Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Do I Find the Time?

Some of you would like to take on the NaNo challenge this year, but you are unsure of how to find the time. You likely have a job, family, a crazy schedule, and perhaps limited time on the computer. Not to worry. You, too, can cross the finish line. It just takes some dedication.

Yeah, Right!

Do you want to write this story? If not, then move on. Accept that NaNo is not a good fit for you. We shall miss you, fellow writing friend, but we understand. Let that story simmer in the back of your mind until you get excited about it. I want you so excited that you can’t wait to write it down. Feel free to join us again when that happens. Until that time, there is the door.

Since the naysayers have left, I’m just talking to the bunch that has a story burning inside of them. While some of you may write a novel as you go with no prior planning, if this is your first NaNo, I would highly recommend planning out  in advance as much of the book as possible. It helps on the difficult days to have an outline.

Now, you may have this story, but you don’t have the time. You’re up at 6am, waking cranky kids to go to school. After three minor emergencies, breakfast that didn’t burn (yeah!), and coffee that you remembered to take with you today, you head to work. Once you get home, it’s homework time. You’re busy making sure your children don’t kill each other, cooking supper, talking to your sweetie beyond “Hi” and “Empty the trash.” You’re a little exhausted. I understand. The first step to finding the time to do something is knowing your schedule.

When do you carve out time for Facebook? Between homework questions? While the hamburger is browning? If you have time to hop online for even a few minutes in between your duties, I have great news for you. You have time to write a novel!

No, you probably cannot pen 500 words in between the time you answer one of your kid’s questions and the time your kid spills chocolate milk all over his homework. But you might get a paragraph or two done before you dash to save the chocolate milk from ruining your other child’s homework. If you’re running around all the time, use your breaks to your advantage and write something. Writing something, on any given day, is better than writing nothing.

Even if you are not near a computer during your down time, that is okay. You can whip out a pen and paper and jot down stuff by hand if you must. Make a note on your cell phone of a scene. Start writing an endless text message. Find whatever works best for you and do it consistently. Then, when you finally have 30 minutes of peace and quiet, you might have three paragraphs already written in some form.

I Will Never Have That Much Time

Some people’s lives are crazy, and things happen where they cannot cross the finish line. Real life is important. That takes priority over a crazy but fun challenge. I get that. Again, it helps knowing your general schedule and where your down time is.

But, for at least half the people reading this, that does not apply to you. You have SOME free time since you’re reading my blog. You’re obviously interested in how you, too, can write a novel.

First off, if you have the mind set that you don’t have enough time, you aren’t going to make much progress. I’ve heard it said a dozen different ways, but negativity will not help you. If you believe you don’t have enough time, and you say it every time you try to write, you’re going to stop trying to write.

Think of me as your cheering section. The more you have on the page, the louder your evil little editor will yell. And beyond the editor, something else yells that grows louder with each page you pen. While Mr. Inner Editor has a purpose (we will visit him later), Doubt has no place in your draft. Doubt says “No, you can’t.” Doubt says, “This is no good,” or even “this is pointless.”

Say it with me. Doubt has no place in your draft.

As long as you listen to Doubt as you fret about your schedule, the more you will find you have no time. Kick Doubt out the door, and examine your schedule again. You will be amazed at how much down time you have when you start looking for it!

That’s It? Just Do It?

Sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth. Buckle down and at least try. You will find out quickly whether or not you can sit for long periods of time without rushing to put out a fire, feed a cat, or convince your child that they should NOT give the dog some Mountain Dew. But chances are if you’re excited about your story, and you’ve found a way to jot something down while you’re waiting for something else, chances are you have enough time to complete a novel. One bite at a time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why You Will Want to Participate in NaNoWriMo

As the days of October fly away, novelists from all over the world are stockpiling candy, soda, pencils, paper, tissues, headphones and all the other things they describe as necessities for writing. Why? Because the month of November is approaching. It will soon be NaNo season – a chance to write 50,000 words (or more, if you choose) within 30 days.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The event is often referred to as NaNo.

Do You Win Anything?

Yes and no. NaNoWriMo is not a contest. You are competing with people around the world to pursue the same goal. But the first person to cross the finish line gets the same prize as the one who uploaded their 50,000 words to the website mere seconds before midnight on November 30 – a manuscript of your own creation.

I describe NaNoWriMo as a challenge, not a contest. There is not one winner. And if you choose to participate at all, anything you write will be your prize. It is a challenge to yourself – can you carve out enough time in a single month to complete a book?

I’ve Never Done That Before!

Don’t worry. The rules are simple. Write every day. If you write 1,667 words a day, you will be at 50,000 words by November 30.  How much is that quota in terms of pages? A little less than 3 full pages a day, single spaced.

NaNo embraces a simple philosophy:  How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

If you like writing, if you have a story burning inside you, or even if you have no clue what to write, I would encourage you to participate in NaNoWriMo. It is fun, whether or not you succeed in your goal.

You can sign up here. It is free. The forums are becoming active, and there will be a ton of people online during the entire month of November. If you need research facts, people to name your characters, critique your synopsis, create a cover, or just procrastinate, the forums are the place for you.

If you’re interested but worried about how to succeed in such a venture, don’t worry. I’m planning on posting encouragement here every day in November to help you cross the finish line.

Who Are You?

I am a writer that has yet to be published. But I’ve been writing since I was 12, so I’m approaching 18 years of experience on the subject. I’ve found that I enjoy the challenge of completing new manuscripts. I hate the editing process (more on that during December and January), but it is necessary to attain a better manuscript.

This year will make my sixth consecutive NaNo. I have won every year, and last year I penned nearly 100,000 words in a month. Yes, I find that impressive, too. But I’m not yet published, so I am really a nobody who happens to be good at completing stories. This year, I want to help as many people as possible cross the finish line with me. So I’ve started this blog.

I’m penning these entries in advance. I plan to post encouragement for the many writers who struggle with reaching the finish line during this challenge. I am not planning on telling you how awesome my story is or how close I am to completing the goal. That’s what Facebook is for. :)

If my story is anything like last year, I’ll reach the goal for the month two weeks early. I don’t want to tell you it’s super easy. It’s not. I’m just here to tell you it can be done, and you can do it.

What I Learned from NaNo

My family has been a wonderful source of encouragement to me over the years for my writing. My brother actually found the NaNo site and pointed me to it. I looked around, discovered there was no prize, then discovered their “rules” said you couldn’t start the story until November began. I was in the middle of a story (I usually am), so I shrugged it off.

The next year, some of my writing friends were participating. I decided to join in as well. But because I was in the middle of another story, I didn’t “officially” join the site. But without the website, I added 50,000 words to my manuscript in a single month. It was fun, and I couldn’t wait to do it “properly” by joining the site, posting on the forums, and gleaning wisdom from those who had done it before.

What I soon learned once I joined the community is that there are no hard and fast rules. NaNo is a community of writers who join in an annual challenge to create new works of art. Some vow to never let another person read their book. Others (like me) can’t wait until the manuscript is polished and ready to be published. The community of writers is welcoming and encouraging. It is a great place for any writer.

Let me move on to what I learned from participating in NaNo. I did not learn how to complete a book. I did not learn how to write. I did not even learn how to shush my inner editor and leave typos as I compose my newest work (one of their “rules”). I had learned the value and awesomeness of a completed manuscript long before I stumbled upon the site.

What I did learn from NaNo was how to write when I didn’t feel like it. Before the challenge, if I didn’t feel like writing on a certain day, I didn’t. I just picked the story up again whenever I wanted. It was an escape, a hobby to occupy me when there was nothing else to do.

NaNo encouraged me to write every day to achieve my goal. And while there has always been a day or two during the month where I have not written, I have learned the value of sitting down at my computer and making myself write the next page, no matter how hard the next scene was. No matter how bad my day was. No matter how little time I had before fulfilling my other obligations, I sat down and wrote.

And from that experience, I have gained a joy and respect for the difficult craft that I did not have before.

I encourage you, dear reader, to think about joining me and many others as we race toward the finish line next month. What do you have to lose? What would you gain if you attempt it? You will never know if you don’t try.