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On Storytelling

3 Things I used to Refill the Creative Well after NaNoWriMo

I had heard other authors discuss this but had nothing to base it on until after doing NaNoWriMo myself, and that is the experience of writing until you are empty.

50k words was the most I had ever written before on any subject, EVER.  It was over 100 pages single spaced–and, it wasn’t even finished.  Meaning, there are four more scenes that I will be going in to complete the line by line writing for.  In meeting the Nov. 30 deadline and to meet my personal desire to at least have the skeleton completed, I ended up writing just the beats for four scenes.

Regardless of not being an entire first draft, I felt empty for three days afterwards and gave myself permission not to write.  It actually felt strange.

So I tried to refill the creative well.  I read fiction. I read graphic novels.  I watched fun things on Netflix with my children. I cooked.  I socialized with people.

1.   Action Adventure Television

Watching the TV shows and movies definitely gave me a lot to think about from a storytelling perspective.  My son and I love Marvel’s Agents of Shield, and in 45 minutes, that show has a lot of action.

It’s jam packed with alien invaders, alien artifacts, hand-to-hand combat, cool gadgets, emotional drama, unrequited love, mythology and secret societies.  It’s a marvelous teaching tool for how to keep things fun and how to get your protagonists out of a hole.


2.   Graphic Novels

Visual storytelling is such a great way to activate the brain. There’s so much to engage your brain and your eyes.  It’s also a useful tool for when you resume writing and need to describe the things you see unfolding before you and to share it with your audience.

My older son struggles with reading chapter books, so usually I prime the pump by reading aloud with him for the first couple of chapters.  Also, I have found that he has far more enthusiasm to read the chapter book when I also buy the graphic novel.  I grew up reading comics and I still very much enjoy graphic novels.  They aren’t just for kids.  So if you are in the mood for some faster paced story telling, , I recommend picking up something like Rick Riordan’s newest, The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel (Kane Chronicles)

If you don’t fancy the young adult genre, the master storyteller himself, Neil Gaiman has many fantastic graphic novels to choose from, the recent one I read being The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel Single Volume.  Not that you need an excuse to read Neil Gaiman, ever.

For those of you who don’t already have this, run don’t walk, to get your copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition (Harry Potter, Book 1)
It is full text, a gorgeous book.

3.  WriMo Buddies

This was my first NaNoWriMo.  November was a horrible month for me, travel wise because I was hardly in one place for very long.  This meant missing many of the local write-ins which I had been hoping to go to.  I went to school with a someone who is now a very accomplished fiction writer, something like 10+ books and three of them optioned for movies or television.  She commented once that being a writer is tough on extroverts because it is such solitary effort, where you just shut the door and get your butt in the chair night after night.

I think even if you are an introvert, you could probably relate to feeling that you are going at it alone when you are trying to crank out your daily word count.  So it was with great pleasure that I had dinner with two dear friends who had also participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time.  And we didn’t have a deadline.
So we ate a homecooked meal, ate chocolate cake, and drank red wine.

We talked about the scenes we had gotten stuck on, the scenes we were surprised we wrote, the scenes that we loved.  It was wonderful to share about our story journey.

And it worked.  Because I’m feeling the urge to write again, and to tackle those last four scenes.

Day 2 of NaNoWriMo

I wrote over 3k words on Day 1, and it was easier than I thought with the help of dictation.  It took probably about just over two hours to do that.  I resisted the urge to edit, but of course cleaned up all the dictation randomness.

For the month of October, I had a thrice weekly fiction writing effort.  And my goals were modest.  I gave myself an hour and I tried to write at least 250 words.  The results were amazing.  By the third night of trying that, I was up to 1k words in an hour.

So as others have commented, “When you do the work, the muse rewards you.”

I knew Day 2 would be rough, as I had a lot of work at the office and a social commitment.  So I hammered out 500 words at lunch.  Came home at 11pm and hammered out 1k words until midnight.

With NaNoWriMo in effect, forcing the commitment of a daily writing practice,  I can only imagine the ways that it will improve all the participants’ writing speed and storytelling.

End of Day 2 – 4500+ words on less than 5 hours of writing.  Not bad.

Walking and Dictating Your Novel on Your iPhone

Stinson Beach, After Sunset

This morning I woke up earlier as part of my NaNoWriMo kickoff.  But not too much earlier.  Just 30 minutes.  Then I had a cup of tea to fortify myself, laced up my Kangaroo sneakers and off I went to start my great American novel.

I mean, I was armed with my iPhone 6 and the standard earbuds Apple ships with the phone.  I turned on Siri and started dictating the opening scene into the Bywords app.  I would hit “done” periodically and then start dictating again.  It was brilliant and it was FREE.  Most importantly, I had emailed everything to myself  (Bywords has an export feature) so I had a backup too.

You do have to look at your phone on occasion to make sure the dictation is actually on, as it will shut off after long pauses, or after you hit done.

20 minutes later, I had to return to make breakfast and wake the children.  But I had 600 words done on my word count and was back on my normal workday schedule.

Happy Writing!

PS – if you find that the phone method is too harrowing, the other method is to actually use a dictaphone which will save everthing to a .wav file or similar and then you can feed back to a transcription service.

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