On Writing: Life After NaNoWriMo

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Now that the November madness of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is over, many marathon wordsmiths experience post-coital letdowns from the month-long literary high. After writing so many words, crafting stories, getting sidetracked into other plots and misbehaving characters, what’s next? If you’ve “won,” you’ve already proved you have the chops to keep with a crazy writing schedule and complete the task you set for yourself. And if you didn’t hit 50,000 words? You still won–because you wrote something you wouldn’t have otherwise done. In the immortal words of Hamlet, “Words, words, words.” You wrote a hell of a lot of them last month; what will you do now?

You have several choices.

  1. Do nothing.

Take a well-deserved break, work on something else or nothing else, and just enjoy the holiday season. Maybe bake yourself a treat like cookies or a nice chocolate cake.

  1. Edit your Nano novel.

If you are that gung-ho, by all means you can start editing right away. You can try to keep your November momentum going into the new year. And I wish you all the best of luck. But you would benefit from distancing yourself from what you wrote before you attempt to edit.

If you take the month off, you can look at your manuscript with fresh eyes; misspellings and typos will jump out at you, making the entire editing process go more smoothly.

  1. Work on something else.

Did you have another writing project that you postponed until after November? Now is the time to pick it up. You can still cash in on some of your residual writing energy by creating an entirely new story, blogging, or doing some other creative endeavour such as podcasting. One of the greatest things about participating in NaNoWriMo is that you get a fresh infusion of inspiration and energy that often spills over into other aspects of your life. I’ve found that during November, even though I’m racing to write more words, I also have more energy to do things like housework. I’m happier and don’t mind other chores so much. Who would have thought that writing 50,000 words in a month would result in cleaner dishes and a more organized craft room?

So, those are your basic choices. Nothing earth-shattering, I know, but sometimes it helps to have the obvious stated in clear and simple terms. Remember, you’ve written a rough draft novel!  Sometimes I let things sit for awhile, sometimes I work on other things, and sometimes I try something new. My last NaNo-novel I converted into a weekly serial on my blog before editing it back into a single book. The point is, do whatever feels right for you and makes you happy. Life is too short to waste being anything else.

Thanks for visiting, and have a lovely week!

 

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Week FOUR: The End is in Sight!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

For the month of November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. This is a world-wide writing challenge where each participant attempts to write a 50,000 word rough-draft novel during the thirty days of November. There is a website with helpful information, resources, and forums for writers to connect with each other; they answer questions, make suggestions, and even joke around if they manage to find extra time! It’s really fun and exciting and a great way to get those creative juices flowing. The main idea behind NaNoWriMo is that when pressed by a looming deadline, writers can free themselves to write badly. It’s a first draft, after all, and in the immortal words of Hemingway, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m not normally that crude, but the quote is too perfect to resist.

So Thanksgiving is past, and you may have let your wordcount slip–BUT THAT’S OKAY. And today is BLACK FRIDAY. But THAT’S OKAY TOO. And I’m using a lot of caps to make my point, BUT I’M OKAY WITH THAT.

All kidding aside, don’t beat yourself up if you slip behind a little. You still have the rest of the week to catch up. Besides, the holidays AND NaNoWriMo are supposed to be fun!  If you are one of those stalwart adventurers that kept up your pace and/or your wordcount, GREAT JOB! If you are one of the even more elite that’s already finished, WAY TO GO! And if you are doing a last minute race to the finish line, GOOD SPEED, FAIR WARRIORS!  No matter what the outcome this month, you are all winners!

For those of you that need a last minute push to the finish line, check out word wars on twitter, another podcast, and remember BICHOKButt in Chair, Hands On Keyboard. You might also want to check out some of the winners’ prizes offered at the NaNoWriMo site, as an added incentive.

UPDATE: My Writing Niche 2.0 podcast,  episode 4: NaNoWriMo Week 4!

Download HERE.

I wish you all the best of luck! My next post will be about life AFTER NaNoWriMo. Until then, have a lovely week, and happy novelling!

*NaNoWriMo image taken from here.

**My previous podcast several years ago, My Writing Niche, was edited and even had a musical theme. This time, if I do podcast, it will be more informal.

***Also in the spirit of saving time to write on my Nano novel, I will be shamelessly reusing my introductory paragraph in each post this month, as well as pre-writing this month’s posts. In other words, I wrote this in October!

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Week THREE: Passing the Halfway Mark!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

For the month of November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. This is a world-wide writing challenge where each participant attempts to write a 50,000 word rough-draft novel during the thirty days of November. There is a website with helpful information, resources, and forums for writers to connect with each other; they answer questions, make suggestions, and even joke around if they manage to find extra time! It’s really fun and exciting and a great way to get those creative juices flowing. The main idea behind NaNoWriMo is that when pressed by a looming deadline, writers can free themselves to write badly. It’s a first draft, after all, and in the immortal words of Hemingway, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m not normally that crude, but the quote is too perfect to resist.

Now that the Sophomore Slump is behind us, this is the week that all those things that went wrong last week begin to right themselves. Plot holes close up, characters’ actions start making sense, and–now that we’ve passed the halfway point–the end is in sight!

This might even be the week some of you begin hitting your deadlines. If you guys need any additional motivations, remember there’s tons of stuff to do on the actual NaNoWriMo site, as well as word wars on twitter, podcasts to listen to, and–in the spirit of shameless self promotion–blogs to read! You might want to use competition with your writing buddies as motivation to boost your wordcount. And remember, for this month, it’s not about quality but QUANTITY.

If you are behind, you still have plenty of time. I know that Thanksgiving is coming up, but there’s no need to panic. Remember, any words you write this month, even if you don’t hit 50K, are words you wouldn’t have written otherwise. If you get a creative jolt from NaNoWriMo, than you’ve already won. But you might as well ride that inspiration wave as long as you can, right? So keep plugging away, and remember BICHOKButt in Chair, Hands On Keyboard.

I wish you all the best of luck! Next week I will be posting about WEEK FOUR. Until then, have a lovely week, and happy novelling!

UPDATE: My Writing Niche 2.0 podcast,  episode 3: NaNoWriMo Weeks 2-3!

Download HERE.

 

*NaNoWriMo image taken from here.

**My previous podcast several years ago, My Writing Niche, was edited and even had a musical theme. This time, it is more informal.

***Also in the spirit of saving time to write on my Nano novel, I will be shamelessly reusing my introductory paragraph in each post this month, as well as pre-writing this month’s posts. In other words, I wrote this in October!

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Week TWO: The Sophomore Slump

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

For the month of November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. This is a world-wide writing challenge where each participant attempts to write a 50,000 word rough-draft novel during the thirty days of November. There is a website with helpful information, resources, and forums for writers to connect with each other; in the forums, they answer questions, make suggestions, and even joke around if they have extra time. It’s really fun and exciting and a great way to get those creative juices flowing. The main idea behind NaNoWriMo is that when pressed by a looming deadline, writers stop procrastinating and free themselves to write badly. It’s a first draft, after all, and in the immortal words of Hemingway, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m not normally that crude, but the quote is too perfect to resist.

So, week one started out great! You wrote a ton of words, some of them may have even made sense, and you (hopefully) used all that momentum to store up a nice buffer for…well, NOW. Week two is known as the Sophomore Slump, because it’s when budding November novelists such as yourself begin losing their momentum. You may run through your initial ideas earlier than expected, plot holes begin to gape and mock you, and that inner editor that you locked in the closet last week is clambering to get out. DON’T LET YOUR EDITOR OUT. You may want to slip that guy a cookie under the door though, because you’re going to need him in December.

Take a deep breath.

It’s okay.

Almost everyone goes through this. The number one thing you can do to get through this week is KEEP WRITING. In other terms, BICHOK–Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. It doesn’t matter if it’s terrible. It doesn’t matter if it’s off topic. Writing this week is like dumping all the contents of your brain onto the page so you can get to the stuff you actually want. Your characters may not be acting logically and the plot might be sticking its tongue out at you, but remember to keep going and eventually they will begin to make sense. Don’t worry about all the nonsense that comes out now. Sometimes you need to slog through the moat to get to the castle.

The next thing you need to remember is EDITING IS FOR DECEMBER.

NaNoWriMo is not about writing a perfect first draft. No one does. Even Hemingway admitted it. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page. THAT’S IT. If you edit this month, not only are you not putting words down, you are taking them away! I’m going to repeat my pre-nano suggestion here and tell you, if you’re stuck, write yourself a memorable editing note for later. I hate writing fight scenes (which consequently take me forever to write), so what I do is HIGHLIGHT ALL CAPS a note, such as . Then I move on. I don’t want to get bogged down and lose the momentum I’ve built up in the story and all the new ideas sloshing around in my head. This way, in December, I can easily find what I need to write and where to put it. Another method is to write an unusual word in front of an ALL CAPS notation, such as scrumpdillyicious; you can do a search on it later to find all your editing spots.

As an incentive during this week, the week when most people are likely to quit, I like to take a look at the prize I’ve bought myself for “winning.” As I’ve stated in a previous post, I do not allow myself to use my prize until I’ve met my NaNoWriMo writing goals for November. If I don’t finish, I give my beloved prize away. I can’t tell you how many times this has kept me going. You might want to employ a similar bribe/penalty to motivate yourself if/when your drive is at its lowest.

I wish you all the best of luck! Next week I will be posting about WEEK THREE. Until then, have a lovely week, and happy novelling!

UPDATE: My Writing Niche 2.0 podcast,  episode 3: NaNoWriMo Weeks 2-3!

Download HERE . 

 

 

 

*Due to a quirk of WordPress, I can’t highlight the text so I changed the color instead. But you get the idea.

**NaNoWriMo image taken from here.

***My previous podcast several years ago, My Writing Niche, was edited and even had a musical theme. This time, it is more informal.

****Also in the spirit of saving time to write on my Nano novel, I will be shamelessly reusing my introductory paragraph in each post this month, as well as pre-writing this month’s posts. In other words, I wrote this in October!

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Week ONE: Welcome to National Novel Writing Month 2016!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

For the month of November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. This is a world-wide writing challenge where each participant attempts to write a 50,000 word rough-draft novel during the thirty days of November. There is a website with helpful information, resources, and forums for writers to connect with each other; they answer questions, make suggestions, and even joke around if they manage to find extra time! It’s really fun and exciting and a great way to get those creative juices flowing. The main idea behind NaNoWriMo is that when pressed by a looming deadline, writers can free themselves to write badly. It’s a first draft, after all, and in the immortal words of Hemingway, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m not normally that crude, but the quote is too perfect to resist.

So, for the uninitiated, the four weeks of NaNoWriMo roughly break down as follows:

Week One

–On Your Mark, Get Set, WRITE!

Everyone is so excited to start, they jump in and just write as much as they can. They frequently exceed the normal 1,667 daily words needed to win, which is terrific! Because they’ll need that extra word buffer during…

Week Two

–The Sophomore Slump

Many participants start to lose their initial momentum and drive. They aren’t as motivated. If they started off with a bunch of ideas, they may begin to run out and start mechanically writing to get the job done. If they lose track of where they are going, this is usually when that happens. To avoid this, I recommend having a loose outline or a list of a dozen or so writing prompts to fill in when the idea well begins running low.

Week Three

–Passing the Halfway Mark!

Things begin to pick up again. If they lost the thread of the story, this is where things may begin to make sense again. Plot holes are filled, words are typed, and some even reach their deadlines a little early.

Week Four

–The End is in Sight!

This is when everyone who hasn’t finished makes a final mad dash for the finish line by Midnight of the thirtieth! Many NaNoWriMo local groups have last minute meetups with word sprints to help participants reach their goals.

So, there you have it in a nutshell.

Last week I posted some pre-NaNoWriMo suggestions, but you can still do many of them if you are getting a late start. Also, don’t forget that when you are writing for long periods of time, you can develop neck and shoulder pain, so it’s a good idea to try to work as ergonomically as possible.

I may post a short podcast on this website, but it depends on time and my current tech.** If you get stuck, the NaNoWriMo site has forums for questions, forums with challenges as writing prompts, prize incentives for winners as motivation, and lots of other helpful tools. If there is a NaNoWriMo meetup in your area, I highly suggest you go; they are tons of fun and a great help.

Next week I will be posting about the Sophomore Slump. Until then, keep your inner editor locked away, have a lovely week, and happy novelling!

UPDATE: My Writing Niche 2.0 podcast,  episode 2: NaNoWriMo Weeks 1 -2!

Download HERE . 

 

 

 
*NaNoWriMo image taken from here.

**My previous podcast several years ago, My Writing Niche, was edited and even had a musical theme. This time, if I do podcast, it will be more informal.

***Also in the spirit of saving time to write on my Nano novel, I will be shamelessly reusing my introductory paragraph in each post this month, as well as pre-writing this month’s posts. In other words, I wrote this in October!

On Writing: Pre-NaNoWriMo Prep

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

November is like early Christmas for many writers, because those thirty days are set aside as National Novel Writing Month–or NaNoWriMo, for short. Participants challenge themselves to write a complete, rough draft novel of 50,000 words between the first and thirtieth of November. NaNoWriMo beckons many writers and would-be novelists with thoughts of winning like sirens on exotic far-away beaches. They start using words like novelling, pantsing, plotting, and even plantsing. Why? Not for fame or riches–though I doubt anyone would turn those down–but the pure, joyful, adrenaline-fuelled experience of writing to meet a massively intimidating deadline. Oh, and of course, those all-important bragging rights.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share some of the strategies I’ve used to win in the past. And while I will be rebelling with a poetry collection this year, hopefully some of these tips will help you reach your November goals.

  1. Planning Your Time

If you write steadily, you need to write a minimum of 1,667 words each day in November to win. But let’s face it; things happen. Life happens. You will have days that you just can’t find the time or the energy, you might have to put writing on hold for a few days during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and other obligations will happen. That’s why it’s important to plan for days you won’t be able to meet your daily writing quota.

The answer is simple. Plan to write a little more on your on-days so you have permission to slack a little on your off- days. For example, I know that it’s much harder for me to write on weekends than weekdays. So I plan a five day writing week, for four weeks, with a daily goal of 2,500. So I write 12,500 in week one; 25,000 words by the end of week two; 37,500 by the end of week three; and 50,000 by the end of week four. By giving myself daily and weekly goals, if I miss a day or get behind in my daily goals, odds are I will still be on schedule for the weekly goals. Plus, the first week is when people are filled with adrenaline and enthusiasm, so it’s easy to create a buffer for later on.

Another thing to consider is when you are going to write; saying you don’t have time isn’t really an option. Most people have time. They make the time for what they think is important. Sure, you might be really tired from work and want to just sit and watch tv, but couldn’t you use fifteen minutes of that time to do a word sprint? What about writing during your lunch break for ten minutes on your phone? If it’s important to you, you’ll find time. If it’s not, you won’t. It’s that simple. Remember, you are going for quantity of words over quality. I usually do fifteen minute sprints several times a day until I hit my goal.

  1. DO NOT EDIT.

Let me repeat that, because it’s important.

DO NOT EDIT.

Editing slows you down and keeps you from adding words. What’s worse, it usually means you are SUBTRACTING words from your total word count. Lock your inner editor in a closet for the month with a nice supply of canned goods and cookies, then forget about him! Here are a few tricks to help.

When you come across a scene where you are stuck, insert a placeholder instead. Put in an unusual word (like scrumpdillyicious) that you can search for in the document later–or a highlighted and ALL-CAPS notation to catch your eye–when December comes. That way, you can find your placeholder easily when you do edit. Plus, the extra nice thing about doing the ALL-CAPS notation (LIKE THIS), is that it still counts toward your word goal!

Now, I know this post is about preparing BEFORE November, not what you do during the month. So here is where it’s relevant to October’s preparation: create a loose outline this month with one-sentence chapter summaries that you can use as chapter HEADINGS in November. Not only does it help keep you on goal for each chapter, but it allows you to add to your novel wordcount without technically cheating. Sweet, right? I usually just copy and paste them in as my chapter headings, then fill out what’s underneath for my daily goals.

  1. Writing Tools and Delayed Gratification

Whether you write with a computer, a phone, or just a pad and pencil, it’s important to always have tools handy to write whenever you get a chance; all those stolen minutes add up. When you are waiting in a long line at the grocery store, you can write on your phone or in a notebook. Taking a ten minute break at work? Write a few lines. Hell, if you use Twitter and post on forums, those are words you could have written on your actual novel! I’m not saying don’t tweet. I’m saying, don’t tweet until you have met your goal, even if it’s just a mini-writing goal like 250-words before lunchtime.

I use this technique to meet mini-goals each day until I complete my daily goal. I can’t check my email until I’ve written at least another 250 words; I can’t have lunch until I’ve hit 500; I can’t watch tv until I’ve hit 750. You get the picture.

  1. Eliminate Other Writing Goals during November, if possible.

Part of the magic of November is that you are pouring all your creative writing energy into a single project, so don’t divide that energy between projects unless you have no choice. If you are a blogger like me, you can schedule blog posts ahead of time, so you don’t have to stop writing on your novel to write on your blog. If you post on twitter, you can schedule tweets ahead of time using FutureTweets.com. For example, I post a helpful vegan tip each day under the hashtag #dailyvegantip, so I just schedule those ahead of time.

  1. Brag. A LOT.

Yes, you are attempting something incredible, and just the fact that you are trying says awesome things about you. But that’s not the reason I’m suggesting you brag about writing a 50,000 word rough draft novel. I’m not suggesting you brag about the attempt, but brag about how you are going to do it, all the things you will do when you have completed your masterpiece, and so on. Why? Because if you don’t finish after shooting your mouth off that much, it will be a huge embarrassment. And embarrassment is a great motivator. Basically, back yourself into a corner so you have no choice but to write your way out of it. It works! At least, it’s worked for me in the past.

  1. Listen to podcasts

I recently discovered a podcast called NaNoWriPod, that you can download onto a podcatcher and listen to while driving your car or running or eating cookies. There are 39 episodes that you can listen to over the course of thirty days. I have not listened to it as of the date I’m writing this, but I’m looking forward to it. The NaNoWriMo site used to have an official podcast, but now I just find other ones to motivate myself. Another good podcast is Writing Excuses–“Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not the smart.”

And those, dear readers, are my October strategies. Use them in good health. Have a safe and fun Halloween, and don’t forget what true terror is–a missed deadline.  Happy Novelling!*

UPDATE: 2016-11-01

You may also download the latest installment of my podcast, My Writing Niche 2.0 -Episode 1: Welcome to NaNoWriMo 2016. DOWNLOAD HERE.

*If you would like to look me up and be writing buddies, my author name on the site is ganymeder–the same as my Twitter alias.

**NaNoWriMo web banner courtesy of the NaNoWriMo site.

Friday Flash: Trapped

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From my pilot’s seat, I watch the contents of the aquarium tank strapped to the plane’s inner wall. My cargo’s withstood shipment far better than I anticipated. Mermen bodies are less valuable dead than alive, so I’m glad I took extra precautions to ensure this package is cared for properly. Thank the gods I took him to the vet and had him sedated before shipment. Though the tank is shatter-resistant, I wouldn’t want to test it, because if he becomes violent, he might damage himself.

Usually, men alone track mermen, but their rarity coupled with their ferocity makes capturing them almost impossible. No one expects a woman to bag such a vicious creature. But it pays to know the science. By synthesizing mermaid pheromones, I’m able to use them to my advantage. I’m actually surprised how easy it was to lure the thing into a cage.

Still, he is a handsome beast. The way his emerald hair floats in the tank’s water, the way his sea-green eyes sparkle–

He’s watching me.

He’s watching me, capturing me in the depths of those startling eyes.

I feel myself change course, away from land and back towards the sea. My hands are moving; I feel the plane’s weight shift now that the nose is aimed for those beautiful, calm waters.

The merman lifts himself from his tank. I smell salt air and realize just how wrong I’ve been about everything.

 

 

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

** I used a random word generator to get the three words I used as prompts: trap, weather, runway.