If you are struggling this week, remember that you are not alone. There are hundreds, probably even thousands, of writers who are several thousand words behind in their Nanovels. Everyone struggles at some point during the month. Even in my biggest year, when I wrote 300K, I still struggled. I didn’t write 10K every day. I couldn’t write every day. There were several days during the month when I felt uninspired and my head hurt too much to figure out where to take my novel next. The reason I got my extreme word count was because on the days when I did write, I wrote 20K or more.
This year I’ve been struggling a lot to stay on top of my Nanowrimo. I spent the last week of October and the first week of November extremely sick and recovering from dental surgery, and I’m still behind where I should be in order to reach my goal of 100K for the year. While my word count seems impressive to some, I am disappointed with myself this Nanowrimo. Still, I’m reasonable to understand that a combination of being sick, busy and dealing with my tendonitis–which I’m now being told might not be tendonitis at all, and in fact that they might not know or have ever known what it actually is–has held me back and, frankly, would hold anyone back.
Staying active in the Nanowrimo community has helped me keep this in perspective. Through the Toronto Nanowrimo chat and the wider forums, I’ve reminded myself that I am not alone. I have read several threads and spoken to several chatters who are also behind on their novels. Some are reaching for 50K and are struggling to get past 10K. Others, like me, are reaching for the stars beyond 100K and are flailing, but are still in good standing to officially ‘win’ Nanowrimo.
Wherever you are in your novel, be it 5K, 10K, 20K, or 40K, know that you are not alone. Somewhere out there in the vast Nanowrimo community, there is at least one person–probably a few people, maybe even a few dozen–sitting at the same word count as you, shaking their heads and wondering how they got there. Remember too that every year only a small percentage of Nanowrimo participants win. Most are already behind and will stay there for the whole month. 50, 000 words in one month truly is an accomplishment, something to be proud of.
So remember that you are not alone, but choose to distinguish yourself from the crowd: choose to put your whole self into it, to write furiously and to win. And remember, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or how many words you have now. We might be almost halfway through the month, but you can still win. I believe in you, even if you don’t believe in yourself. Just keep your eyes on the prize and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
We’re entering the second full week of November, and with any luck, you’re almost halfway through your novel. Of course, not everyone is lucky. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, you might be sitting three, five, even ten thousand words behind. You might not even have started, or you might be considering throwing your novel away and trying for a completely new one. No matter what the case is, don’t despair. Remember that even if you don’t reach 50, 000 words, you’re still a winner for trying and you’ve still written more than you would have otherwise. Also keep in mind that it depends more on your dedication than the number of days you have left–I’ve hit 50, 000 words in three days before and I’ve met people who have done it in one.
No matter what your word count is, you’re probably going to face some difficulties this week. At the beginning, your novel was fresh, new and exciting. By now there’s a good chance you’re sick of your story and either want to give up completely or start over.
Don’t give up. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you do it. Every entrepreneur I’ve ever met has been amazed by what they could accomplish. Success is found by pushing yourself beyond what you think is capable. If you have to, start your story over or start a new one, but don’t give up. Keep your old novel in a back up file in case you need it for some extra word count or if you decide to go back to it. Then forge ahead and create something new.
For all those who are already discouraged, and all those who will get discouraged this week–week two is always a rough time for many Nanoers–I’ve decided to host a challenge this weekend. It’s a challenge which was originally run on the Nanowrimo forums a few years ago and which I have done myself several times and hosted in my local forum and chatroom.
So what’s the challenge? Your goal is to take four hours out of this weekend and dedicate them purely to writing, attempting to write 10K in those four hours. This is challenging both to newbies and to overachievers and forces you to focus on your writing for a solid chunk of time. While it’s a difficult pace for some, anyone who ordinarily types quickly should be able to achieve this goal. And even if you don’t manage to reach 10K before your time is up, you’ll still have written more that day than you would have otherwise and gotten a nice chunk of word count.
To combat my lethargy last week and this weekend, I’ll be doing this challenge Saturday from 12-4. If you’re unable to participate at that time due to other obligations, that’s all right. You can pick any four hour chunk of this weekend to focus on writing. Just leave a comment letting me know who you are and which hours you’ve chosen for your writing spree. If you’re feeling brave and you want to create a new word count goal for yourself, you can leave that information in your comment too.
So what do you get out of this? Well, you get a few thousand–right up to ten thousand–words for your novel and an idea of how much you really can write in just a few hours. Even better, next Wednesday I’ll be writing a post listing all the Nanoers who successfully complete this challenge over the weekend. Simply let me know when you did your 10K, what your final word count was in the four hours, and include your Nanowrimo name and a link to whatever website you have. Then on Wednesday, you’ll get to see your name and link go up on my blog, forever honoring you as an incredibly quick fingered writer.
So, are you in?
Today’s guest poster is Dylan Madeley, a freelance writer, editing professional and several time Nanowrimo winner. I hope his words will inspire you to greatness!
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It’s been a week and two days since we started this thing, you and me.
Chances are, your novel is comparable to mine and many of the others:
it’s a caterpillar.
How you view this caterpillar means a fair deal. You might perceive a
big ugly worm-like thing in front of you every time that you open the
notepad or file. You might feel frustrated that there isn’t a
wonderful, colourful creature instead.
Or you might be more protective. You might say: “This is not just any
caterpillar, but my caterpillar, who is cute and fuzzy and look I have
given him a purple mohawk and/or a bowler hat.” Given that this part
of the novel writing process is absolutely necessary, more power to
you if you’ve found the fun in it. Otherwise, if you find things
dragging already, there’s not yet any need to worry.
Whether you’re one type of person or the other, or a degree in
between, the fact is that you probably have a caterpillar. And how you
feel about this creature going forward matters far more than what it
presently is. You could have the germ of a brilliant concept, a
detailed outline and character profiles at the ready, or you could be
pantsing like me.
I want you to think about how you feel. Disagree if you want, but I
believe that the feeling is where it starts. It’s not that I don’t
wish I had an outline right-frigging-now, but if this doesn’t feel
right, the outline is not going to amount to much.
If you don’t know that feeling, I have all faith that you will find
it. If you’ve felt it before, you’re slightly ahead: you need only
find a way to remember it. What readily accessible thing do you
associate with it? A song, a book, a movie, a conversation with
someone special to you? Some perfectly reasonable thing that hasn’t
occurred to me just now?
This might not be a new idea for you. Many people seem to have an
intuition toward this, even if they never read it anywhere. I log in
to chat and read about an acquaintance who put Hans Zimmer soundtracks
on for inspiration; hopefully that works for them.
Turn that key. Open that door. Before you know it, you’ll find it’s a
beautiful day and you’re riding a unicorn next to the constant tides
of a glittering ocean, rainbows springing toward the sky out of every
hoof-print before the sand has any chance to settle back down. Unless
that isn’t an accurate description of your feeling, of course, in
which case, insert accurate description here.
And don’t worry about how things are now, because it’s not the time
for that. Today’s caterpillars can be tomorrow’s butterflies.
You might think that the only thing you’re going to get from writing a novel this month is a horrible first draft, some pretty web graphics, a cramp in your neck and a high caffeine tolerance. Of course, taken at face value and used in the most basic way, this might be all you get from Nanowrimo. But used properly, Nanowrimo can change your whole life in ways you might never have imagined.
So how can you use Nanowrimo to change your life? Well, for starters now you can call yourself a novelist, which should give your ego a nice boost. But the changes I’m talking about here are deeper changes. Nanowrimo, used properly, can be a tool to teach yourself discipline, discover what you really want in life, and create a happier future for yourself. Today I’m going to show you how.
Discipline. Nanowrimo is all about meeting goals. For the next 30 days you plan to force yourself to write 1, 667 words per day or whatever is required to meet your goal. Even if you’re more like me and you plan bigger writing days specifically so you can take days off, you’re still focused on meeting goals. For me, daily goals fluctuate due to scheduling and tendonitis, but my weekly goals don’t change. And every week–even if it means staying up until three in the morning on the last day of the week–I meet that goal.
The discipline it takes to write a novel in a month can be carried over to your life in December. Let’s see how this works with the most obvious example, your non-Nanowrimo writing and editing goals. If you know you normally don’t spend enough time writing, but during Nanowrimo you spend so much time writing you alienate friends and family, your goal for December should be to find a happy medium. Say regularly you spend only a half hour writing every day, but during Nanowrimo you spend three hours writing every day. That’s still enough time to get a fair bit of work done, and it shouldn’t cut into your other duties so much.
Why does Nanowrimo help with this? First off, it gives you an idea of what you can accomplish in three hours. Second, it gives you the momentum you’ll need to continue writing every day. Third, your family’s grown accustomed to losing three hours, so an hour and a half won’t seem like such a big deal. And it doesn’t have to be writing–you can allocate the now freed Nanowrimo time to anything you’ve been neglecting, like art projects or exercise. After all, you’ve already started forcing yourself to be productive every day, so why not keep going?
Discovering Priorities. If you pay attention to how you feel throughout the month of November, you’ll learn a lot about what really matters to you. You’ll discover whether or not you care enough to maintain a strict writing routine every day. You’ll also discover which things you missed when you sacrificed them to devote yourself to Nanowrimo, and which you didn’t. I bet, if you’re really paying attention, there’s at least one TV show you never really loved that much–which gives you at least half an hour of free time.
As you sit and reflect on what you do miss and what you don’t miss about regular life, you can figure out what things were missing from your regular life. If you’ve decided to give up that one TV show for good, what will you do with the time you gain? Maybe you want to read more. Maybe you want to keep that as writing time. Maybe there’s another long lost passion that you want to explore again, like sewing or running.
As the month wears on, seriously consider your new schedule. What about it do you like? What about it don’t you like? How could you adjust your post-Nano days so you get the most out of each one? Your intense focus on writing during the month should help clarify what you really want out of life.
A happier future. Over the course of this month you’ve given yourself a strict routine and become more disciplined. You’ve also written a novel–no small feat–and discovered what truly makes you happy–or at least what doesn’t. The important thing now is to take your new found knowledge and discipline and put them towards creating a better life for yourself.
What does that look like? Well, it’s different for everyone. For me, it looks like re-evaluating my writing goals and deciding how much time I can really afford to give each project. For some, it looks like taking a class in something like yoga or dance. For others, it means returning to their passion for art. December first might even be when some people realize that they’re dissatisfied with their life as a whole and decide to tear up their roots and start over someplace else.
Creating a better life looks different for everyone, because everyone has a different idea of what that better life will look like. But no matter what your better life looks like, you’ll never get there if you aren’t disciplined and constantly re-assessing what you truly want and how to get it.
If you take anything other than tendonitis and a horrible novel away from this experience, I hope you’ll walk away knowing that anything is possible if you try hard enough, and that there’s never a better moment than now to get disciplined and create a better life for yourself.
Can you believe we’re already at day five of Nano? It’s amazing how quickly the days pass sometimes, but don’t start fretting over how many we have left. You’ve still got lots of time–including four full weekends–to write your novel. The luckiest people spent their whole weekend at the keyboard, words falling from their finger tips, and now have a nice word count cushion in case they miss a few days. Worst case scenario is that you haven’t started your novel yet, but that’s still not an awful scenario–people have started with as little as one week left and still smashed their goal.
Whether you’re one of the lucky ones or you’re at a loss for where to start–or you’re in the middle, right on your daily target–I’ve got some tips to help you get ahead and put yourself in a nice position at the start of week one.
1. Get competitive. Whether you’re ahead or drowning, getting competitive is a good way to get–and stay–on top of your word count. Find someone whose word count is close to yours and send them a Nanomail challenging them to some friendly competition: who will reach 50, 000 words first? Who can get more words by the end of the month? Competition isn’t the only reason why I have such high word counts, but believe you me, it helps.
2. Get silly. Stuck? Hop on over to the Dares thread on the Nanowrimo forums. There you’ll be challenged to incorporate all kinds of things in your novel, from witty one liners to odd characters to entire subplots. Some dares may even inspire a WHOLE NOVEL, such as my dare to write “The novel to end the world”, in which someone’s Nanowrimo novel brings about the apocalypse.
3. Get ahead. The best favor you can do yourself is to get ahead. You can do this a couple ways. If your goal for the month is just the basic 50, 000, you can write 2,000 words a day instead of 1,667. If you write that much every day successfully, you’ll have 60, 000 words. If not, you should still hit 50K. The numbers can be adjusted to suit your goal. Of course, the other way is to dedicate a day–say this Saturday–completely to writing so you can get an extra few thousand words. This creates a buffer for when you’re feeling uninspired.
This week is all about getting into the flow of fast paced novel writing. Train yourself to stay focused and get ahead, because next week’s probably going to be rough. Keep your eyes on the prize and your mind on your novel–to ease into the flow of writing, try thinking through plot points on your way home. And if you’re feeling uninspired, take a look through the forums–you’re certainly not alone, and you can also adopt plots there and discover exercises that will get you right back to work.
But most importantly–have fun! And if you’re not having fun, find a new novel to write.
Today’s post is the first in a series of pep talks written by Nanowrimo veterans. I’m pleased to welcome Rose Johnson, known as SerpentRose on the Nanowrimo forums, 10 year Nano participant and, coincidentally, my mother, who originally introduced me to Nano. Please give her a warm welcome.
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Another year, another novel. This is my tenth time doing NaNo and I wish I could tell you I’ve won every time. Fortunately I’ve learned from both successes and failures, and one of the main things I’ve learned is that when I worry too much about what I’m writing it’s harder to actually sit down and write.
It’s far better, especially for NaNoWriMo, to have an idea that excites you than to have an idea other people think is “good”. NaNoWriMo isn’t for writing well, it’s for writing prolifically. I like to think of it as a “Spew Draft”, because I just spew the words on to the page.
There will be good bits in there, ideas that make you go wow, scenes that amaze you. There will be bad bits in there, wooden dialogue and plot holes big enough to fly a jumbo jet through. Now is not the time to worry about that.
You may have a wonderful outline and know exactly what you’re going to write each day this month, you may be a pantser and have little or no idea what your novel is actually going to be about. Or, as happened to me one year, you may have had an idea and are now discovering it’s not something you can write.
That’s not important, if you dislike what you have and another idea seems more appealing it’s still early enough in the month that changing plans is no big deal. What is important is that you are committed to sitting down to write.
You need to make writing a higher priority than that TV show or video game you love. They’ll still be around next month.
The one thing, the only thing, that everyone who has successfully completed NaNoWriMo has done is sit down and write. If you put butt in chair and write, even if what you write isn’t good enough to show anyone, even if it’s so bad you want to pretend you didn’t write it, it doesn’t matter.
So as soon as you’re done reading this open up that word processor and write. If you don’t know what to write just ask yourself “What could possibly go wrong” and then write out how your characters deal with the situation. That’s all there is to it, butt in chair, fingers on keyboard and one word after another.
Tonight, millions of kids all over the world will be dressing up in bizarre costumes and knocking on door after door to fill their pillow cases with candy. Many children on the eastern coast of the US will be staying in due to hurricane Sandy, whose winds have brought days of rain as far north as Toronto. Many adults will be dressing up and going to Halloween dinner parties.
I’m sure some of you will be taking the kids out or going to a dinner party. I, on the other hand, with probably a few thousand other writers, will be staying in frantically trying to finish the six pages of editing I have left in MG so I can start Nanowrimo at midnight without too many worries. Of course, I planned to finish this edit during the summer, but due to tendonitis and more recently getting a tooth pulled AND a bad cold in the same weekend, that didn’t happen.
The important thing is that I don’t beat myself up about it. Instead, I must forge ahead, finish that edit and dive right into Nanowrimo. Of course, I’m much less prepared for Nanowrimo than I usually am by now due to the aforementioned edits and health problems, but that’s all in the spirit of Nano anyway–besides, who’s ever really prepared for something this epic?
For those of you who will be staying up with me, counting down the hours, I have a couple things to say. The first is that staying up all night writing is probably a bad idea. You don’t want to compromise your school or your job, so do yourself a favor and limit yourself to an hour of writing.
My second note is that the few hours you have left are a good time to spend with your family or on other menial tasks which have nothing to do with Nano. Part of being prepared for Nanowrimo is to have eliminated as many other tasks from your to-do list as possible, so you’ll have more time to write during November. Spend your last few hours doing this, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to find writing time.
Finally, if you’re stuck, try one of these first sentences on for size:
I often wished I’d been born someplace else, with parents who didn’t hate each other.
The weather was wet and gloomy, and had been for days.
She truly loved books: poetry, history, biography, even trashy fiction from time to time.
He had always wanted a pony.
Take any one of these first sentences and make it your own. Note that most of these sentences are longer than necessary–that’s all part of buffing your word count to ensure that you hit 50, 000 words. So don’t be ashamed of your run on sentences, and don’t try to fix your mistakes. Just plow forward and before you know it you’ll have your first 1, 667 words.
Now go out into the world, finish your pre-Nano tasks and ready yourself for the crazy novel writing month ahead!
The best way to win Nanowrimo is by maximizing inspiration and minimalizing distractions. A Nanowrimo survival kit helps you do just that. It ensures that you have everything you need nearby and keeps you from running off on lengthy store trips. The ideal Nanowrimo survival kit contains something to meet all your needs, preferably things that can easily be kept in a box beside your desk.
Some of the things you’ll need to survive this novel writing madness are better off in places like the fridge, but try to keep as many of the essentials by your desk as necessary so you don’t have to get up as often. Butt in chair is the most important part of any writing challenge, and by keeping all the essentials within arm’s reach, you eliminate excuses to remove your butt from its chair.
So what should you put in your Nanowrimo survival kit? Here’s what I try to keep in mine:
1. Snacks/Refreshments. Nanowrimo’s extraordinarily well timed for snacks. Halloween candy is on sale and there’s pumpkin flavored stuff everywhere. If you’re like me, that means you’re in snacker’s heaven. Buy a big box of Halloween chocolates, get some pumpkin spice tea and fill your fridge with pies. It’s also a good idea to get a case of your favourite pop so you don’t have to go thirsty. These things will help you stay happy and inspired–or at least will keep you from being miserable and dehydrated.
2. Paper/pens. It’s always good to have a variety of notebooks, pens and sticky notes in easy reach during November. This way you can take note of turns of phrase you’re especially proud of, jot down new facts about your world and characters, and write down important tasks that you can’t do now but must do later. It also helps to have these things on hand in case you get stuck, so you can brainstorm or free write until the words flow again.
3. Stickers! Stickers are great. They should be kept on hand any time you’re working on a big writing project, and they make a perfect reward during Nanowrimo. Buy yourself some stars, skulls or whatever your favorite kind of sticker is. You might even want to buy different stickers for different goals, say stars for every thousand words and kitten stickers for every ten thousand words, and something completely different for when you finish. Put them on your calendar or somewhere where you’ll see them every day to keep you inspired. Last year, I put a kitten sticker on my laptop for every 5, 000 words. Every time I see my laptop, I’m flooded with happy memories, and that’s just how it should be.
While there are dozens of other things you might include in your Nanowrimo survival kit–effigies of your characters, sculptures representing your personal writing demons, mindless distractions to keep your brain working–the three things I’ve listed here are the essentials. Without these things, you’re likely to spend much of your time uninspired and on unnecessary trips to the store. So get out there today and stock up.
Since you’re planning to write a 50, 000 word novel next month–dividing into 1,667 words per day–it’s a good idea to get warmed up by doing some writing exercises over the next few days. A good goal would be to write at least 400-500 words every day until Nanowrimo starts, so you’re already in the writing groove on November first. This warms up your writing muscles without leading to burn out before Nanowrimo begins.
Today I’d like to share three exercises designed to help you do just that. These exercises can be done with your Nanowrimo characters or completely different characters. I usually use them to flesh out the characters and world I’ve already started creating for my novel, because I find that you discover many things while writing that you never will in a thousand brainstorms. Often these are crucial details, such as character names and important moments in their history.
While these exercises are aimed at both warming up the writing muscles and fleshing out your characters and your world, you can find dozens of more basic prompts both here and on many sites across the web. There are even entire books filled with prompts to help you get going, ranging from picture prompts to detailed scenarios for you to throw your character into. These exercises are my attempt at finding a proper middle ground.
Without further ado:
1. Write about a large social gathering in the place where your story is set. This can be from the main character of your novel’s point of view, in third or first person, in the point of view of your villain or whoever you want it to be. The important thing is that you focus on what the occasion is, what people are wearing, how people act and mention any unusual customs. I can’t begin to explain how many times I’ve discovered really important things by writing scenes like this, especially about cultural expectations and traditions. Often the details you need come more easily when you’re just writing, not trying to rip them out of a blank page.
2. Write a scene in which someone dies. You can learn a lot from someone’s death, both in real life and in fiction. In fiction, it can teach you how your characters react to death, what common dangers are in that world and how death is treated in your world. Death scenes can be incredibly powerful, and you can make them as long or as short as you want. For this exercise I’d suggest writing first person in the PoV of one of your Nano characters and making the dying person someone close to them. Of course, you don’t have to do that–the important thing is just to get yourself writing, not what you write.
3. Write something about pets. Everyone loves pets. Nowadays we have micro pigs, cats, all manners of dogs, birds and lizards. In ancient times, pets weren’t usually kept unless they served a purpose, and often weren’t even called pets: dogs for hunting, horses for riding, goats for milk. Where does your world stand on the issue? Are live animals rare and most pets robotic, as in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Or are your people so poor they can’t keep useless mouths, restricting them to dogs and horses? Or do they sit somewhere in the middle, where anything can be a pet and everyone has one? You can learn a lot about your world by considering what pets they keep–and more about your characters by how they treat their pets.
Of course, when doing these exercises you don’t have to use your characters and setting for your Nanovel, but if you’re still trying to flesh out your world and your characters, these exercises will add an extra level of depth to your novel. And for those of you who are just chomping at the bit to get started, writing these back story scenes is a great way to get some writing done and give your characters some loving without cheating and starting your novel early.
What is your favourite kind of writing exercise?
Today’s author is Allison Cosgrove, several time Nanowrimo winner, former word war captain, mother of three, hard worker and recently published author. I’ve already interviewed her here and am currently reading her mystery novel, Sacrifice of Innocence, which I’ll be reviewing sometime in the upcoming months. Today she’s decided to do us all the honour of sharing her realization that none of us are ever truly ready for Nanowrimo.
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One thing I have come to realize, as a long standing WriMo Veteran, is that in preparing for the wonderful thing that is NaNoWriMo is that we are never truly ready for it. I mean there are things we can prepare. We can plot and outline and make notes for just about everything, pre-cook and freeze meals, but in the end we can not be completely ready for everything.
The one and only year I have ever tried to plot out everything it turned out to be all for naught. I honestly had everything set out. I knew EXACTLY where I was going. I was so proud of myself. And then two days before NaNo I was hit by a monster of plot bunny and away I went on a completely different direction and everything I did was pushed to the side until later in the month.
That, to me, is the most amazing part about NaNoWriMo. We plan everything out. We get all of our emergency junk food kits ready. We set our coffee pots to constant brew. We make sure our loved ones know that if they don’t hear from us for a month that everything is alright and that we are just knee deep in a whole other world. Then we set out and put pen to paper, fingers to keypads and the world around us disappears.
We don’t always end up where we expected to and that’s alright. We may eat more junk food, drink gallons more coffee, sleep less and we may even end up smelling like yesterdays socks. We may not finish at the amount we would like and we may not cross the 50,000 word finish line but that too is alright.
Because it is not where we end up that matters most. It is the journey that we take to get there that counts. We will learn and grow so much in 30 days. We will learn to stretch our wings and not worry about where the winds take us. We will take chances and risks we may never have taken with our creativity. We will forge long lasting friendships and find a new place to call our own.
Just remember that as you finish off your plot notes, your character sketches and pack your pre-made food for next month. You may not end up exactly where you think you will when you set out in a few days but enjoy the ride none the less.
It will be all worth it and besides you can always edit later.