National Novel Writing Month


National Novel Writing Month

Rory C. Keel

November is National Novel Writing Month, NANOWRIMO for short. For thirty days writers from all over the world will be cranking out words on computers and word processors trying to reach 50,000 thousand words.

The goal is to encourage writers to put out a novel size piece of work in a very short period of time. With that many words completed, the work can then go through rewrites and editing for clean up to produce a polished and completed novel.

This year, I’m going to attempt this challenge as a way of motivating myself to write. It will certainly be a challenge at an average of 1667 words a day. My plan of attack will be to put the outline of my story down, then fill in the spaces. Maybe I should have participated when I had a chatty six year old at home who couldn’t stop talking. I could have taken dictation and made the word count!

If you are interested in participating, go to www.nanowrimo.org and sign up. It’s free, fun and who knows, you even might get a novel out of it.

Rory C. Keel


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Too Busy to Write


Too Busy to Write

By Natalie Bright

Some days cause us to wonder why we even think that writing is a necessary part of our lives. Sometimes those days turn into weeks, and those weeks turn into months…and well, you understand.

Finally, we get back to the business of writing and the creative process seems so foreign. It’s like we’ll have to start over and relearn the basics.

Here’s a few writing exercises to get you back in the muse groove:

Write the inner thoughts from your main characters. Start with their life growing up, description of their parents, most afraid, most embarrassing–all from first person POV. Dig deep and really get inside your character’s head.

If you’re stuck on your book, write a short story, a magazine article, a nonfiction book, a story about your grandfather, childhood memories. Just write.

Make lists. I love making lists. Since I write westerns, I made a list of word substitutions for the word “horse” . Make a list of spicey words. Instead of the word jump, what other word would make that descriptive phrase better? Make an alphaetical list of your character names with a brief discription, like red hair, green eyes, trimmed mustache.

Prepare a timeline of your novel, scene by scene.

So there you go. Hope you have a productive week!

 

Same Song, Different Tune


Outtakes 195

Same Song, Different Tune

By Cait Collins

 

Three boys grew up together. They were closer than brothers. When they entered college, they chose the same major, planned to graduate together, and work together. But on graduation night one walks the stage to get his degree. Ten years later, they are reunited. What happened to separate the boys? What brought them back together?

On the surface, there is nothing new to this story. It’s been told time and again, because there are a limited number of stories. Depending on the instructor and the text book used, we were taught there are between four and seven stories; man against man, man against nature, man against himself, and coming of age are the most common themes. Yet each retelling can be new and exciting. It all depends on the writer, his theme, his characters, and the circumstances around which he builds the story.

What if the first boy was badly injured in a car accident while on vacation? The head injury resulted in a memory loss. He wanders the country looking for home. The second boy is forced to drop out of college when his mom, a single parent, dies suddenly. He has two younger siblings that need a guardian, and so he moves home to care for them; The third continues his studies, graduates, gets his masters degree, and makes a name for himself in his chosen profession. A news bulletin changes all three lives.

I’m playing with this story line.

I have a number of questions to deal with. What is the profession the boys planned to pursue? They need names. I’ll start out with Tom, Dick, and Harry. The characters will tell me who they really are. Who is the antagonist? I need three, maybe four major settings. What are their social backgrounds? Do they all have brothers and sisters? What secondary character will enter the story? Am I writing a novel or a novella? Is my work a mystery or closer to mainstream?

The process of creating a new work is both exciting and frustrating. There will be days when I am prolific and days when I struggle to write one paragraph. At this point I know one thing. Three boys, now men, will reunite. But will their reunion by joyous or a heartbreak? Truth is, I don’t know; however, they will tell me. The men will guide the story. I look forward to the adventure.

 

 

Adding and Subtracting


Outtakes 190

Adding and Subtracting

by Cait Collins

 

As a writer, I try to get the most bang for the buck with my stories. For example, can I turn a novel into a screenplay? Or could I rework a short story into a novel? No matter what I decide to do, I run into roadblocks, tar pits, and briar patches. Truthfully, I can’t decide if it’s easier to expand a work, or cut it back. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I had a novella. I really liked what I had written. The characters were multi-dimensional and interesting. Secondary characters added spice to the story. I had a good setting with my small Texas town. Above all, I liked my storyline. A rich man tries to destroy a young woman and her family because he can. Now the lady is back and out for justice. I ran the idea by an agent and he replied, “I can’t sell this as a novella, but you have enough plot twists to make it a novel.”

Okay, I could do a novel. All I needed was another 300 pages and I had to write the additional material while maintaining the integrity of the story. Well, I wrote it; 550 pages of carefully plotted revenge. Now it’s too long and I have to cut about 150 pages; which means I will have to delete scenes I really like.

On the other hand, I have a short story that is too long for a call for submissions. But how do I cut it back to 350-400 words without destroying the emotional impact of the piece?

At some point, a writer realizes part of the craft is either adding scenes or subtracting words. We balance the plot while increasing dialogue or deleting adjectives and adverbs. And sometimes we just can’t make the math work, so we scrap the revisions and start over. I guess I never realized how important mathematics would be for professional writers.

National Novel Writing Month


National Novel Writing Month

By Rory C. Keel

November is National Novel Writing Month, NANOWRIMO for short. For thirty days writers from all over the world will be cranking out words on computers and word processors trying to reach 50,000 thousand words.

The goal is to encourage writers to put out a novel size piece of work in a very short period of time. With that many words completed, the work can then go through rewrites and editing for clean up to produce a polished and completed novel.

This year, I’m going to attempt this challenge as a way of motivating myself to write. It will certainly be a challenge at an average of 1667 words a day. My plan of attack will be to put the outline of my story down, then fill in the spaces. Maybe I should have participated when I had a chatty six year old at home who couldn’t stop talking. I could have taken dictation and made the word count!

If you are interested in participating, go to www.nanowrimo.org and sign up. It’s free, fun and who knows, you even might get a novel out of it.

www.roryckeel.com


“Ands and Buts”


“Ands and Buts”

 By Rory C. Keel

 

Recently I decided to do some rewriting and corrections on my novel. Wow, it’s amazing how much better I write today than months ago when I started the book.

I remember the first day I started. I was confident in my story plot, characters and setting and remained confident every day as I move the story forward. Then I read the beginning; my confidence had covered a multitude of mistakes.

Making corrections is no easy task either. One day you change the “ands” into “buts”: then on the next day after re-reading the corrections again you change the “buts” back into “ands.”

The problem is that you’re confident about the corrections on both days.

Hello Editor!

roryckeel.com

“Ands and Buts”


“Ands and Buts”

 By Rory C. Keel

 

Recently I decided to do some rewriting and corrections on my novel. Wow, it’s amazing how much better I write today than months ago when I started the book.

I remember the first day I started. I was confident in my story plot, characters and setting and remained confident every day as I move the story forward. Then I read the beginning; my confidence had covered a multitude of mistakes.

Making corrections is no easy task either. One day you change the “ands” into “buts”: then on the next day after re-reading the corrections again you change the “buts” back into “ands.”

The problem is that you’re confident about the corrections on both days.

Hello Editor!

Craft a Bridge


Craft a Bridge

By Rory C. Keel

The Writer

Within the writer is an individual not much different than his readers and in some ways similar to his characters. Filled with personal life experiences and holding a small piece of the lives of individuals around them, the writer can create worlds and invent unique characters to fill them.

The Reader

The reader wants to know about the writer’s characters. He is curious about the details of the lives written on the pages of story. The reader says Show me, let me ride with them, Let me join in the battle, make me laugh or reveal the suffering and let me cry.

The bridge between the two

The bridge between the writer and the reader is the book. Study the craft and write in such a way that it compels the reader to cross the bridge to find the answers to his curiosity.

Resurrection


Outtakes 65

Resurrection

by Cait Collins

It’s almost time to take on the final edits for HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW? That means it is time to think about the next project. I have a short story entitled Borrowed Uncles in the works. I’m still working on my contemporary western Wildfire. But my next novel will be a resurrection of one of my under-the-bed works, MACON GEORGIA.

MACON GEORGIA is a person, not a place. Macon is part of a covert ops recon team assigned to scout an event for women in Afghanistan. I was well in to the story when the events of 9/11 derailed the piece. I shoved it in a box thinking it was beyond salvation. I opened that box before I moved and reread some of the chapters. I truly believe it is some of my best writing. The question became how do I fix it?

The thought of resurrecting an earlier work is intimidating. I want to keep the tone and suspense of the original, but bring it up to date. Technology has changed. Governments have toppled. Leaders have been assassinated. The whole make-up of the Middle East has changed. Still, I know I can make it work. In many of the countries, women have no status or freedom. I can work with that.  My characters are solid and the premise is valid. I look forward to the challenge.

While there will be bumps along the way, but I’m glad I did not toss the draft into the shredder. No story should be dismissed out of hand. I believe in maintaining a file either electronically or on paper of unfinished works. Why? There are several reasons. 1) What if you are meeting with an agent or editor and he asks, “Okay what else do you have?”  You can pitch your hidden-in-the-box novel. 2) Parts of a discarded work might be applicable for a new story. 3) Even stories that have problems can be reworked into updated and modern novels. Another reason to hang on to an old work is the writer has gained experience. The story that failed earlier may have new life because a more seasoned author has a different perspective than he had years earlier. He can envision alternatives to the original outline. He’s able to give CPR to the story. In the end, the piece rescued from the box will be better because the author has become a better writer.

My advice is to hang on to your unfinished projects. If you don’t have room to store the paper copies, scan the hand-written and printed notes into your computer. Back them up on flash drives or an external hard drive. Revisit them occasionally to ascertain if there are lines, settings, or characters that might fit into a current work. You just might find a treasure among the trash.

Try living with your character


Try living with your character

When creating a character try this exercise.

As you build a character, or characters, you should be able to see them and answer questions about them. As you take action and make choices during the day, do the same with your character.

What do you eat for breakfast? Does your character eat breakfast? What foods do they like or dislike?

Do you wear a particular style of clothes? What does your character WEAR? Why do they like to wear them?

Do you go to the store? Where does your character shop and what do they buy?

What do you do for fun, sports or hobbies? What about your character?

What’s important is NOT what the character did, but what you learned about what you know about the character.

Rory C. Keel