? If you’re like me and you find fleshing out the basic idea of your plot fairly challenging then have a go at the Snowflake Method. The website is a little old school but the information that’s there can be incredibly useful. I have a habit of coming up with a central character, an idea of their story arc, a (very) vague plot(ish) and a load of images/scenes that I’d like to happen along the way. It is VERY DIFFICULT to write anything worthwhile with only the above, and that’s where the Snowflake Method can help you. By making you start at the beginning and forcing you to spend time on working out a strapline for your story (which is flexible – you can change it as you work through the method to incorporate any new ideas you come up with), the whole thing immediately becomes more focused. The basic building blocks of your story are there: character, conflict, theme (hopefully) and context. You then take this strapline and flesh it out to a paragraph, then that paragraph to a whole treatment. You start small and pull out the strands to make it into something big and sprawling. Then tie it all together.

Spider with 1000 legs...

This is stupid but I always imagined the process of writing a story as “making a basket out of a spider with a thousand legs”, where ‘a thousand’ basically stands for ‘lots’. I made a drawing to explain:

The circle in the middle is the spider’s body – the strapline or central ideas for your story. The lines coming out of it – the legs – are the threads of your story; characters, actions, plot points, conflicts, places, etc. To make your basket – and your story – you take each of these individual threads and weave them together. It’s simplistic and childish but then, I was a kid when it occurred to me and it always stuck with me.

I’d have drawn a basket too but you can probably tell from my spider drawing that I’m a bit [read: very] artistically challenged.

Numero Tres: Take your writing EVERYWHERE

I have this problem: I have to have a JOB. It’s disgusting. I have to go there EVERY day, and I can’t just sit about and write things on my laptop, I actually have to do some of this WORK stuff they always leave around for me. Highly inconvenient, especially in November when I’m trying to write an entire bloody novel. Luckily for me, though, the world has invented Yarny, a cloud-based writing tool that allows you to plan and write your entire novel online FOR FREE. I’ve only just started to use it, but it’s been fantastic so far: I can keep it open as a tab on my browser so that if I have an idea for a character, plot point, piece of dialogue, character development or anything, I can just click in, jot it down, and it’s saved! And when my lunchbreak comes round, my novel’s there waiting for me to work on it! GENIUS! It’s a bit like One Note in that there are lots of little places to keep lots of little bits of writing but less irritating, beautifully simple and accessible from ANYWHERE. I love it so much that it makes me swoon a bit.

So there you have it: three top tips from Sasperella’s Story Shack. Do you have any hints or tips or tricks of the trade? Anything you find particularly useful in helping you meet your word count? Any bits of kit that we writers are DEFINITELY going to need this November?

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