So some writing advice was being thrown up on the introduction thread, I thought it might be more useful if it had it's own thread.
The purpose of this thread is to post your writing advice or experiences you've found that help with any aspect of writing. This can be NaNoWriMo focused writing advice, or general writing advice, non-fiction advice, editing advice, etc. Please be sure to be clear what kind of advice you are giving.
People looking for advice: The general rule for writing advice is "Take with a grain of salt" or in other words, what works for one writer might not always work for any other writer in existence. Take this stuff for the advice it is, not gospel.
(The following is a re-post from the introduction thread)
This advice is intended primarily for people participating in NaNoWriMo.
I have plenty of advice! Some of it might even be helpful, useful, or not-misleading!
NaNo is a great time to figure out what kind of writer you are. Most people fall into two groups: Outliners & Exploratory.
Outliners like to sit down and plan out what they're going to write. They'll do all the research before hand. Particularly in fiction they'll plan out their characters, the world, the plot, and only then will they get to writing.
IF you are an outliner, then outline before NaNo starts. Get it all out of the way. Nothing in your outlines counts for NaNo (okay that's not completely true but it essentially is). So get started right now. I'm personally an outliner and I usually take all of October to plan out my world, plot, and characters. Also if you are an outliner, don't stop outlining when NaNo starts, especially if you aren't done. Yeah that means you're going to need to write more than 1667 words per day, but play to your skills. If you run out of outline before you hit 50,000 words, you're going to be hurting.
If you are an exploratory kind of writer, I still suggest preparing. Do as much preparation as your brain allows (think up your title, character names, or whatever) then... start writing. Don't write your novel. Save that for NaNo. Write flash fiction, side stories, scenes from a character's background. Start exploring the world and plot of your story without actually writing your story. Think of it like training for a marathon.
2. Write, don't edit
The point of NaNo really isn't about getting a novel written. It's about learning how to motivate yourself to write every single day, regardless of the petty little distractions we let block us like work, eating, sleeping, family and friends. You don't need those. You need to write!
So in order to learn that, you have to do a few things. These are rules that will all but guarentee you will win NaNoWriMo. I swear:
2A) Turn off your spellchecker. It is your enemy.
2B) Turn off your grammar checker. It is your enemy.
2C) Stop hitting the backspace/delete key! Seriously. Put velcro on it to remind you to stop hitting it. The delete key is only for gross mistakes that will keep you from understanding what you were trying to do later. Like the following sentence. "asheid not alknw lsao to go." That deserves the delete key. Not "She dud not know were to go."
NaNoWriMo is also about learning how to turn off your "inner editor". That is the person who tells you that what you are writing sucks, and you should keep re-writing it until it doesn't suck. Well I have some bad news. Your inner editor is right. What you are going to write for NaNoWriMo sucks. I already know this. You should already know this to. Why? Because you're going to be writing 1667 words per day, and there's not time to make sure each of those words is the perfect shining example of the English language (or whatever language you prefer). There's no way.
All writing sucks the first time. Get over it, get it done, then go back and fix it. Everything requires editing. Everything needs a look over to make sure you said would instead of could, or were instead of where, or your instead of you're. But the time and place for that is after NaNoWriMo.
3. If you're stuck, TK and move on.
Interesting fact. The letters T and K do not appear next to each other in nearly all of the English language. This makes TK one of the best tools for a writer. You put TK next to something you need to go back to later (maybe with a note). Then, later, you search for all your TKs and see what needs to be done. This is so awesome, novices likely have no idea, because this is how you get past the problem of writer's block.
Assuming you subscribe to the theory that writer's block exists (I'm not so sure), it can be easily surprised by simply "TKing and moving on". Can't figure out the name of this side character? Call 'em Bob (or Bobbett), TK, and move on. Hate writing action scenes and just want to get to the conclusion? TK (Thrilling action scene! Bob dies. Larry is injured. Villain escapes!) and move on.
The problem with TK and NaNo is that that is words you haven't written yet. The awesomeness is that you can move on to words that you can spew out faster if you aren't bogged down by something you just can't get into the mood for.
TKing can be hard for exploratory writers. I don't know a good method for you guys to get around this, I'm sorry. But you should probably still practice it anyway, rather than twiddling your thumbs for a few hours.
One of us is going to have their laptop/computer/word processor/binder/pile of paper die, and they are going to lose thousands of words. This is a prophecy. I've seen it happen every year. I had a friend lose over 30,000 words because his iPad died.
So backup your files. And when you back up your files, do so away from the primary device you are doing so to write. This means if you're using your laptop, store your backups on a flash drive or in Google Docs, or DropBox, or in your email, or on a spare computer. Store your files somewhere else, so when your primary device dies, you still have an easily accessed copy from somewhere else.
Also backup every day. Nobody does this. Not even me. But try to. I usually end up backing up every other day. Trust me, you'll want to.
A part of NaNoWriMo is motivation. Attending NaNoWriMo events is a great way to get motivated but that isn't always for everyone. Strangely enough a vast majority of writers are introspective introverts who aren't big on the whole social gathering thing. So my suggestion for those types is to use the internet. You likely already do. Share your writing progress to the world. Talk about how easy or hard writing was that day on a blog, or in the forums here on NaNo. Share your progress using NaNoWriMo's little graph widgets. I personally try to record all my writing sessions on my personal website A Singularity.
Also share your ideas, and help others with their own. Ideas aren't worth anything until they are put onto paper, and creativity doesn't happen in a vacuum. If you're having problems with plot or character, discuss it with your fellow wrimos, or a friend, or family. Don't be worried about your idea or novel seems childish, silly, or not the next great American novel. It's your idea, and even something as silly as "midgets travel to a mountain to throw away some jewerly" can become an awesome tale worthy of respect, movies, and a fandom.
6. Cautiously Explore
NaNoWriMo generally isn't the best time to start tackling something completely new. At least your first NaNo isn't. If you're uncomfortable with a certain POV, or writing descriptions, or dialog, or a certain genre, consider for your first NaNo going with what is more comfortable. 50,000 words is nothing to sneeze at. 1667 words per day is a rate most professional authors don't even achieve (unless you're Nathan Lowell, damn you Nathan Lowell! :)
Of course you want to stretch yourself, and you'll be doing so by trying to write at a grueling pace. Don't load yourself down with extra hurdles.
7. 50,000 words is a good start
Keep in mind that 50,000 words does not a novel make, in most cases. Urban Fantasy, Romance, and Teen genres can get away with a 50,000 word novel sometimes but even they generally go a little further than that. You're epic fantasy and sci-fi is going to be more in the range of 150,000 words. And a good fiction novel of any type is going to be at least 75,000. These numbers differ, of course, and the invention of eBooks and the web has been proving that these numbers might be mostly artificial thanks to modern book binding techniques, but ultimately just keep in mind that what you write for NaNoWriMo sucks and isn't anywhere near done. It need editing, revising, and likely more added to it to make it good. And since you already got most of it written, the hard part is over! Good job.
8. Surround yourself with writing advice
This is similar to the share advice. I've found a way to motivate yourself to write is to consume media that talks about and tells you to write. This includes books about writing, podcasts about writing, forums about writing, websites about writing, (some) author blogs. My personal favorite are podcasts as I can listen to them on my drive to work, or when I'm doing chores at home, etc. My favorites are I Should Be Writing" by Mur Lafferty, and "Writing Excuses" by Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Mary Kowel.
Note this is different from reading. Reading is still necessary for writing, but I'm specifically talking about reading about writing. LIstening to people discuss how they write is a great motivator for you wanting to go write.
Okay so that's what I got for now. There's probably some way better advice elsewhere on the forums. You might look around there too. :)
I think this is an awesome video for writers to watch: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/en//id/453
I also have to second, third, and forth backing up! And back up multiple ways, because nothing hurts quite so much as losing your novel after the first draft is written (or halfway through NaNo) and finding out your back up failed. Two good free options:
* Google Drive (formerly Goggle Docs) - you can upload as is or have it converted to Google Docs format
* DropBox (2 gigs free AND can sync your docs amongst all your comps and iOS devices, so you have a copy on their server and your stuff too) - and if you accidentally delete a file, they keep it around for 30 days, so you can get it back! (don't ask me how I know :-P )
My one biggest piece of advice in general is to relax! Seriously, stressing tends to stifle creativity. Your NaNo novel in particular is NOT your final draft, not by a long shot - it's the first draft, it's getting the story that is in you written in its most basic form. The first draft is a great place to let yourself feel free to just write, go in different directions, try a few things. You can cut out what doesn't work later, for now, give yourself permission to just plain write and let the story get out!
The inner editor telling you it sucks, you can't do it, and all that? It is your worse enemy when you're writing that first draft. Shove it in a box until its time to edit. If it helps, draw it out, make a figure, or some other representation of your inner editor and literally throw it in a box and shove it in a closet somewhere. If it tries to yell at you anyway, say to yourself "I can't hear you" and keep going.
The only thing I can say that hasn't already been said is
Attend write ins!! They will keep you 100% on task and are a great way to crank out a few thousand words if you're behind (or not). Last year, I wrote my entire novel while at write ins basically. I did a little bit of writing here and there on my own, but in the 6 hours on Sundays and 3 hours on Wednesdays, combined with a lot of other stuff elsewhere, I pretty much wrote all 50,000 while at write ins! That, and for some reason it always helps to have others around that can shout out helpful suggestions if you DO ever get stuck.
For the Brandon Sanderson fans out there, this is a link to several of his lectures for his creative writing class at BYU. It is not necessarily NaNo "themed", in that it is more for writing in general. Also he talks alot about having other people read what you are doing as you go, but that is because his class is structured with writing groups. ANYWAY! Here it is:
Regardless of whether or not his advice is themed towards NaNo, it has really helped me in character development and planning on what to do with a novel once I'm happy enough with it to let it out in the world. Also, BS writes AMAZING endings, so I'll listen to anything he says ;D
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