November is National Novel Writing Month. Each year thousands of writers around the world, both published and unpublished, sign up for what’s dubbed the NaNoWriMo Challenge: drafting at least 50,000 words of their novel in "30 days and nights of literary abandon." Quite a feat, but surprisingly doable.
Those writers most successful in meeting the challenge start out with a strong concept, a defined cast of characters, interesting plot and setting, and possibly more. Whether you take up the challenge or just want a solid base to begin or continue a novel at your own pace, this seminar provides the tools and guidance you need to whisk you from simply having an inspiration to mapping out an effective strategy to produce that book-length work of fiction. An online group will be formed to allow you to keep in touch with the instructor and other participants as you continue work on your novel.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Concept
What’s the basic idea behind your novel? Investigate sources of inspiration (perhaps the Smithsonian’s collections?), ways to construct a story and make it uniquely yours, and how to make the important choices of genre, audience, message, and tone.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Whose Story Is This?
A compelling central character is critical. Who is he or she, and how does a writer make that person worth following through an entire novel? How many supporting characters are enough—or too many? Point of view, voice, and motivation are other important character-building considerations to be discussed.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own lunch)
1:15–2:30 p.m. Conflict and Plot
Without conflict, there’s no story. As a critical element of all fiction, conflict provides the structure for the plot, builds tension, and keeps readers turning pages. You’ll learn about pacing and how to connect emotionally with a reader.
2:45–4 p.m. Moving Forward and Working to Completion
Writing a novel is a balancing act: Narrative, dialogue, and action must blend effectively. Get insights into how to manage this. This session also covers the discipline needed for daily writing (both as part of the 30-day challenge or independently); how to make time for your art; combatting writer's block; sources of creative support; and ways to keep the process fun and stay connected with other writers.
The daylong program is led by Kathryn Johnson, who teaches at The Writer's Center in Bethesda and is the author of more than 40 published novels. Bring pad and pen or a fully charged laptop.