NaNoWriMo Success and the Path Forward

 

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NaNoWriMo 2019 was a huge success! I get so amped-up every year–like already in September–and then on the first day I get this “Oh, no!” feeling come over me. Once the first few pages are written, it’s the “I’ve got this” feeling. After week two and into the beginning of week three, it’s the “What in the heck did I ever commit to this for?” feeling. And after week three and into week four, it’s a flurry of flying fingers trying to get it done. Crossing the 50K mark is sheer exhilaration! So many emotions in one month!

The project I worked on is the first draft of book 7–and the final book–of the Melanie Hogan mysteries, Shear Misfortune. Fifty thousand words doesn’t mean it’s complete yet, so I’ll continue writing daily until it’s done, but crossing that 50K mark was huge. The first draft of book 6, Shear Fear, is ready to be revised. And revised. And revised again. And the Christmas novella is also in the works.

But first–after completing the first draft of Shear Misfortune–is finalizing the revisions in book two of the Whispering Pines duology, Abby’s Retribution. The anticipated release is this spring. If all goes according to plan and, God willing, of course, 2020 should be a grand year in the writing life!

Happy Writing and Happy December!

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Sliding Into Home Base with NaNoWriMo

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NaNoWriMo is in the middle of the 4th and final week. When they say slow and steady wins the race, there’s truth in that. I haven’t “won” yet, but I see it on the horizon. And I’m making it there. While some of my NaNo friends passed me days ago—as in several days ago for one of them (Rachel Carrera 🙂 I’m closing that gap to 50,000 words.

My takeaways that I’ve learned from this month are:

  • A community of people cheering each other on, engaging in friendly competition to keep each other going strong, is beneficial to a well-rounded successful month.
  • One doesn’t have to give up everything to accomplish this huge task of writing 50,000 words in a month. I was still able to live a fairly full life. I said “no” to many things, but still said “yes” to many as well. I still had fun with grandkids, cooked a few meals for my husband (fewer than normal, but yet I did), was part of a Holiday Craft Fair, attended a writing class out of town, had coffee with a friend, even watched a little TV (a lot less than usual, but I certainly wasn’t deprived.) My point is, it’s all about prioritizing. The month of November teaches me how to do that better than anything else can. Now if I can just keep it going for the other 11 months. Not 50,000 words each of those 11 months, mind you, but the prioritization part.
  • Slow and steady really does win the race. The number of words per day to win NaNoWriMo is 1,667. Some days all I was able to accomplish was 500 words. One day was only 492. I made up the rest on other days so I could reach my goal. Some nights I was dog-tired. But if I told myself to just write 300 more words before calling it a day, it was a much more achievable goal. And I was 300 words further along. Getting into the habit of writing every day, even if it’s only 300 words—heck, even if it’s only 100 words—you’ll be so much further along than you would have had you decided you just “didn’t feel like it” that day.

I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.    ― William Faulkner

  • Persistence is key. There were days that I hated the story I was writing. There were times I wanted to scrap the whole thing and start over. There were moments when I thought, “What the heck am I doing and why am I doing it?” But as I’ve said before, I’m nothing if not stubborn and persistent. I persevered. I refused to quit. And now that I’m nearing the end of week four, I’m elated. The plot is really coming together, my characters and I are friends again, they know the direction in which they’re going, and the clues are all playing out beautifully.

Winners never quit, and quitters never win. ―Vince Lombardi

  • By pushing toward my goal, keeping my eyes on the prize, whether I “felt like it” or not, on November 30th I will have 50,000 words of a first draft, a huge accomplishment, instead of hours of mindless TV, Internet surfing, or social media. I have something to show for my effort—the first draft of the final book in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, Shear Misfortune.

Here’s to another successful month of NaNoWriMo!

Cheers

Week 3 of NaNoWriMo

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” —Richard Bach

We’re now well into the third week of NaNoWriMo and I’m still hanging on by a thread. Life took some twists and turns the past week and I was barely squeaking in my word count. But what’s most important is I am hanging in there. I’m nothing if not stubborn and determined. Haha!

I even managed to squeeze in some outside fun with a 3-hour writing class with Northern Colorado Writers where I met some other NaNoWriMo participants. We’re in a Facebook group, but meeting them in person was fantastic and motivating! I left the class feeling energized and ready to roll for another week. I also had a table set up at a local holiday craft fair. Over 80 vendors, Christmas lights and music, high spirits, and a coffee bar on the premises. It certainly doesn’t get any better than that! It was a huge success!

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And now it’s off to get in some more words on my work-in-progress. Next week we NaNo-ers will be sliding into the finishing streak. Wishing you all a beautiful week!

Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.                  —Anonymous

 

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

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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

 

 

 

 

“Real” Writers Write Anyway. Or Do They?

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This past July was the first time I haven’t met my Camp NaNo goal. What’s Camp NaNo you ask? Read about it here and perhaps you might decide to partake in April of 2020. 🙂

One week into the month and I suspected I might have a difficult time meeting my goal. Two weeks into the month and I knew I wouldn’t reach my goal. Between a family vacation, a heart procedure that required a hospital stay, the devastating deaths of two friends, and the emotional turmoil that accompanied these events, writing just wasn’t “there.” The fire went out.

While it was a difficult pill to swallow (I hate to “fail” when I’ve set my mind to doing something), by the end of the month I’d come to accept it. Rather peacefully, truth be told. But it didn’t happen until I began to believe that I hadn’t “failed.” I’d simply taken a much-needed time-out.

The difficulty I had in accepting it to begin with is something almost every writer likely deals with–others’ expectations of what it means to be a writer.

“Real” writers, I told myself, write no matter what. I’ve read in numerous articles that real writers don’t only write when they “feel” like it. They write no matter what. They sit their butt in the chair and write, by golly.

No. Matter. What.

So I asked myself–if I’m not a “real” writer, what does that make me? A fraud? A wanna-be? And if that’s the case, why bother?

The conclusion I came to after mulling this over, agonizing over the years I’ve likely been nothing but a fraud or a wanna-be, adding to the emotional turmoil I was already going through, is this:

No one–NO ONE–no matter how successful they might be, gets to determine who is a “real” writer. I’ve authored and published six books. I get to call myself a “real” writer if that’s what I believe I am. Even those who haven’t published anything at all, no one gets to decide if you are a “real” writer but you. Only you.

The fact that I needed a time-out (actually, that time-out is still ongoing), doesn’t make me less of a “real” writer, it makes me a smart writer. I can’t imagine never writing again. Never setting pen to the page–or fingers to the keyboard–and telling a story. Now that thought is enough to send me into a panic. Writing and creating brings me joy, peace, and a sense of purpose. It’s writing and creating that makes me feel alive.

But sometimes, we need to take a break from even the good things. We need to tend to what is right in front of us. Only you know what’s best for you and what your needs are. And if a time-out is one of those things, do it.

You’ll still be a “real” writer. Or photographer, painter, gardener, blogger, dancer…you get the picture.

This “real” writer is going to continue taking the time I need to heal and get back to the writing routine when the time is right for me. And I’ll be all the better for it.

Time for some feedback. Have you heard/read any “advice” that keeps you from feeling like you’re something less than what you are? Something that’s made you question your authenticity?

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson