How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo Success

Photo of typewriter and the words: NaNo Survival & Success

Hundreds of thousands of people are signing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year, just like they do every year. And like every year, most people won’t hit the 50,000-word finish line they’re supposed to reach from November 1 to November 30. Almost 90 percent won’t, if you tally up the scattershot figures.

The biggest reason why is because people don’t plan ahead. That’s the main thing that separates the “winners” from the “losers” (it’s called “winning” if you reach the word count). One group spends hours deliberately preplanning their novel, and the other plops down on November first with a pot of coffee and a couple vague ideas, thinking 50,000 words will magically pour out.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic, folks. But you can finish in time, with a solid first draft, if you spend the time now preparing.

There are three main areas to plan: plot, characters, and setting. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to think about for each section.

Plot
You can get as detailed as you want with your plot planning, but there are some areas you will want to figure out for certain:

  • Genre
  • Premise
  • Beginning
  • Ending
  • Key events in between

Some people will make a scene-by-scene outline that includes all kinds of details and even the position of the moon. They’re called “plotters.” The writers who recoil at the previous thought are called “pantsers,” as in “fly by the seat of their pants.” They sit down and write what comes to them as it comes to them. Under normal circumstances, I tell writers to do what feels best. Either way can be successful. But when you’ve been writing for twenty plus days in a row and your last three lines have come from you falling asleep on the letter Z, you’re going to be thankful you at least outlined your key events.

Characters
For your story to feel believable and not one dimensional, you’ll want to have thoughtful, fully realized characters. This is why you’ll want to create a character profile for most of them. (The waitress with only three lines gets a pass.)

Your profile should include:

  • Physical characteristics: (eye color, hair color, build, etc.)
  • Life basics: (job, hobbies, etc.)
  • Strengths & weaknesses (physical, mental, and/or emotional)
  • Fun facts (favorite movie, favorite food, etc.)

You won’t need to include every detail about every character in your book, but knowing so much about your characters will help you better assess how they will react in any given situation.

As you create your characters, be sure to invent an antagonist (bad guy) for your protagonist (main character) and at least a few side characters. You’ll also want to think about their relationships with each other. Who is your character’s best friend? Who’s their love interest? Who do they have a positive relationship with? Who do they have a negative relationship with? Who do they tell their secrets to?

Setting
Setting is important to establishing the feeling and mood of a scene. A scene taking place in a shopping mall cafeteria would have a starkly different feeling than one happening in a darkened cave, for example.

Some questions you’ll want to ask yourself about your settings include:

  • Where does the story take place?
  • When does the story take place?
  • Does it take place in many settings or in one setting?
  • How do characters travel from one setting to the next?

You’ll also want to consider your characters’ relationship to settings. A king would have different feelings about his castle’s throne room than the person who is plotting the king’s death, for example. Characters’ relationship to the setting may influence their behavior in the scene.

Organize Your Thoughts
One way to organize all of these details is to use a workbook. I have created one called The One-Month Novel Workbook. It includes 64 pages of worksheets covering all of these topics and more, along with writing-success guides and self-care ideas.

The workbook comes as a digital download and in print. You can learn more about it, and the book-coaching program I have created for this contest, here: https://www.dotanddashllc.com/shop

Advertisements

Imply vs. infer

imply vs infer

It’s easy to understand why people get imply and infer confused. Their meanings are related and similar. In this post, I will explain what these two words mean and show you how you can remember the difference between the two.

imply: to suggest or express something in an indirect way

For example, if you are talking to your friend, and you notice their breath reeks of garlic and onions, you may pull out a tin of mints and say “Want one?” as a way of expressing to them indirectly that their breath stinks. In this case, you are implying they have smelly breath.

infer: to conclude, especially from an indirect suggestion

For example, if you just ate garlic and onions for lunch, and your friend asks you if you want a mint, you could infer from their indirect suggestion that you have smelly breath.

Memory aid
When you infer, you are taking in information to analyze in order to come to a conclusion.

So taking in information = infer since they both use in.

You can just remember that imply means the opposite.

With imply, you are putting out suggestions.

With infer, you are taking in information.

Quiz:
Choose either imply or infer for the spaces below.

  1. Trixie yawned and yawned in order to _____ to her guests that it was late and she wanted them to leave.
  2. Trixie looked at her failing quiz grades and _____ed she needed to study really hard for the final.
  3. Trixie stopped answering Brad’s texts, trying to _____ that she didn’t want to talk to him anymore.
  4. Brad gave Trixie flowers and asked what she was doing Friday night, _____ing he wanted to go on a date with her.
  5. When her aunt asked whether she ever wanted kids, Trixie burst out laughing. Her aunt _____ed her answer was no.

1) imply; 2) inferred; 3) imply 4) implying; 5) inferred

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and owner of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company helping women reach their publishing goals. To see whether her services are right for you, and to schedule your free five-page sample edit or thirty-minute coaching consultation, email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

 You can also read her blog about writing here: Dot and Dash blog

 Follow Erin on social media:

Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc

 

Stop Calling Women “Girls” (Including in Fiction Writing)

It’s not okay to call a woman a “girl” in most cases when writing fiction (and, you know, in life in general)

smiling woman with red hair and red lips

Look at this woman / human / person / lady.

It used to be that men got away with calling women a lot of offensive terms—in the office, on the street, and in their own homes—on a range of intolerability. Now, thanks to #metoo and empowering each other through a global online connection of sisterhood (rah rah!), women aren’t tolerating any of these words any longer.

Sometimes change is made most effectively through education. There are words all people know are offensive, and there are others they have to be taught are.

This is where “girls” comes in. I know personally that a lot of male authors (and some female ones) don’t realize calling a woman a “girl” can come across as offensive, and polite and respectful education can really make a difference here. So, as part of a general sensitivity read I conduct while editing, I will change the word “girl” to “woman” (or “girls” to “women”) when I come across a situation that warrants change and explain, respectfully and professionally, why I did what I did.

 

When it’s not okay to use “girls”

Most of the time, when a character or narrator refers to any female person who is older than eighteen, it is not appropriate to call them a “girl.” This is especially true when there is a power dynamic that puts the man on top, such as when he is talking to an underling at work.

When it is okay to use “girls”

Obviously when a character or narrator is referring to a child, “girl” is the correct option. But there’s another case when I keep an author’s use of “girl” while editing.

When an adult female character is talking casually with another adult female character, I find it okay for them to call each other “girls.” There are several words in the English language that are defamatory in general but are accepted in use within a specific group, when the group has inverted the negative connotation. But the key is the word can only be used by a member of that particular group about a member in the same group.

This means a woman can call another woman a “girl” and it be okay.

Think about a woman (in real life or fiction) saying to another woman:

“I could really use a girls’ night.”

“Wow, girl, you are looking fantastic!”

“Girl, don’t you wish we made the same amount of money as men for the same work and that wrinkly, old white men would stop trying to legislate what we do with our own bodies?”

“Yeah, girl, I know.”

All of these statements (and similar ones) are acceptable between one woman to another.

A third time when it’s okay to use “girls” is when the character or narrator intends to be offensive. If you’re writing about a creep or a lecherous jerk, then it would make sense that they would call a woman a “girl.” My aim in this post is to help writers avoid situations when they would be unintentionally offensive.

Alternatives to “girls”

Don’t worry. There are lots of other words you could use instead:

· gals

· ladies

· friends

· folks

· people

· humans

· or just their names

There you go! Such a small change can go a long way to making your readers feel respected, and making you look (and feel) good in the process.

This is a cross post with the Dot and Dash blog. While you’re there, you can read my other posts about writing and check out my book editing and author coaching services.

 

Why I’m Giving to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and You Should Too

 

dolly

I am grateful to my clients and for my work at Dot and Dash, my author services company, and I’m thankful to be in a position where I can give back to my global community in a way that mirrors Dot and Dash’s commitment to empowerment and the promotion of creativity.

Starting now, I am donating 1.25 percent of my earnings from Dot and Dash to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Her organization mails one free children’s book a month to any child who signs up for the program until they enter kindergarten. Since the Imagination Library’s launch in 1995, she has mailed more than 100 million books to one million plus children.

My life and work are built around the wonders of the written word, and I’m am honored to be able to help bring this world to today’s children.

Take note of these statistics about US literacy:

  • Thirty-four percent of children entering kindergarten lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read. (1)

  • One out of six children who do not read at their age level in third grade will not go on to graduate high school. (2)

  • By grade four, 65 percent of students already do not read at their grade level. (3)

  • Ninety-three million adults in the United States read at or below the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society. (1)

It’s vital we do what we can to help kids have the best chance at a good future. Introducing them to reading at an early age is an easy way we can help. Through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, just $2 per month will send one high-quality, age-appropriate book to a child. I hope you consider giving too: https://imaginationlibrary.com/

  1. https://www.rif.org/sites/default/files/Literacy-Facts-Stats.pdf

  2. https://www.aecf.org/blog/poverty-puts-struggling-readers-in-double-jeopardy-minorities-most-at-risk/

  3. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_cnb.pdf

 

Erin Servais runs Dot and Dash LLC, which serves independent, women author-entrepreneurs through collaborative and positive-minded book editing, critiquing, and coaching to empower them to reach their publishing dreams. Learn more: www.dotanddashllc.com

Ho Ho How Do You Punctuate That?

santa

It’s getting to be that time of year when children close their eyes and fantasize about an old, fat man breaking into their house while they sleep naïvely in false security in their bedrooms.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” the man says to himself as he places consumer goods under a tree that for some reason has been moved to their living room.

Wait. Perhaps he says “Ho ho ho!” instead. Just how many exclamation points does this slavemaster of reindeer use?

Let’s turn to the authorities. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 10.24.56 AM.png

There you have it. Three hos and one exclamation point.

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas (etc.) to you!

Erin Servais is a professional book editor who is really hoping she won’t get coal this Christmas. Learn more about how she can help you reach your publishing goals here: Dot and Dash website.