Batching, Productivity & Processes: a #NaNoWriMo2018 wrap-up post

If you’ve been following me any amount of time, you probably already know that I treat #NaNoWriMo as a time to create and test new processes. This year was no different.

This year instead of writing a new novel, I decided to plot.

And fellow word-makers, it was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. What made me decide to do this? Well, I finally started implementing all of that good advice I read and listened to about getting my shit done. Completely wild, right? Imagine buying and read 20 odd books on being an entrepreneur and downloading fifty-eleven podcasts on entrepreneurship and never implementing a thing? Don’t say you heard it from me, but I’m pretty sure that someone we know is guilty of that shit.

I’m the someone we know, you guys. That someone is me.

What is batching?

Batching is a productivity and time management hack that is designed to maximize concentration and decrease distraction. As a result, it increases your productivity, creativity, and mental sharpness, while decreasing the fatigue, procrastination, and stress that comes with creating content. For this particular post, let’s call that content BOOKS.

There are lots of ways to batch, but the one that I use exclusively is the Pomodoro Technique. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. There are lots of free tools to get you started. I use an app called Focus Keeper but this free desktop version is good, too. It’s free on iTunes. After spending some time deciding what I want to work on and choosing one of my meditation apps, I get to work!

How batching helped me plot like a bawse.

Okay, now that I’ve explained batching and how I use it for productivity and time management, here’s how I applied it to my process to make plotting and planning more efficient, and dare I say, fun!

Back in October, I published a The Basic Character Creation Workbook. This is a stripped down version of my character creation process, which because I was simply laying the groundwork for novels that I want to write in the future, is a great baseline. I’m the sort of writer who’s plotting and planning process lives in character development. If I get hung up somewhere in my book, I can almost guarantee that it’s because of something I don’t know about my characters. Shit gets real sketch if I skip or skimp on this part of the process. It hurts when I do that so I don’t do that.

Also in the month of October (aka Preptober) I did a blog series called 11 Days & 11 Ways to Plot Your Novel. I’ve always known there were different ways to plot a novel, but researching all of the different ways was very eye-opening and informative. It also encouraged me to fully incorporate Romancing The Beat, a plotting process that I’ve been implementing in small doses but never making a full commitment.

Using these tools I chose four books that I wanted to plot and plan and then I created a schedule to make actionable. There was a bit of a SNAFU at the beginning because NaNoPlotMo didn’t start on a Monday. Not gonna lie…that stressed me the fuck out. I didn’t want to start in the middle of the week but I didn’t want to lose four days of work on these projects either. As luck would have it, I picked up a small editing job that filled those four days so it all worked out.

Please excuse my neuroses. Here is the schedule:

img_9665

What did I accomplish?

I plotted and planned four short novels:

  • A Secret Baby/My Best Friend’s Sister romance which is the first in a series spinoff from The Truth Duet
  • A Submissive Male/Friends to Lovers Romance, which is a standalone novel from The Lust Diaries world)
  • My VIRGIN HERO book. You guys, this is basically competence porn with handy-woman and an eager inexperienced guy and I lived for every word of this plotting because these two…PHEW! They’re gonna be hot and adorable, you guys.
  • My NOLA LOVE NOVEL which will be modern gothic romance that I can’t wait to dive into.

What did I learn?

Like always, focusing on writing during #NaNoWriMo gives me a huge boost of motivation. I work with authors all the time, and while that is fun, it doesn’t allow me to focus on my own writing in the way I would like. Batching my novel planning process was clutch and it allowed me to take care of my ideas so that I don’t get Big Magic’d.

I also gained more faith and belief in my current process. Probably need to find some wood to knock on before I type this, but I think I’m getting close to perfection with this thing. *Fingers crossed*

How about you? Did you win #NaNoWriMo? Did you discover something new about your process? Let me know in the comments!

4 Basic Story Building Blocks: Stories About Events #WriterWednesday

It’s perfectly reasonable to say that every story is an event story considering the fact that “something” happens in every book.

Technically, that is true. However, just like the other three story building blocks, stories about events make the story’s central concern.

Every story built around a specific event follows a specific pattern: the world sis out of order, unbalanced, evil, in decay, and the story is about the effort to either restore or establish order. Your main character is involved in this effort and the story doesn’t end until they accomplish their goal.

Event stories grow from the human need to make sense of the things happening around us.

It is born from the idea that some sort of order exists, but how much characterization needs to happen in an event story?

It’s up to the author, but an event story can support either approach. Like the stories about place, a well-developed character might overshadow the event and detract from it’s importance. While a strictly archetypal character may seem too skeletal and unable to support the event.

Another very effective approach is to assign secondary and tertiary characters in your event story with specific roles that will allow the event to have the powerful impact that you desire. Telling the story from multiple points of view would be useful as well. This process can often introduce more story possibilities so that the event and the character can grow and develop together.

Each factor—place, idea, character, event—are present in all stories to one degree or another.

Decide which factor dominates your narrative and you will discover the overall shape of the story!

Happy Writing!

Tasha


Learn how to craft an amazing character that will keep your readers engaged! Grab a copy of The Basic Character Creation Workbook!

Add heading copy

I’m just going to come out and say it… #NaNoWriMo

I’m not great at NaNoWriMo.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve competed three times and won twice. Last year, I used NaNoWriMo to write the second book in The Truth Duet and I managed to write 84k+ words. I won! So “winning” NaNo isn’t the problem, but writing a publishable book is where I struggle. I’m still fixing that book so sometime during the beginning of the year, I decided not to participate.

But here we are on Halloween and I’m feeling the pull to compete.

I mean, let’s face it. If you’re even a little bit active in the online writing community, it’s pretty hard to avoid the NaNoWriMo conversation. Not that I want to. The energy and cult-like excitement around this writing challenge is so motivating! Writing is such a solitary pursuit that logging in to that camaraderie for 30 days straight is kinda really amazing. And the idea of sitting this one out is giving me a serious case of FOMO, so I’ve been brainstorming ways that I can participate unofficially.

Today I’m on Caroline Donahue’s Secret Library Podcast talking about different ways to hack NaNoWriMo. It was a fun conversation—a chat with Caroline about writing is hands down one of my favorite things to do. On that show, I talked about using NaNoWriMo to finish a book versus starting another one. Initially figured I would use November to finish The Way Things Are. We talked about writing from the last chapter/scene and finding my way back to the plot hole that I’ve been struggling with. I couldn’t wait to try out this method so I started it right after we hopped off of the call. At the time I had about 45k+ words left, but I’ve already added another 25k to that book since then. I’m pretty close to done! So without a big word count to tackle, I started searching for other ways to participate or hack #NaNoWriMo and I came across #NaNoPlotMo!

#NaNoPlotMo isn’t an official offshoot of NaNoWriMo.

From what I can tell, folks are using it as #NaNoWriMoPrep. My idea is to use the actual month of November to plot a novel or novella a week!

This is how I’m gonna do it…

I will be using The Basic Character Creation Workbook to craft my characters and Romancing the Beat to plot the actual story. My process also borrows a bit of Dan Well’s plot structure—specifically the bit about beginning at the end. I don’t write linearly so his idea to write the last chapter, the dark moment, and then the first chapter—in that order—makes the most sense to me.

And because I love having a plan/schedule, this is how I will break all of this down:

Why plot i stead of writing?

I’ve recently starting batching my blog posts and social media posts and it has helped me get a lot of work done. So why not apply that to fiction! Batching the plotting portion and writing the transitional plot points will help me get down to the business of writing the book a lot faster. Well…that’s the plan anyway, lol. Also, part of my goals for 2019 is to start submitting my work again. This plot exercise will eventually become the stories that I send out to a short list of publishers I’d love to work with.

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo?

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram so that I can show up in your mentions and shake my pom-poms!

Happy Writing!

Tasha