Archive for the ‘NaNoWriMo’ Category


Do You NaNo?

   Posted by: Faith

IT'S A MONKEY!!! Yes, it’s that time of year again… the time when aspiring novelists from all over the globe turn off the TV and pick up the laptop (okay, okay… or pen and paper, if you want to be all old-fashioned about it) to write that novel they’ve always wanted to write.

My question today is simple: Will you participate in NaNoWriMo 2010?

I will. I’m going for my fourth year of participating, and here’s why:

(Well, aside from the fact that I’m running my region for a second year. Yay!)

National Novel Writing Month is the only time that I’ve been able to consistently produce 1500-2000+ words per day, every day, for 30 days straight. I’ve tried in other months… can’t do it. I’ve tried other ‘boot camps’… still can’t get that amount written.

Why is this? I’m not sure, but I think it might have something to do with the thrill of the event AND the giant support network that takes off around October 1st and keeps on trucking until about the second week of December.

The forums on the NaNoWrimo site are amazing. Not only are they great for procrastinating, but they’re full of other writers who are also panicked about their plots, care for their characters, and who have great suggestions for times when you get stuck or feel like you can’t write anymore.

And the support is immediate… post about your troubles, you’ll get a response within the hour.

Where else and when else can we get that?

nanowrimo_01_120x90No, the greatest quality of work may not be produced during NaNoWriMo, but look at it this way: You can’t edit words that aren’t there.

It’s easier to rewrite crap than write a whole novel from scratch… so why not get those words down all at once so you have something to shape and mold in the months to come?

Plus, write-ins are a lot of fun and a great excuse to drink sugary lattes that you might not be able to afford (or bother with) during the rest of the year. And you’ll meet a lot of fun people in the process.

So… are you NaNo-ing this year?

Have a plot lined up and ready to go, or are you going to just jump in and wing it? :D

Come join me in the madness!


NaNo… Halfway!

   Posted by: Faith Tags: ,

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.


NaNoWriMo… Year 3!

   Posted by: Faith Tags:

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!


NaNo ’09

   Posted by: Faith Tags: , , ,

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.


April Showers Bring… Lazy Writers?

   Posted by: Faith Tags: ,

I didn’t make the deadline. It was depressing, upsetting, frustraing, and definitely made me want to give up and just burn the manuscript I have so far.

Fortunately, I didn’t take things all the way down that road, and settled for putting it aside for a few weeks instead. Ultimately, finishing the novel in just a few weeks wasn’t a realistic goal, or so I’ve been told. “But you do it every November”, you say? Well, yes, but every November I also clear my schedule so that I don’t have seventeen billion other things on the go at the same time that interfere with my ability to get anything done.

Thus, I will have to embark on yet another journey to complete the 2007 NaNoNovel, which will hopefully end sooner than later, since I really would like to get back to the 2008 NaNoNovel and some planning for 2009. I realize this is all quite insane, but there you have it. I should also really try to update my reading on the blog here, since I’ve been pretty negligent in posting anything at all. A couple of those, and maybe I’ll be back on track. A couple more writing-related articles, and maybe I can breathe some life into this thing again.



   Posted by: Faith Tags: ,

I haven’t posted in awhile. Yes, I know I’m slacking. Yes, I know I’m falling drastically behind on my book reviews.

But guess what? I’m attempting to finish my NaNo 2007 novel in… oh… the next 15 days.

Yes, this is impossible. Naturally, I’m going to attempt it anyway.

See you on the other side…I hope o_O .



   Posted by: Faith Tags: ,

Indeed… I won NaNo, and did it with… something like 5 days to spare. I’m still not entirely sure how I managed to pull up and get it done so early, but it was kind of nice not to be scrambling at the last minute to punch out the last 5k, as some of the people on my friends list did. Mind you, kudos to them for making it (the few that did), I just didn’t want to be ‘that person’ again this year.

I found that this year, working with an outline really made things a lot easier. I’d never thought of myself as an outline kind of writer, but I think this year’s NaNo really proved that if you’re fighting to bang out a lot of words in a very short time frame, an outline helps you stay on track AND push through any moments of writer’s block.

How? Well, staying on track is a given – you’ve got the outline there to work from and give you a general guideline. As for writer’s block, it means that in those moments where your muse packs up and decides to take a day off… or if you’re just too tired to continue with the scene you were working on… you can jump ahead to some other scene in the outline – something more exciting, or that you’ve been looking forward to for some time – and pick up there without being lost in the story threads or risking taking your whole plot off course.

NaNoWriMo Winner 2008

NaNoWriMo Winner 2008

That said, outlines don’t have to be rigid & confining in the way I always thought they were… however, since I have a lot to say about outlines, I think I’ll wait and write something in the future on the pros and cons of outlining vs. ‘seat of your pants’ writing.

Really, what matters here is that I made it to the 50k goal. But even so, the story is far from done – I have plenty of areas where I didn’t finish scenes, where I jumped ahead in time (those were the ‘muse on vacation’ days), or where I wrote something twice from various angles to see which one worked better. I think the story is about half done, which means I have a long way to go before the finish line. That’s alright though – the free proof copy offer is good until June 2009, so I have time. I’m aiming for about 2 more months of writing on the first draft… but we’ll see.

And then? It’ll be time to finish the first draft from NaNo 2007. Ah yes, the work never ends…

More Winning Awesomeness!

More Winning Awesomeness!


Coming Soon…

   Posted by: Faith Tags: ,

I won NaNoWriMo 2008. Yay!

However, I’m not out of the woods yet in terms of catching back up with real life. Thus, this post is a promise of things to come, whilst also being a small apology for my absence as of late.

I’ll write something real very soon. Really. Promise. I just need to make it to the end of the week first, m’kay?

Come back soon! :)


NaNoWriMo + Health = Fail

   Posted by: Faith Tags: ,

Though most people already know this – something about “common sense”, pffft – if there is one time of the year that a writer really, really needs to take extra care of their health, it’s during NaNoWriMo. This month of frantic writing is infamous for causing tens of thousands of writers to:

- eat only foods that are microwavable, take-out, or scrounged from neighbor’s garbage cans

- eat junk food instead of any of the aforementioned foods, simply because it’s ‘faster, easier, and more convenient’

- forget to eat anything at all (except maybe chocolate)

- drink waaaaay too much coffee or other caffeinated beverage of choice

- forgetting to sleep

- not exercising… we’re talking “not even walking across the hallway for a drink of water” lack of movement

- not having time to do laundry, and therefore wearing dirty clothes, socks, and… er, let’s not go there

- not having time to clean… anything… thus turning kitchens and bathrooms into terrifying toxic wastelands until that magical day of December 1st, when the writer blinks and realizes the pigsty he or she is now living in

There are other consequences, certainly – such as the lack of social interactions and thus ability to communicate verbally with other human beings for a month – but these other consequences can be overcome with a simple phone call or visit from a friend who’s finally allowed back over once December hits.

As for the other things… well, they can have further-reaching consequences. If you don’t eat properly, you’re going to either gain weight, get sick, or both. If you don’t drink anything but caffeinated beverages, you’re going to find yourself rather dehydrated within a short period of time. If you don’t exercise, don’t sleep, and just stare at a screen all day, you’ll probably gain weight and have a few splitting headaches to boot. And if you wear dirty clothes all month… well, I’ll let your doctor fill you in on that one.

So what can a Wrimo-er do to stay healthy during a month like this? Er… when you figure it out, let me know.

No, seriously. I’ve had more than my fair share of unhealthy days this month, and there are still 10 days left in November. I currently feel like crap, and it’s also the beginning of cold/flu season – what better way to get sick than when your immune system is down from not taking care of yourself? Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the course of my two NaNoWriMo attempts.

Tips for Taking Care of Yourself (While Still Being Allowed to Eat Chocolate) During NaNoWriMo

1) Drink water. And lots of it.

This applies particularly to those individuals like myself who find themselves not only consuming more caffeinated beverages than usual during the month of November, but who also find that they’re craving  more warm drinks because it’s getting colder outside. What’s nicer than a warm mug of coffee or tea on a cold November night? Not much, that’s for darn sure. However, if you drink too much of this stuff (or Coke, or Red Bull) and not enough water, you’ll find yourself dehydrated and feeling pretty awful. How do you know if you’re dehydrated? There are a few signs: headache, sore stomach, constipation, and bright yellow urine (your own, that is). I know, “TMI”, but it’s something to watch for. If you’re feeling off, think about what you’ve had to drink lately, and go grab a glass of water.

If you’re having trouble getting cold water down on a cold day, there are a few good solutions to keep yourself well watered: have an herbal tea; add some honey and lemon to hot water (very good for sore throats, as well); drink some pure fruit juice (not this uber-sugared, “from concentrate” stuff).

2) Give yourself a good night’s sleep.

I know, I know: who has time to sleep? But you’ll be a better writer for it… and you’ll feel better too. I’ve learned this year that nothing beats sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and it definitely improves my concentration throughout the day if I’ve had enough sleep. Sure, there are times when I’ll get on a roll and stay up late – usually, I’m the Queen of staying up late – but especially during a month like this, when you feel your eyelids start to droop and you do the keyboard faceplant several times in a few minutes… take your body’s hint and get some rest. Some good rest, too. And give yourself a treat: sleep in on weekends!

3) Put away the chips, get out the carrots.

It’s so, so easy to just open a bag of chips or candy and start snacking away… and the next thing you know, the bag is empty and you’re nursing a sore stomach for the next several hours. There’s a very good way to avoid this, and to make sure you don’t gain a pile of weight in the process: have healthy snacks that taste good. I know, I know, you’ve heard it a thousand times. But seriously, try a few of these ideas and see what you think: carrots and celery with peanut butter or dipped in Caesar dressing; apple slices with honey; multigrain crackers and cheese; pita bread brushed with olive oil and placed under the broiler until crispy (cut into triangles and *voila!*, a convenient snack!). And what about grapes? There’s a fruit that’s easy for a writer to eat: not messy, very sweet, and bite-sized.

You won’t feel sick, it won’t pack on the pounds, and you can still enjoy that chocolate bar at the end of the day when you make your word count. Everything in moderation, right?

4) Get up and get out.

No, seriously. Every 500 words or so (or every 45 minutes/hour), get up and do something on your feet. I don’t care what it is: walk the dog, do the dishes, start your laundry, dance around the room to that new Britney Spears song you secretly love (come on, you’re not fooling anyone), walk to the corner store for some more pita (since you ate it all while snacking earlier). Just get off your butt and do something physical for about 15 minutes.

I’ll admit, this is the hardest of my own advice for me to follow. I always think that there’s no time, I can’t take a break if I want to get anything done, blah blah blah. But think about it: how much time do you spend sitting there, staring at your screen, wondering what to write? Or procrastinating by checking your email… Facebook (“yay, one new notification!”)… Cakewrecks (“ooh, isn’t that cake awful!”)… MSN Celebrity news (no comment)… the NaNoWriMo forums (guilty as charged)… you get the idea. Now take all that time, add it up, and… what? You mean you could have walked the dog three times during the space of the time you wasted?

Hmm. Seems you do have the time after all. And while you’re at it, clean your bathroom. Or better yet, come clean mine. I don’t have time to do it, there’s this great new Facebook app invite I have to check out…

5) Stop Eating Crap.

I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. You’ve heard this before. But this time, I’m talking about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m talking skipping the McDonald’s and going for that bag of frozen vegetables in your freezer instead. Know how long it takes to cook some frozen peas or corn in the microwave? About 3 minutes, that’s how long. Know how long it takes to wash a potato, pierce it with your fork, and stick it in the oven? About a minute and a half. Add an extra 30 seconds for salting the thing after you’ve cooked it, and you’ve now got veggies and potatoes in 5 minutes (not counting the potato cooking time – mainly because you can go write while waiting for it to cook). What about meat? Okay, easy enough.

1) Buy a box of lean ground beef meatballs from the grocery store.

2) Read the instructions for cooking them in the microwave.

3) Follow the instructions.

So, now you’ve got meatballs, vegetables, and potatoes in about 9 minutes. While you’re waiting for the meatballs to finish in the microwave, you can get yourself a burger bun from the bread box, grab a cheese slice, slather on your favorite condiments, cut the meatballs in half when they’re done and place them on the bun, and… *ta-da!*: easy home burger. Heck, it’s an easy home meal that isn’t as healthy as, say, cooking everything from scratch, but it’s a million times better for you than just hitting the drive-thru and paying $6-7 for a McCombo. And you know what else? It’s cheaper. The whole meal described above will probably run you about $2 (if even), assuming you have basic staples in your house like ketchup and cheese.

Yeah, I know, you can’t eat the same thing every night. But there are plenty of options like that available to the time-challenged WriMo-er, all which provide the basic elements of nutrition that a person needs to stay healthy in a month like November.

Let’s face it – it sucks to feel disgusting, and no one wants to come to the end of November with their health in ruins, especially as Christmas season begins (two words: Christmas. Baking.). If you didn’t do so well with your health this NaNoWriMo, well, you still have 10 days left, and all the best to you. There’s always next year. For those of you who are still on track with your word count and feeling great, I salute you. You’re a figure of envy and awe to the rest of us.

Now, I wonder where I left that bowl of chocolate bars…

NaNo Fuel Count

Cups of Black Coffee: 29
Lattes (cafe or home-made): 6
Mugs of Hot Chocolate: 4
Cups of Tea: 10
Cans of Bawls (energy drink): 2
Baked Goods: 10
Bowls of Ice Cream: 3
Mini Chocolate Bars: 23


The Great Write-In Dilemma

   Posted by: Faith Tags: ,

I had a pretty slow weekend. Not in the sense of sitting down and doing nothing, but in terms of my word count, and there are a few reasons why:

a) The write-in was more talking than writing.

b) Saturday was full of non-motivation because of the bad previous writing day; I swore I was coming down with something (I felt dizzy all day and actually spent much of the day in bed); and the evening was date night (but that’s a good thing).

c) Sunday was bellydance workshop and performance day, so literally no time for writing – but I knew it was coming, so I’d planned to make up for it by writing extra on Friday and Saturday… oops.

Which leads me to today’s post… what’s the deal with these write-ins anyway?

Why Write-Ins are Good

Our first local write-in was a lot of fun, even though only 3 of us showed up. We’d never met each other before (though I promptly forgot everyone’s name), and we spent some time getting to know each other. We only wrote about 300 words each in the space of an hour and a half, but it was alright – I don’t think anyone really expected to do much. It’s great meeting new people (especially when you’re an introvert and situations like this force you to move outside your comfort zone), and write-ins during NaNo are an excellent way to foster community.

It also means that you gain a good group of people to sustain you throughout the rest of the year – sure, we only really “get together” for NaNo related events in November, but with things like MSN and Facebook, we can stay in touch and see what each other is up to year-round… I don’t mean that in a stalker-esque way, but in terms of encouraging each other’s writing. That’s good. Plus, if you find out about some writing lecture or event happening, you know there’ll be someone who wants to come with you.

Why Write-Ins are Bad

They don’t have to be… really… but the problem arises when write-ins aren’t regulated. I don’t mean to sound like a crochety old hag, but when you go to a write-in, you typically expect to do what the event name is called: write. In. Er, in wherever you are. Write-ins are, by name, the time when a group of writers gets together to write – each on their own stories, but in the same locale for moral support. Some people find write-ins to be a great boost to their word counts, and I’ve looked at a few local NaNo region websites that have write-ins a few times a week, just so everyone can take advantage of the opportunity.

However, these write-ins have rules: You arrive, you say your hellos, and then you write. You’re asked to refrain from chatter until the write-in is over, because people are there to get work done… and although I don’t know if it’s happened to anyone, I’ve even read instructions that said “if you want to chat, please find someplace else in the cafe to do so or you’ll be asked to leave the group”. Wow. That’s some serious writing-in.

But the fact of the matter is, these people get work done. While I don’t have a problem with some idle chit-chat, the real issue arises when people come to unregulated write-ins with completely different ideas about what they want to get out of the session. If one person wants to work, and another person doesn’t really care about making their word count for that day (or week) and simply wants to chatter, the two aren’t going to mix, and someone is going to come away from the write-in seriously pissed off.

The Delicate Balance

The fact of the matter is, write-ins will only function as intended if rules are laid down before the event is held. The other events of the month – the Kick-off party, Halfway party, and TGIO party – are traditionally the NaNo events where people are invited to chit-chat all they want. In fact, talking is encouraged at these events, and people who want to sit and write are considered party poopers.

So what do you do if you’re at an unregulated write-in (for example, you’re part of a region that doesn’t have its own ML to set these guidelines) and someone won’t shut up, seemingly needing to fill any lull in the conversation (ie. when people begin to actually write) with some mundane comment that starts everyone off again (or they just keep talking, regardless of whether anyone is listening)?

a) You can sit there and take it. I’ve been there, done that, have the low word count from that day to prove it. I didn’t want to offend anyone (these are new friends, after all!), and I wanted to be a good sport, so I just sat there and got 600 words written in the space of 4 hours. Needless to say, I was the one upset about it later… however, I had to realize that since no one laid down any ground rules for the write-in, it was partly my fault for not doing anything about it.

b) You can politely excuse yourself from the conversation and find another table to work at. This allows you to leave the chatty area while saving face, and hopefully the others will realize that you came to get some work done and won’t resent you wanting to make word count. Then, they can continue their conversation, and you won’t be sitting around doing nothing and being angry at your new friend(s) afterward.

c) You can be pro-active and lay out guidelines yourself. This can be tricky, however, if you’re not the ML for the region. It’s like Survivor – people don’t always take well to the person who seems to put themselves in charge. You don’t want to get voted out of the write-in, so if you’re not ML, run the idea past the other core people who come to these things. You’ll most likely find them to be accepting about the idea, especially if you suggest a time deadline for the write-in with a chatting period afterward. If you’re going to get together on a Sunday afternoon, why not suggest writing quietly (and enforce it, though everyone needs to be on board with this) from 2pm-4pm, and then having an encouragement session afterward from 4pm-5pm where everyone can get to know each other better and talk to their heart’s content?

The last thing you ever want to do with NaNoWriMo – or in just about any situation, let’s face it – is distance yourself from the people who can encourage you most. Burning bridges is just a bad idea, because you never know… that recent acquaintance you made could become your best cheerleader, and vice versa.

And one last thing: If there’s someone in the write-in group that you just can’t get along with, here’s your chance to practice patience, kindness, and self-control. Maybe you didn’t learn how to get along with everyone when you were in Kindergarten – so now’s your chance! Be gracious, and treat all your new NaNo friends with respect, regardless of whether you ever want to see certain individuals after November or not… because November is going to come around next year too, and are you going to bow out just because you’re not particularly inclined toward one particular individual (or two, or three… depends on how large your region is, I suppose)? I think not.

The Verdict

Write-ins can be good, write-ins can be bad. It all depends on what the people you’re writing with are like, and whether or not anyone has set down some guidelines for the meetings – a much more challenging endeavor for a region without a Municipal Liaison. As I mentioned before, if a write-in isn’t going the way you expected, choose one of the three options above (particularly the last two) and do something about it, without burning bridges in the process.

You joined NaNoWriMo to write, to connect with other writers, and to find comfort and encouragement among these people to know you’re not alone in this crazy journey we call “being a writer”. Write-ins can do all that – just make sure you hold a party later on in the month so you can focus on becoming friends, as well as writing buddies.