Monday, June 20, 2011

More on Writing

Writing Fiction For Dummies
Excellent Fiction Curriculum

I've actually come across the National Novel Writers Month  ("NaNoWriMo") and decided to participate both this summer, if possible ("Camp NaNo") and in November when the "official" NaNoWriMo kicks off.  For adults, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  You are allowed to do pre-writing tasks before the event, in fact it's encouraged (and helps you write a quicker, much more cohesive project).  There are no prizes, although winners might get special offers from sponsors.

They have NaNoWriMo YWP (young writer's program) where you (the instructor or parent) helps a child set a word-count goal that's within reason but still a stretch for them, and they can also set off and write along side you (if you participate).
 There are "curriculum guides" -- under "Resources for Educators"-- and workbooks for the children to print out and use for pre-writing.  I plan to use this as Sept-Oct curriculum with my son because I think my whole family may be participating in either Camp NaNo this summer or NaNoWriMo.  I've decided my son's goal should be a 25,000 word novella, and I don't think my daughter has decided whether to participate as an adult or as a student yet -- at 16, that's a choice I think she's ready to make on her own.

This weekend I went out on a limb and purchased the Kindle version of Writing Fiction For Dummies -- and I'm wildly impressed.  I'm going to write a more thorough review on, but Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy really really outdid themselves on this one, and it's a real bargain.  I discovered Ingermanson through mentions on writers websites of the very popular writing technique called "The Snowflake Method" which he created as a method of writing non-fiction, research reports, etc.  I decided to look at his For Dummies work, and when I saw the reviews and the Kindle price, I figured it was worth a look.

Like most "For Dummies" books, it's very well laid out, the language is clear and relatively concise, but it's the level of detail in this book that's most fascinating for me.  If you can string together a few paragraphs, know how to construct sentences, and have even the vaguest glimmer of desire to write a book, this is a terrific guide.  I recommend using it after using the NaNoWriMo youth-program workbook at least once, whether you're an adult or a teen, because it might be overwhelming if you've never analyzed a fiction story before from the writing perspective.  While we all analyzed books in school for content, theme, meaning, plot, style, etc. there's a difference in analyzing a book and analyzing a writer's style to determine what you wish to emulate in your own.

From there, Writing Fiction for Dummies gives a very detailed high-level overview of the components of story writing, zooms in on each level down to the paragraph overview of how to construct your story, then also goes on to describe how, as a general rule, to get your book published.  Phew!  Note this is a very top-down oriented book, much like his Snowflake Method.  If you're one of those people who prefers to write first, think later, this may be less helpful immediately, and more helpful during revisions and editing, writing a proposal, seeking publishing -- i.e. when you're looking at the big picture view.

In either case, if you or anyone you know has a yen to pen -- gift this book.  It's a hit.

I use an application called Scrivener for almost all my creative writing efforts now including serial blogging.  There are templates for fiction, screenplay, lecture, etc. in the program, with some setting & character development forms.  I'd already started making my own templates, but now I'm adding tons of information and cheatsheets to my fiction template, most directly inspired by Writing Fiction For Dummies, and several other articles I've found online.  The application is amazing for writing and organizing your information.  On Windows?  Either you can wait for Scrivener for Windows (forthcoming, there may be a public beta) or you can get Ingermanson's Snowflake Pro software, which looks awesome and is discounted 50% (i.e. it's $50) if you purchase Writing Fiction For Dummies which I really think you should -- whether you get his software or not.  His software looks awesome, I'm hooked on Scrivener and just recently purchased it, so I'm not looking for another writing software package.

(And while I get a small commission if you purchase a book I recommend or mention through Amazon, I get nothing for Scrivener or Snowflake Pro -- I just want everyone to know about great software when I find it!)

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