Monday, September 30, 2013

1 Day Before NaNoWarmUp Begins! Here's a Short List of our Participants!

NaNoWarmUp begins tomorrow! Are you ready?

Because our Warm Uppers page so quickly exploded with conversations, we wanted to post a short list of all our participants so it's easy to find each other.

We've also made a Twitter List of all our participants who included a Twitter handle. Remember to tag your tweets with #NaNoWarmUp so they're all collected together! Feel free to check in on the hashtag to see who else is available for a word-sprint or word-war. This is your place to hang out (in addition to our posts here, of course!), and the more everyone uses it, the more handy and fun it'll be for everyone :)

*We are definitely still open to new participants, so head on over to the Warm-Uppers page to sign up if you haven't already!*

The list of participants that was here has moved to the Warm Uppers page.

<3 Savannah and Kat

Friday, September 27, 2013

Free Word Count Chart in Excel or Google Docs

by Savannah


Today we're giving you a free and easy way to track your word counts each day, based off a system I use for each of my books. Below I'll show you how to either download this file for your own use, or put it in a google doc of your own.

I've hosted the file in Google Docs. If you click on the link below it will take you to the document. You don't even have to be logged in or have a google account!

Click here to see the word count chart!

To Copy the File to Your Own Google Doc

  1. You must have a google account to access google docs, naturally. If you have a google account and don't use the google docs function, you're really missing out! Google docs is great for hosting files you want to keep, or easily collaborating with others. Kat and I use it all the time for brainstorming! We even used a google doc to help establish the schedule for this blog project :-)
  2. While viewing our word count chart go up to File, and select "Make a copy..."
  3. A menu will pop up asking what you want to name your document. Name it anything you like!
  4. Once you press "Okay" google will open your copied document for you in your own drive. Neat!
  5. You may now edit the document for your own purposes.
To Download the File into an Excel Format
  1. This will only work if you have a more recent version of Excel, and can open .xlsx documents.
  2. While viewing the word count chart, go to File and select "Download as..." then select "Microsoft Excel"
  3. Presto! This should download the file for you, and you can save it to your own computer!
More Things You Should Know

If you click on the tabs below, you will see that I've created some handy charts for you that mimic what you might be used to seeing on NaNoWriMo.

The Words by Total tab, for example, will show you this:

The numbers on these other tabs pull from your main tab -- do not mess with them if you want your chart to stay accurate!

This little chart I have on the main page can be confusing. If, while viewing the document through the link above, you hover over the cells with the little yellow flags in their corner, you will see comments from me explaining what they do. However, if you download the file those comments will go away, so here's an explanation for you:

Daily Goal: That's how many words you need to write per day to keep up!

Prior Word Count: This is a cell you use ONLY IF you have a previous word count on your project. For example, I've been working on my book already, and have 19,828 words written, so I'd put 19,828 in this cell. The rest of the cells are calculated to subtract your prior word count from your manuscript total, so you get ONLY what you've written since October 1st. Pretty cool, right?

Monthly Goal: You know this already! That's how many words we're writing in October!

Short Goal: This shows how many words you have left to write to hit the goal of 25,000. Obviously right now we're all short of our goal by 25k :-)

MS Total: This is where you put in the total number of words in your manuscript when you want to check how many words you've written. For example, if I had my 19,828 in the Prior Word Count Box, and I wrote a little, and I checked my total word count and found I had 20,828 in my document, when I put 20,828 in the MS Total Box, it will show me in the Today box how many words I've added (1,000). Cool!

Today: The Today number is calculated by looking at the total number of words in your manuscript (that you put in the MS Total box), subtracting your Prior Word Count, and subtracting other words that you've written in October as recorded in the chart. What you're left with is how many words you've written today only! When you're finished writing for the day, be sure to put this number in the box for the day where it belongs. Then the count for the Today box will go back to 0, and you're ready to start again tomorrow!

Added Since Oct 1: This box just subtracts your MS Total from your Prior Word Count to show you how many words you've added since the project started.

If you have questions please feel free to comment or email me directly for help!


We hope everyone has a great weekend! There's a lot to get ready for before our start date on Tuesday, but let us know if you need anything!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Outline Writing 101

Now that you've completed your brainstorming and Synopsis, you may want to create an Outline!

What is an Outline? While a Synopsis is a detailed summary of your story, an outline is a document that summarizes the plot points in each chapter. If you're a planner, Outlines can be a wonderful way to keep you on track with your writing for each chapter. Here's an example:


Mary Sue and her boyfriend John Smith are driving home from a party when they get in a car accident. Mary wakes up in the hospital, with no one around and blood lining the walls. As she makes her way back out into the world, she is attacked by a dirty man who won’t stop walking towards her, even when she hits him with a plank of wood. As Mary peers over a hill and witnesses an ambling, undead crowd, she realizes that she is one of the sole survivors of a zombie apocalypse.


Mary finds a newspaper and realizes she's been in the hospital for a week. She wonders what could have happened in a week that caused a zombie apocalypse, and is filled with grief for her boyfriend John. She struggles to make her way home to their shared apartment, but must run from a horde of attacking zombies. Mary is saved at the last minute by a former coworker, Derek, with whom she had a minor fling three years ago.


Derek takes Mary back to a hideout shared by other survivors. They tell Mary what happened in the week she was unconscious, explaining that the President confessed he'd been ordering bioweapons manufacturing, and an accident in one of the plants led to the zombie outbreak. The President resigned in shame and the promoted Vice-President has taken an aggressive stance towards the outbreak areas, sealing them off from the rest of the world. Supplies are airlifted to survivors every few days, but it's dangerous to go and retrieve them. The new President has stated that the area won't be de-quarantined until the survivors manage to put down every single zombie in the infected areas. Derek tells Mary her boyfriend is pretty much guaranteed to be a zombie, and despite her grief Mary agrees to join their zombie-killing efforts in order to survive.

Now you try! If you want to, share the first few chapters of your outline with us in the comments section!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Synopsis Writing 101

Now that you have your brainstorming completed (although does brainstorming ever really stop?), it's time to complete your Synopsis! Now, if you're a pantser you may end up skipping this step, but planners like Kat and I like to have a solid plan before we go into a project. Here's how Synopses work and some tips on making yours!

What is a Synopsis? A synopsis is a summary of your plot that introduces the main characters and tells the ending. Synopses are used by agents and editors to gauge the strength of your story and make sure the plot will satisfy, but for our purposes we're going to use the Synopsis as a planning document. (If you're curious about official synopses, I actually did an article about this at Let The Words Flow a few years ago.)

How do they work? When you write a Synopsis you want to completely throw out the "show, don't tell" rule. All you want to do is tell! Share your main plot points, including not only action but the emotional states of your characters. Introduce only primary characters and talk about only the main plot path. Synopses are written in third person, present tense.

Some examples:

Wikipedia usually has plot summaries for major books and films. This one for Twilight is a great example of a simplified Synopsis, though if you were Stephenie Meyers you'd probably want to expand it even further.

Susan Dennard provides an amazing example of a short synopsis, what points to hit, and summarizes Star Wars Episode IV for us.

Here's another article on how to write a Synopsis in 5 easy steps.

Share yours!

If you want to, in the comments share the first couple paragraphs of your Synopsis. Bonus points: share up to the part where the main challenge is set and leaves the audience begging to know what happens next!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Brainstorming 101

by Savannah


You can use NaNoWarmUp to work on a current project or a new one, but for those of you who'd love to join and don't have a project planned, we want to give you a crash course in Brainstorming to help get your plan in place before you start writing.

I posted an immense article on my personal blog about growing ideas from inspiration to novels, but here's a list of shortcuts and resources you might find handy!

Hand Writing: No, not handwriting; writing by hand! Manually writing out ideas has been shown to increase your creativity and concentration in a way that typing doesn't. I strongly encourage brainstorming to be done by hand; you can cross out, insert little asides, draw arrows, and even write in circles if you feel like it!

The 'Then What?' Method: As explained in detail by S. Jae-Jones here on a Pub[lishing] Crawl post, this method involves 'telling yourself the story' in a simple way by asking yourself, "what happens next?" It's a great tactic for figuring out the heart of the story. For example:

Harry Potter is a perfectly ordinary boy (or so he thinks) mistreated by his aunt and uncle who are perfectly normal in every way, thank you very much. (Then what happens?)

Well, one day letters start arriving addressed to Harry, but his uncle won't let him read them? (Then what?)

Even MORE letters start arriving! They fill up the house to the brim, but Harry still can't get a hold of one! (Oh my gosh, THEN what?)


Reference The Hero's Journey: Did you know most stories share a very common plot? It's called The Hero's Journey, and if your idea feels flat it might be because you're neglecting an important step. Check it out! (For more examples of Hero Journeys, check out Julie Eshbaugh's detailed post here on Pub Crawl)

Loglines: As the wonderful Miss Snark shares with us in this wonderful blog post, you can use loglines to help identify your primary plot and problems, like this:


For example: When the Pevensie children find a secret world in their great-uncle's wardrobe, one of them is ensnared by the evil White Witch due to his own greed. The other children must help save Narnia from the tyranny of the White Witch, or risk not only losing their brother, but letting down the enslaved citizens of Narnia they have come to love.

Talk (write) it out: Perhaps it's just my logic-minded brain, but when I get stuck on a plot point it's helpful to 'talk it out' through detailing every option and the possible consequences. This helps me find the path to take that gets me closest to my ultimate end goal.

For example: Jane needs to get to the library before it closes, except her car won't start. What if she called her best friend to come get her? But if we did that then they'd have to have the confrontation talk too soon, and I want to save that for the next chapter. Maybe she could ask a neighbor? But then I'd have to introduce a whole new character, and ugh. Maybe she calls a cab to take her, and then once she's at the library the love interest could offer to drive her home! Yes, that's it!

Scene-Setting: Once you have your general idea, you'll need to get down to the nitty gritty details. When I'm summarizing my chapters, I like to envision each scene and how it's going to flow. Picture it as positioning the camera on a movie set: Where are we going to focus? How will the conversation start? How will the characters react? How will the scene end? Then write a small summary of the scene to help you remember later. This will be an important method for subsequent posts about Synopses and Outlining.

World-Building document: Save all your ideas for rules and world-building in a separate document so you can reference when you can't remember if you assigned your goblin society matrilineal or patrilineal inheritance rights. You know, important stuff like that.

Share how you're doing! Is brainstorming tough or easy for you? Do you use any of the methods above? Do you have any other tips or tricks to share with us?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Welcome to the Warm Up!

by Savannah J. Foley


We love NaNoWriMo. But as writers Kat and I aren't always 100% ready to commit to a full 50,000 words on a new or revamped project in the month of November. Plus, as writers with day commitments, it's often difficult to achieve 1,667 usable words.

That's why we created NaNoWarmUp. All the month of October we'll be 'warming up' for the main event in November, with a more manageable word count goal of 800 words per day, culminating in 25,000 new words by the time the month is over.

NaNoWriMo just isn't as much fun without the community aspect, and we knew NaNoWarmUp wouldn't be either, so we want to invite YOU to join us!

  1. Commit to writing 25,000 words with us in October! Yay!
  2. Make a comment on This Page with your name, your blog and Twitter, and what you'll be writing about!
  3. Add a word count widget to your site or blog to help keep you on track.
  4. Between now and October 1st create a good guide for your new project. We'll be posting articles on how to do just that really soon! (See our Schedule at the top for a guide on when!)
  5. Optional: Add our banner to your site or blog to help promote the project and invite more people to join NaNoWarmUp! (Get the html code for it in our sidebar on the right)
  6. If you want to talk about the project, or report in your word count goals, use the hashtag #NaNoWarmUp on Twitter.
  7. Subscribe to this blog (at the bottom of the page on the right) so you can get updates when we make inspirational posts, how-to guides, or host fun and exciting giveaways!

We'll be hosting giveaways throughout the month, but to start off we want to give away No Plot? No Problem! to one of our Warm Up participants!

We can't wait to get writing with you!

Love from,

Savannah and Kat