Saturday, November 30, 2013

Finish Line!

Today is the day! Whether you’re writing that last scene, adding in song lyrics (alas, of this I am guilty), or taking out every contraction in order to reach that 50,000th word, today is the day you finish. You have trudged on when your character disobeyed, when you had a bad day, and even when you felt that there was no point in going on. But, you are here anyway!

*throws confetti*

If you are still behind, don’t give up until you reach midnight. Get where you can be alone and write until you can write no more. Your characters need an ending. You want to cross that finish line in the same manner as everyone else, arms raised high in exultation as you cross that ribbon? Then don’t quit!

Don’t look at the time, don’t look at your word count. Focus on your scene and write! When you’re finished, check the time and your word count. Set your alarm to go off ten minutes before midnight if you must.

Keep writing until you can write no more. Even if you fall short, you will know that you tried your best, and you still wrote more than you normally would have.

Once you are finished, rejoice. You made it! You wrote a book! It may not be the greatest masterpiece, but you finished it! You have now passed from the scores of people who have said, “I want to write a book someday” to the smaller crowd of “I’ve written a book! And I did it in 30 days!”

Take the next week off from writing. Enjoy the fact that you’re done. Partake of your reward and reintroduce yourself to your family. Get caught up on what you missed while you were writing.
I’ll be updating next week with some thoughts about what to do with your draft. Until then, friends, thank you so much for reading! I hope this has been an encouraging stop throughout your days. I am honored to have had some small part in your writing journey.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Ending

We are approaching the end of our writing journey. Our stories that were our new babies quickly turned into their terrible twos and began smashing everything in sight before we knew it. We kept on. The story settled down for a bit. We crossed hurdles. Your story kept adding pages, slowly but surely. And the character that has been behaving themselves suddenly turned into a rebellious teenager. “No, I don’t want to do that. I want to do this.”

Just when you felt like throttling said character, you found a solution that satisfied the both of you. And now, you are nearing the end of these character’s journeys. Some may die heroically. Some leave home happily, enjoying their new lives. Some may die of despair, letting the villain get away. Whatever your ending, it’s coming upon you. It is time for you as the writer to prepare for your characters to graduate from your story. To those that live, they will go on with their new lives, changed. Their new lives may be the subject of another book (that’s usually how mine turn out), but they will have a life beyond this one story.

Graduations are joyous occasions, but also a bit sad for the parent. One chapter in your child’s life is ending. They are moving on to things that do not involve you.

Obviously, these books are not your children. You still hear them arguing in the next room right now, assuring your that all is well in your corner of the world. But on the same token, you have breathed life into a story. And while these characters are fictional and only live in your head, they have been a part of your life for the past month. They have become your children to an extent. Sadly, it is time to set up when you will say goodbye.

Your entire story has been building to this moment. Make it appropriate and special. Prepare your characters for what will happen. Reveal that news you’ve been holding on to for three days. Set the scene. Record the last moment. Do it right, whatever your ending is. Keep on going until you know you’re done. You will know when it is time to leave your characters. Until you reach that moment, stay with them. Stop focusing on your word count. Focus on your story.

The ending is the most important part. Keep writing until you’re satisfied. When you are done, rejoice! Then check your word count. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Give Thanks

It’s Thanksgiving today in the US. While holidays can be stressful, they are also an enjoyable time usually spent with family or close friends. You may have memorable moments on days like today. You may have extra time to write (yeah!) or none at all (boo).

Your assignment on this day is to simply be thankful. What you choose to be thankful for is up to you. Find three things in your personal life for which you are grateful. Then pick three things related to your writing, preferably your story, for which you are very thankful. For instance, you could be grateful for the minor character a friend helped you name, you figured out the layout of that important location, and that the villain will die soon.

Regardless of how much time you spend writing today (Don’t quit!), be sure to spend some time with your family today, thank them for their indulgence in your craziness, and also thank your cook.
Now, as you finish that meal and the dishes are put away, look at the clock. Haven’t you had a nice day? How much time until you have to go to bed or leave for the store to get a deal? See if you can get in a few hundred more words. Pie is a great writing snack. ;)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Weary NaNo writers, today’s entry is for you. There are some days when you simply do NOT feel like writing. Yesterday’s writing session was long and tiring. You made progress, but you don’t feel like you’ve written enough to help. Regardless of that extra hour you carved out to help you catch up, you’re still behind. Many have already won, and you’re still struggling to make it through your current scene.

Take a Break

Though time is important, your sanity as a writer is also important. If you spend too much time writing, you will become convinced that your story is no good, everything you’ve written deserves to be thrown away, and you were never cut out to be a writer. You recognize those thoughts? So do I. Doubt runs rampant in the last few days of NaNo. You are a writer. You can do this. You will not quit, because your story needs an ending. You want to prove those people wrong who told you that you couldn’t do it, don’t you?

But in order to maintain that confidence, you need to step away from your story for a bit. Breathe. Focus on something else. Go clean something that you’ve been neglecting. You’d be amazed what even a short break will do for your state of mind.

Advice From Dory

I was encouraging a fellow Wrimo the other day, and I found myself quoting Dory from Finding Nemo. “Just keep swimming” was her mantra when she was lost in the Australian waters. Though Marlin was frustrated and had no idea where to go, Dory was right beside him, annoying him with her happy little song. Without Dory’s confidence, Marlin would have never found Nemo again.

So today, friends, no matter how discouraged you are, remember to keep swimming. Keep doing what you know to do. Regardless of how little you believe in your ability to cross the finish line, regardless of your plot-related roadblock or how far behind you are, just keep swimming.

See what happens when you keep on going. Unless you make it through this dip in the road, you will never know what could have taken place. Don’t give up! You’re close to the finish line! If you buckle down and go on despite your exhaustion, you'll make it!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Marathon Finish

NaNo season will be over soon. You will either be disappointed that it’s over or vastly relieved.
Either way, today you need to keep writing. You are now in the home stretch – there is less than a week left to cross the finish line. Don’t panic at the scores of people who are zeroing in on their 100k+ goals. This is a marathon. As long as you cross the finish line, you will have won. It does not matter that you didn’t cross the finish line first. That wasn’t your goal. Your goal was to finish. Whether or not your story extends beyond the 50k mark, all I want you to do is focus on that marker. You can do this!

Marathon runners train for months in order to reach their goal. While you haven’t been training for months, you’ve spent the past 24 days with your story. No one knows your story better than you. No one is more qualified to finish this story than you.

If you’re focusing on all the others who have crossed that 50k mark, please remember that this is not a true race. The people who have crossed that line are now on the sidelines and cheering you on. While NaNo is a community challenge, it is first and foremost a personal challenge. If the others who are ahead of you are bothering you, forget about them. Focus on that ribbon strung across the finish line. That ribbon is there for you. Keep on writing and edge ever closer to that fancy ribbon. You can do this! Write!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fish or Cut Bait

If you are still behind, this entry is for you. My friend, the time has come to make a decision. Do you want to continue? We have five days left in this challenge. That is plenty of time to catch up, provided you have at least 15,000 words. If you are under this threshold, but have a firm grasp on your story and are able to clear your schedule, go for it. If not, sadly, I think it is safe to say you will not cross the finish line. However, you can still write to your heart’s content and finish this story at a time that is a little less hectic for you.

Now, on to the rest of you who are woefully behind and wondering if you can make it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. See if you can clear out some writing time. Stay up later. Put on your best writing music and write. You are on a deadline. That pretty finish line ribbon will be taken down soon. You can still finish after that time, of course, but the NaNo deadline is approaching. You have five days.

Can you do this? Absolutely. You can buckle down, drive out distractions, and type to your heart’s content. If you’re sorely lacking in words, stop using contractions. Remove dashes from words that should be strung together. If you’re running out of plot and still need words, include song lyrics. Include the artist name. Describe a new landscape or a new outfit.

Remember it’s okay to come back later and fix things. Your purpose this month is not to fix what you’ve written. Your purpose this month is to get it written. Get that story out of your head and onto the page. Worry about the things that don’t need to be there or the wrong choice of words later. Today, your goal is to write. I have not bugged you before now about getting ahead.

But as of today, you only have five days! You not only must write, but you must write more than your daily quota. You know your best day’s word count? Try to beat that today. You are close to the finish line! Don’t quit!

Now is a good time to remind you that NaNo’s word counter is different than yours. Sample what you have and see if their word counter puts you ahead or behind. Adjust accordingly.

That pretty finish line ribbon is still strung across the borders that mark your 50,000th word. That line is incredibly close. Keep going!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Getting Back in the Game

This year, I’ve enlisted some of my writing buddies to help me blog about the wonderful/frustrating experience that is NaNoWriMo. This is from Phil, a local Wrimo with an awesome sense of humor. Phil has an amazing habit of catching up and winning on the very last day of November. I've enlisted him to tell us how he does it.

Almost everyone who participates in NaNoWriMo quickly realises that no matter how good their intentions, life gets in the way and often they will get behind the word par. Throughout my numerous attempts at NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy, I have found myself frequently and sometimes significantly far from goal with time running out and the month drawing to a close. 
NaNoWriMo is about having fun and getting your ideas out of your head and onto paper. Not hitting the goal is far from the end of the world, and in fact sometimes you would rather write something well first go around rather than accepting the poor quality which usually comes from pushing out so many words in such a short space of time. If you decide that you do want to hit that target but are staring at the stats page and seeing next year’s date as the estimate, then perhaps these ideas beneath will help you bridge the gap between your word count and the daily par. 

1.    Refuse to give up. Make sure you have told everyone you know that you are attempting NaNoWriMo and give people updates, whether they want those updates or not. (If you haven’t already done this yet this year, take a second before reading on to announce to the word on Facebook or Twitter or whatever that you are doing it. Once you have done this you may continue reading) After a while they will be keen to ask you about it and this keeps you honest. Once people are asking you about your novel it becomes harder to find ways to avoid writing – people are invested in your success now, how could you possibly let them down?

2.    I’ve heard it said that professional writers should get into a routine. Set aside the same part of the day, every day, to write. That is all well and good for professional writers, but us mere mortals rarely have that luxury. If you have fallen behind then you need to start squeezing every drop of time out of your day to get back on track. Sneak a couple of hundred words in on your breaks at work, sneak a couple more in before dinner and then again before bed.

3.    If you find yourself behind then you may need to get creative – have one of your minor characters suddenly go on a three thousand word feminist rant (done that), refer to everyone by their full names and titles (done that), switch perspective utterly to a new character with an entirely different set of problems and people with whom they can interact (did that this year). Writing is the goal – you can smooth out the kinks in December. Just sit down somewhere, anywhere, and write.

4.    Try to find one day before the end of the month that can be your ‘Big Catchy Uppy Day’. Try to get somewhere comfy and just write. Set yourself small targets throughout the day and give yourself rewards – I find candy to be effective. Do little sprints, 15-30 minutes at most. When you break the day down it becomes a lot easier and less daunting. I have managed a ten thousand word day a few times, once out of absolute necessity. On that day, I did not focus on how much I needed to write still, but rather just focused on one little chunk, and when that was done I moved onto the next chunk, completing the day in several small bursts of literary enthusiasm.

5.    When times get tough and you need to get back on track, call on your friends to help bail you out of the hole. I am very fortunate to be married to our ML. She helped me overcome a huge deficit in 2012. On November 21st I was over ten thousand words behind schedule, with just twenty six and a half thousand words written. Over the next nine days, and with fantastic support from those around me, I achieved my goal and hit the 50k mark at around 11:50 on November 30th

If I can do it, so can you!  

Phil Cumming is an absolute goof ball and routinely gets himself hideously behind on his word count. He has the distinct pleasure of being married to the Greenville, NC region’s ML and believes that everyone would benefit from living with one, should they get the chance. Phil is participating in his fourth NaNoWriMo event this November, having also successfully written for Script Frenzy one year and Camp NaNoWriMo another. So far, he has miraculously won on every occasion except the time he broke his wrist. He feels he should have a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card for that one.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stop Procrastinating

When I don’t want to do something, I find myself massively productive in other areas. If I’m avoiding a task, I check in on Facebook to update my friends on my word count. I decide to do the dishes or even get inspired to cook. Why? I don’t want to do what I need to do.
Breaks Are Important

Never let anyone tell you that breaks are pointless in writing. Can you imagine sitting at your computer from sunup to sundown until you finished writing your 50,000th word? I’d go nuts, too.
Breaks give you perspective. They let you focus your mind elsewhere. They help you tackle your next paragraph efficiently. Breaks are a wonderful tool, but we must use them wisely this month. We can’t write our stories if we spend more time on the internet than writing our stories.

Just Do It

Set a goal. Get to the end of the page. Write a new chapter. Finish the conversation. Finish the scene. Introduce the new character. Get to a point where you feel comfortable stopping, then take a break. Time yourself, or at least keep an eye on the time. If you’re not done for the day (you’ll know if you are), then remind yourself that you have to get back to writing.

Have you missed a TV show that you love? Promise yourself that you can watch the episode once you meet your word count goal. Find something simple that you can reward yourself with for reaching your goal. Let it become normal to sit at your computer and write.

Find something that works for you. Push yourself to get it done. Now, not tomorrow. Do you want to scramble to write 5000 words on the last day? Good. Then write. Now!

Friday, November 22, 2013


I’ll never forget the day I tossed my princess character into the dungeons. The first chapter chronicling the change went really well. I thought the next few chapters following her would be easy to write. WRONG.

In order to correctly portray my character, I had to put myself in her shoes as she cowered in fear in the dungeons. As a result, I hated the dungeon scenes. I was eager to leave, just like my princess.

When I revisited the story (after NaNo), I was forced to do a partial rewrite – adding in more dungeon scenes. I hated revisiting the dark and depressing part of my story. But because I did that, the story blossomed.

I said all that to tell you to trust your writing instincts. Trust me, you have them. If the story tells you to go to a dark place (provided it fits within your concept), you need to go there. You may not know why you’re going there. You may hate every moment of your dark place, but you still need to go there. Your character will grow. Growth leads to change. And change means the end of your story is approaching.

One day when you read over your story, you may discover your favorite place to read is the same scene that you didn’t want to write. Don’t be afraid to head to the dungeons. Just remember to bring a flashlight, so you can find your way out if you get lost.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Viking Hats

If you live near my town, you might see something strange over the next few weeks. Our group has adopted a Viking theme. To celebrate this theme, we have each been given a Viking shield, a treasured colored marble, and a Viking hat.

Whenever we are working on our stories, we are encouraged to wear our hats. If you see someone with this hat, don’t be alarmed. It is a sign of a writer hard at work. Yes, we are just a little strange. We know that.

Respect the Vikings, or you may end up as a dead character in our stories. ;)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Can't

You’ve kicked Doubt out the door a number of times in the past several days, I see. Good job. But he always keeps crawling back in. Sneaky little thing. Kick him out again. Doubt has no place in your draft.

If you need more encouragement today, take a moment to read this story from Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Donna's fourth-grade classroom looked like many others I had seen in the past. Students sat in five rows of six desks. The teacher's desk was in the front and faced the students. The bulletin board featured student work. In most respects it appeared to be a typically traditional elementary classroom. Yet something seemed different that day I entered it for the first time. There seemed to be an undercurrent of excitement.

Donna was a veteran small-town Michigan schoolteacher only two years away from retirement. In addition she was a volunteer participant in a county-wide staff development project I had organized and facilitated. The training focused on language arts ideas that would empower students to feel good about themselves and take charge of their lives. Donna's job was to attend training sessions and implement the concepts being presented. My job was to make classroom visitations and encourage implementation.

I took an empty seat in the back of the room and watched. All the students were working on a task, filling a sheet of notebook paper with thoughts and ideas. The ten-year-old student closest to me was filling her page with "I Can'ts."

"I can't kick the soccer ball past second base."

"I can't do long division with more than three numerals."

"I can't get Debbie to like me."

Her page was half full and she showed no signs of letting up. She worked on with determination and persistence.

I walked down the row glancing at students' papers. Everyone was writing sentences, describing things they couldn't do.

"I can't do ten push-ups."

"I can't hit one over the left-field fence."

"I can't eat only one cookie."

By this time, the activity engaged my curiosity, so I decided to check with the teacher to see what was going on. As I approached her, I noticed that she too was busy writing. I felt it best not to interrupt.

"I can't get John's mother to come in for a teacher conference."

"I can't get my daughter to put gas in the car."

"I can't get Alan to use words instead of fists."

Thwarted in my efforts to determine why students and teacher were dwelling on the negative instead of writing the more positive "I Can" statements, I returned to my seat and continued my observations. Students wrote for another ten minutes. Most filled their page. Some started another.

"Finish the one you're on and don't start a new one," were the instructions Donna used to signal the end of the activity. Students were then instructed to fold their papers in half and bring them to the front. When students reached the teacher's desk, they placed their "I Can't" statements into an empty shoe box.

When all of the student papers were collected, Donna added hers. She put the lid on the box, tucked it under her arm and headed out the door and down the hall. Students followed the teacher. I followed the students.

Halfway down the hall the procession stopped. Donna entered the custodian's room, rummaged around and came out with a shovel. Shovel in one hand, shoe box in the other, Donna marched the students out of the school to the farthest corner of the playground. There they began to dig.

They were going to bury their "I Can'ts"! The digging took over ten minutes because most of the fourth-graders wanted a turn. When the hole approached three-feet deep, the digging ended. The box of "I Can'ts" was placed in position at the bottom of the hole and quickly covered with dirt.

Thirty-one 10- and 11-year-olds stood around the freshly dug grave site. Each had at least one page full of "I Can'ts" in the shoe box, four-feet under. So did their teacher.

At this point Donna announced, "Boys and girls, please join hands and bow your heads." The students complied. They quickly formed a circle around the grave, creating a bond with their hands. They lowered their heads and waited. Donna delivered the eulogy.

"Friends, we gather today to honor the memory of 'I Can't.' While he was with us on earth, he touched the lives of everyone, some more than others. His name, unfortunately, has been spoken in every public building—schools, city halls, state capitols and yes, even The White House.

 "We have provided 'I Can't' with a final resting place and a headstone that contains his epitaph. He is survived by his brothers and sister 'I Can', 'I Will' and 'I'm Going to Right Away.' They are not as well known as their famous relative and are certainly not as strong and powerful yet. Perhaps some day, with your help, they will make an even bigger mark on the world.

"May ‘I Can't’ rest in peace and may everyone present pick up their lives and move forward in his absence. Amen."

As I listened to the eulogy I realized that these students would never forget this day. The activity was symbolic, a metaphor for life. It was a right-brain experience that would stick in the unconscious and conscious mind forever. Writing "I Can'ts," burying them and hearing the eulogy. That was a major effort on the part of this teacher. And she wasn't done yet. At the conclusion of the eulogy she turned the students around, marched them back into the classroom and held a wake.

They celebrated the passing of "I Can't" with cookies, popcorn and fruit juices. As part of the celebration, Donna cut out a large tombstone from butcher paper. She wrote the words "I Can't" at the top and put RIP in the middle. The date was added at the bottom.

The paper tombstone hung in Donna's classroom for the remainder of the year. On those rare occasions when a student forgot and said, "I Can't," Donna simply pointed to the RIP sign. The student then remembered that "I Can't" was dead and chose to rephrase the statement.

I wasn't one of Donna's students. She was one of mine. Yet that day I learned an enduring lesson from her. Now, years later, whenever I hear the phrase, "I Can't," I see images of that fourth-grade funeral. Like the students, I remember that "I Can't" is dead.

Chick Moorman

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Plan Your Vacation Now

Now that you’re settled into a routine of some sort involving your writing, I want you to look ahead. Take a look at your calendar and run through what you have scheduled in the next few weeks. Yup. Thanksgiving is approaching. This could mean you will not be writing that day because you’re cooking the meal, or you’re getting up at 5am, putting the turkey in the oven, and using the extra hours when you could be sleeping to write more in your story.

Whether or not your Thanksgiving plans will impact your writing goals, I want you to use this time to think ahead. Yes, November will end and you will not need to write for a while. But I want you to pick a date in November as your vacation day.

On this day, you will not write. You can focus on your neglected chores, pets, and family. You can take time to watch the program you’ve been recording the past few weeks. You can remind yourself what December feels like.

Have you found a date that you want to spend off the computer? Good.

Keep Writing

Now that you have a goal in mind, it is your job to get ahead. In order to use this date as your vacation, you must have an extra word cushion. This will enable you to not only enjoy your vacation, but not stress about your story. Okay, at least not stress about your story as you’re writing it. If you create one day’s quota worth of cushion, you can skip a day and come back the next time refreshed.


Breaks give you perspective. I have always taken at least one day off from my book during the month of November. My birthday is always around Thanksgiving, so I use one of those two days to relax and be with my family.

One year, my older brother came to visit for Thanksgiving. I wrote that morning. I was excited, because I was nearing the end of the story. But when he came, I finished my thought, saved the program, and put up my laptop. I did not write for the rest of the day.

For the record, when you’re that close to the end, it’s really hard to stop. But I did it because I wanted to spend time with my brother instead of enjoying the fact that he was in the room while simultaneously ignoring him. Looking back, I’m glad I stopped. I thought I would finish that day. I didn’t. I had about another three chapters to go. I would have spent all day obsessing about nearing the end instead of enjoying the holiday with my family.

Keep Your Vacation in Mind

When you’re getting frustrated with your story and its lack of progress, look back at the calendar. You don’t have to wait until December to lay the story aside. Your vacation is coming up. But in order to enjoy it, you have to keep writing. Give yourself other things you can do on your vacation day if you reach this amount of words by a certain date or time. See what happens.

Giving yourself challenges and then rewarding yourself for meeting them is very satisfying. That is part of the reason the NaNoWriMo challenge works so well.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Some of my scattered thoughts on a wonderful rarity in November, silence. This was written during a planning session for NaNoWriMo.

I’m sitting in our usual NaNo gathering spot with yet another group of local writers. As of this writing, NaNoWriMo is less than a month away. My local group has gathered to plan.

I should be planning something on my actual NaNo story, finishing up the other story that I haven’t finished yet, or planning a blog entry actually relating to writing and how to do it quickly. What am I doing instead? Writing a blog entry about silence.

The group has introduced ourselves and our stories more than once as people kept joining us. After the last round of introductions and story summaries, one writer sarcastically held up his hand and went, “Three, two, one, plan!”

That was all it took. It has been nearly half an hour of silence in our room. Each writer is focused on their book and furiously making notes. I’m the only one slacking off right now.

I should be taking advantage of the silence. I cherish writing in quiet places. Some people prefer white noise. I write better without it.

I love write-ins, but I usually get more written at home. The people who talk during our meetings distract me. But I’m usually not worried about reaching the finish line, so I’ve never cared.
Well, I’ve jotted down some thoughts about silence. It does happen during these meetings, but it certainly is rare. Silence has come of its own accord. Am I using it? No.

I should fix that. Bye!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why Am I Doing This?

This year, I’ve enlisted some of my writing buddies to help me blog about the wonderful/frustrating experience that is NaNoWriMo. This is Mandy, a Wrimo I met three years ago. She has since become our wonderful Municipal Liason. That's NaNo speak for saying she's an awesome volunteer who runs all our meetings.

There are many answers as to why one should participate in National Novel Writing Month. Some people do it because they have always wanted to write a novel, stumbled upon this website that offers a free challenge with tons of support and decided to go for it. Some people are seasoned writers using the November challenge to push themselves. Others just love the thrill of the insane deadline. But I think nearly all NaNoWriMo participants do it for a second reason: because it is FUN.

There will probably times this month where you will wonder why you are even doing this. You may be behind on word count, your characters are dragging their feet and refuse to do what you ask them to do, and your saving grace (the coffee pot) might have stopped working on you. Whenever you are in a slump and you don't know what to write and you feel like you'll never catch up and you're completely stuck, remember why you are doing this. You are doing this to have fun! Pick yourself up, dust off your knees and make something crazy happen in your story!

Do something fun and unexpected, even if it makes absolutely no sense to your plot! One of the worst things you can do for your novel is to stop writing it. So push through the blocks by adding ninjas, or pirates. Introduce a crazy uncle with Tourettes who makes everyone uncomfortable, or have your characters attacked by a swarm of zombified birds. Do whatever it takes to keep your story alive! Hopefully, whatever outrageous thing you add will eventually bring your characters out of the darkness and into the light of a flowing scene. Plus, putting characters through insane situations might cause you to learn something about them that you didn't know before!

It's very important that you don't worry about what other people might think or say about your novel in its current state. Don't discount your ideas just because you think other people might not like them, or might find stupid. Most ideas are worth trying out at least once! Remember: December is National Novel Editing Month. That's when you can edit out the parts with the ninjas and the crazy birds. You might be surprised with what you have left. You might be even more surprised that the story works with zombie birds. The point of NaNoWriMo, ultimately, is that you write. And that you have fun while you are writing. Maybe by the end of November you won't have the Next Great American Novel. But you will have 50,000 words that you wrote, and you will have had fun writing them!

This is Mandy's fourth attempt at NaNoWriMo. She has won three years previously, twice with a final word count of 100k. She is currently a student at Pitt Community College and hopes to obtain a bachelor degree in Zoology from NC State. She dreams of one day becoming a children's book author and illustrator, as well as a wildlife rehabilitator. She has trained for two marathons and ran one last October. She lives with her husband, dog, eleven cats, and a marsupial out on the bleak and rugged tundra of the North Pole. She also owns and runs an Etsy shop in which she sells a variety of handmade woodland-creature-related gifts. Check it out here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What If It's No Good?

So, you’ve reached the point in the story where you’ve met your characters, set the scene, and the conflict has been introduced. And while you’re probably really excited about your story, you’re wondering at the same time if it’s any good. The coworkers, friends, and relatives you regale with your last impressive dialogue bit just smile politely at you instead of agreeing that you are, in fact, brilliant. If you’ve happened to reread what you’ve written (some do, some don’t), you might be panicked because the scenes that seemed awesome three days ago now seem bland. The doubt that always plagues a writer now seems more credible than ever. You wonder in the back of your mind constantly, what if it’s no good?

Don’t Judge It Now

Any new story will seem awesome, brilliant, and perfect to you. Maybe not to the rest of the world, but to you at least. That is okay. New stories are good things for writers, even if we are the only ones to ever read them.

It will take time, hard work, and dedication to complete your book. The writing process is a very challenging, frustrating, and irritating experience. It can also be fun and rewarding. One day, a few months from now, you will open up your completed document and look over the little manuscript you chose to create in a moment that you later described as insanity. No matter how bad your book may be, I have found it is still rewarding to see what you have written.

What I’ve discovered is you can’t judge a new story as it is still taking shape. You don’t know if it will be brilliant or not until after you’ve completed it. Even then, it will likely be a month or two before you can look back at your book and make any kind of sound judgment on story. You may choose to clean up your mess and move on toward publishing. You may decide it is a piece of trash. Either way, it is okay. You have completed a book, and you have won.

You Have Not Failed

Even if you decide after rereading your manuscript that the book is no good and deserves to be deleted from existence, it is okay. You have not wasted the days you spent slaving over a keyboard, pouring your heart and soul into a story that you now hate. If you reach the conclusion at some point in the future that this story needs to be erased or just dropped, it is fine.

You will have gained experience from such a book. You have learned how to complete a book without your head exploding. You have learned to manage your life and complete a work of art. Not every artist paints something worthy of being shown in a museum, right?  You will have learned something from the time it took to complete your book, and you can apply it to your next writing venture.

Believe In Yourself

Let’s head to that unfinished manuscript. You’re wondering whether or not it’s any good. Sadly, you won’t know for a while whether or not the story you’ve created is good enough to entertain anyone beyond you or people who know you. But that’s not important right now. What you have to do is set those details aside. Set your doubts aside. Believe in yourself.

Time will tell whether or not the manuscript you’re slowly but surely cranking out is the Next Great American Novel. You don’t know anything for certain right now, so we will just imagine that it is so. On the days when Doubt is whispering, “This is crazy! You can’t do this! This book isn’t even that good! You should quit!” just ignore it.

Imagine instead that you’re writing the next bestseller series, like Twilight or the Hunger Games (If nothing else, respect their success). What if you’re writing an awesome story that has the potential to make millions? How would you feel if you never finished it? What if writing is your calling, and you’ll never know it unless you finish this book? How will those following your progress on the story feel if they hear you want to give up?

Sure, you may not be writing the next bestseller. You may not make millions of dollars. You may end up trashing the whole book and being glad about it. But you don’t know anything yet, because the story isn’t finished. You haven’t given yourself time to find out if the novel is any good. Don’t sell yourself short. For just a moment, believe in yourself. Believe that this story has the potential to reach millions of readers. And each of those readers want to make you rich.

Now start writing that next scene. One day, we’ll find out if you’re right when you daydream about success. But not until you finish.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Plan Your Reward

Take a moment to celebrate. Today is the halfway mark of NaNo! Woohoo! You should break 25k in your story today. Now, if you aren’t there yet, please do not panic. There is still plenty of time to catch up.

With the finish line finally visible in the distant horizon, today I will give you another strategy to help you keep going, despite the headaches your character is giving you. Today, I want you to think about the first of December. Your writing vacation will begin. Your local region will likely host a TGIO party, celebrating the end of NaNoWriMo and everyone’s successes. In December, you can focus on your family again, start planning holiday things, and enjoy your free evenings.

Now, to help motivate you further to finish your story, I want you to plan a reward for yourself. It does not have to be expensive. It does not have to be done alone. But I want you to promise yourself a treat when you finish your story. Regardless of your views on your story, this reward will remind you that you have accomplished a tremendous feat. You wrote a book. That’s an awesome thing. Finishing is always fun. You deserve to relish your victory.

Go get a milkshake. Watch a movie. Take your family out to dinner. Cook for your family again. Get a haircut. Buy a new outfit. Buy a new Christmas decoration. Play that game you’ve been avoiding the past month.

Do you have an appropriate reward in mind? Good. Now get back to that story and break the 25k barrier! If you can cross this line, the rest of the writing journey on this draft will get a little easier. When you get discouraged, remind yourself of that reward.  It should help you keep writing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Push Yourself

I’ve been writing long enough to know how I operate. I know what will make me work harder. I know how to push myself to get something done. The thrill of finishing a book is amazing. My aim is to help you experience this feeling for yourself.

What Makes You Work Harder?

If you write better with music, turn it on. If you write better with white noise, find the loudest place in the house and get to work. If you will work extra hard to get a candy bar, set one out and get to work!
I do well rewarding myself for making certain goals. Last year, if I went 2k above my word goal, I could have a cream soda. I was out of cream soda very early on.

Find what works well for you. Reward yourself for writing. Don’t check the internet until you’ve made your quota. Don’t leave the noisy room until you’ve gotten caught up in your word count.

Why Bother?

As you’ve discovered by now, this is hard. Yes, you’re tired of doing it. Yes, I have questioned my sanity, too. But the point I want to drive home is that this is worth it. If you can write this story, you can do just about anything.

Now, get back to your story! Your character needs you to tell him what happens next.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

The age old adage is true for just about anything new you’re learning to do. Playing the piano, driving a car, cooking, beating the last level of a video game – if you practice long enough, you will eventually be able to not only achieve your goal, but get the steps down to perfection.

With enough practice, you can play a song on the piano flawlessly. You can cook a meal without burning anything that also tastes good. You can drive a car without hitting anything (or scaring anyone). All it takes is practice, and you will eventually do it perfectly.

Alas, this is not true of writing. I don’t care if you’re Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Frank Peretti, you’re not going to write a perfect book your first time through. Even if you’ve written a hundred different books, even if you’ve been published many times, and even if you know the story you’re about to pen like the back of your hand – the first draft will not be perfect. Even the authors who write best sellers every time will not write perfect drafts.


There is no such thing as a perfect draft. A draft indicates it is not done. And even when you possess a full length manuscript, alas, that isn’t perfect, either.

For whatever reason, first drafts will be full of mistakes. Whether you’re the kind of writer that corrects typos as they go or saves them all for after the pressures of the novel are over, you will still have errors. There will be big errors (oops, I never mentioned that character again) and small errors (their, not there). And silly errors (whoops, I meant the home country there, not the enemy country). It happens. There will be time to fix your errors. Lots of time. Trust me.

But don’t worry about that now (unless you’re one of the writers who can’t go on unless you fix the error in your third paragraph. Then by all means, fix it). Your goal in writing this novel is not to achieve perfection.

This is not learning the piano, singing a song, riding a bike, cooking a meal, or driving a car. You are writing a book. There is nothing like it. No matter how many times you’ve done it before, you will always make some mistakes.

Well, What’s the Point?

The beauty of writing is that practice does help. You learn what not to do. You learn what works best for you. You learn what to do better. You remember to add details if you’re the kind of person that forgets them in the first draft.

Say it with me: Perfection is not the goal.

Finishing is our goal. Regardless of what your intentions are with your story (I have heard of some who burn the bad sections), your goal is to finish what you started. If things get to the point where you cannot meet your goal by the end of the month, that is fine. Set your story aside. But come back to it. I have favorite parts in all my novels, including the ones I have decided not to pursue publishing. Those stories helped me in other ways. I enjoy reading them. It was fun to do at the time.

But most importantly, the things those books taught me was how to write. I learned how to write a mystery when I didn’t know all the details of the crime. I learned how to write historical fiction by reading the Biblical account of the character I was following (and a whole lot of embellishing and making it up because I was too lazy to do research). Regardless, I learned from the venture.

Don’t beat yourself up that your story isn’t perfect. Perfection is not the goal. Accept that you are hammering out a draft. This draft will be made up only by long hours in front of your computer. It will take blood, sweat, and tears. It will take dedication. It will take time.

NaNoWriMo is not about creating a perfect book. It is about pulling a first draft out. It is about learning to create time to sit down and write. Chances are, if you can do it once, during one month, you will do it at other times as well.

Have you found one of those errors yet? Good. It is a sign that you are not perfect and you will never be perfect. However, with practice, your writing will get better. That, my friends, is our goal.

Now go, WRITE! (Win!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Don't Focus On Your Word Count

I don’t use Microsoft Word, so my word count is not staring me in the face every time I start writing,. While I do want to write as much as possible, I don’t focus on word count as I write. I focus on my story. When I finish my chapter, long scene, or when I feel like taking a break, I check my word count.

Every writer is different. If you’re the kind of person who has to stare it down in order to conquer your word count goals, feel free to ignore this tip.

But if you’re like me, you might benefit from focusing elsewhere. I don’t know how to get Word to hide the word count, but I do have a low-tech solution. Get a sticky note and apply it to the corner of the screen that holds your word count. Now, start writing. See what happens.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Brag About Your Story

Today is the day to tell everyone about your progress with your book. Even if the plot holes are driving you crazy, you will be surprised how talking about your story will help in the long run.
Your coworkers will likely be impressed with your word count. If you’re behind, don’t tell them. They’ll still be impressed.

Tell Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media family about your NaNoWriMo goal. Tell them about your plot. Announce your progress. Watch the encouragement pour in.


In about a week, something will happen with your story that will make you want to quit. You’ll forget the excitement of the starting line, and the finish line is hidden by the hills of the next two weeks.
When you reach this point, you will be tempted to quit. But your interested coworkers and loving family members will be asking about your story by then. You will have to admit defeat to them if you quit.

In order to save face, you will likely keep going. The power of positive peer pressure is amazing. Use it wisely!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Staying Somewhat Sane During Writing

This year, I’ve enlisted some of my writing buddies to help me blog about the wonderful/frustrating experience that is NaNoWriMo. This is Rhonda, a Wrimo I met two years ago.

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. " -- Ernest Hemingway

This is one of my favorite quotes about writing. Another, coincidentally by the same author, is “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

November. NaNoWriMo. That time of year when those of us who have silently, stealthily, steadily struggled all year with putting passion on a page finally ADMIT to doing so. That time of year when an otherwise lonely occupation/preoccupation becomes social and lively. But 50,000 words in a month? 1667 words a day? Isn’t that crazy?

The answer is YES. It IS crazy. The late nights, the dreaded writer’s block, the pressure to make goal…it’s all crazy. Crazy wonderful—if you don’t take it too seriously.

I think it might also be crazy in a negative way—if you let it. The key is not to let it. I know people who set “double goals” for themselves, and instead of 1667 words per day, they aim to write twice that. If it works for them, great. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it! I’ve read message boards where participants are crying ALREADY about being behind. Forget about that daily number. There will be days when you write few words and days when the words can’t be turned off. Forget that goal number—and just WRITE. After all, that’s the point of the project. Some of my best work STARTED in NaNoWriMo in the years that I did NOT make goal. And that’s okay…the end product was exactly what I wanted, even if it took months more than just November to make it happen.

For me, NaNoWriMo is less about making goal than it is about camaraderie. It’s about friendship. It’s about taking a solitary activity like writing and making it social. It’s commiserating with others who completely understand your point about your main character taking your story in a bizarre direction that you didn’t plan. It’s coffee and laughter, support and encouragement, sharing and constructive criticism. It’s about coming out of your cave long enough to see that you’re not alone in this mad desire to get that story that lives deep inside you OUT for the world to see. It’s about connecting on a real level with like-minded individuals whom you might not otherwise even meet. It’s about sharing a love of the written word—even though sometimes, as “Papa” said, it’s “like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

It’s November. Look around. There’s a chill in the air, leftover Halloween candy is half price and Christmas displays are up in the stores. Men are growing facial hair to support prostate cancer awareness (or so they say), and crazy groups of people are meeting in coffee shops all over the country. It’s November, and everything feels… “just write”!

This week, Rhonda was a bit under the weather and was unable to write her own blurb about herself. So I’m doing it for her.

Rhonda taught high school English for 20 years. She was in NC for a bit, met some crazy Wrimos in Greenville, then apparently got “homesick” and decided to move back to New York. We’ve all forgiven her for moving, but Greenville write-ins are not the same without her.

Regardless, Rhonda is an amazing writer of at least one Young Adult book that will hopefully be published one day. I got to read a few chapters. Be jealous.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Magical Meetings

It’s Saturday! The day to sleep in! get up and write. Today is your day to either catch up on your word count or get ahead.

Instead of talking about how to maximize your word count, today I’m going to encourage you to take the time to meet with your local NaNo group. No one is going to understand the elation and frustration that is NaNoWriMo better than your local group of NaNo participants.

I am the type of writer who thrives in a silent environment. Music does not help me, since I listen to the lyrics and consider drama possibilities to the good ones. Such thoughts to do not help me write.
Write-ins, times for local NaNo participants to meet together and write, are rarely quiet. The constant tapping of keys is overlapped by laughter, random questions, word count updates, and inside jokes. Though I would get more writing done at home, I rarely miss a write-in. There’s something almost magical about meeting with other writers.

I know I’m wired differently than most people. But when I’m with my writing group, I feel normal. These are my kind of people. I am not the only one who will stay up until midnight just to finish a scene. I’m not the only one walking around with a laptop or a wire bound notebook. I’m not the only one frantically racing against the clock.

Knowing I’m not alone in my struggles helps tremendously in the long run. Go to a local write-in. Have fun. Meet people. Laugh. Oh yeah, and write. We get that done at write-ins, too. Eventually.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Milestone Marker

A week ago, you started an amazing journey. Bit by bit, you conquered your blank page and began sharing your story. Take a moment today to look over your marvelous first page. Reread the first chapter, if you want. Today, I don’t want you to focus on what you have left to do. I want you to remember your first day of NaNoWriMo. I want you to remember struggling to find the right word to convey your first sentences.

Remember when you said this was madness, and you could never finish? Look at what you’ve done since then. You’ve found your groove. You have survived your first week of NaNoWriMo. Even better, you have begun a story.

Are you feeling accomplished yet? Great! Want an even better feeling? Finish telling your story. Nothing quite compares to crossing the finish line of your story. Want to know how awesome that feels? Then keep on going!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Locking Up the Inner Editor

No matter how awful we are at remembering certain grammar and spelling rules, each writer has an inner editor. Today, we will examine our inner editor’s role in our story.

Ths is n’t how we writ

Okay, it’s not how I usually write. My Inner Editor is griping at me because I’ve misspelled three words. And he’s really mad that I did it on purpose. Part of me really wants to go back and fix it because it’s not right. I hate mistakes of that nature. But I shall leave it to illustrate a point. The same part of me that’s shouting that I made a mistake is shouting at you, too. Congratulations, you’ve awakened your Inner Editor.

I have a love/hate relationship with my Inner Editor. He routinely tells me the sentences I spent hours translating ideas in my head to words on a screen are wrong and must be redone. And then, when I come back, he gripes that I didn’t do that right, either. Honestly, he gripes at almost everything.
Don’t end a sentence with a preposition. Didn’t she have green eyes earlier in the book? Why are they suddenly blue? You need to name the character now. You’ve got two males and are mentioning both. “He” won’t cut it much longer. Why did you pick that name?

See? He won’t shut up. When it’s time to edit, I want to cry. The chapters I spent hours crafting will be evaluated line by line. I must determine if each word choice is correct. I have to find out if I’ve mentioned if the character is standing, sitting, or kneeling. I must look for details of each environment. I must make changes. I must add things. I must delete paragraphs.

When I open my manuscript on my computer and have my marked up copy of my book ready, I go through each page and make those changes. It is a giant pain in the neck. It takes more countless hours to complete each round of editing.

But you know the wonderful thing about editing? The end result is always much better. No matter how much I hate editing, I do enjoy the finished product. And while your Inner Editor gripes constantly, he’s usually right.

Lock Up the Guy Who’s Right?

NaNo suggests that we lock up our Inner Editor while we write our stories this month. Don’t worry about typos, how many times you changed the color of the character’s eyes, and whether or not you used “said” three times in the past page. They want you to focus on your story as the ultimate goal this month.

When I read that rule the first time I participated, I did not like the notion. And neither did Mr. Inner Editor. No. No. That simply cannot be done. When I worked on my NaNo story, I found that to an extent, that wasn’t possible for me. I still corrected typos and fixed minor errors. And I wasn’t struggling with my word count, so I kept on.

Every November, I strike a deal with Mr. Editor. He will continue to gripe about typos, chide me over the use of affect/effect and insure/ensure, all while keeping track of how many times I used each form of “said.” I will listen to an extent. If I spot a typo, I’ll fix it. If I’m stuck in my story, I usually have to delete what I just said. It’s how I write, and that works for me. But, I will not spend the entire month evaluating the merit of each line. When I reread, I’ll make minor corrections. If I don’t know how to fix something, I’ll leave it alone. That’s for a different time.

Now, your Inner Editor may be just as vehement as mine about being locked up. Find what works for you. If you can embrace the NaNo suggestion of not making any corrections while you pound out this draft, more power to you. If not, strike a deal. Mr. Editor can talk, but you don’t always have to listen. You will be amazed at how much freedom it gives you if you ignore him every once in a while.

Editing is Important...But Not This Month

Unless you’re doing something that’s not related to your story, don’t bother with editing. Focus on writing. When you’re readying your story for another set of eyes, focus on cleaning up what you have.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

There Are No Wrong Answers

You probably feel by now that you’ve done something wrong with your story. That new character feels all wrong. You have no earthly idea why that black Sedan driving by was so important, and the characters have questions that you cannot answer yet.

Do Not Panic

It’s easy to get overwhelmed while writing. For every question you’ve managed to answer, two more are unanswered. I’m going to help you out and remind you of a wonderful truth about writing – there are no wrong answers.

Why was your character interested in the black Sedan? Make up a reason. Either someone is tailing them, the character likes Sedans, or the vehicle reminds him of something. Pick one and move on. Even if it sounds ridiculous, you will be surprised how it satisfies your characters. It will even pacify you for a bit.

Write the answer now. If it feels wrong, mark it and recheck it in December. If it feels wrong then, change it. If not, keep it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I'm Scared

For the past few days I’ve been wrestling with the problem of my unclear plot. I have two characters who will butt heads for the first part of the book, then will team up and (somehow) find the answer they’ve both been looking for. I know their names, and I sort of know their personalities. But that’s it.

I finally wrote a pitch. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it, so I posted it on the NaNo critique board. Someone pointed out that my characters were flat. I thanked them and decided not to post there again until I fixed that. My problem – I still don’t know my characters!

This is the scary part of NaNo – you are faced with a problem that you don’t know the answer to. Sometimes, you have to turn to others so you can get an answer. But most of the time, the answer lies within us. Your writer brain, believe it or not, already knows what to do.

Yeah, right.

Most of the time, I’m stuck until I do the thing I’ve been avoiding. My brain told me to take this step, but I resisted, and I get stuck. Once I follow my instincts, I’m suddenly back to work.

The ultimate problem of NaNoWriMo is that it’s scary. You’re partaking in a new adventure, and you don’t have all the answers. There are others happily typing away, and you are convinced you’re alone in your misery.

While there are happy moments of discovery during the writing journey, the majority of us writers are also scared. We aren’t sure where we’re going. We know the rabbit hole gets deeper, and we don’t know much beyond that.

How do the NaNo veterans make it out victorious? We acknowledge the fear and keep on going. We explore the rabbit hole, knowing we might get lost, but trusting our instincts to guide us.

Writing is scary. It’s crazy, nerve-wracking, frustrating, and downright miserable sometimes, but writing is also a lot of fun. Most of all, though, writing is scary. We aren’t sure of all the words that will fill the blank page before us, but we’re going to fill it. And many more after that.

If you’re scared, you’re in good company. I am, too.

Want to cross the finish line with me? Then take my advice – don’t let your fear hold you back. Write anyway. Write when it feels like it’s coming out wrong. Write because you know you need to. And one day, you’ll look back on those pages that you filled and be thankful that you persevered.

If you’re frightened of the dark rabbit hole ahead, light and candle and see what wonders await you. You’re also not alone in your journey. If you sit still long enough in your tunnel, you’ll hear exclamations coming from nearby work sites, where other writers are working on their soon-to-be masterpieces.

What? No! I need her alive!

Okay, now what?

I have no idea what I’m doing!

Don’t you feel better? You’re not the only one struggling. Now, keep on writing. The only difference between you and a NaNo winner is that a winner will not stay in the dark hole for days and refuse to write. At every opportunity, they will continue to write. The finish line is somewhere out there, in the sunshine. It’s your job to find the path that began in the dark hole.

I’m saluting you with my own shovel, then getting to work. Until next time!

Monday, November 4, 2013


Sorry it's late today!

Today’s writing quota will be harder to reach than yesterday’s. Today, your brilliant idea for the next scene must wait until later in the day to be added to the story. Adding to that, the joy of beginning your story has started to fade. Writing is starting to feel like what it really is – work.
Make no mistake – writing is a lot of work. It’s hard and virtually thankless. It takes hours to compose something read in five minutes. However, there is nothing quite like it. Writing is fun, in between all the moments where you want to pull your hair out.

If you want to get to the point where writing is fun, you’re going to have to write even when you don’t feel like it. That’s right – I said to write even though it feels like work. Once you finish that scene, you will understand why I’m encouraging you to keep going. Even if it’s not fun yet, you will be proud of what you have accomplished even when you’re tired.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How to Write in the Real World

This year, I’ve enlisted some of my writing buddies to help me blog about the wonderful/frustrating experience that is NaNoWriMo. This is from Adrienne, a friend I met last year.

Greetings out there in Nano-Land!!

As you are embarking on this inspiring, awesome, maddening season of NaNoWriMo, many for the first time, you start out with intentions.  Take me, for instance.  When I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo last year, I just knew I was going to go home from work every evening and pound out thousands of words that were just inspired by the writing muses and cross that finish line ready to talk to an agent on December 1.  Well…you know where they say the path of good intentions always leads…

So there I am… November 3rd or 4th of last year—bad day at work, standing plans with friends for our weekly meal, I’m tired.  No writing.  Then comes the weekend…football games, my parents ended up coming to town.  I had no clean clothes so I needed to do the laundry.  Word count at this point—256 (I think).  Okay, I’ll really kick it in gear next week.  Next week comes—busy week at work with exhausting meetings, followed by weekly dinner and weekly movie night.  The other two weeknights I don’t want to think so I sit watching mindless tv and go to bed.  Weekend comes—more football; family visit to my grandma’s.  Word count—256.  The following week was Thanksgiving.  Yeah—not happening.  I just hung up my NaNo hat and said “next year.”

I paint this horrific NaNo picture for myself, not just for you.  I think for a lot of us “first-timers” over-estimate exactly how much free time we have or how easy pounding out 1,600 words a day is going to be.  Life happens.  You have a crap day at work.  Your family drops in for a surprise visit.  Your washing machine blows up, spewing soap suds and wet socks everywhere.  What have you.  The key, I think, is to not let these interruptions become a complete road block on the NaNo freeway.  Everyone is busy in their own way.  I have a standing date with two friends every Tuesday for a movie night.  Every other Thursday, I meet another group of friends for dinner.  Then, on top of that, I have season tickets to our local university’s football games—and I am a DIE-HARD fan.  I do NOT miss football, but I digress...  What you have to do is find a way to write in and amongst the busy-ness that is your life.  I’m taking this hard-earned lesson myself this year.  Here are some things that I’m planning on doing that I think may help.

✓    Look at your writing as an escape from the sordidness that is your day job rather than another “chore”.  (This I think will help me more than anything else.)  Work sucked today?  Great! You can completely absorb yourself in another world of your own making where the evil manager gets hit by a bus!  (If you like….)

✓    If you have standing social commitments, see if you can minimize those during NaNoWriMo.   Last year, my standing dinner was every week.  Due to changing circumstances, we now meet every other week.  This already halves the commitment from what it was last year.  I’m also going to see if my movie night group will agree to do the same for November. 

✓    Make sure your family and friends know what you’re attempting to do.  If those close to you understand your participation in NaNoWriMo, there are a couple of results. One—they’ll be able to cheer you on all month and make you accountable to someone other than the word counter.  Two—if they are supportive, they’ll limit those “surprise” visits or unnecessary interruptions.  Bonus—if they’re super supportive, they’ll cook or bring you meals so you don’t have to waste precious writing time on stupid things like boiling water or making toast.

✓    Plan time to write for weekends that have unalterable plans.  This year, I’m already keeping my Saturday mornings completely free for writing since I know that I’ll be going to football games in the afternoon. 

✓    Don’t skip more than one day in a row of writing.  If you don’t write on Monday for whatever reason, then you must write on Tuesday—even if only for 256 words.  The more days you skip writing anything at all, the more apt you are to just drop NaNo on the wayside.

✓    Attend regional events.  Get to know fellow WriMos in your area.  Attend write-ins whenever possible.  Being surrounded by people writing just like you will keep up your excitement for NaNoWriMo.

✓    Finally—right now… after you read this post… go buy two large packages of underwear (the packages that have 11 pairs in them).  Do it.  Buy the underwear.  This way, you can skip laundry the entire month without fear… you’ll have clean underwear until Nov 30th.   

Good luck my fellow authors!  Enjoy this process, and if you have minor mishaps—as we all do—don’t beat yourself up over it.  Just keep going.  I’ll catch ya on the other side in December!

This is Adrienne’s second attempt at NaNoWriMo.  Although currently harnessed into a day job for “survival reasons,” she’s striving for a finished manuscript and subsequent publication.  The North Carolina native has a BA in English Literature, has over a decade of teaching experience under her belt,  is an amateur movie critic, and an LPGA  golfer (…only in her head, mind you).  If you’re looking for ways to procrastinate in your writing pursuits, you can see her sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek movie reviews on her blog:

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Today is the first Saturday of the month. Most of us are off work, so we can spend as much time as humanly possible in front of our computers. My suggestion is to speak to the other members of your household early in the day. Do whatever you must to carve out time for yourself. Grab your essential writing supplies and your favorite snack. You will need that cup of coffee or that candy bar later on. Get back to your computer and get comfortable. Your goal today is to write.

Get Ahead

There are going to be busy days in your future. Some days you will barely be able to write. Though I hit those days, too, I have always managed to finish NaNo early. The way I accomplish that is to get ahead of the curve. I meet my daily word count goal and keep on going. I like to get at least one day ahead of my normal quota. Taht way, when rough days come, it doesn’t make me fall behind.

Get ahead of the minimum goal. Stay ahead. The perfect time to do that is today.

Now, go! Write!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ready, Set, Go!

November 1st is here! It’s time to begin your NaNo story! Are you excited? Awesome! Are you nervous? Fantastic! Join the club!

Just Start Writing

At some point in your first few pages, the story is going to feel wrong. You’re going to feel like you’re failing. The story doesn’t sound nearly as awesome on paper as it did in your head. The beginning is boring or worse – doesn’t make sense. After an hour of struggling, you may not have managed to finish your first page.

These fears are normal. The temptation to quit will always be there. Don’t quit. Don’t worry if you fall behind. You have plenty of time to catch up.

You Know What You’re Doing!

As of this writing, my plot is very segmented. My characters are still vague. I’ve managed a grand total of two journal entries in an attempt to plan. I’ve learned more about their exes than the main characters, but at least I’ve learned something. My doctor character is still furious at her cheating husband. And my private investigator doesn’t like churches. He doesn’t like doing anything for free. And apparently, he likes Red Robin.

Where does my story take place? How old are my characters? What is the name of the hospital where half the story occurs? Not a clue.

If you’re in the same boat as me right now, don’t worry. Those answers will present themselves shortly (or can be filled in later). Keep plowing ahead with what you do know. It will help. Eventually.