NaNoWriMo 2018 – 37,500 Words (75% Complete!)

Yesterday was the 18th, 60% done with the month, and 75% done with NaNo! Well, 3/4 of the way to the 50k word goal, at least. I’m feeling pretty good, very pumped to continuously be ahead of the word count, and super proud for spewing out words every day, even if some days that count is paltry at best. It’s building the habit that’s important right now. I do wonder, though, if when I’m editing I should continue some kind of daily first-draft-type writing and how to balance this kind of work with the more conservative, delete-heavy, stress-out-over-every-word work that editing brings.

So here’s the way the last week looked:

Almost 12,000 words in under a week is very exciting!

I’ve done a little writing this morning, so I’m a smidgen farther than this now, but I am behind my goal of 50k by the 20th, obviously (that would be a miraculous 12k in a day. I mean, not impossible, but not bloody likely). I’m in the hardest part of the book now which is the end bits. I’m just at the edge of the climactic arc (is that a thing?), and tying everything together. I’m really excited about this part in theory because I’ve been imagining it for quite a while, but the specifics are still too vague. Just more evidence that a well-thought-out and tightly constructed outline is the way to go before banging out a first draft.

Bumping up to 20 minute sprints, I’m not seeing the jump in word count that I should be. In fact, I’m doing worse. I averaged 469 words per 15 minute sprints which works out to 31.23 words per minute, but at 20 minute sprints I’m averaging 563 words which works out to a lower 28.15 wpm. It’s very close, and I find myself checking the timer during the 20 minute sprints, worrying I didn’t start it, so they feel longer and are clearly less productive. It may behoove me to jump back down to 15 minute sprints, but I perhaps haven’t given myself enough 20 minute sprints to get into the groove. Technically I’ve only done more than one 20 minute sprint a day twice so far, so I’ll give them a few more days to work themselves out–they deserve that, though I might be done by then!

I’m developing a better voice for my characters now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go humorous with this story, especially since I opened with a pretty dark scene, and I was trying to set up a world that was full of esoteric magic and walked the veil between life and death, but some of the concepts–like vampires and werewolves–just don’t feel right to me without an injection of self-awareness and whimsy. These characters by no means live in the same world as Vacancy, but their world can’t take itself that seriously. This does mean, though, a lot of editing is ahead of me, and finding a healthy balance between that eerie darkness that I love and recognizing that the word “fireball” is very silly.

And I’m still not sure what to do with this story when it’s edited and done. I contemplated self publishing, but that’s not an alternative to traditional publishing, it’s just a different road with a LOT of work behind it. I may release it by chapter on Wattpad, or maybe even here, or both! I hope that giving away some of my work for free will eventually develop me an audience for the future, but I also struggle with the idea that that devalues one’s work. Case in point: the 99 cent novel. I could write a whole ranty blog about that and still end on the note: I JUST DON’T KNOW.

Anyway, I’m headed back to the giant text file that Google Docs can hardly handle and am very hopeful that I’ll report #winning in a few short days. I’m headed out of state for the holiday soon, so I may get pushed out to the end of November, but I am determined. Happy writing, Dear Reader!

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A Simple Character Worksheet

There are a ton of these on the internet, and mine isn’t that special, but I wrote it with fantasy in mind. I consider this just a worksheet, not a total character write up. This is something I start with when I’m fleshing someone out for the first time. Typically, my characters come to me with one or two stark traits, maybe black as night hair and a love of chihuahuas, or densely freckled shoulders and eidetic memory. I usually let characters sort of create themselves as I write based on their reactions to situations, but I find that I need what’s basically a logbook of what I’m saying about them as I go. So I begin by jotting down at least pieces of the following worksheet and fill in what I skip over as the information reveals itself.

I also want to say very quickly that I don’t mean the very popularly touted idea that characters write themselves. Yes, sometimes you find yourself writing So-and-So saying or doing something you’d never imagined her to do, but you are still writing it. You, the writer, have control over what you put down on paper. You’re the god of your world. Wield your powers, Wise One.

Below is a text based version of the worksheet that you can copy and paste into whatever word processing thing you use (Google Docs is my weapon of choice). I wrote in some suggestions to help you as you go if you’re into that which you can delete. A printable can be downloaded here for you too without the suggestions so you can go hog wild.

 

CHARACTER SKETCH

Name: This is how your narrator refers to them. Be consistent here based on who’s narrating, even if you jump from head to head

Full Name: The character’s name given at birth or with any current titles

Nicknames/Aliases: Include who uses these other names (yeah, I basically wrote “name” three times, but I use this because it sparks backstory and relationships)

Birthdate/Circumstances: Knowing the exact date may not be that important, but the season and astronomical timing may matter depending on the world or the character’s culture. I also include here where and how the character was born, like in their parents’ home, mother attended to by local midwife, or in a cloning tube, a year too early and all alone.

Species: For me, this is any group that likely cannot (at least not easily) breed together. So I might have elves and humans which could have children, but conception would be rare. Remember, in our world, species usually don’t cross breed and mostly can’t. This isn’t to say half-elves and quarter-goblins can’t/shouldn’t exist in your world, even in abundance, just take genetics into consideration, and please do NOT confuse species with race.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – I always include the actual words I use in-book to describe, typically when a character is first introduced. For instance, if I give a character copper hair, I won’t change it to red here, or, more complicatedly, if someone has “piercing” eyes, that goes in this description along with the color.

Race: I feel like I should say this one more time — Species and Race are DIFFERENT. So while different species often cannot breed, races can, and people of mixed racial identity are very common (at least in a world where travel occurs (which yesss that is your fantasy world if anyone has a ship and trades)). We usually just use race to refer to humans, but I’m going to assume in your fantasy world you have other humanoids which may have their own or cross-over races with your humans. Before this becomes its own blogpost, I’m just going to encourage you to do a lot of research into genetics and the actual history of how peoples have traveled in our world and tell you to be creative and informed.

Eyes: color, shape, misc. descriptors

Hair: color, length, style, misc. descriptors

Skin: color, state (burnt from outdoor work? very well cared for?)

Weight/Height/Body Type: Environment should be a big factor here

Distinctive Markings: tattoos, scars, freckles, wings, horns, seventeen eyeballs in a world where eight are the norm

PERSONALITY – Here it is more difficult to use words I use in-book as personality is largely inferred, so I like to use examples instead of just the right descriptors. Like, if So-and-So’s weaknesses include, say, food, I might say “Once, So-and-So ate a whole chocolate birthday cake that her mother baked for her little sister’s third birthday. The morning of Lil Sis’s big party, Mom found So-and-So passed out on the kitchen floor swathed in the clinical light of the fridge, cake crumbs, and shame.”

Strengths: I start with the good stuff, because I like liking my characters (even the baddies).

Weaknesses: A pitfall I always trip into is making these opposites of the strengths. That might be a good place to start (He’s brave! But dumb! He’s logical! But emotionally shielded!) but being one thing doesn’t always make you also the other.

Hobbies/Talents: What a person likes says a lot about them. Include what your character allows other people to know and what they keep hidden.

What Makes Them: (be forewarned I went a little Pixar here)

  • Joyful: Sunshine!
  • Sad: Rain 😦
  • Disgusted: Wet socks! Ew!
  • Afraid: Thunder and lightning!
  • Angry: A ruined beach day >.<

(The above is a great example of that opposites thing being silly but not useful)

BACKGROUND – I try keeping this section light, but once an idea starts, sometimes it flows out. Don’t let any worksheet or other planning device ever stop you (especially mine as it has very little space). If you’re on a roll, even if you’re talking about strengths under their cultural background or something, just go with it You can chop up the pertinent stuff later.

Culture: You may not have come up with your world’s cultures yet, but you can jot some ideas down here. I suggest making this very vague and elaborating on culture in its own worksheet (I’ll write that someday).

Family/Childhood Friends: A list works here, and also your character’s feelings about those listed

Where/How Did They Grow Up: The city/town/farm and the physical house/room, as well as their socioeconomic class

Romantic History: This is a good place to figure out their sexual identity as well

 

You probably noticed there were no questions relating to the character’s motivation or the plot, but as I mentioned, this is just a minor worksheet to get your started. It can also be handy to refer back to as you’re writing if you forget someone’s exact eye color or their father’s name. Since the worksheet prints out on two pages, I like to have those facing each other, on the left and right, in a binder or notebook so all the character info is spread out at one time.

Here’s hoping this is helpful to you.