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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: nanowrimo, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 376
1. How to Write Even When You Feel Uninspired and Down

Every writer I know, it seems, is either preparing now to write a fast draft during NaNoWriMo, has a jump-start on November by speed-writing now to finish by the end of the year or has given up.

With novels anywhere from 50,000 (slight) to over 100,000 words, writing a fast draft gets you to the end faster. Problem at that point is knowing you're not finished -- not by a long-shot.

One of the biggest shocks for novelists just starting out is the realization they may have to write more than one draft -- several even. You get the end of draft 1 euphoric, only to understand how much work is still left to be done. You want it to be over. You want your story perfect in the next rewrite. You even work through all 30 exercises and 5.5 hours of video instruction during PlotWriMo, revision your entire story, only to rewrite again. And perhaps again and again.

Begin now by accepting that the fast draft you write now, you may have to rewrite all those thousands of words again later. Then put your head down and get to writing. Finish by the end of the year.

Writing a fast draft demands consistent and powerful writing.

Consistent writing is a tough one to achieve for writers who insist they can only write when they’re inspired to write. Consistent writing means showing up  to write whether you're inspired or dull, frightened or brave, energetic or lazy. You show up and write anyway.

A consistent writing regime is helpful, especially so writing a fast draft. A tight deadline of a month facilitates fast writing -- no time for procrastination, no time to wait for inspiration. Every spare moment must be devoted to writing or pre-plotting to succeed at completing a fast draft in a month.

Today I write! Rather, today I pre-plot for NaNo!

For pre-plotting tips and tricks and how to write a novel in a month, check out my Plot Whisperer books: 

1)  The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
2)  The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
3)  The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.
  ~~~~~~~~
To continue writing and revising:


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2. Holding Yourself Accountable & Staying Motivated

Writing Life Banner

by

Susan Dennard

I’ve talked about productivity in great detail before. I’ve discussed how BICHOK is a sure-fire way to get your writing where it needs to be, how endurance can be increased, and how fear can often hold back your writing.

But what about those times when it’s just plain ol’ laziness that’s keeping you from the productivity you want? What about those days where you spend four hours at the computer and write all of 4 words because OMG! Look at all the pretties and shinies on the internet? And ungh, I’m hungry…and hey, when did that squirrel move into the tree outside my window?

Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

On those distraction-heavy days, my friend, it’s time to seek help elsewhere. It’s time to find SOMEONE ELSE to hold you accountable.

I mean, think about it: when you were in high school, you got your work done (or I hope you did…). Maybe it was at the last minute or maybe it wasn’t always your best work, but you finished. Why? Because someone else expected you to.

I’ve talked at great length about this with my author and solo-entrepreneur friends. We have no bosses! We have NO ONE to look over our shoulders and make sure we’re getting the work done.

Another thing we don’t have are people to validate us when we do make progress. So what if you had a great day writing–there’s no one there to be impressed or to pat you on the back or to say, “Great job! You deserve a raise.” We simply slog on, all alone.

But what if we put a dose of SOMEONE ELSE in our writing lives? What if we find (or start) a Twitter hashtag so we can make accountability partners? Or cheerleader/validation partners? Or what if we interact in forums or via email chains or Facebook groups? Writing is solitary, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

I think camaraderie is one of the reasons that NaNoWriMo is SO successful for people! They’re all writing together, interacting, sharing, and keeping each other motivated.

So if you’re finding you need a bit more motivation in your life, I challenge you to find another writer who’ll hold you accountable and send you lots of smiley faces when you need ‘em. Heck, come join me in my forums–I’m definitely in need of some writing buddies!! Or add me as a friend for NaNoWriMo!

You tell me: Is this something you would ever do? Or do you already have someone like this in your writing life?

If you like what you read here, consider signing up for my newsletter, the Misfits & Daydreamers or swinging by my For Writers page!

SusanDennardBefore she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan Dennard traveled the world as marine biologist. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or practicing her tap dance shuffles. You can learn more about Susan on her blogTwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

 

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3. Pre-NaNoWriMo Pre-Plotting Tip for the Middle and End of the Novel

When thinking / pre-plotting your story for NaNoWriMo, keep in mind that the middle is more than an exotic world of the antagonists and to create conflicts and challenges for the protagonist. Yes, the dilemmas and setbacks she endures in the middle provide drama and page-turnability.

The struggles to survive and go forward also hold the gifts of new skills and abilities that will serve her well at the climax as she begins to adapt her thinking to the demands of her new reality.

In resisting the changes required of her in the middle to succeed, she struggles. After the crisis / dark night around the 3/4 mark of the story, she becomes conscious of all that has come before. In that new light, she understands the strength and courage she's gained in her suffering and the freedom afforded her.

That way, in the middle of next month, when you're floundering for depth in your writing, you'll find these notes for scene expansion opportunities. And, by the end of the month, when you're exhausted and spent, you'll have scene ideas how best to show the integration of these new skills and beliefs.

For more tips and tricks to pre-plotting and writing a novel in a month, check out my Plot Whisperer books: 
1)  The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
2)  The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
3)  The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.

Today I write! Rather, today I pre-plot for NaNo!
  ~~~~~~~~
To continue writing and revising:

0 Comments on Pre-NaNoWriMo Pre-Plotting Tip for the Middle and End of the Novel as of 1/1/1900
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4. Tips and Inspiration to Write a Book in a Month

http://www.writersdigestshop.com/writers-digest-november-december-2014-groupedOne of the things I love about working at Writer’s Digest is the excitement each time a new issue hits newsstands. And it’s especially true with the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest–because this special guide to Writing a Book in a Month arrives just in time for November’s National Novel Writing Month challenge. Regardless of whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, counting down 30 Days to Your Novel on your own schedule, or simply looking to write your next draft faster, this is an issue you won’t want to miss.

Find Writing Inspiration and Confidence

As a parent of both a baby and a toddler, I am surrounded by constant reminders that a lot can happen in a month. Still, it never fails to astonish me. A reliance on wriggling as a means of transportation turns into a full-speed crawl on all fours. A tearful transition to a new preschool becomes an over-the-shoulder wave in a rush to join new friends around the train table. Skills grow or are replaced by new ones, routines change, habits are formed or dropped.

As I compiled the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest, filled with stories of big triumphs over short periods of time, it occurred to me that as adults, we don’t lose that ability to transform ourselves or our work—but we do tend to forget that we have it. And what a shame that is. Know this: Deep down, we are capable of taking more than baby steps. If we set our minds to it, we can cross major milestones in leaps and bounds. And that goes for our writing, too.

Writing a book in a month might sound a little crazy. In a way, I think that’s part of its allure—because write-a-thon challenges are steadily gaining in popularity. Every November 1, National Novel Writing Month’s online hub at NaNoWriMo.org draws nearly half a million writers worldwide in an attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. As NaNoWriMo director Grant Faulkner shares in this issue’s article “What Makes NaNoWriMo Work,” that solidarity is a big part of what keeps the challenge growing every year. Because no matter how hard you have (or haven’t) trained to prepare for this marathon, once the starting pistol fires everyone is pretty much in the same pack, throwing caution to the wind and cheering one another in one big, messy sprint to the far-away finish.

Of course, you don’t need a worldwide event to take a book-in-a-month challenge. And you don’t need to be writing a novel. Solo writers, partners and groups of all stripes do word count marathons year-round. We reached out to these writers and asked them to share their most profound lessons learned, and you’ll find the best of their firsthand advice in “Plan Your Own Write-a-Thon.” (In fact, we got more great advice than we had space to print! Read more tips and tales from the writing community in our online-exclusive outtakes, Write a Book in a Month: More Writers Share Their Experience & Advice.)

Once all that inspiration has you writing up a frenzy, we wanted to make sure you have some roadside assistance ready to help when you start to run out of gas—and that’s where Elizabeth Sims’ “21 Fast Hacks to Fuel Your Story With Suspense” comes in.

Your book idea might be in its infancy now, but take it from me—with some extra attention on your part, soon it can be surprising and delighting you with its strength, determination and newfound ability to stand on its own two feet, grinning from ear to ear.

Conquer Your Word Count Goals

Are you planning to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Looking to up your daily word counts just a bit in solidarity with those who are? We’d love to hear about your writing goals–leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!

Get your copy of the Write a Book in a Month! issue on your favorite newsstand, or download the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest right now.

Happy Writing,
Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter @jessicastrawser.

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5. Tips and Inspiration to Write a Book in a Month

http://www.writersdigestshop.com/writers-digest-november-december-2014-groupedOne of the things I love about working at Writer’s Digest is the excitement each time a new issue hits newsstands. And it’s especially true with the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest–because this special guide to Writing a Book in a Month arrives just in time for November’s National Novel Writing Month challenge. Regardless of whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, counting down 30 Days to Your Novel on your own schedule, or simply looking to write your next draft faster, this is an issue you won’t want to miss.

Find Writing Inspiration and Confidence

As a parent of both a baby and a toddler, I am surrounded by constant reminders that a lot can happen in a month. Still, it never fails to astonish me. A reliance on wriggling as a means of transportation turns into a full-speed crawl on all fours. A tearful transition to a new preschool becomes an over-the-shoulder wave in a rush to join new friends around the train table. Skills grow or are replaced by new ones, routines change, habits are formed or dropped.

As I compiled the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest, filled with stories of big triumphs over short periods of time, it occurred to me that as adults, we don’t lose that ability to transform ourselves or our work—but we do tend to forget that we have it. And what a shame that is. Know this: Deep down, we are capable of taking more than baby steps. If we set our minds to it, we can cross major milestones in leaps and bounds. And that goes for our writing, too.

Writing a book in a month might sound a little crazy. In a way, I think that’s part of its allure—because write-a-thon challenges are steadily gaining in popularity. Every November 1, National Novel Writing Month’s online hub at NaNoWriMo.org draws nearly half a million writers worldwide in an attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. As NaNoWriMo director Grant Faulkner shares in this issue’s article “What Makes NaNoWriMo Work,” that solidarity is a big part of what keeps the challenge growing every year. Because no matter how hard you have (or haven’t) trained to prepare for this marathon, once the starting pistol fires everyone is pretty much in the same pack, throwing caution to the wind and cheering one another in one big, messy sprint to the far-away finish.

Of course, you don’t need a worldwide event to take a book-in-a-month challenge. And you don’t need to be writing a novel. Solo writers, partners and groups of all stripes do word count marathons year-round. We reached out to these writers and asked them to share their most profound lessons learned, and you’ll find the best of their firsthand advice in “Plan Your Own Write-a-Thon.” (In fact, we got more great advice than we had space to print! Read more tips and tales from the writing community in our online-exclusive outtakes, Write a Book in a Month: More Writers Share Their Experience & Advice.)

Once all that inspiration has you writing up a frenzy, we wanted to make sure you have some roadside assistance ready to help when you start to run out of gas—and that’s where Elizabeth Sims’ “21 Fast Hacks to Fuel Your Story With Suspense” comes in.

Your book idea might be in its infancy now, but take it from me—with some extra attention on your part, soon it can be surprising and delighting you with its strength, determination and newfound ability to stand on its own two feet, grinning from ear to ear.

Conquer Your Word Count Goals

Are you planning to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Looking to up your daily word counts just a bit in solidarity with those who are? We’d love to hear about your writing goals–leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!

Get your copy of the Write a Book in a Month! issue on your favorite newsstand, or download the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest right now.

Happy Writing,
Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter @jessicastrawser.

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6. NaNoWriMo Prep Work: To Edit or Not Edit While Writing First Draft

nanowrimoBY TED BOONE NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is November) is a brilliant way to jumpstart an aspiring writer’s progress towards completing a novel manuscript. Its goals are clear and straightforward: 50,000 words in 30 days. That goal, while certainly challenging, is manageable for most participants, and the end result is twofold: a solid start to a novel, and the invaluable feeling of accomplishment for “winning” the NaNo challenge.

Given NaNoWriMo’s simple but stringent requirements, many participants adopt some fairly draconian methods to accomplishing their goal. Over the last decade of participation, I’ve observed self-imposed rules like: zero backspace usage, absolute “pantsing” (writing without an outline or plan), stream-of-consciousness-typing, no food/drink/television/whatever before daily word count is achieved (!), etc. The techniques NaNo participants employ to achieve their word-count goal are as diverse as the participants themselves. (For more great tips on National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo], download the November/December issue of Writer’s Digest now!)

The most common technique that experienced WriMos will propose for newbies is the “zero editing” approach. That is, during the month of November, you must resist the urge to edit your novel. The advice is based upon the idea that NaNo participants should always be increasing their word count, regardless of the quality of the words that are appearing on the page.

It’s not a bad plan. Turning off your inner editor during the month of November is often what aspiring novelists need. Getting bogged down in editing can often result in never finishing the manuscript in the first place. Editing is the bane of momentum.

Except, of course, when it’s not.

My confession?

I edit during NaNoWriMo.

T1255Get prepared to write an entire novel in November with
a little help for our October 9 webinar: How to Pre-Plot & Complete
a Novel or Memoir in a Month (comes with a bonus ebook).
Register here
.

I edit every single day. Sometimes more than once. I probably spend as much time editing during November as I do writing. There. I said it. Now, let me explain.

I have tried, over the last nine years, to adhere to the mantra, “DO NOT EDIT.” The reasoning behind this mantra is that your inner editor always has its hand on the brake lever, ready at any moment to pull a Full Stop on your writing progress and, in the process, scream epithets in your ear about the utter uselessness of your writing efforts during November.

To wit: your inner editor is an asshole.

So, during NaNo, many writers make the conscious effort to lock their inner editors away, in deep vaults under heavy mountains on distant planets, and throw the keys into the fiery furnace of the local star.

No editing = no brakes, and no internal monologue of self-loathing.

Does this work? For many people: yes, absolutely.

For me? Nope. No way.

My stopping mechanism is different. It’s not a set of brakes being applied by a hypercritical inner child whose parents never showed any affection or approval. It’s the natural function of my rusty gears of thought, which need constant and lavish lubrication to allow the machine to even function, let alone move forward.

What’s my manuscript-writing-machine lubricant of choice? My WD-40?

During November, I write for a few minutes. Then I stop. I ponder. I reconsider. I go backwards. I tweak. I add words. I rearrange paragraphs. I interject conversations.

I edit. Line by line. And while, on occasion, that results in the deletion of words, the net effect is always, always, an increase in word count.

Unfortunately, this line-editing process does mean that I move slowly. Sometimes embarrassingly slowly. A few years ago (much to the perverse delight of my local Wrimos) I wrote 67 words during a 15-minute sprint. That’s… not fast. That’s the opposite of fast. Writing 1,667 words a day–words I’m willing to live with–takes me forever. So, when people say they’re busy during November, I tend to roll my eyes. Busy? You have no idea.

It’s my own fault, but every day of November is an exercise in iteration. I have no idea what “linear writing” means. I prefer loop-de-loops and spiralling detours. A self-inflicted molasses-slow meandering path to my daily word count.

And then, the next day, when I first open my manuscript? That’s when I get truly masochistic. Before I type a single new word, I reread my scenes from the previous day. I kickstart my complacent characters. Then I stand back and see how they react to my poking and prodding. If it’s boring, I go back in and do it again. With flair and panache. Rinse and repeat, until my re-re-re-read elicits a grin.

Once I’m happy with my new, revised scene, I rinse and repeat.

Write. Line edit. Sleep. Kickstart.

ted booneThe end result has been, historically, a manuscript that’s passable. Not necessarily a first draft, but not exactly a zero draft either. Zero point five. Zero point seven, if I let my ego speak its mind.

So, yeah. I edit. It’s part of my process, and for me, it works.

Don’t agree with me? Cool. Have your own process that works? More power to you. And if anyone tells you your approach is wrong?

Write them into your novel for a little prodding of their own.

-
Ted Boone was born in Wilmington, Delaware. An avid fan of National Novel Writer’s Month, Ted has authored numerous SF manuscripts during the month of November, but not yet pursued publication for his novels. Ted currently works as an Instructor for the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

 

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7. How to Pre-Plot & Complete a Novel or Memoir in a Month

It's early October and already writers look to the future in anticipation of writing 50,000 words of their novel during the month of November.


Lots of writers will jump into the writing frenzy last minute and by-the-seat-of-their-pants with or without a plot idea. Other writers will spend this month dreaming. Writers who love to to organize their lives for the greatest efficiency and less stress will spend October pre-plotting. Then there are writers who take things slowly and methodically, needing to consider all their options and their willingness to subject themselves to the overstimulation, disliking conflict and even a bit shy about committing to the challenge.

I, for one, love pre-plotting. No writing required. Stand back and imagine the big picture thematically, dramatically and emotionally. Plot ideas on a Plot Planner. Add pictures of characters and settings and details that stimulate your senses and energy to write about them.

Pre-plotting feels like an artistic pursuit compared to the grueling challenge if you do decide to write 50,000 words next month. A warm-up and lovely way to ease into the creative process. Showing up without any pressure of word count or deadlines. Simply time spent with the muse and plotting out what comes to you.

Today I write, and I pre-plot.

If you'd like pre-plotting ideas and how to write a fast first draft:

1) Join me October 9th for How to Pre-Plot and Complete a Novel or Memoir in a Month: The Benefits of Writing a Fast Draft from Beginning to End 

2) Re-read the The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master book and follow the instructions how to pre-plot your story

3) Complete all the exercises and fill in all the templates (plot planners included) in The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories 

4) Forget next month for now and enjoy this month writing or revising what you're currently working on and take with you into next month The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing for daily prompts to guide you how to write a story with a plot from beginning to end.
  ~~~~~~~~
If you simply want to continue writing and revising and are looking for plot help:
Read my Plot Whisperer books for writers

Watch Plot Video Workshops Series:

0 Comments on How to Pre-Plot & Complete a Novel or Memoir in a Month as of 10/3/2014 8:45:00 PM
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8. NaNoWriMo Prep Work: How to Fit Writing Into Your Busy Schedule

nanowrimoBY ABBY SCHREIBER Everyone has a different take on the writing process, from the classic rhythm of “Write, edit, revise, and repeat” to the scramble of mismatched scenes that eventually come together. As a young author, I find the writing process to be something stretchable, and easy to bend. The writer is the one who truly creates their own writing process out of the twenty-six letters that make up their basic materials.

At some point, though, you in your busy life might wonder, “How the heck am I going to fit this writing into my schedule?”

Well, there are two simple answers. The first is to become a hermit. The second, and possibly more effective solution, is proactive time management. NaNoWriMo, and its Camp NaNoWriMo events are all about managing time. How else could so many people write 50,000 words, or even more, in only a month? (For more great tips on National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo], download the November/December issue of Writer’s Digest now!)

First of all: absolutely do not become a hermit, or remove yourself in any way from friends and family! They will play a major part in the things you achieve. Instead, daydream and seek inspiration whenever you have a moment where getting lost in your ideas won’t be a hazard (because planning a novel in your head during brain surgery doesn’t sound like a good idea, does it?).

Plan beforehand. Whether you write on your own, or solely during events like NaNoWriMo, planning makes things incredibly easier. I’ve found that planning can take many routes, too, but it boils down to this: you wrestle with what needs to happen to fulfill your story, then take note. Perhaps you are like me and string index cards all over your work area, or maybe you make a map of the world you have created.

T1255Get prepared to write an entire novel in November with
a little help for our October 9 webinar: How to Pre-Plot & Complete
a Novel or Memoir in a Month (comes with a bonus ebook).
Register here
.

When it comes to making the most of your writing time, there are ways to improve the amount you write, and still have time for your life. You sit down in your free time at your favorite place to write. Let’s say there is only one hour for you to get as much as you can done. What do you do?

First, shut off distractions. Tumblr, Facebook, it all has to go. Turn off the phone, hide away the book you’re reading (I know, it is hard). Once these things can’t be of distraction, you can get started, but with what? You have the characters and the world they belong to planned out, but where do you begin?

Well, with one word, followed by another. You begin writing with the words that may become the ending to the mystery or the introduction of a character. Steps turn to leaps. You leave this world behind to spend a small time somewhere else.

When it is time to get back to work, school, sleep, or whatever else you have to do, remember to never forget whatever it is you write with. Bring a notebook to continue in every spare moment, or your laptop to type during a lunch break. Wherever you go, inspiration follows, even if in the smallest ways.

Don’t write too long. Allow time to get snacks, and to give your mind a break. Writing, like anything, is a process that takes time to learn and improve upon.

nano_14_writers_digest_abby_schreiberDoing NaNo or anything similar is like entering a different world. Set the times when you can immerse yourself in the story that you have created. No one else can write the things you can. Even if you aren’t a writer, there are things that will never exist if you are not the one to create them. Embrace your ideas, establish goals to get where you want to go, and set off!

-
Abigail is a thirteen-year-old writer in Lafayette, Colorado, who has been told that she was practically an adult from birth. Over the past year, she’s written three novels, and hopes to eventually get at least one of them traditionally published. Most day she can be found tucked away in her room, watching Doctor Who, listening to her favorite music, and planning new books. Her first book, Millennium can be found here. Follow her on Twitter at @epikowl.

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9. NaNoWriMo Prep Work: Find Your Writing Niche

nanowrimoBY OWEN BONDONO In nature, all living things fill a specific role in their ecosystems. This is called their ecological niche, and organisms need this specific combination of factors to survive.

Similarly, every writer needs their own specific combination of factors to thrive creatively. Some people like quiet, while others like noise. Some write first thing in the morning, others write after everyone else has gone to bed. Finding your writing niche is key to upping your productivity.

Lists and charts have always made me happy. Even if you hate charts, taking notes on your writing habits can help clarify what factors work for you and which factors don’t.

Spend a few weeks setting aside writing time as often as you can. Record all the details of your writing session, including:

  • location,
  • the day and time,
  • how much time spent writing,
  • background noise,
  • what else you’re doing (eating, drinking, texting, etc),
  • words written, and
  • anything else you think may impact your writing productivity.

Make sure you switch up these factors during the few weeks you’re recording, so you get as much data as possible.

Sitting back to look at this information will show you trends that are hard to spot on their own, especially when you do the math to figure out how many words you wrote per hour. As the factors change, productivity can vary widely.

Study these numbers for patterns. These patterns of productivity are the factors that will describe your niche. For instance, my niche is in the evening, out of the house, somewhere with some background noise but with my music playing. That’s why you’ll find me in libraries and cafes with too much coffee and headphones that look too big for my head. Everyone has their own niche, and keeping track of your productivity can help you find yours.

T1255Get prepared to write an entire novel in November with
a little help for our October 9 webinar: How to Pre-Plot & Complete
a Novel or Memoir in a Month (comes with a bonus ebook).
Register here
.

Make Your Niche Into A Habitat

Once you’ve found your niche, it’s time to burrow in and make it your home. Habitats provide animals with everything important in their lives. They dictate the habits and routines of nature. As humans, we get to decide what is in our habitat.

Routine helps prevent writer’s block and gives you focus. If you always write after supper, then your brain will start shifting automatically into writing gear as you’re stacking your dishes in the sink.

Don’t think of writing time as stolen moments, but as planned time to give your creativity the room to stretch and play. Putting your writing time on your schedule – and sticking to it – helps you and those around you take it seriously. That’s when your niche becomes a habitat, when you settle down to live in the efficiency of routine.

To do this, lay out your schedule for a typical week. Index cards or sticky notes are great for this because you can move them around easily. On each card or note, write out one thing you must do in your day. Include everything: your job, your commute, your mealtimes, your sleep.

owen bondonoFigure out what you can rearrange. Some things you can’t move, like your commute. But with a little flexibility, many things can be moved. Showers can be taken in the morning or at night; the dishes can be washed any time. Rearrange your tasks so your butt is in  your preferred writing chair during your writing niche as often as possible.

Most of us can’t afford to spend hours every day writing. There are just too many other things that need our attention. By making writing in your niche a routine, we can be more productive in less time. We may not be professional writers who can dedicate hours of the day to writing, but 20 minutes of high efficiency writing is better than spending two hours unfocused.

-
Owen Bondono is a border-crossing educator who teaches in Detroit and lives in Canada. He has served as National Novel Writing Month’s Detroit Municipal Liaison for six years and is currently revising his first novel. To write with him this November, visit his NaNoWriMo author profile.

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10. Five Things I Learned From Doing NaNoWriMo

It’s been nine months since I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote 50,000 words of a novel in under a month. It’s one thing to bask in the manic euphoria of pounding out 50,000 words like an intense sprint around a track. But it’s completely different thing to step back and look at what you’ve written and see if it’s worth anything. Yes, I braved reading my NaNoWriMo draft, and I’ve even begun to draft revisions. But what I’ve discovered in the post-NaNo-creation glow is pretty surprising…

First draft button

1) My First Draft Isn’t Shitty

First off, I’m not a fan of the term shitty first drafts. Yes, it was created to help us deal with our need for perfection in the first draft, but I also think it creates a cycle of negativity. The idea of telling ourselves our drafts are shitty, only reinforces the negative feelings we already fear about our work. Sure, a first draft may not be publishable, but honestly, I never think they’re shitty. However, if there was any instance where my theories on shitty first drafts would be overturned it would be NaNoWriMo … after all, I pumped out this draft in 2 ½ weeks. Only…

My NaNoWriMo Draft isn’t shitty!

Sure, it’s not polished gold, but there are so many important discoveries in it, explorations that led to new plot points, beautiful lines, sassy sections of dialogue, and even entire scenes that are good. Not scenes that are okay… but good!

My point is: we should trust our first drafts more. Trust the joy and the positive energy that can come from freeing yourself up and writing quickly. Trust the fact that you do know what you’re doing and your writing is better than you think it is!

female-empowerment2) Revisions are Empowering

Okay, so my first draft isn’t complete crap, but there’s still plenty of work to do. The second great discovery about writing a quick first draft is that when you approach revisions you immediately know what to do to make the book better. Revisions don’t become nail-biting, hair-pulling, exercises in frustration. Instead, revision become empowering!

For me, it can be the despair, the sense that I don’t know what to do, that makes writing so hard. But revising this novel has been invigorating and fun. There’s power and purpose in sitting down with raw material and knowing exactly what to do to shape it. It helps me to see how much I already know about crafting good stories, and that I’m able to do it with intention.  

old chronometer3) It Doesn’t Take as Long as I Think to Write a Novel

Looking back at my NaNoWriMo time sheets, I’ve discovered that I spent an average of 1½ hours writing per day. Yes, there were a few days where I put in 3 to 4 hours in a sitting. But mostly it was 1 ½ hours a day. As I’ve moved on to revision, I’ve also put in an average of 1 1/2 hours per day. By keeping a time sheet I’ve started to see how much I can accomplish in a short amount of time. In fact, I haven’t even put in a full month’s worth of work into this novel yet!

One of our big struggles with writing is finding the time to get it done. But I’ve been floored to discover how much I can accomplish with only 1 ½ hours a day! I bet most of you could find 1 or 2 hours in your day to write.

no_plan_road_sign4) Scenes That Went Nowhere…

Not every section of my NaNoWriMo draft works. But, I discoverd a pattern to the pages that fell flat or went nowhere. These scenes were searching for direction, and without it they floundered.

In my pre-planning stages I outlined and created scene-cards for the scenes I knew existed. I did, however, leave a few blank. I made the excuse that I’d figure it out later, while writing. It turns out that every scene I promised to figure out later on, didn’t go anywhere. Sometimes I’d know the general action of a scene, but the things that really killed my momentum were not knowing what my character wanted in the scene, or what his or her emotional change would be. All the scenes with a clear character goal and emotional change came alive on the page. Perhaps this is the through line I needed to guide me while writing really fast.

blinders5) Everything You Think You Know is Wrong! Or… Don’t Put On Writing Blinders.

I was certain that NaNoWriMo was going to be a huge failure. I had some snobby ideas about how a novel should be written. I was certain those participating in NaNoWriMo were wasting their time. But boy was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

I don’t think I will write every novel in my future this way. But I do think it will be a great way to write some of them. But man, if I’d stayed in my stuffy singular way of looking at things, I would have never discovered this amazing tool and these important lessons.

So get out there and try new things with your writing. Try things you’re certain will not work. Allow yourself to fail. We never know what will work until we put it into practice and give it a whirl.

What Did You Learn from NaNoWriMo?

Did anyone else participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you re-read your work? Started revisions? What discoveries have you made?


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11. Five Things I Learned From Doing NaNoWriMo

It’s been nine months since I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote 50,000 words of a novel in under a month. It’s one thing to bask in the manic euphoria of pounding out 50,000 words like an intense sprint around a track. But it’s completely different thing to step back and look at what you’ve written and see if it’s worth anything. Yes, I braved reading my NaNoWriMo draft, and I’ve even begun to draft revisions. But what I’ve discovered in the post-NaNo-creation glow is pretty surprising…

First draft button

1) My First Draft Isn’t Shitty

First off, I’m not a fan of the term shitty first drafts. Yes, it was created to help us deal with our need for perfection in the first draft, but I also think it creates a cycle of negativity. The idea of telling ourselves our drafts are shitty, only reinforces the negative feelings we already fear about our work. Sure, a first draft may not be publishable, but honestly, I never think they’re shitty. However, if there was any instance where my theories on shitty first drafts would be overturned it would be NaNoWriMo … after all, I pumped out this draft in 2 ½ weeks. Only…

My NaNoWriMo Draft isn’t shitty!

Sure, it’s not polished gold, but there are so many important discoveries in it, explorations that led to new plot points, beautiful lines, sassy sections of dialogue, and even entire scenes that are good. Not scenes that are okay… but good!

My point is: we should trust our first drafts more. Trust the joy and the positive energy that can come from freeing yourself up and writing quickly. Trust the fact that you do know what you’re doing and your writing is better than you think it is!

female-empowerment2) Revisions are Empowering

Okay, so my first draft isn’t complete crap, but there’s still plenty of work to do. The second great discovery about writing a quick first draft is that when you approach revisions you immediately know what to do to make the book better. Revisions don’t become nail-biting, hair-pulling, exercises in frustration. Instead, revision become empowering!

For me, it can be the despair, the sense that I don’t know what to do, that makes writing so hard. But revising this novel has been invigorating and fun. There’s power and purpose in sitting down with raw material and knowing exactly what to do to shape it. It helps me to see how much I already know about crafting good stories, and that I’m able to do it with intention.  

old chronometer3) It Doesn’t Take as Long as I Think to Write a Novel

Looking back at my NaNoWriMo time sheets, I’ve discovered that I spent an average of 1½ hours writing per day. Yes, there were a few days where I put in 3 to 4 hours in a sitting. But mostly it was 1 ½ hours a day. As I’ve moved on to revision, I’ve also put in an average of 1 1/2 hours per day. By keeping a time sheet I’ve started to see how much I can accomplish in a short amount of time. In fact, I haven’t even put in a full month’s worth of work into this novel yet!

One of our big struggles with writing is finding the time to get it done. But I’ve been floored to discover how much I can accomplish with only 1 ½ hours a day! I bet most of you could find 1 or 2 hours in your day to write.

no_plan_road_sign4) Scenes That Went Nowhere…

Not every section of my NaNoWriMo draft works. But, I discoverd a pattern to the pages that fell flat or went nowhere. These scenes were searching for direction, and without it they floundered.

In my pre-planning stages I outlined and created scene-cards for the scenes I knew existed. I did, however, leave a few blank. I made the excuse that I’d figure it out later, while writing. It turns out that every scene I promised to figure out later on, didn’t go anywhere. Sometimes I’d know the general action of a scene, but the things that really killed my momentum were not knowing what my character wanted in the scene, or what his or her emotional change would be. All the scenes with a clear character goal and emotional change came alive on the page. Perhaps this is the through line I needed to guide me while writing really fast.

blinders5) Everything You Think You Know is Wrong! Or… Don’t Put On Writing Blinders.

I was certain that NaNoWriMo was going to be a huge failure. I had some snobby ideas about how a novel should be written. I was certain those participating in NaNoWriMo were wasting their time. But boy was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

I don’t think I will write every novel in my future this way. But I do think it will be a great way to write some of them. But man, if I’d stayed in my stuffy singular way of looking at things, I would have never discovered this amazing tool and these important lessons.

So get out there and try new things with your writing. Try things you’re certain will not work. Allow yourself to fail. We never know what will work until we put it into practice and give it a whirl.

What Did You Learn from NaNoWriMo?

Did anyone else participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you re-read your work? Started revisions? What discoveries have you made?


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12. The Mobile Author, Part Seven: Managing Your Writing Life


Today,  I'll end the series with some tips for using your mobile office to help you manage your writing life. These ideas can help you work better so you can achieve your writing goals.

Make It a Habit

One common problem for those of us who try to work writing in with our busy lives is making the time to write. Unfortunately, nobody has made an app yet that adds a couple hours to the day or makes our day jobs go away or extends the kids' nap time. However, there is a class of apps that enforces good habits and helps to break bad habits. These can be used to remind us to write, and to check our progress against our goals.

Apps like HabitBull (Android, free) and Way of Life (iOS, free for three habits, $3.99 for more) let you set goals. These apps can be configured with whatever parameters you want. Use them to cut down your soda intake, or to spend more time doing something you love, like writing. For example, if you want to write three days a week, you can set a habit reminder that asks you every day if you have written. You wouldn't want to disappoint your tablet, right?

 The Habit Editor in HabitBull


In addition to yes/no goals like whether you wrote today, you can set number-based goals. Want to write 1,000 words a day? Set that up as a habit, then set a reminder each night that asks you how many words you wrote. 

Each habit app is a little different, so look for one that will suit your goals. 

Keeping Focused

To meet your goals, you need to stay focused.

One simple use for your tablet or, especially, your phone, whether you're mobile or stuck at the office is a timer. A timer can you keep you focused. Make a goal to write for a solid hour without checking Facebook or email or grabbing another root beer float at your favorite cafe, then set a timer and don't stop writing until it goes off.

There are tons of timer apps, and they all do what a timer does, so really it probably doesn't matter which one you use. Two I like on Android are Timers4Me+ and Timely Alarm Clock. Both support multiple timers, alarms, and include a stopwatch. Again, I'm not sure what to recommend for your iPad or iPhone, but it really doesn't matter much. A timer is a timer. You can make it pretty, give it fancy options, or whatever, but in the end, it keeps track of time and lets you know when time is up.


Track Your Progress

Anybody who has learned about goal-setting has learned that an important part of meeting your objectives is to make your goals measurable. The apps I've mentioned so far will help you do that. But another way to measure your goals is to track your progress.

The Writeometer app for Android helps you meet your goals. It includes a timer and a writing log, and gives you rewards (guavas) if you meet your goals. For every writing project, you can set your total word count goal and your daily writing goal, and you can set a deadline date. Then, you can set reminders to kick you in the pants. By gamifying your goal tracking, Writeometer keeps you more engaged, and helps you feel good when you accomplish what you set out to do.

Writeometer log


If your goals are fairly basic, such as writing 50,000 words in November, you might like an app like NaNoProgress, also for Android. The concept is simple: enter your wordcount for each session and the app displays a bar showing your progress toward 50,000 words.

Those apps are great for Android users, but what about authors who use an iPad or iPhone? They have options as well, such as Word Tracker. I didn't find anything quite as fancy or fun as Writometer, but all you need, really, is a place to enter your goals and measure your progress.

 Keep a Journal

Finally, many Utah writers come from a background where keeping a journal is encouraged. A writing journal (see "The Writer's Journal," a post on this blog from way back in 2009), helps you be accountable to yourself, and helps you vent those natural writing insecurities so they don't build up inside you. You can track your objectives, note ideas and problems that need to be fixed, and remind yourself where your next session is supposed to start. 

Writeometer includes simple journaling functionality, and the app stores include tons of journal apps. You can use one of those, or you can use the note apps or writing apps we've already talked about in this series. You don't need anything fancy. The only thing you need is something you like writing in so you are motivated to keep your journal.

And So...

There you have it, pretty much everything you need for the well-equipped mobile office. By choosing the approach that works best for you at each step of the writing process, you can easily break the chains of a desk and write wherever inspiration hits you best. Or, if you still do most of your writing in your office (I call my home office my Schreibwinkel), you have everything you need if an idea strikes while you are on the road. Your writing comes from your own brilliant mind, so doesn't it just make sense to have your office wherever that mind of yours happens to be? Even if you prefer the routine of writing in the same place every day, sometimes the best cure for writer's block is a simple change of scenery. If your computer screen becomes the intimidating monster that sucks your creative juices, get away from it for a while.

I hope you have enjoyed this series, and that it helps you to be more productive. The key to writing, it is said, is putting your butt in the chair. But nobody says it always has to be the same chair in the same place. It's 2014. You don't have to lash yourself to a desk anymore. Enjoy your freedom and let the words flow wherever they come to you.

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13. An A+ for Alphasmart




Hi, Everyone. I'm still in the middle of moving, renovating, revising . . . The middle space seems to be a very hazy place to be right now, finding me longing for the end, wondering how I ever got into this mess in the first place, and discovering my mind has gone utterly blank when it comes to writing blog posts. Which is why I'm going to go back to the alphabet for some inspiration.

When I first signed up for the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I didn't know what my theme would be. I thought I would concentrate on the business of writing, when I suddenly found myself drawn to my lovely keeper books, and all my pages and pages of brainstormed writing ideas went into my filing cabinet. That is, until today--

So . . . starting with the top of my list and another "A" topic, we have: I love my Alphasmart!

In case you've never heard of the NEO Alphasmart, it's a super-portable, super-basic word processor that's the closest thing I know to writing by hand without running out of ink or developing writer's cramp. 

I bought mine in 2008 after I attended a Land of Enchantment Romance Authors meeting and saw another member using hers to take notes. When I learned that you could simply download your typed text from the Alphasmart into any program such as Word, or simply into the body of an email for revision and professional formatting, I knew it was exactly what I needed for NaNoWriMo. 

Since then, I haven't looked back. Sadly, the company is no longer producing this basic model (although there are plenty of used Alphas out there) but the good news is they have come out with an upgrade, the NEO Dana, that seems to have all kinds of nifty features. That said, I'm still a big fan of the original, and Alpha and I (Teddy, too) have been on hundreds of exciting literary adventures together.

There's something about writing on my Alphasmart that keeps me focused like nothing else other than my fountain pen can. Maybe it's the size (small), the color (drab), or the fact that all I can really do on it is write that makes it so addictive. I can't use it to make phone calls, or to surf the Internet, or even snap a few pics. It's a baby dinosaur--and it's one of the most amazing things I've ever owned. 

My top reasons for being such a fan (and what will take me to the upgraded Dana if "Alphasmarty" should drop dead one awful day) are:
  1. It's so lightweight--2 lbs. 
  2. Has a full keyboard, and with a "tilt"to it just like a typewriter. Very comfortable for my wrists and fingers.
  3. I don't know about the Dana, but the beauty of the Alphasmart is it's designed for writing. Editing is kind of a secondary function. Of course, you CAN run a spell-check, cut and paste lines and paragraphs to new positions, find buzz words, etc., use an in-built thesaurus, and completely clean up your manuscript if that's what you really, really want to do. But why bother? That something for when you download your writing into your computer.
  4. And you can very easily download your work into your PC or laptop--approximately 50,000 words at a time! That's nearly a whole NaNoWriMo manuscript.
  5. The power is close to immortal. All it takes are three AA batteries which then last 700 hours. That is a very, very long time to write before you need to change to new ones. 
  6. It goes wherever you can take it. Want to write your novel in the middle of the rain forest or atop an ice floe? No problem. Just bring three AA batteries in case you're going to be there for a year or two.
Tip of the Day: Having a favorite tool for creativity can be an important part of the process and ritual of settling down to work. For me, my Alphasmart is the tool that does that best; just taking it out of its carrying case puts me in the mind-space of knowing it's "time to write."

What about you? If you own an Alphasmart, I'd love to hear how you use it. Or if you have some other cherished writing tool, drop me a line and let me know what it is. Thanks for visiting, and I wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend. See you next week.








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14. Grammarly Writing Group Publishes NaNoWriMo Novel

grammarlyLast November a group of team members at Grammarly, the online site dedicated to proofreading, wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month.

This week the group published their book The Lonely Wish-Giver: A Grammo WriMo Novel on Amazon. The eBook is available for $.99 and all of the proceeds will be donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

The book was written by around 300 writers from 27 countries. They called the project #GrammoWriMo. Collectively, the team wrote 130,927 unedited words, almost three times the goal of the challenge’s 50,000 words. Follow this link to read our interview with the group about their experience writing as a team.

 

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15. M is for Masquerade in Venice

My favorite romance novel, Masquerade in Venice, written by Velda Johnston, copyright 1973,  is a keeper because it inspired me to join up and write my first NaNoWriMo manuscript. I still have that draft, and one day I might even clean it up and submit it somewhere, but for now it's fine "resting" in my filing cabinet. I'm not a romance writer, but it's nice to dream.

I first came across this sweet and lovely book one winter when I had the flu but was just well enough to go to the library for some much-needed reading material. I'd been in bed for days and had been too sick to read anyway, but I was at the point where the only thing I had energy for was reading, so off to the library I went. Except when I got there, nothing appealed to me. 

Rows and rows of new books and all I could say was, "Bleh." Then I saw an old-fashioned, plain blue "library bound" copy of Masquerade in Venice and knew this was exactly what I wanted. I took it home, read it, and loved every word. Then I had to give it back. (The big problem with library books, in my opinion!) A few months later, I wanted to read it again, and when I went to the library--it wasn't there! No one knew what had happened to it--it was gone. Stolen, lost, vanished into the ether. It no longer existed. Time passed and something worse happened: I forgot both the name of the author as well as the title, so I couldn't even buy a copy. I gave up.

Then one fortuitous day at a writer's group meeting, the group was holding a second-hand book sale, and bingo, there it was in paperback: Masquerade in Venice. My book! Mine, mine, mine. The original price printed on the cover was $1.25 and I got it for .25 cents. Good deal? You bet.

It had been a few years since I'd read it, and it was a joy to re-read. Then a good friend suggested we sign up for NaNoWriMo and I thought, if I could write a book like Masquerade in Venice, that would be time well-spent. And it was, even if the one thing I learned was that I'm not a romance writer. Which is okay. We can't write in every genre, but it's good to explore, learn, and discover what is, and is not, our true calling. The key is to have the courage to take the journey: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Seeing Masquerade in Venice on my keeper shelf reminds me of that maxim every day. 

How about you? What book(s) keep you on the journey? Let me know, and I'll see you tomorrow with the letter "N."

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16. Last Week of #NaNoWriMo 2013; Let's Get This Manuscript Finished

Here we are, the last week of NaNoWriMo! And yes, I know you'd rather go to Paris for the weekend, me too. But we need to get these manuscripts finished, so Paris will have to wait for a little while.

I don't know about you, but my word count isn't looking so great right now, something I want to change by Monday at the latest. To achieve that goal, I'm going to try something brand new: 10,000 words in one day! Yes, 10K, really. I'm all signed up to participate tomorrow 11-23-13 in a fun website writing party hosted by my Twitter friend Milli Thornton at @fearofwriting: 10kdayforwriters.com.

I only learned about Milli's site a couple of days ago, and just in the nick of time. In fact, the discovery was so fortuitous that I'm still reeling from one of those "how did that happen?" moments.

But despite my best intentions to write those 10K words, I also know that if I'm going to stay motivated I'll need some trusty writing prompts. Last night I brainstormed a list of 25; please feel free to borrow, steal, or add to the list by leaving a comment or two. All suggestions will be most welcome!

My 10K Prompt List:
  1. Write about my characters' goals: why are they so important?
  2. Write back story--lots of back story!
  3. Write a character's first memory and make it essential to a present scene.
  4. Describe my main character's place of work and how that influences the plot.
  5. Various characters' neighbors: what do they really think?
  6. Have one of the characters stuck in an elevator--with the villain.
  7. A mysterious package arrives: why and what's in it? How does this change everything?
  8. A death in the family.
  9. An invitation my main character can't refuse.
  10. Write about a recurring dream.
  11. Phobias--assign one to a secondary character and use it to keep them from helping my main character.
  12. Car trouble. At the very worst time possible.
  13. Illness. Ditto as above.
  14. Somebody witnesses a crime.
  15. And then is framed for it!
  16. A big lie and the unexpected consequences.
  17. Hobbies--pick one and make it important to the plot.
  18. An overheard conversation--and what happens because of it.
  19. A stolen identity.
  20. One of the characters finds (fill in the blank) and is devastated.
  21. Something observed in a window.
  22. A favorite item is broken. What, why, what happens because of it?
  23. A sudden storm.
  24. A creepy prophecy--that comes true.
  25. The three very worst outcomes that can happen if my characters don't reach their goals, and then have them happen.
So come on, join us on Saturday--I think you can even wear your pajamas all day, just as long as you promise to write.

Tip of the Day: In case you can't sign up for this Saturday's 10K session, be sure to check out 10kdayforwriters.com anyway for one of their future writing sessions; they're held twice a month regardless of NaNoWriMo or similar events. Whichever day you choose, 10K in one day will surely help you reach THE END, a very good place to be.

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17. NaNoWriMo 2013; Lost in the Woods

Yesterday I was ready to give up on NaNoWriMo, as in seriously QUIT. Why, why was I torturing myself to write these stupid 50,000 words? Am I so devoid of writing projects that I have to take on a task that wasn't even fun?

Fortunately, that was yesterday. Today I'm feeling a whole lot more positive and ready to keep going. The secret was in realizing several things:
  • First, nobody is making me do this. Nobody. There is no contract or deadline awaiting me with dire consequences if I don't write. I've won enough previous NaNoWriMo certificates to know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I have nothing to prove here.
  • If I don't reach the 50K mark, so what? I'll have 10 or 20K extra manuscript words to work with that I didn't have before November 1. And that's a good thing.
  • Lastly, I was taking my manuscript way too seriously. Demanding that it make perfect sense--right now. That all my characters be fully developed and action-oriented, intent on weaving their way through a brilliant plot line that was simply amazing, full of shocking twists and turns with a stunning conclusion. Except NaNoWriMo doesn't work like that, at least not most of the time. (Note to self: neither does any first draft. Sigh.) Asking that it do so was setting myself up for instant failure.

So here's what I did to beat the NaNoWriMo blues: I decided to be willing to get lost in the woods. Crazy plot line? Just follow where it does go, and if I don't like it, write "stuff happens here" and carry on writing a new and more interesting scene. Characters I can't stand? Get rid of them--send them to China or off on safari where they get eaten by lions. Bored with the whole process? Write about things that interest me, not what I think is "supposed" to go in the manuscript because I want it to fit a particular genre or style.

I'm not going to quit. How about you?

Tip of the Day:  One of my favorite ways to infuse any flagging manuscript with new life is to grab a handful of writing prompts from old magazines. Article titles and headlines are perfect. Get your scissors and start cutting; throw what you find in a jar and then pick one for every new page you start. Here's a sampling from my current collection: "Warm Kebabs for a Cool City." "The Human Face Behind the Makeup." "Last Stand in the Serengeti." (Uh-oh, I guess those lions really did get my unlikeable characters . . . ") Good luck; happy writing!

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18. NaNoWriMo Tip #5: Develop Your Novel’s Plot

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

Our fifth tip is simple: Develop Your Novel’s Plot. Develop a plot outline that establishes how the story will get from point A to point Z. Make a checklist and add detours. MIT has a great collection of plot exercises specifically designed for different kinds of tales ranging from adventure and pursuit to forbidden love and discovery designed to help you develop your plot.

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19. NaNoWriMo Tip #1: Establish a Writing Schedule

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched today as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering one piece of NaNoWriMo advice every day this month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

 

Our first tip is simple: establish your writing schedule. Whether you are spending 12 hours a day writing from 9-9 or simply dedicating an hour a day to your novel, we recommend that you carve out time in your schedule to dedicate to the project and stay committed to that time frame every day. Even if you aren’t quite in the mood, sit down at your computer during the allotted time and see what you can come up with.

 

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20. NaNoWriMo Writing Tip #2: Create an Outline

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

Our second tip is simple: Create an Outline. It might seem basic, but outlining what you plan to write in advance of writing the actual prose is an excellent way to organize your ideas into a cohesive story structure. Lay out the basic framework for the story and use this to guide you on your way. You may find that the outline changes during the process, but having this simple organizing tool in place will help you remember where you are going with your story.

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21. Chris Baty, Founder of NaNoWriMo: “Anyone Can Write A Book”

ChrisBaty

Chris Baty started a writing movement by accident. At the time, he figured it was just another one of his bad ideas and convinced five of his friends to join him in writing a book. Today, there are more than 226,000 participants signed up for NaNoWriMo, hoping to crank out a novel before the month’s end. Here, he discusses the catalyst for his success, what he’d like his legacy to be and why he believes anyone can be a writer:

The NaNoWriMo concept kind of suggests that anyone can write a book. Do you think this is true?
Oh my god, yeah. And I think everybody can write dozens of novels. You look back to the time when we were kids, and if you gave me a stick that I could make into a toy, I was basically good for seven hours. We were all so imaginative at a young age, just sort of running amuck in our imaginations and pretending. All of that is still in us. When we hit puberty, we start to do this thing where we ask, “Am I good at this?” We’re looking around and we’re seeing other people who are better than us at these things. That’s when we start to shut down those parts of ourselves.

For more on NaNoWriMo and Baty’s tips for novel-writing success, read: Hey, How’d You Start A Fiction-Writing Revolution, Chris Baty, Founder Of NaNoWriMo?

– Aneya Fernando

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22. NaNoWriMo Tip #3: Create a Character Outline

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

Our third tip is simple: Create a Character Outline. Write out a detailed description of who your main characters are. Create detailed interview questions to help you really flush out who these people are. Where do they live? Where are they from? What do they look like? How old are they? What do they like to eat? What do they drink? How do they dress? What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies? What are their best memories? What are their worst memories? What is their relationship like with their family? What are they afraid of? What are their dreams? Who are they married to? Asking these kinds of questions will help you have a better understanding of who your characters are when it comes time to put them in the story.

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23. Time Management Tuesday: What Can You Do With A Month?

This is National Novel Writing Month, which I'm not taking part in this year, though I did back in 2004 when I said...wait for it...wait for it..." I see this as an opportunity to force me to structure my time better." (I'm telling you, the time thing has always hung over my head.) However, I did just finish a month-long writing unit with the May Day folks. I didn't finish a novel during that time, though we don't try to in that group. We try to use these month long "set asides," as I sometimes call them, to generate some work or do something specific.

The Original Plan


As I'm sure you all recall, I planned to do four things:
    1. Sprint at least five days a week
    2. Generate two pages of material as many days of the week as possible
    3. Allow the two pages of new material to include new scene planning, if need be
    4. Learn to do what I'm going to call skim writing, meaning I'm going to try not to stop to get obsessive about perfecting factual bits, names, etc. I want to leave ______ or bold placeholders, which I hope will help me move ahead generating material that will provide the solutions for those blank spaces and placeholders that I can then go back and correct. I get bogged down much, much too often with those types of things for my taste.
    That may have been too many objectives for a one-month writing goal, but I did pretty well with the first two, and made an effort, at least, with the third and fourth ones.

    The Best Results

    1. Sprinting, or doing a quick, intense writing session, has been great, and I'm hoping it is becoming part of my writing process. I've been doing a twenty minute sprint in the midst of my workout period because I've been walking outside for a half an hour after whatever else I do in the morning. The sprint comes before the walk, and walking after the sprint can often lead to breakout experiences related to the work done during the sprint. Just this morning, for example, I realized while out in the street that I needed to change the house one of my main characters lives in in order to make it do more to define him.
    2. I started a new book, which I haven't done in a year or so. I'm three and a half chapters in as a result of the October set aside, and didn't get further, even though I'd started before October, because a lot of my new work involved rewriting chapters one and two.

    What Next?


     I can't continue working on this project several hours a day because I'm preparing to attend a master class retreat in less than two weeks, and that involves another, completed novel that I need to bring myself back up to speed on. But part of what you gain from working intently on a writing project, as we did last month, is the involvement with the world of the book. That's particularly important for organic writers like myself who don't have a plot outline to anchor us and bring us back to that world, if we've been away. Even with an overall, big picture idea of what's going to happen, a lot of our plot evolves as we're working, as we're deeply into the project. Walk away and when you come back you'll find yourself having to make a big effort to figure out where you were going with this thing.

    What I'm trying to do to prevent that is continue with those sprints. I'm doing what I call "mummy sprints" (the book was originally about a mummy; not so much now) as many days of the week as I can. No, I'm not suggesting I'm going to write a book in twenty minutes a day, though I imagine a person far more patient than I am could. What I'm hoping to do is to stay in this project mentally so that when I can get back to it, maybe at the end of this month, I can simply continue working.

    And, yes, I should have finished chapter four by then.

    Regarding NaNoWriMo


    Speaking of NaNoWriMo, as I was in my first sentence, oddly enough, I got some ideas just this past Saturday for my 2004 NaNoWriMo project, which I've barely touched since then. I'm trying to get some notes down on that.

    And Facebook Friend Kimberly Sabatini is doing NaNoWriMo this year and has shared a little news of how she's doing. I'm hoping to hear more about how she's using this time.

     

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    24. NaNoWriMo Tip #4: Establish a Setting

    nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

    To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

    Our fourth tip is simple: Establish a Setting. Think about where your story takes place and what role it will play in your novel. Is it just a background or does it play a role in your story? Describe details about the place that the story takes place. Is it a city? Is it a house? Is it an office building? What kind of paint is on the walls? Is there a garden? Make a list of everything that you can see in your setting. You can refer to these details throughout the writing process. When you do incorporate setting into your story, be sure to introduce it in a way that is natural to your writing.

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    25. Heroes and Heroines


    Just in time for NaNoWriMo: How well do you know your characters? By now you might be familiar with their physical features, their taste in evening clothes, and what they like to eat for breakfast, but what about their personality quirks and motivations?

    One of my favorite writing how-to books to help uncover more about my characters' inner worlds and psyches is one by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders:


    Originally written for screenwriters, The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes is a great tool for all writers, poets too, I can imagine! Based on the idea that there are 16 character "types" common to all fiction and mythology, the book is a great one to read just for fun as well as for research.

    The other day I thought it would be interesting to re-examine where and how the three heroines from my published novels fit into the various categories. I also used the templates to evaluate the Pinterest boards I had created for these books: What kind of pins could I add to each? I started with:

    The Great Scarab Scam

    See The Great Scarab Scam Pinterest Board!

    The Great Scarab Scam is my Egyptian mystery for young readers 8-12 years, so obviously there isn't the conventional male-female interaction you might find in a book for older readers. However, my  main character, eleven-year-old Lydia Hartley, definitely falls into the category of "The Spunky Kid," and not just because of her age. Her other traits and story difficulties include:
    • She's stuck between two brothers--one a little bit older and one quite a bit younger.  Although neither of her brothers are particularly "heroic" 
    • She's a reader--and even enjoys doing homework!
    • She's fiercely loyal to her father, a university professor and archaeologist.
    • Loves history, especially ancient Egyptian history.
    • She's curious about the world around her, but can be shy in social situations.
    • She's brave, but a little reckless too.
    • And she's very motivated when it comes to helping others. 

    Better Than Perfect

    See the Better Than Perfect Pinterest Board!

    My Young Adult novel set in New Zealand, Better Than Perfect, follows fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Haddon when she is sent from London to live with her wealthy relatives in Auckland. Elizabeth falls into "The Waif" category.  She's:
    • Lonely
    • Unwanted
    • The "poor relation"
    • Insecure
    • Smart, but without direction
    • Prone to envy, especially when she continually has to make do with second best
    • And she has a serious crush on an unconventional "bad boy."
    And although Elizabeth does manage to find her true north and come to grips with real life in the course of the story, she does so with all the handicaps of a victim and lost child.

    Overtaken

    See the Overtaken Pinterest Board!

    Written for an adult audience, Overtaken includes some of my most complex characters, especially my heroine of Sara Bergsen.  I had a bit of trouble discerning exactly which archetype she truly was, but in the end I decided she was "The Librarian."
    • She's essentially a loner.
    • Her chosen career as a portrait artist reflects her powers of observation and love of order. Abstract painting doesn't interest her in the least.
    • Her wardrobe, at least in the beginning of the book, consists of practical pieces in black and gray--great for work!
    • And this girl does loves work. She's disciplined and dedicated to deadlines.
    • At the same time she takes risks because she is confident in her own ability to succeed.
    • She's a reader--which has also led her to believe in the possibility of a happy ending.
    One of Sara's main challenges is to confront and understand the three men in her life: a Warrior, a Lost Soul, and a Charmer.

    Tip of the Day: The Complete Guide to Heroes and Heroines is an excellent reference for any stage of your manuscript, even your published stories. For your WIP's see where your characters match up to the suggested archetypes, and pay particular attention to the sections on how they all work (or don't work) together. For your published manuscripts, you can still use the book to help describe your characters in your marketing material. You may be surprised at what you find!


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