Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

A Few NaNoWriMo Tips

Less than a week to go, people! Are you ready?

I’m not. I mean, my project is almost planned, but not quite. And with everything else on my plate, it’s going to be a challenge to get those words in. But that’s how the event goes, right? Late nights, frenzied bursts of creativity, a few tears along the way.

We’re masochists, but it works for us.

I’ve been thinking about my strategy for National Novel Writing Month and thought I’d share a few of the tips/strategies that work well for me. Some of this might work for you, some of it might not, your mileage may vary, etc. Please don’t take this as a set of rules. What works for me might not work for you. It’s just some ideas to consider.

Feel free to add your best tips or questions in the comments below! We can all help each other that way.

  • Know your why. Two whys, actually. First: Why are you writing and why is it important to you to finish the event? Knowing this will keep you going when you’re on day 23, behind on your word count, and tempted to throw in the towel. Figure out now whether it’s worth it to you to do this crazy thing, how much of a priority it is for you, and how you’re going to get it done. Second: Why this story? If you know what it is you want to communicate or what experience you want to deliver to readers, you’re less likely to wander badly off course and write yourself into a dead-end alley. And knowing what you want to offer to the world is another fine motivator. (Note: I’ve learned that for me, internal motivation is way more rewarding than external. But that’s a whole other post.)
  • Plan. I know, some people are hardcore pantsers and like to start on November 1 without a plan. That’s great for them! For me, having a solid plan for the story allows me to write it a lot faster. I prefer not to pursue tangents that don’t add to the story (and worse, that I’ll have to cut in revisions if I want a story with strong pacing*). Even if you just know where you want the story to go, what your character wants, and a couple of key obstacles along the way, you’ll probably save yourself some rewrites.
  • That said, don’t be afraid to change your plan or take chances. No one else has to see this draft. Go crazy. Make it amazing. Take some chances, learn some lessons and grow as a writer.
  • Get to know your characters. For me, this is far more critical than knowing the details of my plot. Let them be fully-formed, let their decisions affect the course of the story, and make them real. Readers can tell if characters are just puppets doing what the author wants, and will notice if they’re making decisions that are out of character just to serve the plot/they’re just being jerked around by external circumstances and not actually driving the story. They need to act and react in consistent ways, and they need to have an impact on their world. Knowing who they are before you start writing will make it easier to know what actions make sense for them and what obstacles will be the most interesting.**
  • Don’t sweat the details on the first draft. We’d all like to have gorgeous prose, snappy dialogue, killer descriptions, and OMG YES metaphors in the first draft, but worrying about getting it all perfect now will slow you down. Do what you can and leave the rest for revisions. (This applies to non-NaNo drafting, too. You could spend a week writing the perfect scene in draft one and then realize in draft two that you need to cut it. Proceed as you see fit, of course. This was a hard-won lesson for little ol’ perfectionist me, so I like to share it. Speaking of which…)
  • Remember that revisions will be necessary no matter how careful you are now. And don’t mourn that. Celebrate it. Nothing you write this November is final. You can repair plot holes, sharpen dialogue, streamline action scenes, and make that sex scene less cheesy later. It’s a god-like superpower. Focus on how amazing the end result will be instead of mourning the fact you’ll have to make changes.***
  • Make revision notes as you go rather than going back and fixing stuff right away. Recording those insights means you won’t forget them. I usually write them down and then proceed with the draft as though I’ve already made the changes. This makes for really disjointed first drafts, but means I can see the effects of those changes right away AND I don’t drain momentum by getting bogged down in early chapters. Besides, no one but me is going to see my first draft. It’s okay if the seams show. For now.
  • Know when you’re going to do this. If you don’t usually plan your days, now wouldn’t be a bad time to start. You’ll need to average 1667 words per day. That’s not a lot by some standards, but it’s not a number most of us can dash off on the bus during a short commute, either. You probably need to decide ahead of time when you’re going to do it. Lunch break? After the kids/parents/dogs/housemates are in bed? Wake up two hours early every weekday? Cram it all in on your days off? In my experience, not planning means it doesn’t get done. I get to the end of the day and I’m too tired. I say I’ll do it tomorrow. And then it piles up. I’m getting up early to do my drafting this year so I’ll know it’s done even if everything goes haywire later in the day. Consider what will work best for you.
  • Remember that this is supposed to be fun. NaNoWriMo is a little taste of what it’s like to be an author. 1667 words a day feels like a lot at first, but it’s not even the minimum for most professional authors I’ve seen share their daily drafting goals. You can handle this. It will get stressful, and you will be tempted to quit. Once the initial thrill burns off, it’s easy to get bogged down in the more aversive aspects of this task: it’s challenging, there’s not usually any immediate feedback, it’s often solitary, and there may never be any financial payoff, accolades, or other external rewards. But the first draft can also be wonderful if you approach it with the right mindset. This is the only first time you get with this story, the only time when it’s really new. It’s where you can experiment. And if you’re writing a story you love, it’s a wonderful adventure (even if there are dangers lurking in the shadows). Look at this month as a fun challenge and not a pass/fail scenario. Focus on what you’re learning rather than whether your work is perfect. Aim for a growth mindset, throw in as much of what you love in books as you can, and stop to pat yourself on the back whenever possible.
  • Play your cards close to your chest. This is another big “YMMV” tip, but it’s important for me. Nobody sees my first drafts, and I don’t even talk a lot about the story until I’m ready to share it with trusted readers. I like to keep my options open, not feel like anyone is reading over my shoulder, and not have to worry about anyone’s opinions except my own while I’m elbow deep in creating my beautiful monster. I don’t like other people’s fingers in my pie (and I’m very possessive of my vision for the story early on). Talking too much about the details ahead of time drains the magic for me, and other people’s opinions on unformed ideas feel like poison. Basically, I don’t want to be tempted to second-guess myself. Some people like to post chapter by chapter and write by committee… that sounds like an absolute nightmare to me. There’s plenty of time for me to accept critique after I have a solid idea of what I want the story to be. Again, know what you want from this experience and move forward accordingly. Neither way is right or wrong. This is just my personal experience that might be helpful to consider, especially if you might be tempted to give up or start over if someone hates chapter one.

Those are the big ones I’ve got for tonight. How about you?

 


*Tangents, plot bunnies, and random ninjas are a big part of NaNoWriMo for a lot of people who are doing this for the experience, for fun, etc. You’ll see tips telling you to explore great-aunt Beatrice’s failed marriage if it gets you another 10K words on your story, even if it has nothing to do with the legal thriller you’re actually writing (or to squeeze 2,000 words out of describing your hero’s kitchen in astounding detail). And that’s amazing if that’s how you want to approach it or if you’re really stumped and need to get your daily words in while you’re considering what comes next. I’m speaking as an author who has a lot on my plate and can’t afford to lose that time. This goes back to knowing your why. Are you writing because you’d eventually like to publish and earn an income, or is this an amazing adventure for you and whatever friends want to read it?Both are great whys, and neither is right or better than the other in the context of this event. But they could lead you to different approaches to the process, and knowing what you want to get out of this could save some frustration.

**Yes, real means flawed. And being adorably clumsy or sexy-but-not-realizing-it are not generally interesting flaws. Dig deep. Scare yourself. Have fun.

***If I end up with a first draft that doesn’t need revisions, I question whether I took the easy road instead of the best one. Digging deeper is hard, but it’s always worth it for me.

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First Draft Hell

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time, and oodles of writers all over the world are in a special kind of first draft hell. As we approach the midpoints of our stories, plotters and pantsers alike might be feeling tempted to throw in the towel.

So that’s what this week’s video is about. A look at the things I tend to struggle with as I fight my way through first drafts (and it usually is a fight–none of this comes easy to me) and how I try to change my perspective so I’ll keep fighting.

Enjoy!


NaNoWriMo Prep… or not.

Raise your hand if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year.

Okay, this being the internet (and me not being a creepy webcam-stalker) means that I can’t see you. So I guess commenting would be more appropriate there.*

Yes, it's going to be one of those posts.

Yes, it’s going to be one of those posts.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, NaNoWriMo is an annual event during which writers all over the world (yes, even Antarctica one year) attempt to write 50,000+ words of a novel in one month. This equals 1667 words per day, assuming a steady pace and no days off. You can write the 50,000 in the first week and nothing the rest of the month if you want to. Or leave it all to the last minute, which is… it’s generally not a good plan. Trust me.

I’ve participated every year since 2010, when a (very) rough draft of the then-untitled Bound was my project. And then I lost almost all of it in a software-related mishap, but that’s another story. Since then I’ve won a few, “lost” one (though I don’t think anyone loses as long as you get some words down), and participated in several Camp NaNo sessions. I drafted Torn in 2012 and thoroughly revised it in 2013. It was much better the second time around.

Okay, technically revisions are not allowed by NaNo rules. But I did change/add 50,000 words, so I counted it.

And it looks like this year I might just be a NaNo rebel again. Or maybe not.

See, if all goes well, I’m going to have the first draft of my current project finished by November 1 or shortly thereafter. Even though I blasted past 50,000 words in a private NaNo in October, I can’t count any of those words for the event. So I can’t use that project.

I need to do another editing pass on Torn before it goes to my editor in December. I need to make a few plot and character adjustments to better lead into book 3, plant a few ideas in there to bloom later (being a time traveller is fun!), do a sweep for over-used words and other issues that are going to make editing more expensive. I have to start that ASAP.

And I can’t count it.

During Camp NaNoWriMo, one hour of editing = 1000 words on the progress bar. Not so in November. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think I can take my cheating that far.

This makes it a little difficult to join in on the NaNo prep excitement. I miss it.

So Here’s What I’m Going to Do:

  • I’m going to bust my ass to get Torn finished quickly. I’m going to work every hour I’m at home without the kids. I’ll use NaNo word sprint events and Facebook write-ins to keep me focused, I will get organized before I start, and hopefully I’ll get it done in a week or two.
  • And then I’m going to start something for NaNoWriMo. It’ll be a late start, as I can’t have my attention divided when I’m editing as many people can.** I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I might go back to my as-yet-unpublished vampires***, because I’ve had a lot of fun with that. I might buckle down and flesh out the plot for that gempunk thing I started for a flash fiction challenge. Maybe, if I just want to relax and play with something that will never see the light of day, I’ll get to that erotic ghost story. Why not have fun? I’ve been busting my ass to get the Bound trilogy done. I can’t stop writing, but maybe I can just play for a few weeks.
  • As for pulling off a win… it’s probably not going to happen this year. I have to make editing the priority, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be right in there. I’ll be participating in groups and forums if I find time, cheering my writing buddies on, neglecting the housework. I wish I could say I’ll go to write-ins, but we don’t get those out here.
  • But darn it, I’m going to have fun.

And then after that it’ll be just chilling and relaxing and…

*accepts note from disembodied hand*

Wait, no. After that it’ll be biting my nails while Torn is with my editor, then surviving enjoying Christmas, then the stress and pressure to get the edits done so that I can get it out to second-round readers and get proofreading done and formatting and figuring out promotional stuff and planning a party and uploading for pre-order–

Deep breaths.

So November should be a cakewalk compared to January and February is what I’m really saying.

It’s a good thing I like my readers. 🙂

For more on my experiences with NaNoWriMo and why it’s the only reason I ever wrote more than three chapters of a novel, see this post. I talk a lot about perfectionism there… we’ll have to revisit the topic some time.

If you’re participating, drop your username in the comments or just go ahead and add me as a buddy.

If not, we can still be buddies.

*Do you guys SEE how well my brain is working today? I know. It’s bonkers.

**I don’t hate you. I’m just jealous.

***Resurrection is the working title of the first novella, Sanctuary is the 1/3 finished second one. I’m starting to notice a theme…


…yes, I AM in Third Grade. What’s Your Point?

So, now that NaNoWriMo is drawing to a close, I need a new system to keep me motivated and rewarded.

Because, y’know, bringing characters and stories to life is cool and all, but I really like updating my word count every day and being like, “BOO-YAH!”* Watching the word count bar fill up is fun. Seeing progress is ridiculously encouraging, and being able to look back on what I’ve accomplished every day is even better.

I could just write my word count in my planner every day, but I wanted something more visual, kind of like that word count bar. Soooo I’m giving myself star stickers. Here’s the chart:

20131128-112048.jpg

“TO DO: buy white-out”

I don’t plan on getting a lot of gold stars after this month, but it’s there, just in case. You never know, right? Reach for the (gold) stars.

Silver is my actual daily goal, though there will be many days when I don’t reach it, for various reasons. Still, getting a silver star is pretty darn good.

Green star? Hey, words written are words written. No day when I’ve created something is a waste.

Red star= no writing. I got a lot of those last weekend, right after my NaNo win:

20131128-112733.jpg

…and the days following 😉

No stars for days I’d planned to take off, I guess. Oh, and blue stars for editing. I expect to need a LOT of blue stars in January, as I prepare a ms to go for professional editing in February. Sending a cleaner ms = cheaper editing for me.

Cue panic attack!

I know, writing should be its own reward, and I’m acting like a toddler who demands stickers on a chart before she’ll use the potty. But it’s fun. I like putting stickers on things, and I like a visual record of what I’ve accomplished. Gold stars aren’t enough motivation for me to write 5,000 words of crap, which is good. But then, neither is winning NaNoWriMo.

I can’t pad my word count with descriptions of what’s in characters’ pockets just to win something. Can’t do it.

So we’ll see how long it takes for the novelty of this to wear off. I suppose if I also noted times of day I worked and conditions, I could eventually figure out how to optimize productivity…

Or I could just put pretty stickers in my planner. Whichever.

So, kindred spirits and others: How do you keep yourself motivated? Or DO you? Do you like stickers? I FRIGGING LOVE STICKERS! 

*Please note: I do not literally say “BOO-YAH.”


ROW80 Update: Cat Legs Edition

First, the good news:

Image

Harriet’s got her legs back.

I hit 50,000 words on Thursday, thereby winning NaNoWriMo, and celebrated with a delicious box of Count Chocula cereal (thanks, Jae!).

I can’t call it official until I validate my word count, and we can’t do that until tomorrow. Until then, I’ll be on edge, waiting for every computer in the house to simultaneously self-destruct, thus thwarting my victory.

But still… feels good. 🙂

The bad news is that I haven’t got anything done since Friday morning. We have some people coming to look at things that need to be fixed in out house (yay!), but that means that we had to clean the house to make it presentable (boo). Most of it wasn’t too bad, but the kids’ areas (their bedroom and most of the basement) looked like they got hit by a toynado. I had to go into mean mommy mode and spend my days helping them. And then there were little, unimportant things like cooking, dishes, groceries, cleaning everything ELSE…

It’s left me in a REALLY bad mood. As torturous as writing is sometimes (and as good as I am about procrastinating), I do notice a change in my mood when I’m kept away from it for a few days.

If anybody’s going to screw up my writing schedule, it’s going to be me.

In any case, the weekend is almost over. We’re going to go do some Christmas decorating right now, before the boys go to bed (yay!) and watch the Grinch (boo).

What are you all up to this weekend?


ROW, ROW, ROW Your WIPpet: Creeptastic Edition

It’s WEDNESDAY, the greatest day of the week (for me), and hoooo my goodness I forgot to put the garbage out again.

Dangit.

You all know what that means (she said as readers not interested in this stuff quickly navigated away). WIPpet Wednesday and a ROW80 Update! Yaaaaaay! *partysplosion*

WIPpet Wednesday:

Nine paragraphs from Rowan’s POV in this year’s NaNoWriMo novel (20th, minus 11 for November, so as not to bore you all… wouldn’t want to keep you against your will). Just for fun, no context. Most of you don’t know this guy, anyway.

“Keep those clothes on,” Callum said. He locked the door and released me, then sat to remove his boots. “I don’t have anything for you to wear.”

“You… you’re staying in here, too?” I asked, and he smiled sadly.

“Funny, isn’t it? If things had gone as they were supposed to, we’d be married by now, and you’d have been sharing a bed with me since midwinter. Now you’re with me against your will, and I can’t risk leaving you alone to piss without thinking you’re going to disappear.” He stood and walked barefoot toward me, and I stepped back until I hit the wall. Callum sighed, and reached out to cup my face in his hand. “You should have been mine. Sweet Rowan.” I tried to look away, but he wouldn’t let me. He rubbed his thumb over my cheekbone, tenderly, then pushed me toward the bed. “Get in.”

“No.”

“You’re not in a bargaining position, love. You have nothing to worry about, anyway. I know what you’re thinking. You assume too much about your own appeal if you think I’d defile myself with someone like you. Don’t make me angry, though. You’ll regret it.”

I took my time deciding whether I could believe him. In the end, I sat down and took my own boots off, then slipped under the uppermost blanket and wrapped my skirt tight around my legs.  Callum closed off the oil lamp. There was silence for what seemed like several minutes, and then he climbed into the bed. My muscles twitched as the lumpy mattress shifted under his weight.

“Go to sleep,” he said.

I didn’t think I would, but I must have drifted off. I woke to the feeling of a heavy hand sliding from my waist down over my hip and resting on the outside of my thigh for a moment before retracing its journey back up to my ribs. Callum sighed and shifted in the bed, then rolled away from me.

I lay in the dark, eyes wide open and unseeing, waiting.

Oooooh, how did THAT happen?

Want to see what the other WIPpeteers are up to this week? Check out the link here, and as always, please stop by to pay your respects to K.L. Schwengel, the Godauthor of WIPpet Wednesdays. She just might make you an offer you can’t refuse. Want to join in? Post a snippet of a work in progress on your own blog that relates somehow to today’s date, and link back. Easy-peasy, London squeezy, as my 5-year old says.

ROW80

NaNoWriMo word count: 44,076 as of last night. I’m having a pacing issue in that a character has encountered friends he hasn’t seen since book one and they have a lot to talk about. I mean, it’s interesting stuff, and a horse just got eaten by a dragon in the middle of it… and there’s sexual tension with the wrong damned person… but still. Do I need to throw more dragons at you people? Because I WILL DO IT. -_-

I need to get back to work. There’s a box of Count Chocula calling my name, and I can’t open it until I hit 50,000.

Also, if I get 50,000 likes words, the doctors say they’ll put legs on my cat. That’s a thing that works, right?

"Help... meeeeee!"

“Help… meeeeee!”

Boy, that’s a lot of pressure. I’d better get back to work.

TO THE WRITEATORIUM!

[This post dedicated to Shannon, who was the first person who reminded me to tie up this loose end 🙂 ]


ROW80 Update: Quickie Edition

My right arm is currently trapped under a pile of dog face, so I’m going to have to keep this brief.

Specifically, this face.

Specifically, this face.

I passed the 40,000 word mark for NaNoWriMo this morning, and there was much celebration… mostly because this means I’m only 10,000 words away from breaking open a box of count Chocula, which I haven’t had since I was a kid.

YESSSSSSS!

Holy carp, this dog’s head is heavy.


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