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Your New Best Friend: The Writing Cheat Sheet

By Joseph Rubino on Monday, November 14, 2011 - Comments Off

p>If you’re into this sort of thing, that is. But it’s pretty cool:

Says creator Peter Halasz:

Plots are covered on page 1, characters on page 2, and lots of tips to fill the whitespace.

I created this just before NaNoWriMo 2011, to combine all my notes on writing and storytelling. It fits all on a double-sided A4 sheet, which you can keep in your back pocket. I hope you find it useful.

Download it here.

It’s November 1. Let’s do this: 25+ Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo (and Being a Better Writer in General)

By JK Evanczuk on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - Comments Off

I’m kicking off my November by eating leftover Halloween candy for breakfast and getting a head start on NaNoWriMo. This year marks the fourth year I’ve participated (and, uh, failed), and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

So let’s do this together. Gather your candy, get out of the gutter, and don’t make any excuses to write this month.

To inspire you, here’s a roundup of writing tips to keep you going. Some of them are old, some of them are new, some of them are serious, and some of them are totally insane. I’ll let you decide which is which.


Tip #1: Write slowly. NaNoWriMo is like running a marathon. Don’t sprint the first 2 miles and then spend the next 24 dragging your feet along and wheezing. That’s not fun. Most NaNoWriMo-ers aim for 1,667 words a day. Stick to that, even if you want to write more.

Tip #2: Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide. (from author Roddy Doyle)

Tip #3: Stop writing when the going is good. Hemingway has said this, along with a whole slew of other authors I’m forgetting right now. Once you get to word 1,667, even if you’re pumped and want to keep going, stop. It’s much easier to pick things up when you’re already in the moment, rather than sit down to a blank screen and have no idea what you’re going to write next.

Tip #4: Listen to Mark Sample, put on some pants, and move out of your parents’ basement.

Tip #5: Have you considered writing a sex scene or giving your protagonist large breasts? And more insightful tips from Laura Ellen Scott.

Tip #6: Only bad writers think that their work is really good. And most good writers think their work is really bad. So don’t be so hard on yourself. Even if you think your writing is crap, keep going. The nature of NaNoWriMo is to create one big, sticky mess that you’ll need to clean up later, so don’t stress if everything is absolutely perfect. The point is to get words on the paper, and to edit, edit, edit starting December 1. And, besides, it’s rarely as bad as you think.

Tip #7: And following Tip #6, I can’t stress this enough: EDIT LATER. EDIT LATER. EDIT LATER.

Tip #8: Read all these tips by Janet Fitch.

Tip #9: Write in your underpants (I realize that this directly contradicts Tip #4, but I don’t care.)

Tip #10: Make stuff up. Go outside your comfort zone. Then keep going. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Tip #11: Good writers copy. Great writers steal. Remember that.

Tip #12: Writing is freedom. Remember that too.

Tip #13: If an irate reader should break into your home, tie you to a chair and terrorize you with selections from the cutlery drawer, think back to your most recent novel. Was its point of view inconsistent? Did you at any time make use of the second person, or urban slang, even ironically? Did you attempt to underscore the significance of an action by describing it as having been performed ?to the max?? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, accept what you have coming.

Tip #14: Tell all your friends that you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Maybe they’ll shame you into finishing.

Tip #15: But don’t actually show anyone any part of your novel while you’re writing it. This is your story right now. Don’t let anyone in. Save the story until the new year, at which point you’ve presumably given it a thorough shake-down and editing, to get a fresh set of eyes on it.

Tip #16: If you get stuck in a rut, keep writing. Don’t stop. Take your character to the park. Write about your dog. It doesn’t matter. If you keep writing, you’ll find the story again eventually.

Tip #17: The Guardian put together a series of rules for writers a while back. Read these. These are really good. Seriously: Part One and Part Two.

Tip #18: Find your writing ritual quickly, and stick to it. Do you write best in the morning? Evening? In your pajamas? Outside? Whatever it is, make sure you spend less time on “preparing your space for writing” than actually writing. Time spent making coffee, cleaning your desk, and thinking about how literary you are does not count as writing time.

Tip #19: Don’t follow any of these tips.

Tip #20: Come up with a way to reward yourself on December 1. This is going to get hard and ugly, so at least give yourself some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

Tip #21: Back up your novel every day. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH SO I WILL WRITE THIS IN CAPS LOCK. Imagine how upset you’ll be when your 30,000+ word novel-in-progress disappears because of accidental deletion or because you spilled your writer-coffee all over your computer. Sucks, right? So back that business up: email it to yourself, save it on Google Docs, save it to a flash drive, whatever. Do all three.

Tip #22: Keep yourself inspired. Look at the world through writers’ eyes: everything is material. You can also use writing prompts to keep you going. (Shameless plug: we’ve got a whole series of amazing, daily creative writing prompts that you might find useful.)

Tip #23: Following Tip #22: keep reading. Don’t be afraid about accidentally copying the writing style of the author you’re currently reading. You learn about writing from reading, so don’t stop learning.

Tip #24: Think of writing as you would surviving a zombie apocalypse. The two are more similar that you’d think. (via Erin Feldman)

Tip #25: Use this NaNoWriMo report card to measure the progress of your novel (or the progress of your procrastination. Whatever.)

Tip #26: For the love of God, have fun at least most of the time.

Let’s add to this list. Share your writing tips in the comments below, and follow us on Twitter (@litdrift) for more writing tips throughout the month.

More: Writing

This Week: Cory Doctorow Thinks Teen Novels Should Include More Sex, Mark Sample Gives Some NaNoWriMo Tips

By JK Evanczuk on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - Comments Off

Where the Wild Things AreErnest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, and other famous writers narrate the funny pages.

Some NaNoWriMo tips from Mark Sample: Use foreshadowing to hint what’s to come. E.g., have the vampire say “I want to suck your blood” before he sucks blood. And: Add tension by making the gender of your narrator indeterminate. This works for race too. And age. And number of nipples.

Another (more serious) NaNo tip: write slowly.

The Millions thinks the recent film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are made a better trailer than it did a feature film.

Is Stephen King the most underrated novelist of our time?

Read more »

NaNoWriMo Report Card To Aid With Calculating the Health of Your Novel, And Also With Procrastination

By JK Evanczuk on Monday, November 2, 2009 - Comments Off


I’ve tried doing NaNoWriMo once or twice before but failed when more pressing things inevitably came up, but this year I told myself I wouldn’t give myself any excuses. So as of right now I’m a little over 2,000 words into what looks so far to be a truly heinous novel that will never see another reader besides myself. In contrast to my usual writing preparation, I didn’t do much advance planning beyond a few Post-Its with  notes like “magic realism,” “circus freaks,” and “someone dies inconsequentially.” Actually, come to think of it, I’m beginning to understand why my novel-to-be is so dire. Heh.

I know NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I’ve heard people deride NaNo’s preference for quality over quantity, for one. But I don’t think that’s such a terrible thing. One of the hardest parts about writing is getting the words out on the page in the first place, so you might as well churn out as much as you can. And anyway, you’ve got the rest of the year to take it slow and produce a smaller amount of higher-quality content. Plus, I dig NaNoWriMo because its participants are just as foolhardy and idealistic as me, and I like having a month where over a hundred thousand people across the world get together to celebrate the joy of writing. Writing becomes a social event, which I think is neat.

Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If you are, then (1) we should be freaking writing buddies. And (2) you might find this “Report Card” handy, courtesy of a kind NaNo-er named Buster Benson, who I will name-check here because anyone who wants the Report Card can download it for free. Read more »

More: Writing
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