Writerly Round Up: October 2015 (Plus, NaNoWriMo Kickoff Sprints!)

Writerly Round Up monthly templateHey there everyone, and happy Halloween!

It’s the last day of the month, and that means it’s time for our monthly writerly round up! In case you missed our first post, our writerly round ups are monthly posts with links to helpful blog posts and articles we’ve collected throughout the month. This month, we’re dedicated to bringing you articles that will hopefully help you through the trying month of NaNoWriMo ahead!

But before we delve into that, we just wanted to announce our kickoff sprints for NaNoWriMo! To celebrate the very first day of our adventures, we’ll be hosting some sprints throughout the day tomorrow to help you get a head-start on your word counts! We’ll be hosting sprints during the following times:

10:00-11:00 PDT / 13:00-14:00 EDT / 18:00-19:00 GMT – #SundayScribes, hosted by Taylor

05:00-7:00 PDT / 08:00-10:00 EDT / 13:00-15:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Cristina  

12:00-15:00 PDT / 15:00-18:00 EDT / 20:00-23:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Faye

We hope to see you there! And now, without further ado, some reading material for you last-minute NaNoWriMo planners.

5 Creative Ways To Take Writing Project Notes

Posted by: Alyssa Hollingsworth @ The Great Noveling Adventure

Just because you’re busy working on one project during NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean your muse brain will take it easy on you. Here are some ways to stay organized during the month so you can tuck away any new story ideas that come to you and keep focus strong on the task at hand until December.

Ten Questions To Ask When Beginning A Book

Posted by: Cheryl Reif

An oldie but goodie, this article helps writers start their novel on the right track. If you’re an outliner looking for a few pointers to square away the last of your details pre-NaNo, this article is for you; pantsers, you may still find this useful should you become stuck during the month.

10 Last-Minute NaNoWriMo Prep Tips

Posted by: Kristian Wilson @ Bustle

Bad case of procrastination? It happens to the best of us. This is a great go-to guide for those just beginning their first NaNoWriMo journey or procrastinating on their 10th.

There is only so much you can read about NaNoWriMo before biting the bullet, so we’ll leave you with these three this month. After all, there isn’t much time left for you to spend reading. Get to that last-minute outline or brainstorming session and we’ll see you on the other side!

Good luck, everyone!

Navigating The Eight-Point Story Arc

yzu1CGEoRQ6IE7yj8rc9_IMG_8812 copyAs we all know, writers tend to fall into one of two categories: plotters or pantsers. There’s the ambiguous gray area between the two that some of us wade into from time to time, but ultimately, most of us tend to lean one way or the other.

However, whether you choose start your Big New Idea with a blinking cursor on a blank Scrivener document or by filling entire notebooks with outlines and character profiles, your story has to have one thing in common with everyone else’s—regardless of their planning methods or lack thereof. For your story to incite curiosity, pull a reader through the pages, and ultimately fulfill its promises, it has to have a narrative arc, also known as a story arc).

Take any classic or modern work of literature and you’ll likely find elements of the Eight-Point Arc. I’m going to describe it here, and I’ll use examples of several different works to avoid creating one big spoiler for any particular story. Keep in mind that your story’s narrative arc goes hand-in-hand with your character arcs, which I discussed a while back here.

The Eight-Point Story Arc

  1. Stasis. Known sometimes as “exposition,” this is the part of the story that sets the scene. Think of Katniss hunting just outside District 12 and observing the starvation and desolation when she returns within the broken electric fencing.
  2. Trigger. Something happens that triggers the protagonist and kicks off the Quest. In The Hunger Games, Katniss’s sister, Primrose, is selected for the reaping and Katniss volunteers in her place.
  3. Quest. The protagonist embarks on a quest; in The Hunger Games, Katniss’s quest is to partake in—and win—the Hunger Games for the sake of her family.
  4. Surprise. Self-explanatory, the surprise is something unexpected that changes the story for better or worse. One surprise that may stand out to Harry Potter fans is Harry’s discovery that he can speak Parceltongue in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, which decidedly alters the direction and outcome of the book.
  5. Critical Choice. The critical choice is, by name, critical—that is, it can’t be made by accident and the result has a lasting effect on the story and its characters. Often, this is where we get a full picture of the protagonist’s true colors, such as that fateful moment in which Robb Stark chose to marry outside his arrangement with the Freys.
    (Note: arguably, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice And Fire series is composed of MANY different intertwining story arcs in order to create a massive epic in which there is no true single protagonist. For this example, I’m focusing strictly on the story arc of the Starks’ quest to vengeance in the HBO show).
  6. Climax. A direct result of the critical choice, the climax is the height of drama, the point in the story at which all the built-up tension over hundreds of pages finally peaks. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this is the moment when the war against Voldemort erupts at Hogwarts.
  7. Reversal.This point in the novel is what separates a true climax from a fireworks show. Your climax shouldn’t solely fill the purpose of forcing a reaction; rather, it should be a consequential moment that leaves your characters forever changed. This state of altered being is the reversal, the decelerating moment in which Jasmine is safe, Aladdin’s selfish ways are changed, and the genie is set free.
  8. Resolution. The story has come full-circle and the characters are now in a new form of stasis. This isn’t the way things were, it’s the way they are and will be (or, where the sequel will pick up with a brand-new trigger!). Example: the hobbits returning to the shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

Now, those of us who wing our way through novels may have a hard time with this because we feel restricted by outlines and spreadsheets; that’s okay, and it’s not expected that everyone prep and write a story in exactly the same way. If you’re struggling to wrestle out all the main plot points of a story before you get writing, try applying the arc to your story after the first draft is written. Hold up the skeleton of the arc to your full, well-rounded story, like a star frame to the expansive night sky, to identify the constellations of scenes and events that correlate with each of these phases.

Examining your story this way, through the lens of the Eight-Point Arc, can help you smooth out the narrative flow and identify kinks in your plot. Likewise, if you’re having a hard time with unruly characters whose actions aren’t matching up with their personality or the direction of the plot, character arcs can also help—whether you use them as planning devices or editing tools.

Do you use the Eight-Point Arc to plot or edit your story? Let us know how it works for you—or whatever else you use to polish up your narrative instead!

NaNoWriMo Prep: “Pantsing” Your Way Into An Outline

nano prepWhen it comes down to preparation, writers often like to divide themselves into two categories: Plotters and Pantsers (or outliners and discovery writers, respectively). Rarely, though, do we see people identifying themselves as somewhere in-between. Do many of us really go to such extremes—planning out each scene of our novel in a rigorous outline, versus sitting down without a single word planned past “Chapter One”—or do we realistically fall somewhere on the scale? Is there a way to prepare for NaNoWriMo that doesn’t either pigeonhole you into one corner, thus stifling the creativity that the challenge is created for, or leave you without a sense of direction on day one?

I, personally, have always landed somewhere in-between. It’s a hard thing to admit when everyone seems to identify with one end of the spectrum, but I really can’t see myself as strictly an outliner or discovery writer. Instead, I often find myself planning my stories in more of a free-writing discovery exercise that allows my creativity to mold and bend as needed, but helps keep me on track when I’m knee-deep in plot holes and have to dig my way out.

If you’re preparing for NaNoWriMo and need a compromise between these two methods as well, try this out! I’ll call it the “Rundown Method,” since the basic idea is to briefly tell the story as if you were giving someone the rundown of a movie you’d just seen. Here’s how the Rundown Method differs from traditional outlining:

Traditional Outlining

  1. Chapter One – Chapter Name – Boy meets girl
    1. Boy goes into café, sees girl sitting at a window seat with a cup of tea. They spark conversation.
    2. Girl seems hesitant to speak to boy for reasons the reader and boy do not yet understand.
      1. Girl has had bad experiences with abuse in the past.
    3. Boy attempts to strike up conversation.

Forgive me for the banal example… but you get the drift. Now here’s how The Rundown Method would handle the beginning to the same story.

The Rundown Method

Chapter one starts on a quiet suburban street, where the protagonist enters a café. He sees a girl he is attracted to and tries to come up with a few ways to spark conversation while he orders his drink. He then goes over and asks if the seat is taken, and tries to start up a conversation with her. She’s clearly uncomfortable and hesitant to speak with him. He presses further, though she isn’t being responsive, and begins to wonder if maybe he’s doing something wrong.

The thing I like about the Rundown Method is that it leaves more room to include details. Think of it as chapter summaries for your novel. Sure, you can include as much or as little as you want in an outline, but I’ve always felt this method allows you to go further into detail—such as how the characters are feeling, what they’re doing, and even what they’re saying—with greater ease. Getting a more in-depth visual of the situation allows you to plan out the logistics of the story while also getting a feel for its tone, which is something I know I’ve always had a hard time doing with outlines.

In using this method, I’ve come up with ideas, quotes, and major plots and themes I otherwise wouldn’t have through outlining. Likewise, I’ve sometimes gotten so immersed in describing an event in the story that my freewriting phased from story description to writing the actual word-for-word scene, then back to planning.

This may not work for everyone and may in fact allow for more diversions from the main plot line than intended; everyone writes differently, and this definitely isn’t the way most do it. But strike the right balance between creative freedom and self control, and you could find yourself with a solid plan come November First!


How do you plan your NaNoWriMo novels (if at all)? Are you working on your preparations yet? Let us know!