NaNoWriMo: Improve as a writer with some of Christopher’s best tips, tricks, and advice

nanowrimo-writing-adviceWhether hard at work on your NaNoWriMo project or always looking to grow as a writer, we’ve got another article to help inspire you! Christopher Paolini has shared a great deal of what he’s learned while growing as an author over the past two decades. We combed through many of his interviews, essays, and articles to find what we feel are some of the best nuggets of wisdom for those working to become authors themselves!

Christopher’s advice ranges from plotting and revising, to researching and editing. If you’re in search of even more detailed goodies, head on over to Christopher’s official website, where he has an entire “Writers Corner” dedicated to advice, guides, and more.

Read lots and lots of books!

“Read a lot. But don’t just read for enjoyment; take a book you know is well-written and study how the author constructs the sentences and paragraphs. Also examine how he or she gets readers emotionally involved—whether through use of an engaging style, the characters’ situations, or a combination thereof.”

Full article:Christopher’s writing tips

Learn how to plot your story

“Learn how to plot a story. Things have to actually happen in a book. In order to make sense, events are usually arranged in a linear manner that builds from the least to the most important. I recommend Robert McKee’s book Story—though intended for screenwriters, it covers the basics of how to structure a great story.”

Full article:Christopher’s writing tips

How to add details

“To help you fill in the details of the world you are creating, imagine that your characters inhabit a real world. Daydream what it would be like to be there. What would your characters eat, what would they talk about, where would they get their supplies, etc. Keep asking the question, “What happens next?” Show your characters actions and write down their thoughts.”

Full article:Thoughts on the odds and ends of writing

Consider the possibilities

“Could a knight in full armor climb a tree? Although possible, it’s improbable, given the weight of the knight’s armor and the degree to which it might restrict his movement. Readers will often accept without qualm large impossibilities, and then just as often stumble over small impossibilities. Tell someone that dragons exist in your world, and they’ll go, “Oh, okay. Dragons, great, gotcha. When do we see them breathing fire and being generally awesome?”

Whereas if you tell them that a pot of tea will boil in under ten seconds or that a horse’s tack is buttoned (and not buckled) or that a high-school senior would be attending football practice a week before the prom, you’re likely to jar readers out of their suspension of disbelief and make them say, “Hmm, I don’t think so.”

Be open with your readers about the impossibilities you’ve chosen, and then, no matter how fantastical your story might be, make the details elsewhere as realistic as possible. Your readers will thank you for it. Common sense and an appropriate amount of research goes a long way toward helping in this regard, as does having educated friends or family members who can look at your work and tell you when (or if) you’ve gotten something wrong.”

Full article:Thoughts on the odds and ends of writing

Twists make a story interesting

“So what’s the secret? I believe it comes down to what I think of as a twist. A twist isn’t necessarily a surprise or a cheap thrill. Instead, it’s a change of direction—sometimes big, sometimes small—that captures the reader’s attention. Humans are pattern-seeking animals, which means that we’re on the constant lookout for new information, information that expands or redefines the patterns of knowledge we’ve constructed in our minds. Provide us with a nugget of info that we weren’t previously aware of, and you satisfy a primal part of our nature. Especially if the info gives us a new perspective on what we already knew. Of a necessity, then, said information has to be relevant to the story. Random details or descriptions won’t cut it.

The concept of a twist can apply to every level of a story. On the macro level, it means that the author ought to seek to push the story in new directions, both as a way of advancing the protagonist’s journey and as a way of commenting on what has gone before. One famous example: Luke learns that he’s Darth Vader’s son.

On the micro level, it seems to me that a writer ought to strive to give each chapter, paragraph, and yes, each sentence a twist. Contrast between parts is much of what drives interest, although again, the parts must relate to one another or you’ll lose your reader in a sea of unconnected details: Bob says, “I love you.” And then Carol says, “ That’s what you think.” Great! Now we’re interested. But only if the proceeding (or following) sentences, paragraphs, and chapters support this moment and are filled with similarly intriguing moments. Or in other words, with more twists.”

Full article:Christopher on story

Find an editor

“But I don’t know an editor,” you might say. Well, you don’t need a professional editor to start with, but it is useful to find someone to point out obvious errors and help you strengthen your writing skills. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Ask your local librarian to introduce you to an English teacher, journalist, or professional writer who might be willing to review your work and give advice. Also, see if there is a local writers group in your area.

Full article: Talita Paolini’s “Tips to becoming a better writer

Dealing with writer’s block and procrastination

Try to eliminate distractions, and set times when you do nothing but write. Ultimately, it is force of will and love of the story that will pull you through. Without determination and courage, time will roll by and you will have accomplished nothing. It takes hard work to write a book. Also, I’ve found that taking a walk and talking or thinking about various solutions is a great way to untangle problems.

Full article:Getting past writer’s block

Don’t be afraid to edit!

“Don’t be afraid to edit heavily! No one gets things right the first time. Ask an author, English teacher, or other knowledgable person to read and edit your manuscript. Because he or she is not emotionally tied to the book, they will be able to point out ways to improve your work. Don’t take the comments personally, but try to learn from them.”

Full article:Christopher’s writing tips

Be persistent!

“Persistence. This is the hardest point to master. Writing consistently is the best way to improve. Write, write, write until the words no longer seem jarring, until you have confidence in dealing with various parts of the craft—dialogue, description, action, grammar—and until you can achieve whatever effect or emotion you want. ”

Full article:Christopher’s writing tips

Did you find any of Christopher’s writing advice helpful? How’s your novel coming? Are you set to hit the 50,000 NaNoWriMo goal by November 30th? Let us know in the comments!

  • Morgoth of Thardszvul

    I will not be able to write my story this year to busy.
    Rats

  • I’ve never been a creative writer, but I will say that a lot of Christopher’s advice helped me when writing for Paolini.net, and by extension, Shur’tugal and my other projects! It’s fun to see these tips laid out like this, and I really enjoyed digging through the goodies on Paolini.net to find what I think are some core pieces of advice for people tackling NaNoWriMo.

    Write on, friends!