As NaNoWriMo is about to start I thought I would share some quick tips to help your creative juices to flow and get that novel written.
1. Use software that is designed for writers rather than a word processor.
Microsoft Word and other word processors such as Open Office are not designed with creative writing in mind. For a novel writer it is much better to use dedicated software. Scrivener (Mac and PC); The Novel Factory (PC only) and Storyist (Mac only) are excellent programs. They allow you to keep your research and your writing in one place, as well as keeping track of your characters and locations. When your novel is complete you can export to Word format to forward to your editor. They are also much more reasonably priced than a subscription to Microsoft Office 365.
2. Have a plan.
The plan can be as simple as a one-page synopsis or as complicated as a major project, but you need something as a guideline. I’m more of synopsis-type writer but if you want to produce a detailed plan that shows you every part of the story that is great. No matter what, your writing will take you in unexpected directions and tangents, but with a plan you’ll be able to get back on track.
3. Balance narrative with dialogue
A good novel will always balance narrative and dialogue. Too much narrative or description can distance your readers from the story and the characters. Conversely too much dialogue can mean that the reader no longer has a sense of place nor time. Like most things in life, balance is everything.
4. Who, what, where, when and how
It is a good idea to think about those five questions when you start each chapter. These can give you valuable insights and provide a way to focus on what you’re writing. The answers can be one word or short sentences, keep it brief. Examples of the questions are:
Who will be in the chapter (scene)?
What will they be doing? Or alternatively What happens to them?
Where does the action take place?
When does the action take place in relation to your timeline?
How long is the section? Or How will it affect the story? Or How does it affect the character(s)?
5. Use all five senses when writing descriptive passages
When you are describing a setting or a character think about them in terms of the five senses.
For a setting you should think about:
Sight – colour; shape; size; what items can the character see
Smell – natural or man-made; pleasant or unpleasant
Touch – texture; hot or cold
Hearing – natural or unnatural; loud or soft; pleasing or grating
Taste – is there the taste of something in the air
For characters think about them in these terms:
Sight – height; stature; hair colour; eye colour; tone of skin; signs of ageing, clothing and many more
Smell – perfume or cologne; body odour; ageing;
Touch – skin; clothing; caress or violent;
Hearing – accent; tone; volume
Taste – kissing
Obviously not all five will apply to every description and you don’t need to use them all every time, but it is worth thinking about them, that little bit extra may help your reader to imagine the scene or character much more vivdly.
These are very simple ideas to help your creativity. I hope that it inspires you to chase that goal of completing your novel and if you can do it this November then all the better.