NaNoWriMo Week Two is Well Underway

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NaNoWri is well underway and I’m keeping up. Barely, but I am. Typically I like to get ahead during the first week so I have some fudge room. Not so this month. In fact I got behind and took the weekend to catch up. I set aside a day at our place in the mountains, by myself, no husband and no dogs, and just got down to business. I also scheduled two 2-hour writing sessions on Monday since it was a holiday where I work my day job.

This NaNo stuff isn’t for the weak of heart. It’s hard stuff. But it’s also some of the most satisfying and rewarding times as well. There’s something about setting a goal and striving to reach it, no matter what, that is so inspiring.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

So onward. I have words to write, a goal to meet, and a journey that matters. Until next week…

Write on.

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.  –Toni Morrison

NaNo No-No’s

NaNo No-No's

NaNo No-No’s–try say that fast three times!

Last week I listed some must-have’s for NaNoWriMo participants. This week I’m sharing a couple of things you’d do well to steer clear of and a couple of tips.

Stop your inner critic and editor. They seem to be persistent little buggers during NaNoWriMo, and they’re exactly what will stop you from getting your word count in. Stop them as soon as they start, before they have a chance to gain momentum. There will be plenty of time in the “Now What” months of January and February for letting your inner editor take charge when NaNo supports the revision and publishing process. It might not be a bad idea to keep the inner critic away much longer though. Unless s/he can be gentle.

Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Accept your process. Don’t compare your process, what works for you, with anyone else’s. We are all individual, and writing isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Each person’s process is as unique as the person is. Don’t try to conform to be anyone else. There’s only one you and only you can tell your story. Your way. Do it proudly and with confidence.

Schedule writing time. It’s all too easy to come up with a list of things that just have to be done. And getting those things done becomes the focus, telling yourself that you will get the writing done as soon as your list is complete. But there’s always going to be dishes to do, laundry to be done, toys to pick up, phones and emails to answer, dogs to walk, garbage to take, refrigerators to clean…Make appointments with yourself by scheduling your writing time–in ink so it can’t be erased–in your planner. And stick to it. If you make an appointment with someone, you wouldn’t cancel it because you didn’t think it was important enough to keep. An appointment with yourself is no different. You’re worth it.

Make a playlist. I love to write to music. And matching the genre to the scene I’m writing not only makes me more productive, but it adds depth to that scene. I love using Pandora because I can choose any station at any time. It’s quick, easy, and affordable. (Free, if you don’t mind listening to commercials.)

Reward yourself. When your dog accomplishes a trick, s/he likely gets a treat. Or when your child masters something, you more than likely reward him or her. Reward yourself. Set small goals for yourself throughout the month. Decide ahead of time what the goals will be and what the reward will be when you meet said goals. It will give you just that little extra push to git ‘er done. I’ll pretty much do anything if I can have dark chocolate. Or any kind of chocolate, for that matter. NaNo is no small feat. Looking at it as 50,000 words can be overwhelming if you don’t have smaller goals tucked within.

Absolutely no one loses! If you make it to 50,000 words, good for you! You’re a winner! Your dedication and persistence paid off. But guess what? If you don’t make it to 50,000 words, you’re still a winner! Every word you write is more than you had before the month of November. And every word is one more closer to writing the story that only you can tell. And the world needs your story.

The scariest moment is always just before you start.
—Stephen King

That’s the thing about books, they let you travel without moving your feet.
—Jhumpa Lahiri

 

 

 

Making the Most of NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2019

 

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! Which means it’s time to create–worlds, plots and subplots, characters, conflict, music lists, and a space in which you love to spend time. Because if you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, you will be spending a LOT of time in that space. And with your characters.

Over the years, I’ve come up with a list of must-haves for a successful NaNo experience. That list changes from year to year, but a few of the things that are on that list every year, without fail, are:

Music. Pandora is my choice every year. Instead of spending time putting together playlists, I can select a radio station to match the scene I’m writing at the moment. It’s convenient, effective and for a small fee you can avoid typical radio station commercials.

Pen. Pencil. Notebook. Yep, all three. And not just any old ones. I take care in finding favorites. Even though I use my computer for writing my story, I love good smooth-writing pens (gel and glitter, and in several colors) and a good mechanical pencil for taking notes. And a fun notebook to carry around with me. Always. You never know when you’re going to come across that gem of an idea to add to your story, that perfect conversation you hear on the bus or in the grocery store that you just have to add between your characters, or those spare minutes that when added up, also significantly add up your word count. And during NaNo, word count–and fun–is what it’s all about.

Internet Blocker. For productivity and focus. There are several good ones–Freedom, StayFocused, Limit, WasteNoTime, Forest, LeechBlock, Pause…Personally, I use Freedom. It’s easy-to-use and inexpensive. If you want to try it, you can get seven sessions free. After that it can be yours for as little as $2.42 per month. Freedom also allows you to keep some websites available during a blocked session in case you just simply cannot do without one.

Scrivener. I was a Microsoft Word girl for the longest time. Until I met and fell in love with Scrivener. While there’s a learning curve, I’ve taken the pressure off of myself by realizing that I can learn as I go. I still don’t use it to it’s full potential, but I couldn’t do without it anymore. If you want to try before you buy, you can get a 30-day free trial. After that it’s $45 for a standard license for Windows and $49 for Mac. And to sweeten the deal, if you participate in NaNoWriMo, you get a discount. There are a ton of YouTube tutorials available.

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. It’s chock full of motivational tips and tricks, suggestions, ideas, and so much more. Every year in October I read it, highlighting and underlining more than the year before. I swear more is added every time I read it!

Snacks. Preferably those that you don’t allow yourself on a regular basis. And those that aren’t sticky or crumbly so you don’t spend your writing time wiping off your keyboard or washing your hands. Procrastination is a big enough beast without adding yet another thing to do during your writing time. And don’t forget special drinks. Though you might want to save those of the alcohol variety until after your writing session. 🙂

Support. Having that one person to support your endeavor is fabulous. But NaNo provides an entire community of people from all over the world. There are chat rooms, word sprints, pep talks from famous authors, write-ins, and forums with active conversations on every topic you could possibly imagine. Writing is often a solitary act. But during NaNo, you’re part of a tribe to cheer you on to the finish line and celebrating with you when you do.

Imagination! During NaNo, anything goes. It’s a time to let loose and have fun. Have your characters do and say outrageous things. Write in a genre you’d never thought you’d write. Create a world in which you’ve always wanted to live. Just write. Anything. And everything.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this November, what are some tools that lead to your success? Those things that you just couldn’t do without.

Rhonda Blackhurst

There’s an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses its wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention.   ― Chris Baty

 

 

 

 

Highlands Scottish-Irish Festival

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My husband and I used to go to the Highlands Scottish-Irish Festival in Estes Park, CO every year. Unfortunately, it’s the same weekend as the writer’s conference I’ve been attending for the past several years–Colorado Gold.  (Colorado Gold is my favorite writers conference ever–if you’re a writer and you’ve never gone before, I sincerely urge you to give it a try. You will leave vowing to go again the next year. And the year after that.)

But I digress. This year I decided to attend the Festival again. While I desperately missed my writing friends at conference and the loads of information gleaned there, we enjoyed the Festival with friends.

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The fun started with a parade on Saturday morning that beats any parade I’ve ever seen. And the best part? There’s absolutely nothing political. How unusual is that? Just pure fun of all things Scottish and Irish. And oh, for the bagpipes!

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So many clans in their colors!

The activities at the fairgrounds consisted of Scottish athletics, jousting, pipe band competitions, Irish dance, Highland dance, exhibitions of dogs from the British Isles, Celtic rock and folk music, sooooo much amazing food, commercial tents, a Guinness tent, (for those not familiar with Guinness beer, it’s a must while at the Festival–for those who imbibe), and so much more.

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And my favorite entertainer there since we’ve started going…none other than Seamus Kennedy. The guy has a sense of humor that draws quite the crowd.

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The weekend of September 11, 2020…Highlands Scottish-Irish Festival or Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference…choices, choices, choices. Perhaps cloning so both is an option…

A little Scottish humor: “Kilt. It’s what happened to the last person who called it a skirt.”

The Lure of Bookstores

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Anyone remember B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, or Borders? If you’re a writer, you likely remember all of them well. To authors, brick and mortar bookstores are the equivalent of water to a river.

We all dream of having our books holding space on the shelves. Even before I began to take my writing seriously, I spent endless hours dreaming of that exact thing at one of the bookstores in the city in which I lived for many years. Anyone remember Media Play? It was exactly what it sounds like–a bookstore, a movie store, a music store–all things media. It was a dream!

A couple of weeks ago we were in a town that has a Barnes and Noble bookstore. My husband and I looked at each other, no words needed, and both headed in that direction. I felt like a little girl going into a toy store. The minute I opened the door the smell of books hit me full on and I thought I was about to drool. I paused for a moment and inhaled deeply before proceeding into the store.

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I headed for the coffee shop and ten minutes later stood in awe of all the talent from creatives that surrounded me. Memories of days past, before life became so busy, flooded my mind. At Media Play curled up in one of the chairs with a coffee and a book. At Borders camped out on the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of shelves of books, in author/reader heaven. At the mall, veering off into Waldenbooks, disappearing behind walls of books.

We didn’t stay long (it was close to closing time). But the half hour we were there, the memories, the smell of coffee and books, the sheer joy of it all, was worth far more than what we spent on the numerous books we left with.

When was the last time you were in a brick and mortar bookstore?

You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places.
—Jen Campbell

The Bookshop Quote

Connections

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I did an author reading from my latest book, Shear Murder (Book 4 in the Melanie Hogan mystery series) this past weekend. While it was fun to participate in an author event and hang with other local authors–one of them dear friend Karen Whalen who did an author reading from her new release, Peaches and Creamed, a dinner club murder mystery series–it also left me feeling a little…melancholy.

The event was held at Welcome to the Bookstore, an independent bookstore that has been extremely supportive of independent authors like myself. Welcome to the Bookstore hosted its last event this past Saturday before closing its doors. Like most physical bookstores. This particular bookstore is where I got my start as an author. It was there that I held my very first book signing, met other independent and traditionally published authors, hosted events solo and organized events with other authors. Sometimes people in the community, upon hearing my name, would say, “Hey, I saw your books in the bookstore!” Music to an author’s ears.

Whether it’s books or friendships, it seems we’re losing the physical connection as technology booms. E-books vs physical books. Online shopping vs in-store shopping–including groceries. Text messages vs telephone calls. An extension of that, we have telephone calls vs meeting in person. Facebook vs in person communication. I’m not convinced, however, that convenience isn’t doing more harm than good. It’s enabling people to hide behind a screen instead of getting “out there” and fully connecting with the world.

Trust me when I say there’s no finger-pointing going on here. I’m right there with the “convenience” crowd. I shop for so much of my needs online–with the exception of groceries. I haven’t quite gotten there yet. I want to SEE the produce and other perishables I’m buying. I find it easier and faster to check in with friends and family via text or Facebook rather than pick up the phone or schedule a coffee date. And yet, I’m never as satisfied after a stint on Facebook or text messaging as I am after a coffee date. Nothing quite compares to connecting with friends and family face-to-face.

The bottom line? It’s worth making the effort to slllooowww down in the rat-race of life to support local businesses and nurture relationships. Each day is purely a gift that we have the luxury to savor if we so choose. We never know what the next day may bring. Circumstances change in the blink of an eye.

Today, may you go out and live completely and without abandon. May you recognize each moment for the miracle it is. I challenge you to pick up the phone and call a loved one without hurrying to get off the phone because of something you need to get done. Better yet, I challenge you to call and schedule a coffee or lunch date with a friend. It’s never wasted time to nurture the important relationships in your life.

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They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
— Carl W. Buechner

Simply enjoy life and the great pleasures that come with it. –Karolina Kurkova

 

Passionate Writing

Not passion as in romance. But rather “passion” as described in another of Merriam Webster’s definitions:

A strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity.

Writing Longhand

As I was journaling the other day it occurred to me how much I enjoy writing longhand. From the feel of my hand sliding across the smooth surface of the paper, the ink pen gliding effortlessly, the different colors of ink on the page, and even white ink on black paper–all of it brings a new love of writing to the surface.

I began to wonder why I’ve only written by computer for so long and it came down to one thing–productivity. I can type far faster than I can write. And while productivity is good for a writer, so is keeping the passion for the process alive. Writing by hand and typing on a computer stimulate different parts of the brain. The part of the brain stimulated by hand writing is calling for my attention. (I found this article and could relate to more of it than not and wanted to share it with you.)

Anyone who has followed my blog knows how much I love Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. Though to be honest, July is my absolute favorite because it’s literally camping season. I get out my lantern and the s’more ingredients and “camp” in the comfort of my home office.

My original plan for Camp next month was to edit and revise book five, Shear Fear, in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. However, the neglected part of my brain has decided otherwise. My plan has changed to writing, by hand, with my fun-colored pens and a fun notebook, a Christmas novella in the Melanie Hogan mysteries. Instead of the light from the computer screen competing with my lantern or toting my laptop on vacation with me, I’ll be carrying my notebook and pens. Much lighter and without the lure of the Internet, oftentimes a writer’s time suck. At least this writer’s.

I’ve got my notebook selected, my pens ready to go (this is going to be a multi-colored project), my lantern is down from the shelf, and the s’more ingredients on my grocery list.

There’s nearly a month to go before Camp begins, but I’ll be prepared. In the meantime, I can plot and outline–by hand, of course.

What about you–do you prefer to write by hand, typewriter, or computer? Does it depend on the project?

I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper.  ― James Robertson, The Testament of Gideon Mack