Obligatory #NaNoWriMo Post – 2019 Edition

Welp, here we are: the first week of Nano! Tomorrow is obviously the first full week, but we post on Thursdays so deal with it.

So. How’s it going, boo boo?

At this point, this morning, to be on par you should have hit that all-important 10k word milestone yesterday, looking at hitting 11,669 by the end of the day. But if you haven’t, don’t despair; there is still time. And, honestly, as long as you’re writing, it doesn’t matter if you hit par or if you “win” at the end of the month.

Nano doesn’t work for everyone, but I personally love it. I’ve been participating in Nano or Camp Nano since 2012 when I wrote my first Matilda Kavanagh novel that month, well, the first half of it anyway.

And that’s one of the reasons I love Nano, I love the jump start it gives me on a project. I’ve used it many a time for the push I needed to get into writing.

Take this year for example: I took most of the year off from writing, since about February, and was terrified I wouldn’t get back into the groove of writing again and be back at square one. But the pressure of Nano mounted for me in October and I managed to get thirteen chapters outlined before November first so I had something to start with when the big day came. And, so far, I am slightly over par.

“I don’t need time, I need a deadline.” – Duke Ellington. I feel you man. This is so me.

I like to write more than I need if I can on a given day so when I come up on days like today yesterday, and I can’t quite write the 1633 words I need, I’m still okay on the overall word count.

How do I do it, you ask? Well, henny, sit back and Auntie Shauna will give you a few tips and tricks that work for me.

As I mentioned above, I love an outline. When I was a baby writer, I didn’t outline and that led to meandering, massive manuscripts (say that three times fast) that needed 4-5 rounds edits before they were decent. With an outline I have a map I’m following to help me focus and leads to much cleaner and tighter manuscripts at the end. Yes, I deviate, and that’s okay, but the next page in the outline helps me remember where to pull back on course. Like, this story for example? My MC was giving me serious Carrie in the Library vibes as I was writing, but not when I was outlining. So, it’s in the story now and I’ll adjust as I go along. You can add things that weren’t in the outline to begin with, it’s fun to discover things you hadn’t thought of. So don’t look at an outline as set in stone, look at it as Google Maps that keeps “recalculating” as you turn down this road and that to see different attractions or get a coffee.

I also need a soundtrack.

I like to curate a playlist for every book/story, but I also have a playlist that is just soundtrack scores if I need that kind of big, fast energy without lyrics. It helps me tune everything out and zone in on the writing. Some people need silence and that’s hard to come by, so maybe just put your headphones in but with nothing playing and the soft electronic buzz might help.

Now to get the word counts. I’ve written quite a few books, so the idea of getting 1633 words a day isn’t particularly daunting, but I do NOT sit down and think, “Okay, I’m going to type until I hit 1600 words before I stop.” Nope. That’s a recipe for failure for me. Now, I just might get that many in a sprint/session, but I’m not doing it intentionally. I like to break it into pieces. I’ll tell myself I’m gonna get 500 words and then take a break—which might net more like 600 words. Or I’ll see that I have 20 mins before I have to go do something, so I’ll just get what I get in that 20 and it just might be a full 1k words. You decide if word goals or timed sessions work better for you.

Day-to-day, outside of Nano I may not go for multiple writing sessions. If I have time in the morning and over the course of an hour or two, if I get 1500-3000 words, I’ll call that good for the day and not come back in the afternoon or evening. But during Nano? No. If I have time to get a second session in, I will. Even if it is less than 30 mins. That’s how I stay over par. That’s how you get 2-3k words a day when you don’t have a couple of hours in the morning to do it all.

That’s also you hit par. If you get in your head that you HAVE to get those 1633 words all at once, you may be creating a creative blockage in your system. The anxiety, the pressure, that just steals the fun of this.

You’re writing with literally millions of other people. You’re writing with me. You might be writing with your favorite author. Even if you’re not sprinting actively with friends, if you’re doing this on your own, we’re all doing this with you! It’s a fun, friendly competition where we all want to win, but we’re excited to see you winning too! Nano is like the writer community Great British Bake Off! We’re all clapping for you and saying “Well done!” So don’t work yourself up thinking it all has to happen in one sitting.

I mean, look at this:

See that graph? So I “only” wrote 1334 today yesterday. And I did that in 2 sessions, not one. But I was just so tired and felt kinda grumpy all day; I didn’t have those 300 extra words in me. But I was already over par because of how many words I got the day before. Ups and downs are normal and there is always time to catch up. Do not kill yourself doing this. It’s meant to be encouraging and fun so try to keep that in mind.

You’re doing great. I promise!

One other thing I make sure I do is not end right after a climax. If I wrote a particularly exciting scene, maybe a fight or something intense and there’s a natural end to that scene, and I’ve hit my goal for the day, I will still make sure I start the first couple hundred words or so of the next scene. There’s something about starting a new chapter at the very beginning that kind of feels like starting at the very beginning again and you have to sort of find your momentum again and it can be a little hard. It may eat some of your writing time figuring out how you meant to start the next scene. But if you flow right into it and get a couple of paragraphs, you’re setting yourself up to get right into it the next day. If you haven’t done this before, try it, see if it helps.

One last piece of advice from Auntie Shauna. BACK UP YOUR WORK! Seriously. Email your manuscript to yourself every damn day. Do it after every session if you want—even if that means you have 3 or 4 emails in one day—I don’t care. JUST EMAIL IT. BACK IT UP. DO IT! DO IT NOW!

Date Last Modified

November 30th you logged into the NaNoWriMo website and verified your 50k words to win the damn thing. And it felt good, right? To see that massive word count concurred in just a few weeks. That was a great feeling, both of accomplishment and relief.

Until.

It hits you.

The book isn’t finished.

Now, if you went into NaNo with a couple tens of thousands of words, winning NaNo might’ve meant finishing your book. Or if you were writing a Middle Grade book, that sucker is probably done. But if you didn’t and if you weren’t, rest assured, that book ain’t done.

50k does not make most books, I’m sorry to say. You’d see far less writers ripping out their hair, staring dead-eyed at Twitter, and drowning in coffee if it did.

The one bad set up of NaNo is the holidays come right after. December is often a whirlwind for most folks, trying to get things done, seeing family more than ever, friends and food and stress and cold and all the things. And maybe you told yourself it was okay to take a short break after such a big accomplishment. And you told yourself that’s okay because look! You wrote so much and have far less to finish, so you can get back to it totes easy. No worries.

Then New Years comes along and you realize the date last modified on your manuscript is 11/30/18. And all those warm fuzzy feelings of accomplishment and relief are but a memory.

Trust me, kid, we’ve all been there.

But that doesn’t mean anything. It really doesn’t. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it doesn’t mean the book won’t ever get done, it doesn’t mean anything. It just means it’s time to pick back up where you left off and finish the damn thing. The good news (or maybe bad news?) is, there’s no countdown clock watching your progress now and you don’t have to do the next 50k or so words by January 30th. Of course, you now know you could, if you wanted.

So, cue up your playlist, fix yourself a nice cuppa, and put those fingers to the keys and hit your daily goal.

Now, for the rest of you. You know who you are: the ones who won your first NaNo, didn’t give up in December and finished your first draft and are so freaking ready to start querying this month.

Stop it.

Don’t.

Close that email and back away.

A first draft is never, ever ready for the slush. Do not burn bridges with agents by sending out queries premature. And if you’re going the self-publishing route, back away from KDP and BN Press and abort that upload. A first draft is not ready for that either.

When I finish a first draft I give myself a week at minimum and up to a month away from the book. I don’t look at it, I don’t print it, I don’t actively think about it (sometimes those thoughts sneak in though and usually for a good reason). Then I go back and read the whole thing from start to finish, making notes as I go, picking up on dropped plot threads, plot holes, inconsistencies, etc.

Then I make the changes I’ve noted. Or, worst case scenario, the total rewrite or massive edits.

Then I read it again. Yup, I get three drafts done before my editor or beta readers get it. And once they’re done, that means five drafts before I’ll call it finished. Sometimes more.

Your book isn’t ready. But it will be. You just can’t rush it. Rush that first draft, get that shit on the page, get it done. But now comes the work. Now comes the real book. Now comes the gold. Your work is worth the work. Do it.

Now comes the shameless self-promotion. If you’re a newbie writer and don’t have a circle of writer buddies you can go to for beta reading or content editing, I do offer both services and I do have some openings, so feel free to go to my website, have a browse, and hit me up. If you mention this post, I’ll give you 10% off!

Mushy Middle: The Mid-Month NaNo Slump

I know you’ve probably read hundreds of NaNo blog posts, so, here’s another one! YAY!

So right now we’ve hit the middle of the month on this little experiment and you’ve been killing it. Hitting par every day, you’re watching those word counts go up and up. You’re feeling like a gotdamn writer. Right? And then BAM! You hit the middle wall.

The beginning of a book is exciting and fun, it’s something new with new characters and new worlds and new, made up words only you know the definitions to. It’s so pretty and shinning and new! And you totally know the end of the book, you know if the good guy or the bad guy wins. You know if the world ends or if your rag-tag bunch of misfits saves the world at the last minute. You know it so perfectly well that you can see it like the epic climax of a movie scene. It is seared into your brain. You just gotta get to that part of the book.

And what is between you and the exciting end? The middle. 

I promise you, whether this is your first book or your fiftieth, the middle is The Worst for everyone. The action seems to slow, you’re starting to wonder if it’s any good, and if you can’t get through the writing of the middle, who in the world is going to be able to read it.

I can make you another promise: it’s not as bad as you think. The middle always feels terrible when you’re in it and writing it but when you go back and read it later, you’ll wonder why you hated it so much. Oh, it’s gonna need some work, it’s gonna need some rewrites and some editing, there’s no doubt, but you’ll find that you wrote what needed to be written. You’ll find some exciting bits that make the action rise and fall naturally–after all, it can’t all be rise. You just gotta get through it.

If you find yourself slugging through you can do a few things to make it easier. You can outline if you haven’t. A lot of people new to NaNo tend to pants their writing but when you get to the middle you realize you’re not sure where to go. Take sometime to plot out the next few pages, or even a full chapter so you have something to guide you for the next couple of days. If you’re really stuck, just skip to the end and write scenes out of order. The only thing you need to do to win NaNo is submit a full 50,000 words–the website doesn’t know if those words are in order, just get the words down and in December you can go back and fill in the middle.

That second option is a little scary, I know. When I get to a scene I don’t feel like writing I’ll just change the font and do this: AWESOME LOVE/FIGHT/ESCAPE SCENE HERE and then, when I come to it in review I can just add the scene in. 

Just don’t give up. Remember, you’re not alone when you’re doing NaNo and you’re not the only one who totally believes the middle part of their book straight up sucks. It doesn’t, or at least, it won’t. Just put the words on the page and come back to it later.

Also, BACK UP YOUR WORK. I email myself at the end of every day so I don’t lose my work. Yesterday, I emailed myself twice because I had 2 large writing sessions. BACK UP YOUR WORK. I have lost work when my computer went into critical failure. I lost tens of thousands of words because it had been a couple of weeks since I emailed myself. NEVER AGAIN.

NaNoWriMo: Do blog posts count?

giphy (10)

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Equal parts marathon and sprint, an artificial construct designed to help authors of all levels write a book.

Or most of a book.

Or something.

The basic idea is that by committing to write 50,000 words in a month, all those people out there who think they would write a book, if only….. won’t have an excuse to put it off. They’ll have to take an idea and throw down an average of 1700 words a day for 30 days, and in the end  they’ll have a solid start on that novel of their dreams.

But I’m probably preaching to the choir on this one. Let’s have a show of hands. Who’s doing NaNo this month?

giphy (11)

Awesome! Because even those of us who have already figured out how to get words on the page can use a little boost sometimes. Some authors figure “every month is NaNo for me”, but I know quite a few who are using this challenge to jump-start a flagging project, meet a tricky deadline, or otherwise get back on schedule.

This’ll be my first try at the November challenge. I’ve done the spring and summer “Camp NaNo” events, mainly because it’s fun to join a cabin – a group of people who cheer each other on – and it’s nice to get a boost to the word count. In past years, I’ve always had big editing projects going on in November, so didn’t have the bandwidth for the real deal.

Now, though, I’ve got the space in my schedule, I’ve got a premise, and I’ve even got a bit of an outline. I’ve also spent a month researching the time period and place (1920 Paris) – though as the start date got closer, I became increasingly worried that all I’d done was learn how much I don’t know.

Wait. That’s my inner critic talking.

giphy (12)

Shutting down that voice might actually might be the biggest benefit to NaNo, imho. By forcing myself to write 1700 words a day for 30 days, I won’t have time for second-guessing. The words will be on the page, safe in the knowledge I can edit them later. I’m curious to see what I come up with under those circumstances.

I also want to be able to say I did it.

I’m kinda laughing at myself, because when I initially considered what to put in this post, I thought I could discuss some of the resources I’m using. But… you know… word count. Gotta run.

If you’re participating in NaNo, happy words! And if you’re not, WHY NOT?! Everybody’s doing it…

giphy-downsized-large
Included because it’s one of the coolest stories from last night’s World Series win. I’m a romance writer, so for me, this is what victory looks like. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Scariest Time of Year… #NaNoWriMo

Halloween is just two days away, which, for me, is pretty awesome instead of scary. What is far scarier for most writers is three days away…

NaNoWriMo!!!

I don’t think I need to explain this to most of our readers, but just in case, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s awesome and terrifying and overwhelming and satisfying all at once. This is the month that many writers wait all year for – that push to get 50,000 words done in just 30 short days.

Most people realize, unless you’re writing a Middle Grade book, 50k does not make a novel, but it is a damn good start. Hell, it’s one half to two thirds of a book. So it’s a pretty incredible feeling when you “win” NaNo. I, myself, have won NaNo 3 times. The first book in my Matilda Kavanagh Novels was my first NaNo win and I’ve gone on to write five sequels to that book alone.

Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

Nano really is magical. You build writing friendships and habits that you can take with you to build your writing career. But I know it can be really scary and overwhelming. So I though I would share a couple of my tricks to winning.

Outline your story. Obviously there are split camps when it comes to outlines and pantsing. Some people lose the momentum to tell a story once they’ve written an outline, but I really think it’s good to have a loose road map so you know where you’re going when you sit down to write. A lot of writing time can be lost when you’re sitting there trying to think, “what next?” Even if you just take 30-60 mins in the morning to outline the next chapter so you know what you’re going to write that day, it’ll help you get that 1,667 words for the day.

Join the NaNo community on Twitter. If you don’t know anyone IRL who writes or wants to do NaNo with you and this is your first time, doing it on your own can be difficult. Word counts seem impossible and it’s lonely. On Twitter look for #nano and #nanowrimo and you’ll find people doing this too and you can try to write with them, or meet up for write-ins, where a group of you convene at a coffee shop or library and write for a few hours.

Use sprints. Writing sprints are where you set a clock for a specific amount of time and you try to write as much as you can in that small amount of time. For me, I don’t like to do anything less than 20 mins, but at the same time I don’t like 60 mins either because that’s just too long. But 15-30 mins is easy to ignore the internet and your phone and just try to beat your last sprint. And sprint with friends or other NaNo’ers. It will tap into your competitive spirit and you’ll have people to cheer you on and cheer on yourself as you and your friends write more and more with each sprint.

Take breaks between sprints. If you’ve done three 20 mins sprints, you’ve been writing for an hour. Be sure to take 5-10 mins between those sprints to look away from your manuscript, but after a group of sprints, walk away from your computer. Stretch, go for a walk, eat something. Just move around. If you can get 500-600 words a sprint, you can hit your daily goal in just three sprints. And, chances are, by the end of the month, you’ll be typing faster and faster and might win NaNo with a few days to spare.

Stop when you want to keep going. If you’ve hit your daily goal but know what happens next, walk away. That’ll give you a great springboard for tomorrow.

If you’re on a roll and you naturally get more words than you need, go with it. I know this contradicts my last point, but that’s writing for you. Every day is different. But a surplus of words gives you a cushion in case something happens and you miss a day or you can’t make it to the minimum word count.

So that’s it! Good luck! Make sure you keep it fun because, while writing is hard work, you should be enjoying it!

NaNo’s over. Now what?

Well, hello my darlings! Welcome back, I hope you had a wonderful holiday and not too many of you died to become a Tale of Black Friday. I do hope some of you participated in Small Business Saturday – and remember, you can keep that up just by buying books because authors are small businesses. Even if our books are sold on big retailers, we ourselves are small businesses. Like me, my royalties pay my bills, allow me to hire my editor, Cassie, who is an independent editor, and allows me to pay my proof reader, and to pay my cover artist. See? Me plus three people, that’s a small business.

Before I dive into the crux of this post I’d like to say “Welcome!” to our newest Scribe, Brian O’conor, and tell him what a fantastic job he did with his first post. If you have read it yet, I hope you’ll pop over and read it (after mine of course).

So, I thought, this first week of December, it would be good to talk about what to do now that NaNoWriMo is over.

You won NaNoWriMo, now what? Or maybe, you failed at NaNoWrimo, now what? Or maybe still, you were too scared or intimidated to try to attempt NaNoWriMo, now what?

All valid questions.

1. You won NaNoWriMo, now what?

Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

That all depends. Is you book finished? I mean really? Most 50k word books are middle grade or lower – unless your goal was to write a Novella and in that case you are done. Novels (YA and older) really tend to be 75k and higher, so if you’re finished at 50k, make sure you’re in the right age group. If 50k isn’t a reasonable word count, the answer to that question is: KEEP GOING! Keep up the momentum and habits that got you this far and finish. If you keep up your pace, you should be done before the holiday and it’ll be like a wonderful present for yourself. If you started your book before Nov 1st and you really are really done for real, then your next step is to take a break. Yes. Close the document (AFTER SAVING AND BACKING IT UP AT LEAST 2 DIFFERENT WAYS) and walk away from it for at least a week. Really, two weeks would be better, or even a month is good. Then you can come back to it with pen and paper and read the whole thing over and start fixing it. What you just finished was a rough draft, it is not ready for submission or publication by any means, I don’t care if you’re a 10x NYT Best Seller. That puppy needs revision. Probably more than one. Some writers start each revision with different goals in mind. One revision will be to look for plot holes. The next, typos, and so on and so on. It’s not uncommon to need 3-5 revisions before you give it to someone else to help revise, like an editor or a beta/critique partner.

2. You failed at NaNoWrimo, now what?

Supernatural, prophet, Chuck

Never fear! Did you write something? Good! That’s the real goal of Nano – to get words down you might not have gotten without the momentum of NaNo. Keep going, keep writing. That community of people you found through NaNo is still out there, people are still writing, still need sprinting partners, still need all the support you need, too. You’re not alone and there’s no shame in not winning NaNo. It’s not for everyone. Not everyone can fast draft and sometimes you don’t know if you can until you try. I do highly recommend Camp NaNo in the summer. In Camp NaNo you pick your own writing goal, so if 50k was too much for you, you could make a goal of 35k or 25k or even just 15k. Sometimes you just need a win, sometimes you need to build up your ability to fast draft. When I first started out I just asked myself to write 1k words a day five days a week. That’s not bad with a full time job. That was 5k a week, which was about a chapter a week. So in 20 weeks I had a full book written. That’s a book in 5 months – with weekends off! That’s not bad at all. Then I built up from there and now I can win NaNo and then some when I put my mind to it. It’s just like any thing else that you need to practice at to get better, stronger, faster. Typing, running, weight lifting, reading. The more you do it the faster you’ll become. Or not. We’re all different.

3. You were too scared or intimidated to try to attempt NaNoWriMo, now what?

download (1)

That’s perfectly okay. Like I said in #2, not everyone can fast draft, but you won’t know until you try and maybe 50k was too much for you to try the first time. So, again, I recommend Camp NaNo and set your own goal for the month. But, maybe you’re just itching to try writing this month, or next, and don’t want to wait that long. Good! Don’t wait! Set out a goal. Maybe just 500 words a day. If you write every day, don’t take weekends off, you’ll write 15,500 words in December. Or, if you think you can do 1k, you’ll get 31,000 words. THAT’S HUGE! Then you’ve started a habit and maybe next month you can convince yourself you could do 1.5k a day and in January you’ll write an additional 46,500 words, add that to your 31k from December and you’ll have 77,500 words. And you know what? That’s a novel, yo!

Tony_JerichoMissiles

It doesn’t matter if you won, if you fell short, or if you were too intimidated to do NaNo. All that matters is you don’t give yourself excuses to stop now. Keep going. Even 100 words a day is more than zero and you’ll never write that book you’ve always wanted to write if you never try. And remember, that first draft is crap. Doesn’t matter who you are or how much practice you have at it or how good it might actually be, compared to what it will be when you polish and revise it is crap, but that’s okay. You need the clay to mold into that really awesome sculpture. You need something to start with. Keep going.

And for a little shameless self-promotion. I actually finished the first Matilda Kavanagh Novel, Wytchcraft, during Nano ’12. And now, the third book in the series, Yuletide is up for pre-order! If you’d like a non-traditional holiday story for a little escape, pre-order your copy now!

Amazon/Barnes and Noble/iTunes/Kobo

Yuletide PB

 

Happy HallowSamhaiNaNoWriMo!

photo 3 (2)Happy Halloween or Samhain and NaNoWriMo Eve!

Kind of a crazy day really. Little monsters will be coming to the door, begging for candy. Jack-o-lanterns will burn into the night to keep the evil wandering spirits away. And tomorrow NaNoWriMo begins (with a bang or with a whimper?).

I’ve been partially dreading the start of NaNo for about a week now because the outline of the book I’m working on has been fighting me for every chapter. Probably something to do with Mercury not knowing which direction it should be going.

I thought I’d talk to you all about why I’m doing NaNo even though this book will be my ninth complete novel.

Most people join NaNo because they need the extra push, the added pressure, the camaraderie of other writers to start writing and (hopefully) finish a book – though finishing is not necessarily the end result, the goal is to write 50k words and often, that does not make a whole novel. But getting that much done will get you into the habit of writing and realizing you can find the time. Or, maybe you’ve started a book but you just can’t seem to get it finished, maybe it’s been languishing at 20-40k words, well an extra 50k would finish that.

So, if I’ve already completed eight novels, why do I need to do NaNo? For all the same reasons a brand new writer would. I want the pressure, I want the push, but especially the camaraderie. Writing is a solitary and often lonely vocation, but having friends writing with you at the same time, all working toward the same goal can do wonders for your motivation.

I did NaNo for the first time last year and I was lucky enough that a large group of my writer friends were all doing it too. Because I did NaNo I learned about writing sprints, writing as fast as you can for small chunks of time. Usually I would only ask of myself to write 1-2k words a day, it was a slow but steady pace and I would turn out a book in about 3-4 months. Not bad, not bad at all. But with writing sprints, writing for just 20-30 mins at a time (even just 15 if someone was in a jam to squeeze out just a few words), I found that I could easily write 3.5-5k words in a day. Yes, easily. In just 2-3 hours no less. It was incredible.

Since then, that is the only way I write anymore. I no longer sit and stare at my document and write until I finally see the word count creep up. Now I call out to my writing group, see who is on line and ready to do some sprinting, and we’ll go for an hour or two, breaking up the time into 20-30 mins chunks and before I know it, I’ve written a whole week’s worth of words and I can turn out a book in 1-2 months. And the more amazing part? I’m not burned out or drained by the end of it. Instead I feel like I’ve been carried away by my story or characters’ momentum and I was just along to catch the words as they came.

So, this year, I’m joining NaNo again. I started a book the first week of Oct, but only managed to outline through chapter 9 and I wrote the end of chapter 8 last Friday and crossed the 30k mark. I’ve spent this week, and will spend the rest of it, outlining the rest of the book and on Friday I’ll start up again. If I only get the required 50k words for November, I’ll crank my book up to 80k and be just a week or two away from finishing it. But, and this is my hope, there’s always the chance I’ll write more than 50k in November and I’ll actually finish the book. Fingers crossed!

So if you’ve ever been afraid to join in on NaNo, don’t be. Everyone has been where you are and knowing you’re not alone, that you’re writing with thousands of other writers, will help you. Remember, there are thousands of reasons why you can’t finish a book, NaNo will take those reasons away and at the end of it, you’ll see that it is possible. photo 1

Enjoy the festivities tonight, have your Samhain feast, pass out the candy, hide under the covers, because NaNo is coming!