Plotting Party 2012 – Transcript

MattKinsi: So, we three MLs welcome you to our annual online plotting party! We’ll do a quick round of intros of your three co-MLs this year before we get started. So I’m Tim, despite the penname. But just call me Matt as that’s what I’m used to in November. This is my 9th year doing NaNoWriMo and my 4th as a co-ML for Atlanta. I also look out for the Georgia Elsewhere region and am a ML Mentor (I help newbie MLs.) I typically write really bubbly and happy fictio- ok. I can’t lie to y’all. I write sad, depressing litfic usually with a heavy spiritual bent.
tiakall: Hi, I’m tiakall. I’m the short and evil one πŸ™‚ Been doing Nano since 2004 and MLing as long as that guy *points above*. I write mostly fantasy, but have attempted a number of genres and styles.
Hype: I’m Lucy, aka Hype. This is my tenth NaNo and my 2nd year as co-ML of Atlanta. I’m in the ITP area now and hope to see you all at write-ins! I typically write either science fiction or fantasy.

MattKinsi: Thanks y’all. So let’s talk planning. Unlike most years where I fly by the seat of my pants (aka, β€œpantser”), this year I’m actually doing some pretty heavy planning. So for this to make sense, I need to tell you a little about my plot. I’m writing a story where a guy goes across the country and hands out 41 sunflowers on his way to a memorial service. So it’s almost a collection of 41 short stories about the people he meets along the way. I started off with locations – it’s a road trip, so I hit google maps and mapped out his entire journey. Which was a pain, but helped me visualize the plot better. And it helped me get my setting in order. From there I had to figure out where my MC was going to meet these people. So I made a list o each of the 41 sunflowers and made a quick note of the town and the general person or location he was giving the flower to.

From there, I went and made a separate little file for each sunflower – an in depth outline of sorts. I have for each flower/chapter who, where, why, any things I want to make sure happen, and new to me this year, I looked around online and found a photo of the character hes giving the flower to and plopped it in the planning file. I think this’ll help me make the characters more realistic and give some extra depth to the character development.

From there I started heavy on my Characters. (I went with Plot-Setting-Characters this year. I typically only worry about characters and see what happens as I write.) I’ve got a file for each of the five major characters and have been jotting different notes down in their files as I come to them. How they all met each other, their backstories, what they’ve been doing in the past 10 years, etc. With pictures. I’m totally digging the pictures this year. After I did all of that, which took some time I admit, I made a separate folder for each chapter in scrivener and a separate file for each scene. This took some doing as I have 41 chapters. But this year I know that I can get right to writing and I’ve got it all ready to go.

While writing, I always keep a “Work this in later” file and a “Notes for later” file. Sometimes I get a great idea while writing but it doesn’t fit with the current scene. I’ll let my brain go there and write the scene and plop it down in my “work this in later” file. For my “Notes for later” file, when I have something unexpected that came up in writing, or something I want my MC to remember later in some kind of flashback scene, I’ll plop it down in there. If I make it start raining, for example, I’ll put it in my notes for later file so I don’t forget and it’s suddenly sunny. Now, I like litfic. So I also have a file just for ‘themes.’ I did a free write on the general themes I want throughout the book. From there, I made notes of how to work it in and build up the theme arcs throughout the story, where to work what in, etc. Then added those specific points to my massive outline.

And that’s how I planned out this year’s nano. It sounds crazy, especially to me, as I typically don’t do a lot of planning in advance. But after bombing out last year, I wanted to try it a little differently. So there we go. In years past, I’ve used all sorts of different planning techniques. My favorite was when I did all of my planning on the back of a pizza box πŸ˜€ I wrote each character and the book was supposed to be about how everyone was interconnected. So I had a web of lines and names and arrows pointing to how people knew each other and such. It was, uh, a pretty crowded pizza box.

tiakall: Okay, so. I call myself a planner/outliner, but the reality is that my outlines are very, very light. Typically, I can’t really get started on a story until I have a scene. I can take a concept, but unless I have images in my head of characters doing something, a concept it remains. So my planning typically starts with me mulling over scenes in my head, changing them here and there, like a director making my actors do take after take. While I usually don’t remember most of the minor details, only the ones that move my plot, it helps me develop the characters. So I’ve almost never done bits where I write down character development things, like doing character profiles or questionnaires.

When I get to the writing stage, my outlines aren’t so much directions as they are a way for me to keep my scenes in order. They tend to be brief one-liners per chapter, like “They rescue the princess” “MMC has a personal crisis”, and my favorite, “Romantic confession… then DEATH!” And I’ve also been known to completely ditch an outline and go a different direction halfway through. So how helpful it is is debatable >>

So this year, I’m also doing a rewrite of a story I’ve done three times prior (in 1999, 2004, and 2007). Since I want to get it “right” this time, I’ve decided to go with a more substantial outline and decided to try phase outlining. For those that haven’t heard of it, here’s a link describing it: The idea is to write down short sentences/phrases that describe not only the action but the mood and thoughts as well.

How I’ve been doing it is sort of a fail phase outlining where I’ve been doing a big paragraph outlining the main points for each “section” of my novel (for each arc, it tends to be “MCs meet the new guys” “MCs talk with new guys and get some background” “MCs solve some crisis” and “MCs deal with aftermath”). It is actually been rather helpful as writing everything out helps me pay attention to which plotholes I need to address or which things are being changed. For example, I’ve changed just about every “solve some crisis” section in this story so far. And that’s about the level of planning I do. Mostly mental, a bit more writing this year.

Hype: So, this year, I am closest to the pantser of the three of us. I’ve been thinking about an idea since about August, but I have done very little in the ways of any kind of outline, etc. Still, even as a pantser there are things I rely on to get me through NaNo. I constantly (through the year) keep what’s called a spark file ( where I write bits and pieces of a whole variety of things. I have it in Google Docs, so I can easily access it from anywhere if I have something I want to write down. The spark file has no rhyme or reason. It’s just a chronological amalgamation of my thoughts and ideas. However, in going back through my file – something I do every month or so – I can find patterns.

This year, I’ve found that a lot of separate thoughts I’ve had make a really lovely connecting setting and plot for a potential novel. So I’ve moved the relevant pieces to their own file and started building off of it, if anything struck me. This process is what I’ve “planned” from September up to now. I have about 4 pages of random notes on setting, a few characters, and a loose plot. Which is more than I thought I’d have, so I count that as a good way to pseudo-plan, if you are a mostly-pantser like myself

Hype: And thus concludes our ML-driven portion of the chat! We have 3 transcripts from our chat from last year as well, all found here:
MattKinsi: And I high recommend you check those out. We purposefully kept them different – last year gets into a lot of technical details behind how to develop a plot, character, and setting
Hype: The transcripts contain some helpful exercises and links as well
MattKinsi: So we’re going to move into some question time
MattKinsi: where we co-MLs will answer, and then ask everyone else chime in if they’ve got an answer too.
quix: The first question – What’s the best way to look up pictures for your characters? For instance, if you can picture them in your head and want to find a picture that goes with. Any suggestions?
MattKinsi: I admit if anyone looked through my google history they would be mightily confused right now. I’ve been using google image search or ’em. And with that picture I have in my head, I start off looking for some certain characteristics. “Old women drinking coffee”, etc. As ususal with google images, uh, you might see some images that have nothing to deal with your novel and might be better for erotica so be warned on that front. A couple of them were tough to find. Like the one for my desperation at a casino chapter.
tiakall: I admit I have never used real-life pictures for my characters – they never match my mental images. Even when artist friends have drawn them they never quite match up (though in that case my mental image usually aligns itself with the art instead of the other way around). So, if you have artist friends that take bribes….
MattKinsi: It took a lot of trial and error with those searches to dig ’em up.
Joyce_S: also has pictures.
RuncibleSpoon: If you’re that concerned about…ahem…Rule 34 issues, Google Images DOES have the option for safe searching.
Hype: flickr is also a good route. Though it means you are going a more personal route, so could be uncomfortable
RuncibleSpoon: Tooling around DeviantArt kinda helps sometimes. Even if I can’t find something that’s exactly what I want, something may give ideas.
MattKinsi: On the picture front. I’ve also done the same with my setting in parts. Now my setting is in the real world, so thats a bit easier than fantasy land, but one scene takes place in a field of sunflowers. Which, sure, I can guess what it looks like, but I grabbed a picture so I can actually look at it while I’m describing it.
HolmesEnigma: I use this one sometimes.
RuncibleSpoon: Stock photography sites are halfway decent if you need an image of something to be able to describe it. You’d have to pay to buy the image, but to just look at the watermarked sample is usually enough.

quix: How do you make a well-rounded character? Especially a villain?
tiakall: The central thing I consider when making a character is motivation. They need to have something that gets them up and going. From my RP experience, I’ve found that I always have problems with characterization when they don’t have a strong motivation, but get awesome when they do. As for villains, one of my favorite themes to write is “good is not always good, evil is not always evil.” I love, love, love villains that are more than a fake laugh and lots of power.
MattKinsi: Well. My Villains are typically either society or themselves. So I can’t do much on the villian front. In general, with character development – no one’s completely interesting or completely perfect. I draw on a lot of folks I’ve met in the past for my characters. I sort of copy and paste the quirks of my friends and family into certain characters.
Loki: my villains are usually the foil to my MC, so they grow as the MC does just in opposite
Eodark: I’d recommend reading HPMOR if you haven’t. Best villian(s) I’ve ever seen.
tiakall: Motivation’s even more important with a villain – evil for evil’s sake is over done.
MattKinsi: The young writers program has some great free workbooks on their site. From what I remember, the HS one’s got some great character sheets.
Hype: Usually my villains have some kind of motivation that is counter to my main character, much like Tia said. I do draw a lot of inspiration for villains from Whedon though. So take that as you want.
MattKinsi: If you’re worried about your villain being well rounded – try writing a chapter or a scene from his/hers/its point of view.
RuncibleSpoon: I tend to model some of my villains after people I know IRL, simply because I know they’re flawed and not perfectly evil. That said, it’s a bit sociopathic, so it might not REALLY be the best idea.
flipstewart: do villains always need to be well rounded? we didn’t know vader’s motivation until… the prequels
tiakall: I think so. Even if we don’t know the motivation, your character is still going to act on it.
quix: I got another question related to that – I’ve heard that the best villains don’t think of themselves as evil, but they have strong desires that happen to be the opposite of the MC. Thoughts on that?
Eodark: Yeah, misguided positive sum or zero sum thinking.
Loki: I’ve got a villain who is actually just evil, and i think it works out cuz she’s also not human
MattKinsi: You don’t need to share everything, but its good to have who they are and why they are known to you, at least the basics. Let your audience wonder about it, no worries on that front, but as the writer it’s good to have at least a basic idea.
tiakall: Most people IRL don’t consider themselves evil. Except, you know, me.
RuncibleSpoon: I’m evil. But my characters usually aren’t evil so much as deluded into thinking they’re always right or that whatever cause they’re fighting for is the best.
tiakall: The most classic motivation for a villain, I tend to see, is power of some sort. Which is a pretty human motivation, really.
quix: Even the Death Eaters didn’t think of themselves as evil – they thought of themselves as making the world a better place for “real” wizards to live in
RuncibleSpoon: They also don’t always have to be opposite of the MC, IMHO. They can be like oil and water…both liquids and both useful, they just don’t mix
ridiculouscheck: The villain wants something and will do whatever it takes to get it. That “it” is the opposite of what the hero wants.

MattKinsi: So I’ve got a question. Non-real world settings. How do you make them original but still be somewhat believable?
Eodark: I would focus less on trying to make their style original, but the ways they interact with the characters/world different.
tiakall: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for making a fantasy setting.
Hype: I think it depends on what you’re going for, as far as non-real settings go
ridiculouscheck: There’s no such thing as originality, just creative recycling. πŸ˜›
RuncibleSpoon: For a fictitious world settting? It’s very situational, because certain types of worlds wouldn’t need to be totally believable or even remotely so.
tiakall: People will tend to fill in the blanks on their own if you’ve got enough of a fabric woven. For example, a lot of fantasy books are set in a sort of medieval time because it fills in a lot of blanks.
Loki: so long as your world feels real, it doesnt have to be overly original
Hype: Even in sci-fi and fantasy, main characters tend to stick towards the humanoid, so it branches from there
tiakall: Last year, I actually did a story in what I called “pseudo-Europe”, in which it was heavily implied that a lot of my locations were based on real-world settings during the Roman empire. I changed whatever I needed/wanted to, and left the rest to the imagination. I figure it’s more fun for the reader to pick out what they recognize than harp on what isn’t there.
Hype: I just read Seraphina, which is a dragon-centered fantasy but has all the trappings of Europe’s baroque period, because it centered so heavily on that musical and high court style of living
Eodark: If you are thinking of fantasy, consider starting trends that might life better for normal people. (Not just installing the hero as their new overlord.)

MattKinsi: So here’s another question – what happens if your plot runs out of steam around 25k words?
Loki: start a new one!
tiakall: Time for part 2! I’ve run short…three times during my Nanoing. I did a part 2 the first time (which turned out better than part 1), an epilogue, and the last I said “screw it” and wrote another long novel.
RuncibleSpoon: Think back (but DON’T edit, for the love of Baty) and find something that you can make a subplot out of
MattKinsi: I’m a fan of changing points of view / the characters in the limelight and seeing what develops
Loki: ive got nine novels to work on through nano so if one gets stale i can work with another
RuncibleSpoon: I’ve gone George RR Martin and picked a character out of a fishbowl and killed them off to see what developed. Sometimes the death of a character can have some serious ramifications

quix: I can’t seem to get my idea out of the conceptual phase. Would you recommend a technique for getting it past conceptual, doing my best until zero hour and seeing what happens,or rush to come up with a new idea?
quix: I actually have this problem a lot. I try to get a good understanding of the world and MC first.
tiakall: I typically go back to my planning method of mulling it over in my head. I have switched ideas in the 11th hour in the past.
Loki: when I’m having issues, i poke around my music for something that makes me think of the plot/setting/characters and listen to that over and over until something happens
tiakall: and although it’s a cardinal sin, I have switched ideas during Nano.
RuncibleSpoon: As a pantser, I heartily endorse waiting until zero hour and riding the wave of creative energy and see where it takes me – sometimes I’ll pull things out of my rear end that I would never have come up with if I planned it
MattKinsi: There was one year I decided on halloween night to try nano again, had it down to two ideas, and used our battlejesus bot to decide which plot at around 11pm on halloween night.
tiakall: Alternately, ask other writers.
quix: I generally try to think of the basic overview of the plot. Even if it’s just one scene. I have to have the first scene in my head before I can write.
MattKinsi: I want to second Loki’s idea about music. That’s helped me a lot with different scenes – using the right song for writing it.
Hype: I don’t think it’s a sin to switch ideas. If that keeps you writing, by all means
Loki: I’ll usually end up accidentally building a soundtrack to each novel in my head just from plotting
RuncibleSpoon: +1 to the music idea. Pandora has been my best friend with it, and I’m going to try Spotify this year
tiakall: It’s generally discouraged because you don’t want 10k on five different novels, you want 50k on one novel. Since I tend to vomit words during November, switching plots usually doesn’t cause me problems, but I don’t recommend it >>
Joyce_S: I wander through the adopt-a-plot threads on NaNo. Usually something will spark for me: a complication I hadn’t thought of.
Loki: battlejesus has a plot twist generator as well
Hype: I want every Panda to have 50k of something. If that’s 5 10k stories, that’s something to be proud of
Joyce_S: Incorporating the dares is useful, too.
MattKinsi: Sometimes the problem with conceptualizing it is that you’ve got the general idea in your head, but are a little worried about putting it down on paper because it won’t quite be perfect. Don’t expect it to be perfect as you start writing. Just get it down and something will develop and there will be some golden nuggets in the flotsam.
RuncibleSpoon: I’m notorious for skipping whatever parts of my plot i’m stuck on and going forward or backward to whatever’s flowing at the time
Joyce_S: One year, a dare was to have a ghost — it added a whole new dimension to my novel.
MattKinsi: We should be trying to put out a dare/prompt up on twitter each day of NaNo.
RuncibleSpoon: It makes it a total you-know-what in the months after, but if it keeps me writing, it’s good
tiakall: Yeah, I’ve attempted writing out of order…. doesn’t work that well for me. However, I think people should try it if they haven’t… everyone’s different.
quix: Adding to what Matt said about not having it be perfect – I almost always throw out my first draft.
quix: I have the idea in my head but can’t get it down on paper the right way. So I just write it as it comes to me, ignoring parts that don’t make sense. Then I read over the first draft, realize what I should have done, and write draft 2. That’s the draft that’s decent. πŸ™‚
RuncibleSpoon: I guess with the back-and-forth things, bear in mind I’m ADD and would have a monitor sailing out my bedroom window if I were forced to write something in order.
MattKinsi: You can also check out our regional adopt a day threads. Some of them might very well have a dare/prompt in ’em.
RuncibleSpoon: The back-and-forth thing also works a lot better if you have something like Scrivener where you can pen individual scenes
Hype: Matt and I try and cross-post dares to Facebook or post longer dares to Facebook as well MattKinsi: Going back to lift up something Hype said – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t. If you have to do 10k on one story and go into short story mode for the rest of the month, go for it. It’s called “rebelling” and its totally within the “rules” of nano.

quix: We have another question that ties into this whole discussion on plotting: What if you write your hero into a corner? That goes along with running out of steam, but in a different way.
Loki: It’s totally acceptable to kill the hero. Sometimes the bad guy wins
RuncibleSpoon: Not necessary, but if you’re finding yourself hesitating, Write or Die is wonderful….you write or it becomes EVIL
Hype: If you want to continue on with your story – Deus ex machina
Joyce_S: When I find that I’ve written myself into a corner, I just make a “do-over” note and start the scene again.
tiakall: You can fix the plotholes in revision!
RuncibleSpoon: Sometimes when you write one hero into a corner, another one can emerge by accident
Eodark: Consider asking friends/community for creative thinking out of the corner. Something that surprises you should also surprise your reader up to that point.
RuncibleSpoon: I’ve gone as far to write (I don’t know HOW, but I’m so %#@ sick of this character that they need to die here.)
MattKinsi: And you can come in here and ask in the chatroom πŸ˜€ We’re live during November (and the rest of the year) to help with the idea bouncing
Joyce_S: — never, ever delete —
tiakall: On a side note: You may get to 50k, finish the story, and discover that it’s completely unsalvageable. That’s okay too. They say the first million words is practice anyway.

MattKinsi: So we’ve hinted at this already, but in general, what are your writers block busters?
tiakall: Write or Die.
quix: Write or Die combined with a word war
RuncibleSpoon: Music. Caffeine. Write or Die.
Hype: Going for a walk, taking a shower, changing music
RuncibleSpoon: Alcohol if you can have it and don’t overdo it.
Cannikin: Scotch and cigars and coffee
RuncibleSpoon: Change of scenery – go write outside, go to a write-in, go write at a coffee shop
Loki: music, ‘earth’ incense, and the promise of swag if i write a bunch πŸ™‚
RuncibleSpoon: Promise of swag works – I promised myself the one year that I’d let myself buy a NaNo hoodie if I won
MattKinsi: For me – changing music, looking around in the forums for ideas, a word war in the chatroom, self bribery with baked goods, skipping ahead to a new scene

Eodark: How concerned should I be with realism in a systems that are too complex to predict? (Example: concequences of new technology on our current society?)
Loki: I wouldn’t worry too much. you can always answer questions that come up later. Get the plot down first, worry about details for 2.0
tiakall: As concerned as you want to be. Keep in mind you probably won’t actually work in all the things you think of.
MattKinsi: I’d just go with the flow and see what happens. During a revision you can tinker with the technology or make adjustments
Hype: I typically try to explain as much as I’m comfortable with, make a note that it needs research, and come back to it later

Joyce_S: Do any of you re-read what you write during November?
Hype raises hand
tiakall: I do, frequently.
quix: Joyce – just enough the next day to remember where I was.
Loki: i wait till December unless I’m switching back to something and need to refresh my memory
Joyce_S: If you re-read, do you allow yourself to edit? If yes, how much?
saielle: I don’t. if i do, then i want to go back and edit things
Loki: no. no edits. edits bad!
tiakall: I do minor editing sometimes if I see something I want to change, but I’m typically not inclined to do any major editing.
RuncibleSpoon: I re-read mine sometimes just to be able to laugh myself silly as I go “Dear Baty, am I even coherent anymore?!”
quix: I fix typos. That’s about it.
MattKinsi: I’m in the same camp at quix – to see where my train of thought was and if my notes didn’t make sense. I’ll sometimes go back to see how I explained something or to see i I did indeed explain something earlier
Hype: Unless I literally can’t move on without figuring out how things work
RuncibleSpoon: I never edit in November. EVER. Mainly because I’m a chronic rage-deleter. If I let myself even edit a typo, I’m prone to going “ZOMG THIS SUCKS!!” and deleting the whole file.
Hype: I edit minor things as I go
MattKinsi: As for editing – mostly just typos or unless I made a huge time/continuinity error some place and need to do a quick fix. Like if its raining in one scene, next scene sunny, then raining again.
tiakall: Mind, it’s typically useless for my minor editing, as it’s like putting duct tape on a bursting dam, but it usually adds words >>
Hype: If I feel like something needs major edits, I white out the passage (change the text to white) and rewrite it below
quix: If I write a sentence that doesn’t make sense and immediately think of a better one, I’ll delete and write the better one.
MattKinsi: One year I accidentally re introduced a dead character. When I realized I had to go back and make him undie real quick.
quix: I don’t go back and make changes, though. I just make a note to fix it later. πŸ™‚ That’s what all caps is for.
(7:21:32 PM) MattKinsi: Foreshadowing – there will be a challenge one day this year to write an entire day without using the backspace key. Stay tuned.
Joyce_S: Occasionally, I find myself writing the same sentence several times …. multiple times before it says what I … before it has the tone I’m looking for.
Hype: It definitely depends on how meticulous you want to be with your document. I really don’t like mine being out of order, or poorly formatted, etc. So a lot of the time, I format as I go and spend a good bit of time on keeping things neat. If I don’t, I won’t reread it come December
Loki: I do the bare minimum formatting. Sometimes even paragraph breaks don’t happen
MattKinsi: Joyce – what’d I’d say to that – although most of me would say just power through, there are times I’ve mulled for a long time on a particular sentence before moving on. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to focus on writing anything new. But I try to ignore that little nagging voice and power through
RuncibleSpoon: If I’m getting stuck, I do a day of “Flush the Format” aka, I don’t let myself do whatever formatting I did the day before, because it obviously messed me up
Hype: A lot of times, formatting gives me time to mull over where I am in my story. Format goes to crap if I know exactly where I’m going. And then when I’m stuck, I go back and fix formatting while I mull things over again. It keeps me within the story (and in writing mode) without making me feel like I’m not getting anywhere
MattKinsi: My formatting/typo corrections tend to be perfect the first two weeks then quickly go downhill.

Joyce_S: What are you guys thoughts on the importance of selecting character names?
Hype: Depends on how they fit the story
Loki: My characters have to have names. Which is why I use the same several πŸ™‚
quix: I try to have some meaning to mine, at least a little. Well, depending on the story.
tiakall: Oh, Joyce. I am having a hell of a time with names right now!
Hype: Right now only my two main characters have names I am stuck on
quix: One of my characters chose her own name and refuses to let me change it.
Joyce_S: I’ve got six characters so far and only the cat has a name. πŸ™
MattKinsi: There are some years I go through and look up the meanings behind the names and pick that way. Most of the time, however, they get named as they come up in the story
tiakall: Most of my characters have the same names they did in the original draft, most of which either come from other works I’ve done, or don’t fit the naming schemes of their world.
RuncibleSpoon: I’m a linguistics nerd, so I wind up obsessing over character names. I don’t plan them, but I usually scratch out a list of ideas during a meal break or in the waiting room at the dr’s office
Hype: At one point two years ago, I had quite a list of “shape shifter a,b,c,d…” with basic qualities for each. Because I just didn’t feel settled on names. And it took me out of my element to refer to them as something that didn’t feel like a good fit.
quix: I use a lot of name generators
tiakall: The new guy I haven’t named is “third guy” right now. And third guy could end up being a girl.
RuncibleSpoon: is your best friend
quix: One of my fantasy story guys was named Bob for a while because I couldn’t come up with a good name.
Loki: i use name generators for major minor characters (if that makes sense) but have a set four that fill my MC slots in every story
saielle: for a previous nano, i ended up giving characters random names for each line of speech until i found one that fit
tiakall: On a side note, rinkworks has the best fantasy name generator I’ve ever come across. Will generate names in a buttload of different styles.
RuncibleSpoon: I’m totally going to box myself into a corner this year because I need names I can rhyme, but beating my head against the keyboard is half the fun.
HolmesEnigma: I use the generators too and I have a notebook that I write lists of names in for future use.
ridiculouscheck: When I can’t think of anything I just take the names of people I know and shift them slightly. Melissa becomes Alyssa, Jim becomes Tim. Whether or not it stays that way after first draft is subject to debate, but it works when I need a name
Cannikin: I used all the good names I had on other stories so I’m just using mostly random names.
tiakall: and if I need a totally implausible name/made up word, I usually use the name of the current word war πŸ™‚
quix: I, too, have a list of names with me all the time. I take school pictures, so sometimes I just sit down with the name cards and write down interesting names. πŸ™‚
Loki: in the spirit of tia’s comment: battlejesus has a word generator command that can be great for making up nonsense
Joyce_S: Last year, a lot of my characters adopted names from you guys, modified slightly.
Loki: I use the chat for coming up with aliases for one of my novels.
Hype: Relevant: we’ll be having a write in at Oakland Cemetery on Saturdays this year. Cemeteries = great place for names
RuncibleSpoon: Depending on how strange or unusual you need names to be, some of the Native American languages have some VERY unusual patterns to their words and spellings and phonetics and it makes them feel very exotic
Ben_Madison: Last year’s novel had a minor but recurring character whose name I didn’t easily remember, so he had two or three names. I’m wondering if I should have a list of who’s who while or before writing my novel.
MattKinsi: I keep a list like that ben
Hype: If I get in a place where I have a lot of characters to deal with in one scene, I start with a list of who’s there. Otherwise, I can typically keep track of the 3-4 folks in the main group
RuncibleSpoon: If you’re handcramping it, color coding the pages to what characters are there works too.

quix: Question: Do you think about balancing genders or race during your story?
tiakall: I actually think about the gender thing a lot, since I have some inexplicable recurring urge to write sausage parties. :/
Loki: on the new question: i usually let gender decide itself and ignore race unless it matters
Hype: I don’t usually, unless I notice that it’s unbalanced. However, last year I did try to write an entirely gender neutral story. I got about 25k in before I abandoned it because it wasn’t actually doing anything useful and I was just making everything a stupid trope.
RuncibleSpoon: I never think about balancing those, just because the imbalances itself can have their own ramifications that I may never have thought of if I didn’t let them happen
tiakall: I actually switched one of the genders of a big supporting character because I noticed all my world leaders were male :/
quix: I sometimes think of gender, though I usually don’t care about it.
MattKinsi: that’s on my mind this year. I’ve done some work on it, but not good enough yet
quix: I write a lot of YA, so my stories are usually more female-centered. I always feel weird mentioning race when I write. I usually don’t describe characters much at all, actually.
tiakall: quix: An overload of females typically isn’t a problem though. Well, at least not in terms of societal sexism. It may not be as marketable >>
Hype: I mention it if it’s relevant
quix: Most of my novels would be geared more towards young girls anyway πŸ™‚
tiakall: Since I write fantasy, I usually don’t have a problem mixing my races. I am however uncomfortable with writing most real-world cultures that aren’t my own. Like, I can write a Chinese or Japanese character with a fair amount of confidence because I’ve studied them for years, but I wouldn’t write an African-American character.
quix: Same here.
Hype: Interestingly, I don’t mind writing males
Cannikin: I’m noticing now that my story has a distinctive lack of men in it because my life currently has the same lack of men.
tiakall: Hype: I write a ton of males.

quix: how do you find time to write every day? do you just block of a time in your schedule or what?
quix: Personally, I try to attend a lot of write-ins.
tiakall: Agree. They keep me writing without distractions.
Loki: I use dropbox and my ipod to write whenever I have free time. And write ins.
quix: I always feel worse about getting distracted when I’m out of the house.
Joyce_S: Write-ins, either in person or on-line. That way I can participant in word wars.
quix: I also try to write whenever I have free time. Yes, online! Even if you can’t make it to a write-in, hop on the chat! Start a word war. Join a word war.
Hype: I use google docs, so my novel (since I have a smartphone) is literally always on me. I typically eat lunch at my desk at work, so change that habit slightly and write during my lunch rather than surf the internet
Loki: There’s always someone on the chat, and that someone will always war with you
MattKinsi: I write better at night. I’ll try to write some before I go to work, but do most of my writing after work through word wars in the chatroom. And I of course hit up as many write ins as I can get to.
Ben_Madison: When I write I’m usually in this chat, whether at a write-in or at home.
flipstewart: i wake up early to write every day… after a while you get so that you don’t feel right about waking up without writing
MattKinsi: I’ll try to spend at least 15 minutes writing in one sitting – if it’s less than that I really can’t get in to it.
RuncibleSpoon: I write whenever I can…I wind up with a backache in November because I’ll carry my lappy everywhere and try to steal time wherever I can
tiakall: A tip I picked up at Macon: If there’s a day when you just cannot squeeze out even a little time to write… take the time to open your novel document. It helps keep you in the groove and the mindset even if you can’t write.
quix: Yeah, I like writing in at least 15 minute chunks. I never close my novel πŸ™‚ I try to always write at least a little every day. It helps you from getting too far behind. I know for me that once I get too far behind, I’m likely to just stop because I don’t think I can catch back up.
tiakall: And missing one day can really throw off your groove.
quix: Along those same lines, though, if you do fall behind, don’t think you have to make it all up at once.
RuncibleSpoon: Yeah, I definitely try to do a little every day, and if I can get a big head start I feel better, because at least then I have a cushion if the depression hits or I get busy
quix: You can write 3333 the next day or 1700 over the next ten days or something like that
WritergalMB: I usually wake up early to write on my laptop, but I’m on the road a lot. I keep a notebook and my scrivener doc open at all times and just go back and forth depending on where I am.
Joyce_S: I try to build a good cushion the first weekend, to handle the days that just don’t work out word-count-wise.
flipstewart: i find that 5am haze when the coffee and nicotine patch haven’t quite kicked in yet to be very conducive to writing…
quix: But I agree with Joyce – it’s good to get ahead if you can.
Ben_Madison: I got behind as the weeks wore on last year, and infamously wrote 9700 in the last 12 hours. This is not necessarily recommended.
quix: If you hit 1667 and still feel like writing, write!
HolmesEnigma: I fell too far behind last year to catch up, so I had to stop and let it go…

MattKinsi: Actually, if we’re all done with questions, a few announcements for folks:
a) The Adopt a Newbie program is in full swing. New to NaNo? Request a Mentor. Madame Quix here is our Orphanage Director and has been matching folks left and right.
quix: Yup – if you have signed up as a Newbie, you have been assigned a mentor. Mentors – you may or may not have gotten a newbie yet. Expect more matches as people sign up.
Hype: A note about Adopt a Newbie – if it’s not your first NaNo but you’d still like a mentor, please feel free to apply for one! Some folks just need a little one on one encouragement πŸ™‚
quix: Also, if you’ve done NaNo before but haven’t won but still want to be a mentor, you can do that, as well. Just because you haven’t hit 50k yet doesn’t mean you haven’t learned a lot.
MattKinsi: b) Adopt a Day! This is one our most favorite programs each year. You adopt a day, write a mini peptalk, throw in a dare, and challenge the region to a day long word war. Whoever writes the most words that day? You make a 10 dollar donation in their honor. We’ve still got days left to be adopted – check it out on the forum. And check out the forum during the month to see the daily challenges!
c) KICKOFFS! One week from today we’ll be nearing the end of our kick off weekend at the Varsity. Please RSVP for those kick offs – only the first 72 rsvps are guarenteed a goodie bag. And they’re awesome this year. We’ll have fun game, get to know each other, and help pimp each others’ plots. Details on the forum thread.
d) Write ins! WoohoO! One thing we’re widely known for across the globe (no joke) as a region is the insane amount of write ins we have every year. Get one planned in your local neighborhood/suburb. Check out those neighborhood threads in the forum, pick a day of the week, a time, and a location. My first year doing nano I lasted a day and quit. The 2nd year I got involved with the community aspect, went to a write i
Hype: We’ll also have raffle tickets and other items for sale at the kickoffs (like buttons!), so bring cash if you are wanting to get in on those
tiakall: e) Make Tia Miserable still needs donations/signups! Want to decide what I write? Go here: and set me up with a character, a plot, or eliminate my available genres. Otherwise I’ll have to use that public Google Doc for bad fanfiction!
MattKinsi: f) The Evening of Writing Wildly is back for year two! Its our annual fundraising evening and massive write in. Seriously. You dont want to miss it. 11/11 from 5-10 at Oglethorpe. more info a comin’. But we’re going to have all kinds of goodies there for sale – from books to more. Seriously. It’s going to be amazing and it’ll raise money for nano. We’ll be hyping this up more in the coming week or two
MattKinsi: and g) The night of Oct. 31st starting around 10, ok, whenever you want to, we’ll be having a virtual countdown party and midnight write in. Come on in, eat a ton of candy, drink caffiene, and write with us starting at midnight.
Hype: ARTC! The last two shows are next weekend, please come support! 25% of ticket sales go directly to NaNo. And you get a free kickoff party with it. How fancy πŸ˜‰
MattKinsi: Remember that we MLs are here to help. Don’t hesitate to message one of us if you’ve got an issue that’s come up you, you’re worried you’re about to quit, etc. We’re here to help.

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