Posts Tagged ‘NaNoWriMo’


After-NaNo Blues

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

Once again, I’ve dropped the ball on posting regularly… but it’s December, so I can blame it on the holidays, right?

Not so much. Rather, I’ve had a few weeks of recovery from NaNoWriMo, which I attribute to my Muse packing her bags and heading out for some place tropical. I wish she’d taken me with her.

This happens every year after NaNo, though this year was worse than most — probably because of how invested in it I was as an ML — and it didn’t help that I hated my novel. I mean hated, with vehemence. Nothing went as planned, the characters were flat and dull, and my Voice sounded like something out of a grade 2 reader from 1932. Seriously. So, it’s no wonder that I didn’t finish the novel within the month as planned, though I did make the 50k. But oh, it hurt.

The novel broke my heart, and sooner or later, I’m going to have to fix it. We’re talking serious re-writing, tearing the story limb from limb, and putting the pieces back together after they’ve been completely and utterly recreated.

I may need to start from scratch. But I believe in my idea, and so I can’t simply throw the manuscript out the window and be done with it. Though… some days I wish I could!

How about you? Have you ever had a novel break your heart? Or started to write something you’d been so incredibly excited about, only to find that it turned into nothing but a pile of meaningless dreck that you’d have to entirely destroy in order to build it back to the way you’d planned?

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Living Every Month Like Shark W… er, NaNoWriMo

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

This week, I have a lot on my plate. I wanted to hit 50k by Sunday night (didn’t do it, as I was sick for most of last week), and I want to outline/write/edit/submit two short stories by November 30th, both of which still need everything done on them.

Naturally, I started freaking out. “But I wanted to finish the novel this month, not just hit the word count!” I lamented. “I’m failing, I just can’t do both…”

Which in turn spurred the wise words of my husband, Mr. Practical (and also Mr. Calm-Down-You’re-Overreacting-Again-Faith): “Faith, every month is NaNoWriMo for you, so it doesn’t matter if you finish the novel or not. You’re going to keep writing at this pace regardless, because that’s how you’ll develop your career… so just do what you can and don’t stress yourself out.”

Ah, easier said than done. But he did make a good point: Writing a lot means accomplishing a lot, and if I don’t stop writing every day, the novel will get finished one way or another, regardless. And, I can switch over and write the short stories this month without worrying (apparently).

So, every month is National Novel Writing Month. Okay, maybe not 50,000 words on the same story, but if I write 50,000 words every month just in general… that’ll still be a lot of work accomplished.

Have you ever totalled up all the writing you do in a month?

I’m talking: blogging, writing-related social networking, newsletters or writing-related emails, edits (words that are added), outlining, notes you take on the various books you read, AND your WIP.

Try it for a month. I challenge you to open a Word document for December and copy/paste every piece of writing you do that somehow relates to writing (social networking on writing blogs counts!). I think at the end of the month, you’ll be shocked at how much writing you actually do, not to mention have a visual of where the majority of your time was spent.

I’d be willing to be that you’re living every month like NaNoWriMo too… just maybe not focusing all your energies on one specific novel. You’re constantly doing NaNoWriMo, just not under that particular name… maybe, NaWriMo (National Writing Month), over and over again.

I’d say that’s pretty darn encouraging.

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NaNo… Halfway!

   Posted by: Faith    in NaNoWriMo

As you know, NaNoWriMo is well underway… and so far, I’m setting a personal record for how much I’ve written up to this point. I wanted to try and finish the novel within the month, and I might actually do it… or at least just about finish it. It’s great, but I’ve learned a few things already about my working habits, being an ML, and writing this story…

1) Three write-ins a week is too much.

Now I know why even the bigger regions only tend to have two every week! Or, if they schedule more than two, the ML doesn’t kill his/herself trying to get to all of them. I wanted to make sure I could accomodate everyone by having so many write-ins at multiple times, but it’s really just too much for me. It’s a lot of time away from my home, husband, regular work, and other hobbies. Two a week would be perfect, especially since each one runs for three hours. I know better now for next year.

2) When I get stuck… I don’t have to keep doing the same thing.

Earlier this week, my story was stalled. Drastically. I had no idea what to do next, because I wasn’t connecting properly with the MC. So, what did I finally figure out? I decided to change POVs. I decided to tell the story from the POV of another character, and so far, I’ve unstuck myself. During edits, I don’t know that I’ll choose to keep this in, or if I’ll change the whole story over to one person or another, but in the meantime… it’s keeping me writing, and that’s what matters.

3) I need to take breaks.

If I’m writing and really in the zone, I’ll forget to stop and eat. I won’t stand up and stretch, and I think – if my eyes are any indication – I won’t blink as regularly as I should. Health professionals recommend that you get up and take a break from your computer every hour… two days ago, I stared at my computer screen for nearly 6 hours non-stop, and ended up with a very severe tension migraine to show for it. It’s still not gone. The last time I got one of these stress-induced headaches, I had to cancel a vacation and take a ‘stress leave’ from work/life for a few months. Pretty sure it was the same thing this time, and I really can’t afford to take a break… so, moral of the story…

Slow down, take breaks, and don’t push yourself beyond what your body can handle.

Yes, I know it’s NaNo, and yes, I know we’re all gunning for 50k… but please, don’t give up your health or endanger it just for the sake of word count. Be good to yourself, and get up and walk away from the screen every once in awhile. If you just have to keep writing, grab a pen and paper and write that way for a little bit.

I know we’re only halfway, but I don’t want anyone to come to the end of the month a nervous wreck or suffering from carpal tunnel because they typed for five hours straight without stopping, seven days a week. Or with an iron deficiency. Or migraines. Or any form of sleep deprivation.

Please, take care of yourself. As an ML this year AND a participant, I didn’t realize how much more I’d be pushing myself, and it’s taking a toll. Even if you’re not doing NaNo this year, take care of yourself.

Have some tea. Sit in silence and breathe deeply. Pray. Watch the leaves fall, and smile at the antics of squirrels as they scramble to stock up food and build nests for the winter. Pet your cat, or take the dog for a walk. Bake some cookies and brainstorm about your characters. Then get back to writing.

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NaNoWriMo… Year 3!

   Posted by: Faith    in NaNoWriMo

So, it’s my third year doing National Novel Writing Month. I’m running the show in our community this year, and while it was kind of hectic and insane to figure everything out at first, I’m breathing easier now that the month has started. Plus, we seem to have a great group of people — at least, that’s what I gathered from the kick-off!

Tonight is our first write-in, which I’m looking forward to. A pile of writers, huddled at their laptops, clutching mugs of coffee, in the middle of a small cafe? I anticipate at least a few curious onlookers and perhaps even some questions.

Thus said, my posts may be even more sporadic for the month, beyond word count updates and the occasional book review. But never fear! I shall return with plenty of insights (ie. my own ramblings) once November rolls itself out of existence for another year. Then, I’ll have lots of self-editing and revisions to do… so I have no doubt there’ll be posts concerning that as well.

If you’re NaNo-ing this year, good luck to you! If you’re working on other projects this November, I hope it’s smooth sailing and you’re able to stay productive! Let’s make this an incredible November, regardless of what we’re working on.

Happy Writing, everyone!



Flex Your Marketing Muscle

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

I’ve been pretty lax at posting the last couple of days… in all honesty, I haven’t been entirely sure what to write about. I know that sounds ridiculous – how many millions of writing topics are there to choose from? – but there you have it.

So, here we are today. And today, I want to touch on marketing, because it’s relevant to me right now. “Oh noooo,” I hear you say, “Not this again… I’m so sick of hearing about writers and marketing…” I know, I know. Aren’t we all? We know we have to do it, but it doesn’t have a lot of real relevance for us until we “get the call”, so to speak. Awhile back, I posted about developing your platform before you get published, and many of you mentioned that your blog is your primary platform at this stage, while you develop your writing skills.

But what about your marketing skills? Not everyone has a natural aptitude for marketing, in the same way that 98% of writers need to continue to develop their skills, regardless of their career stage. What does that mean? It means that you can’t just expect to be able to do marketing to the best of your ability on the first go-around. And if the first go-around happens to be your first novel, well… you might end up shooting yourself in the foot, due to a simple lack of experience.

There is, however, a solution. And that’s called: practice. Yes, just like your writing practice, you can practice marketing. How? Don’t you need something to market, in order to know whether you’ve been effective or not? Yes, you do. And you don’t need to necessarily market something writing-related.

This will be my first year as the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for my region. When I signed up for it, I thought “this’ll be fun”… but as I thought about it, I realized the kind of potential the position has. As the ML, I would be responsible for getting word out about the event, for trying to recruit new people, for subtly asking for donations, and for keeping everyone informed throughout the entire month. In essence, the ML’s job leading up to November is marketing.

During October, I posted press releases on all the community bulletin boards I could find. I emailed newspapers, radio stations, and put up flyers. I recruited another individual to help put up flyers and spread word of mouth, and I sent press packages to about 15 high school English departments. I created a Twitter account for the regional NaNo group, made a website, updated the Facebook group. Then, I waited.

Participants began trickling in, but I was discouraged by the lack of interest from local media. Was I doing something wrong? I still don’t know if there was a better way to get information out, but it means I learned something — I learned what routes don’t get coverage of my event/product. I learned that instead of emailing certain people, next year I’ll have to pick up the phone. I learned where posters worked best in terms of generating participants, and where they were ignored. And November hasn’t even started yet!

This week, I received two requests for interviews. Two! Yesterday I did an interview for a local news program, which will air on Friday. Next week, I have a tentative date scheduled for another interview, for a local university news program. I now know my postings on community bulletin boards worked, and in the coming week, I’m sure I’ll find out whether television coverage works too!

I tell you all this to say: You can learn to market your product, right now. Then, by the time you’re published and your book is ready for the world, you’ll have a better idea of what works to reach people and what doesn’t. Sure, you may get a bit of direction from your publisher’s marketing department, but we all know that it’ll be mostly up to us to get the word out.

So if you can’t volunteer as a NaNoWriMo ML, what kind of position will let you flex and strengthen that marketing muscle?

How about:

  • church events
  • SPCA fundraisers
  • local newspaper subscriptions
  • community theatre promos
  • other community events
  • your kids’ school events
  • local sports teams

…etc, etc, etc. There’s really no end of positions available for marketing and promotion, and most non-profits will be falling down grateful for volunteers who want to help them promote this event or that fundraiser or even just the organization or team itself. Simply tell them that you’re looking to learn some marketing skills, and you’d like to do it with them — be up front about it, and be willing to make mistakes and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Just plunge on in, and start flexing that muscle. Don’t let it get flabby and saggy, because when the time comes for you to use it when it counts, you want a tight marketing muscle that can do the job properly, and do it well.

And here’s a little tip as well: When you try your hand at marketing, your name is “out there”. After a time, it’ll become familiar and recognizable in your community… which means that you’ll have plenty of connections to draw on once that published book is in your hands and ready to be sold. People prefer to buy things from people they know and trust… so get out there, and be that person!

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NaNo: Writing Tools

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

Today I have a simple question: Have any of you used Liquid Story Binder to write your novels, and what are your thoughts on it?

A few years ago, I stumbled across Writer’s Cafe 2, and really enjoyed the demo… but it’s a very simple program, limited in what it can do. This is both a plus and a minus, depending on how you like to write your novels. I enjoyed the simplicity at the time, but I was writing something that wasn’t very complex… and now that I’m tackling fantasy this year, I need a place to keep a gazillion threads/characters/notes/back stories organized.

So, anyone used LSB and enjoyed it? I’ve heard great things about Scrivener too,  but I’m a PC user (and always will be). Or are there other writing tools out there that you’ve tried and enjoyed even more?

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NaNo ’09

   Posted by: Faith    in NaNoWriMo

It’s almost that time of year again… time to hunker down at the computer for hours on end, typing away furiously, drinking too much coffee and eating far, far too many potato chips… ah yes, National Novel Writing Month. What could be better?

Not only will I be attempting it again this year (year three!), but I’m also the Municipal Liaison for my region. As a first-time ML, the learning curve is a bit steep, but so far we have more people signed up than we did last year, so that’s encouraging. I’ve also done quite a bit of promotion, and I think that may be helping as well — not to mention that several other Wrimos in the region are helping out with posters and promo, which is fantastic. Really, NaNo is a community event that works best when everyone helps out, so I’m extremely grateful for the help I’ve received so far.

If you’ve never tried NaNoWriMo, why not make this year your first? Afraid that pumping out 50,000 words in one month is too hard? Or you’ll end up with too much crap if you try to write that quickly?

As writers, we should be writing every day anyway (though I admit, that’s not always realistic). I know many writers try for 500-1000 words per day, which seems like a reasonable goal. If we’re going with the high end, that’s 30,000 words in one month. You can do that, yes? So why not just tack on an extra 667 words per day — that’s just a few paragraphs! — and make it to 50,000? Easy, right?

Well, it is if you know what you’re doing. Here are a few tips to help you make it through the 2009 NaNoWriMo season, if you’ve decided to join up for that wonderful journey. And if you’ve signed up, come friend me on the website! (dark_phoenix)

Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo 2009

1. Plan ahead.

This doesn’t mean just thinking about your novel… I’m talking actual planning. Whether it’s point form notes, a character interview, or plot cards, you’ll be more likely to keep momentum going if you have at least a bare bones idea of where your story is headed. You might also want to plan ahead in terms of your laundry, groceries, pet care, and babysitting. NaNoWriMo can get pretty consuming… just sayin’.

2. Decide to scrap the linear approach.

This is a real preparation step, because for some people, writing out of sequence is the most terrifying concept they’ve ever heard. However, if you get stuck at a scene because your Muse decided to take the afternoon off, how are you going to make your word count? You could pad it, sure… or do the cheap thing and fill your novel with song lyrics… or you could pluck a scene card out of the pile, and simply begin writing a different scene in the novel. Then, when you’re ready, come back to the one you left and finish it.

3. Prepare meals ahead of time.

If you live alone, or without parents, or with a signficant other, meals are going to cause a bit of concern. Making a decent dinner can take upwards of an hour, and with busy lives, how can you fit food AND writing together? Why not make some casseroles now and freeze them? Or, you could go the easy route and just eat boxed Kraft Dinner all month (I might…). Either way, prep and warn. Just make sure you actually eat… that’s pretty important.

4. Vaccum. Now.

No, seriously. You won’t be cleaning your house for the next month, so make it a goal to get the place spotless by Oct.31st. Besides, the neighbors will be bringing the kids over for trick-or-treat and will probably be nosy enough to glance inside your front door, so you might as well make the place look great ahead of time.

5. Buy snacks & coffee.

Instead of worrying about what you’ll eat when snack time rolls around, stock up on things like coffee/tea/hot chocolate & chips/popcorn/cookies/fruit bars/crackers… whatever brain food you need. Prep some veggies & fruit a few days before November hits, and you’ll be set for about a week and a half. Remember that while junk food makes you feel great for awhile, you’ll eventually crash and feel like crap afterward… I say, pick the chips when you’re having a late-night catch-up writing session, but go for the healthy stuff when you need longevity during the day. But that’s just me — pick snacks that’ll work for you and that won’t make you feel disgusting when Nov.30th arrives and you awaken from your writing stupor.

6. Clear your schedule.

Dinner party invite? Nope. Visit to the in-laws? Sorry! Coffee with friends? Well… okay, you’d better make sure you don’t decline everything. In fact, telling others what you’re doing will create a system of accountability that’ll keep you writing, even when the only thing keeping you going is guilt! “How’s that novel coming? You know, the one you missed my birthday party for?” See? Guilt is an excellent motivator. Create a managable schedule, then let everyone know about it.

7. Visit your regional forums & attend local events.

Stats say that people who do this are more likely to accomplish the 50,000 word goal… because you’ll have a support system, encouragement, and competition from others in the area. Are you seriously going to let that 12-year-old finish writing her novel ahead of you? Well, maybe, but you’ll give it a good run in the meantime.

…so, get plotting, cleaning, and cooking… and you’ll have a successful NaNoWriMo! What’s that? Who has time for all of that now, let alone at any other time of the year? *hrrumph* Well… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to CostCo to buy a case of KD. Or two.

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It’s All in the Timing

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

A typical morning for me includes, in sequence:

  • Waking up (shocker, I know)
  • Coffee
  • Checking email, Facebook, LibraryThing, blog feed, Twitter, various forums I’m members of
  • Reviewing stories for Flash Me
  • Wandering about online
  • Opening various work pieces & staring at them for awhile
  • At 10am, the bird gets woken up & fed
  • Rinse & repeat with the checking email, etc sequence…

So when do I get around to actually writing fiction? Well, more often than not, I don’t. I usually only get fresh fiction writing done on days that I head to our local cafe and sit down determined to type. I have excellent focus there, and I always get lots done. But as I’ve been trying to reorient and reorganize myself this fall, I had to take a hard look at how my time was spent and admit that one or two afternoons a week just isn’t going to cut it. I have too many ideas, too many aspirations, to produce so little.

I thought about NaNoWriMo. Every November, I manage to punch out 50,000 words in a month — how is it that I can manage to produce so much in that one month, and then fall off drastically for the rest of the year? Unacceptable.

At the urging of my husband, and prodding of my own heart, today I started a new plan. I’m taking a page out of James Scott Bell’s book, and am going to try and get my writing done in the morning. According to his Twitter feeds, he always writes 500 words in the morning, no matter what. His daily quota is 1000 words, so if he can get 500 done at the very beginning of the day, then getting the second 500 is a much less daunting task when the entire remainder of the day stretches out before him.

I agree! And while I may be bleary eyed, cranky, fuzzy-headed, and rather immobile in the mornings, for whatever reason, that’s the time my Muse loves best. Maybe that’s because my Self isn’t fully conscious yet, so she’s able to communicate with me best before my left brain takes over for the rest of the day.

Today was day #1 of the plan. The goal is 1000 words in the morning, and then even if I get precious little accomplished during the rest of the day… at least I’ll have that 1000 words to be proud of, and which will accumulate over time. If for some reason my Muse sleeps in one of these mornings, that 1000-word quota can be transferred to my ebook writing or SEO article creation. It doesn’t matter what… I just need to produce, and do it at a time that I know works best for my own mind & body.

Some people work best at night, or in the evenings after dinner. Some work best on weekends. Everyone is different, so my question for today is, when does your Muse prefer to come out to play?

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Where Am I Now?

   Posted by: Faith    in Everything Else

It’s mid-September, 2009. How did we get here so fast? Another summer zipped by, and another fall is well on its way… and what do I have to show for it?

Well, not much. Or at least I feel it’s not much, but here’s where I stand in terms of WIPs and so forth:

  • A Work in Progress (2007) – First Draft complete, currently under second read-through.
  • The Door in the Wall (2008) – First Draft complete (minus a few paragraphs at the end), currently under first read-through.

Yikes. That’s a lot of work… the 2008 manuscript needs a lot more work before it’s coherent in any way, and I feel the 2007 novel is much, much closer to being ready than it was a year ago. Lots of edits still to do, but progress is progress. The frustrating part is that I want to be able to devote myself to new stories, and I wish these ones would just be done & get out of the way for awhile. But, that’s not how we writers do things, is it? :) Baby steps, baby steps.

In the meantime, I’m trying to:

  • Plot my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel.
  • Think about which novel to write as part of a course I’m taking (more on that sometime soon).
  • Do the work for above mentioned course.
  • Finish my cat care ebook.
  • Finish edits on an inspirational booklet for a client.
  • Learn my way around in my new volunteer editor position for an online flash fiction magazine (more on that another time too!).
  • Find more work that I can actually be paid for!

This comes in the midst of teaching 2 dance classes a week, taking an additional 3 dance classes for myself (two of which are performance troupes), trying to read & review all the ARCs that keep showing up in my mailbox, maintaining this blog, editing the blog for Lifeline, keeping my friends (haha), caring for a cat/bird/husband & all associated things that come with a marriage and household. Ah, and I have an application in to be this year’s NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for my region (which I should hear back about within the next week).

It’s a lot. I probably missed something in there, but that’s that, and now it’s documented… so people can bug me about getting my work done! I figured, it’s been awhile since I updated everyone on what I’m doing, so there you have it! Apologies if it came off as whiny… not my intention :)

And to all of you who have huge projects you’re dealing with, or many little ones you’re trying to juggle, I wish you all the best in the coming months. Autumn is a beautiful season (my favorite, actually), but is it ever busy… yet somehow, I look forward to it every year. Good luck with whatever you’re doing! And if you’re really excited about it, please go ahead and share it with us in the comment section!

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Doubt & Motivation

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

For whatever reason, I have very little problem getting myself motivated to write during NaNoWriMo. Maybe it’s the excitement of the event. Maybe it’s the absolute deadline, or the community support. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s something new to work on, something fresh with endless possibilities. Sure, there are off days, but the whole month is a thrill in itself. I look forward to it throughout the year.

But what about now, when it isn’t November? It’s April. And last month was March. And next month is May. In fact, there are 11 months of the year that simply aren’t November, which means there are 11 months when I need to be completely self-motivated to sit down and get those words written on paper (or, uh, the computer screen).

Right now, I’m struggling. I have no drive, no sense of direction, and no burning desire to get any of my characters where they need to be. I don’t even think it’s writer’s block, to be honest, because I know what needs to happen in both manuscripts, and yet I don’t feel motivated to take them there.

In short, I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve begun. I wonder if I’ve chosen the wrong path, or if this dream I’ve had of being a writer – which has carried me since I was 8 years old, if I remember correctly – was all a mistake. Maybe I’m not cut out to write. Maybe I wasn’t meant to do this. Maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time.

But it’s all I know how to do.

This afternoon, my husband sat me down in front of his computer screen, and brought up last year’s statistics for The Ancient Standard. Until this week, I hadn’t written anything new for that site since… well, nearly a year ago. Or maybe longer. Anyway, he showed me the traffic stats for 2008.

There were almost 50,000 unique visitors to the site, and about 84,000 repeat visits. That means that 50,000 people read my writing. And an awful lot of them liked it enough to come back for another go.

While I don’t particularly see that as “success”, I suppose it means that I shouldn’t go beating myself over the head with the notion that I’m a complete failure. Somebody likes my writing style. Some people want to read it, and then come back for more. For me, The Ancient Standard is like pseudo-journalism – because really, I’m reporting on events, or discoveries, or historical details that other people have already written about, and simply compiling information from various sources to produce what I hope is a brief but comprehensive article about the topic.

It’s not my original work, so I still can’t be confident that anyone likes my fiction, which is where my heart lies. But at the very least, I can take comfort in the fact that people enjoy my writing style, and that I’m providing what others perceive to be quality information in an entertaining format. And with all honesty, I can say I’m grateful for each and every visitor who reads my work.

Is it measurable success by my own standards? Not particularly. But does it at least quell some of the despair that has crept into my soul as of late? Yes, it does. I can feel a tiny spark of hope again… and isn’t one spark all it takes to light a fire?

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