Chris Batty wrote a short book about NaNoWriMo, designed to encourage the first-time novelist to dive in, whether or not s/he has a sound story idea yet.
There are things people can do, he urges, even if they don’t have a story idea yet.
I am one of those who needs more structure or substance to commit to the process (more than cheer-leaders and personal enthusiasm, I mean), but one big thing I learned from his book I recommend to any aspiring Novelist.
Get honest about your preferences.
Now, I talk about preferences in terms of personality, and I mean the word in the same way here: You have things that straight-up fit better and come easier for you. These are things you out-right LOVE.
The important thing about “doing what you love” isn’t necessarily that you’re better at it.
The important thing about “doing what you love” is that you will want to keep doing it, and do more, and stick with it when you hit a rough patch. It is such persistence that leads to being better. To being actually really good.
This is true in your noveling as well.
Take a break and make a list. Two lists, ultimately, so knowing yourself, decide if you’ll do this better sequentially (one after the other) or at the same time.
List 1: Things I like in a novel.
List 2: Things I don’t like in a novel.
This is crazy-important, even if you already have your story idea.
First, it’s important that your writing please you.
Many many writers describe their start as writing the book they always wanted to read, and quite often it was a book their newly discovered fans wanted to read as well.
Second, if you’ve already determined that ______________ makes you crazy in a story, you will (if you are ready to be both honest and challenged) become a better writer as you find other way to meet your story goals.
What do I mean?
I Hate (hate-hate-hate) conflict without motivation. And I can’t stand “misunderstandings” that exist only to advance the plot, that could be resolved by a simple, open conversation between the two descent people involved.
And I write fantasy with a romance element.
Which means that we’re-both-male-leaders-therefore-we-must-fight (I’m looking at YOU Prince Caspian!) and something-has-to-keep-us-to-of-bed-so-I-don’t-like-you-and-won’t-say-why (cliché problem to keep couple apart without threatening their imagined perfection) are both off the table.
I call those things lazy writing— taking the easy route– half defiantly, and half wistfully.
But it makes me work harder, better, to be true to myself and the sort of story I want to give my readers.
So, to get your juices flowing, here’s an example of my likes. I try to get as many likes in my story as possible, and, well, work around the dis likes as much as possible.
How do your likes/dislikes line up? Any must-haves or must-avoids you want to share?
5 thoughts on “Create Your Like-Lists (NaNo Prep 3)”
worked a bit on my like/dislike lists yesterday. Didn’t come up with many firm likes or dislikes, but here’s what I’ve got.
Likes: craftily included plot twists that are of negligible appearance, but great importance later; Main characters that are flawed, human, but decent, good people over all.
Dislikes: unresolved conflict (if you’re not going to resolve it, why bring it up in the first place??); Unresolved plot twists (hate when I pick up on something that LOOKS important, only to have it be discarded by the end of the book); Unnecessary conflicts between main characters (I’m with you, they need a marriage councelor or good friend to knock ’em upside the head -metaphorically speaking- rather than back & forth arguing about pointless details); a writer who OBVIOUSLY sympathizes w/ the evil characters (read a Richard Laymon book once where I picked up on a lot of pleasure taken in the rapist/murderer’s actions on the part of the narrarator/writer.)
That’s all I got. I’m going to keep working on it, though. And I actually DID get some flashes of insight to my main character, and her story, that I jotted down as soon as they came to me.
Great start, Kati!
The important thing (to me) is that you know enough what you like/don’t like that when you get stuck you can have a pool to draw from, and territory to avoid.