Waiting for Writing, plus a Challenge

July 27, 2012

HELP quoteSo you want to write 50,000 or more words this August for the 2012 Camp NanoWriMo event.

You’ve signed in, built a profile, maybe you added an excerpt you’re proud of to go that profile. And now you’re sitting, twiddling your pen, waiting for Wednesday the 1st to get here.


Here’re Some Things To Think On While Waiting


You can work with or without an outline.

But you will need to know if you are going to focus on plot or character in your work. Ask yourself this question and make some notes about your choice. It will serve to solidify, in your mind, a plan (vague or concise) to work with.

Knowing your focus is on plot can allow you to think of some ‘what if’s’ for the development of that plot. Think ahead for the twists and turns that lead to the end-point of your story.

Knowing your focus is on character can allow you to think of some ‘what would they do if…’ scenarios to run your characters through before you get to writing.

You can know where your story is going or not.

Some folks have already gotten into asking themselves about the plot or character aspect of their coming story and knowing that info, they now either have some  notes or a solid outline. But they still aren’t sure what their story will ‘be about’.

Not knowing allows you to explore as you write and come to that info as you go. Knowing allows you to aim for where you want your story to end up.

Both work depending on how you write. Neither are wrong or inferior to the other.

If at your basic state you think:

Plot -wise: My story is about a planet at war. Then you need to tack on a …and so…  to create a full plot we’ll want to follow.


Character-wise: My story is about a girl.  Then you need to tack on a …who will… to create a MC we want to know about.

You can have scenes in your mind you want to flesh out.

Writing scenes you’ve got in your mind are not the same thing as writing Exposition (as explained on Wikipedia.).   One shows and one tells. Upfront explanation of some things in your write can be needed.  But, explaining all the way through your work keeps the reader from discovering anything on their own. Unfortunately, seeing too much exposition in your own work can be hard to do. So look at as many NaNo excerpts as you can; ask yourself if you can see an over-use of exposition there.  Do this after you’ve checked out the link to wiki. Once you can recognize exposition in the work of others, that can lead you to seeing it in your own work. And from there, maybe your writing will have less of it. Consider looking at as many excerpts as you can before August 1st rolls around, learn what not to do – it will make your scene writing more satisfying.


You can have dialog you want to build scenes around.

But remember that dialog without motivation is only having your characters chatting for no good reason.

Keep your narration free of too much exposition. But also keep your characters free from it too.

They shouldn’t be talking simply in order to ‘tell’ the reader things you (the author) feel the reader should know about the story. Take down what dialog ideas you have in your mind, but also take into consideration that there are ways to make those dialog ideas work even better for you.

Here’s another link with more on writing dialog, in case you can use more help.

Once you feel you can use your dialog ideas to build scenes, take the 10 page challenge of using only said or says or told, or tells as the tags for all spoken lines. Having your first 10 pages that have dialog in them use only she said, he says is a great way of proving to your self that all those other adverbs can be replaced by what is said, rather than how it is spoken.


If you are going for plot – what is your idea about that plot?

Plot isn’t story. You should have two ideas about what you want to write Story is one, plot is the other.

What is the story about that I’ll be writing?

Things a story might be about:

Who killed Jessica Rabbit?

What happens to a returning war vet who loses his son to gang violence?

Where can a young spy turn once he’s drummed out of Spy School?

When the war of the robots took its turn for the worst mankind stood and fought; here is their tale.

Why some good people turn their backs on the daily evil they see.

How I lost my innocence at band camp.


Plot on the other hand, are the steps that your story will take as you move though that story from its opening line to its last page.

A story will have a Beginning, Middle and End.

A plot can have those three things in any order, plus all the steps it takes to get from one thing to another.

A plot doesn’t have to give the reader those three things in any particular arrangement. We mix those three things up on purpose to heighten the drama and tension, holding back some info for a storytelling reason or giving some details out of sequence.

Think of a detective mystery that begins with the line, “If I’d only known danger could show up at my door wrapped in silk stockings, I’d be a free man today.” Definitely not an author beginning at the beginning there.


Outline or not– make some kind of notes.

Your plot’s trajectory­­– known or not, neither are a weak way to start writing, no writing process is wrong if it’s working for you.

Exposition is not the same as writing a scene– keep exposition down, and out of your character’s dialog where you can.

Challenge yourself– allow 10 pages of dialog to use only the basic said & told for dialog tags.  Make your story work in other ways to get its points across to the reader.

Plot isn’t story. They are separate things. So figure out how you’ll use the two for an easier time writing your August masterpiece.


Happy Writing.


4 Responses to “Waiting for Writing, plus a Challenge”

  1. Valerie Says:

    This is a very useful post and an interesting way to approach writing. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is certainly interesting… although, as a card-carrying pantser, even your ‘without outline’ starts off at a place that I don’t get to until partway through Nano. Nonetheless, this is a lot of food for thought.

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