Most of our class time during NaNoWriMo is spent in silence (except for the tap-tap-tapping of the laptop keys), as my students need a quiet environment to focus on their writing. Many of them use earbuds to listen to music while they write, but they know that the room needs to be quiet so we all can concentrate.
But we have also learned that talking about what we are writing helps us get clear on our story while also giving us ideas for our next chapter. So we schedule in times to share aloud with one another. One of our favorite ways to do that is with a whip, which is simply a whip around the room, with each writer sharing just a sentence or two about their novel-in-progress. First I have students write a quick response to a certain whip topic, and then we move our chairs into one huge circle so we can all see and hear each other.
Here are some whips we have enjoyed:
- Synopsis: Tell us about your main character and his/her status quo, the inciting incident that launches the story, and how the character reacts: My main character, _______________________, is ________________________ until ______________________ so then ________________________.
- Tell us about your main character’s big dreams/goals and what is getting in the way of him/her achieving them: My protagonist, ______________________, wants ____________ more than anything, but __________________________ so _____________________________.
- Status of the story: Tell us what just happened in your story, what will happen next, and what your “long game” is.
- What is one secret in your story? What is it that a character does not want anyone to find out?
- How has (or will) your character change throughout the story? In the beginning, my protagonist was ___________________________________, but in the end, he/she will be ________________________________ because ______________________________.
- What has surprised you in your story? What is one plot idea that came to you that is changing the original direction of your story?
The best part about doing a whip at the start of class is that students go into writing time with some specific ideas about what they will write today. But whips work any time – in fact, if your writers are having a hard time concentrating during writing time, that’s also a good time to break up the silence with a quick whip.
So tell me – what’s happening in YOUR novel?
[Get more tips and tricks for using NaNoWriMo in the classroom from my NaNoTeacher website.]