A Very Quick NaNoWriMo Note

And I mean very quick. I have things to do – lots of things to do.

First of all, it’s Day 2 and I’ve already exceeded my minimum word count per day. Chugging right along! I am thinking there are several reasons why this year’s NaNo seems to be easier in previous years. I’m basically a pantser, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a plan.

If you’re attempting NaNoWriMo and are having difficulties, just keep these things in mind:

1. It helps you you have the characters, at least one or two main characters. You won’t need to know the depth of character yet, but it’s helpful to name them, have a general idea of what they look like, and also have a plan for them. Your plans can always change, but it’s easier to write if you already know their beginning, middle and end.

2. It helps to have a time set aside for writing. And I mean time you use wisely. The last two days, I’ve been out of town and therefore on my East Coast schedule while on the West Coast. I’m up at 3 a.m. as a result, and I’m using my sleeplessness to write.

3. Write as fast as you can. Don’t edit, don’t worry. That comes later, after you finish the challenge. Grammar doesn’t have to be perfect, the plot doesn’t have to thicken, just get down as much as you can as quickly as possible.

4. Always carry a notebook! I lost my hotspot capabilities and my trusty notebook came into play as a back up. You can’t easily count the words, but it’s easy enough to type them in when you’re ready.

5. Most of all, be kind to yourself. If you falter, don’t beat yourself up. Try to do better the next time.

Okay, fellow writers, that’s it for now. I’m going back in.

Happy writing!

Strategies for NaNoWriMo

Holy cow, is it November again?

Yes, I am again participating in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, even though I have been waist-deep in an edit/re-write and have a hundred other items on my list of things to do.

Why, do you ask, would I NaNo? Well, the main reason is I’m lazy the other eleven months of the year. I need November’s NaNoWriMo to kick my ass.

I know, I know, I could levy a self-imposed deadline such as NaNo’s race to complete 50K words in thirty days any other time – let’s say in February or September – but I have little willpower. Plus I am easily distracted.

In order to cross the 50K finish line this year, I’m going to take some pretty severe actions. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Get off Facebook. Should be easy, especially since the recent Facebook upgrade, which made visiting there and hanging out a major pain in the butt. Plus, it seems that every time I sign in, some bug locks up my computer. Another good reason to stay away.

2. Minimize Twitter. That used to be easy until I got an HTC EVO phone. Looking at tweets is entirely too simple these days. I know, I’ll turn off my phone!

3. Stop wasting time with meals and meal preparation. I see a lot of ramen noodles, tuna fish and take out in my immediate future.

4. Get up early. I need to do this to complete my Real Life chores, but with the extended Daylight Savings Time and my oncoming SAD, I’m finding that difficult. It’s still freaking dark at 7:30! Perhaps next Sunday when it will FINALLY be Daylight Savings Time, I will be able to report myself in better humor.

5. Suspend working on my re-write. This will be tough, but necessary. It’s good to put a little distance, particularly since I’ve been at it full bore since the end of August. I have a feeling the 30 day vacation will yield positive results.

6. Use Write or Die. This is the ultimate cattle prod for reluctant writers. If you’re a procrastinator with ADD tendencies, I would strongly recommend this program. Using it I’ve whipped up a thousand words in twenty minutes or less.

6a. Download Write or Die on every computer you use. That’s right, even the work computer. Once you pay $10 for the computer version (the online version is free), your payment entitles you to unlimited downloads of Write or Die. Two words: Do it!

7. I’m also going to join the local NaNo group. There’s nothing like a community flogging to get your butt in gear. Reach out to other writers who plan on marathoning this month.

As for the mechanics of NaNoWriMo (or the mechanics of writing any novel, period), try making it easy on yourself. Here are some things the fledgling writer can think about while dreaming of penning the next breakout novel:

1. Have a plan. For real. A novel must have three things: a beginning, a middle and an end. Without those three things, you don’t have a story, you have stream of consciousness writing. There’s nothing wrong with streaming – actually, my first NaNoWriMo effort was a unruly stream that resulted in the completion of my first novel. Streaming may give you ideas for story lines, but if the goal is writing a book, don’t forget the beginning, middle and end.

2. Outline. This is hard for me, and I never did it before, but it makes perfect sense. Most people don’t jump into the car and drive away without a road map, they have a map and money for gas to get them to their destination. Figure out before you sit down at the computer where your characters are going and how they’re going to get there.

3. Write everywhere. Give yourself the luxury of little notebooks for those times you’re not close to the computer/typewriter/notepad.  Use your iPad. Since my story includes a blog, I have set up my fictional blog online, and plan on contributing to it every day this month. Hey, what can I say? Words are words.

My goal is to get ‘er done, peeps.

This year’s effort is the sequel to VIRTUALLY YOURS, yet unnamed (so far referred to as VY2). And yes, I have a game plan, story lines, unknowns, and the requisite Big Reveal toward the end of the story.

It’s early (7:31 a.m.) but I have to get on the move. See you in December.

Writing and Real Life: NaNoWriMo as a Tool

Last month, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the third year in a row. The premise is easy to understand; NaNo-ers are to complete 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. Each author wannabe has a page, where one can post their profile, synopsis of the work in progress, sample writing and even dream cover designs. There are forums discussing a myriad of writing topics and cheering email sent weekly. A handy graph reveals your progress and that of your writing buddies.

Writing a novel is not as easy as one may think. My first year of NaNo went poorly. I don’t think I wrote a thousand words, much less fifty thousand. My failure was in part because of “real” life. Not many of us are professional writers able to devote entire workdays to writing. Most of us have day jobs, families and other commitments digging into our writing time.

I often refer to my writing life as a clandestine tryst between me and my other love, Writing. If I find two hours of solitary silence where I can concentrate on writing, it’s a rare thing indeed. Writing involves a certain amount of guilt, especially if a week’s worth of dirty laundry is staring at you from across the room.

My other huge problem is that I’m a lazy writer and easily distracted. Writers inhabit a solitary work existence. They need to be self-starters. There is no one on the workroom floor to glare at you and yell you into production. Your only supervisor is YOU. Even going online to ask writing friends a question is dangerous for me, as I tend to wander off to other web sites and other tangents. Successful writers need a certain amount of dedication to the craft. Books don’t write themselves.

This is the brilliance of NaNoWriMo. It’s the online representation of a writer’s cattle prod.

Some participants wrongly think that the great American novel will miraculously spring from the computers of one of the thousands that use the web site as a tracking tool. Actually, NaNoWriMo is only a tool, meant to instill good writing habits. The intention is not to complete a novel in thirty days, but to get as many words down as you can in thirty days.

There is no time for editing, for thinking of the back story or for looking for grammatical errors. The idea is to plunge in and don’t look back until December 1.

That’s not to say that having a plan isn’t helpful. With my first year attempt woeful at best, I used Year Two to jumpstart the work I started a year and a half before. That work in progress started out as a stream of consciousness piece with no plan. After eighteen months of aimless meanderings, I had been stalled at Chapter 13 and hadn’t gotten to the halfway mark.

This year, I came prepared. I had a premise, I had characters with names and locations, and I knew what was going to happen and how it was going to end. I arranged my work to have thirty chapters, to coincide with the number of days in NaNo. I used to be a fly by the seat of your pants kind of writer letting my characters show me the way. I can now see where having an outline or sketch of the novel is necessary to success.

Since that Real Life thing is a constant, budgeting time wisely is of utmost importance. There were only two days in November when I couldn’t write, and one of those was Thanksgiving. I knew in advance and adjusted my writing schedule accordingly. Even with the two days off, I reached the 50K goal on November 29 and finished the novel on December 1.

My book has flaws and some gaping holes but only because I was writing as fast as I could. After letting the piece ferment for a week or two, rewrites will come next.

I hope to continue using my newfound writing schedule, but knowing my history, I’m sure I’ll return to slacker writing soon enough. Still, I would recommend NaNoWriMo to any aspiring novelist. It’s not perfect, but at least it will get the words out, and that’s the first step.