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Prepping for National Novel Writing Month

Updated: Jan 18

Last weekend (October 5th) The Quill & Pint held a workshop at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library on how to prepare for National Novel Writing Month. If you missed the meeting, never fear! Here is an overview of what we discussed, along with a writeup of an in-meeting exercise to quickly sketch out a story.

This gallery contains the individual, chronological slides from the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied our discussion. Click on them/cycle through them to get an idea of what we talked about in a little more detail.

The 'Story Time' slide led to an exercise in which we created a story together. We posed questions to the group, and the group tapped their natural creativity to answer them. Each successive question either built on the last or filled in a new angle. It took a few unexpected turns – and that was perfect!

It's a bit difficult to recreate that live-discussion banter in a blog post, but we've got Columbo on the case. For this post, the detective breaks it into three Q&A sections that you can ask yourself to get a story started.

It's meant to start simple: keep overthinking to a minimum. Let the details present themselves. Also, while this was done as a group exercise to show how it can be done, these questions are totally subjective based on the frame of reference of the writer. These are designed to emphasize your voice.

Part One:

  • Young or old?

  • Female or male?

  • Contemporary story or not?

  • What country do they live in?

  • What do they want?

Part Two:

  • How old are they, specifically?

  • How do they identify?

  • Contemporary: undated "now" or recent history?

  • What part of [that] country? Region, state/province, city.

  • What do they do? (Job or study or... unemployed?

  • That thing they want: what's stopping them?

Part Three:

  • Is a Significant Other in their life?

  • Is a parent or parents in their life?

  • Is a child or children in their life?

  • That city they live in: good neighborhood or bad?

  • That job they do: is it their only job or do they have a second (or a third)?

  • Do they have insurance? Are they healthy? Is their family healthy?

  • If they lost a parent or S.O., was it recent? Was it long and agonizing or tragically sudden?

  • On that note: be wary of going whale-watching with this group...

  • That thing they want: what are they doing to overcome what's stopping them?

  • Will this end like a depressing Russian novel, a Disney adaptation or somewhere in between?

This alone will help create the foundation for a self-contained story. Write down new questions as they occur to you, then answer those questions.

Once you've got something, you can always go back and change it later.

Good luck!

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