Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

Can you believe we’re already into the second week of October? With the current edit, I’ve been neglecting this blog (The original deadline for edit completion was the end of February. Then the end of July. Then the end of September. You know how that goes…) Because I’m armpit deep into rewrites, I  haven’t given much thought to NaNoWriMo this year, even though I plan on participating.

Some of my best work comes out of NaNo. No, really. There’s something about a forced program that really makes one productive. It could be the whips and chains on the wall. And Dr. Wicked running on my laptop helps, too.

NaNoWriMo forced me to complete both Virtually Yours (a love story in thirty days) and Virtually Yours Forever (a wedding in thirty days). Both books were relatively easy for the NaNo challenge. I had characters that I knew intimately (much, much easier for the second book). I had story lines for each character, and an end result in mind.

I’m a pantser, and I detest writing outlines with a passion reserved for my other dislike (squirrels), but it helps to have a plan. While waiting for October to whiz by quickly, why not take a few minutes of time to sketch out your NaNoWriMo strategy. These seem to work for me:

1. Devise your story. This means you must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It doesn’t have to make sense, so don’t worry about that. Just remember this mantra: a person you like wants something very badly and is having a terrible time obtaining the goal.

2. Figure out your basic characters. You don’t need an entire cast, but start out with one or two people. Antagonist? Protagonist? You can fold in other secondary characters later. You’ll want to write down names, ages, what they look like, and a few basic personality traits. BASIC, remember? Save the rest for the real rewrite on December 1.

3. Choose a setting and become familiar with it. My settings tend to be places I’ve been or lived in. Virtually Yours started out as an online venture. If you are writing fantasy, you’ll have a harder job. I personally don’t get how some writers devise elaborate other worlds (I still think the Three Acre Wood was out of the ordinary) but hey, go with your talent.

4. If you have time, work on a schedule. You’ll have to somehow spew forth at least 1,667 words per day during the month of November, and unless you’re a magician or are retired with all the time in the world, finding time is going to be an issue. (It is for me.) Just remember: It can be done!

Once NaNoWriMo begins, just write. Don’t worry about back story, don’t concern yourself with spelling, edits, don’t even think about grammar. Just start writing, and don’t stop. You might want to carry a notebook like I do. Sometimes you can’t get to a computer, but inspiration will hit you where you can write things down for later.

Look to other participants for help, with strategies or just to commiserate. There’s no such thing as having too many writerly friends, and most writers make great cheerleaders.

If you would like to follow me on my NaNo journey, you can find me here.

Social Media and the Time Management (What Time?) of the Antisocial Writer

This is about selling, this is about social media, and of course, time management.

Even though I’m a writer, and writers are notoriously introverted, it doesn’t mean we’re anti-social.

Well, it does. It’s the nature of the beast. We sit in dark rooms in the middle of the night, or in coffee shops nursing a double venti for six hours, alone with our thoughts and the characters who populate our imaginary worlds. However, in order to sell books, we have to resort to becoming salesmen. It’s really not that icky of a proposition, even though sometimes I feel like a used car salesman peddling a Yugo. (Let me insert here that my book is NOT a Yugo! It’s more like a Scion.) Selling means a modicum of social activity must occur. You can’t sit in your basement and hope and pray that someone is going to buy your work, because it doesn’t happen that way

Writers can improve their socialness in many ways: Going to conferences helps; smiling, introducing yourself to random strangers – including those in the position of power like agents and editors – that’s a scary exercise, but it must be done. But in the modern world, writers must also sell online.

Whee, the Internet! That’s where it’s happening. It’s so easy to be a social butterfly if no one can see your face! or your middle-aged spare tire, or your ugly shoes. You can even socialize in your unmentionables – hell, even in the nude. But wait! The Internet is fraught with sinkholes. That’s because the Internet, that shiny beautiful thing full of information and networks and contacts, is an incredible time sucking m-a-c-h-i-n-e.

And let’s face it, if your time has been sucked, there is no time left for writing.

Here are my strategies (both in time and otherwise) and reviews of the major social networks:

LINKEDIN:

I belong, but I don’t get it. Perhaps it’s because I’m a dinosaur, or maybe because I’m not very “professional” in the strictest sense of the word. I see LinkedIn as a place for… well, salesmen. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel comfortable there. Every once in a while, I’ll get an email notification that I have pending whatever and whoos-it to approve and will dive in and look around for a hot minute. But honestly, LinkedIn does nothing for me.

MYSPACE:

Good for musicians, not so for writers. And of course, it is so totally un-cool. I have a MySpace account, but haven’t been in in forever. I spend zero time there.

FACEBOOK:

At one time, I was enamored of the Book of Face. Let’s see, it was right after the Powers of Face decided to allow more than college students to participate. I joined right away, at the suggestion of my then college-aged son. Facebook was snarky and new, a bright bauble of online fun. I could easily connect to not only my family, but to agents and editors and authors.

While the bloom is off the rose, thanks to many upgrades, and the fact that everyone on the planet (even my Boston terrier, Gracie Boo) has a Facebook page, Facebook still kinda-sorta fun. However, there’s a lot of drama going on. Politics, sniping, dumb shit. I don’t have time to get sucked into one side or the other. The jury is out as to whether or not posting links to your book generates more sales. You hope more than just your friends and relatives will buy your work, but I’m not a pushy salesman, so I don’t know. If I were a better salesman, I would conduct a survey. But I’m not, so there.

My strategy: Go in, spend no more than 15 minutes updating my page with a writer’s quote or a blog post, check out a few friends, and get the hell out. Push my book once a month.

TWITTER:

My new favorite social network. What I love about Twitter is that I can keep the feed open and not have to worry about people IM’ing me. Not that I don’t want to talk to my friends, but I don’t have sound on my work computer, and so I never hear the Facebook IMs. Not answering a Facebook IM makes me look antisocial, not deaf.

Twitter is very much like being at a cocktail party. You can eavesdrop on conversations, insert a witty comment here and there, or just plain stalk (and I mean that in the nicest way) people.

On Twitter, I can narrow who I follow. With a few exceptions, I follow agents, editors, and authors. The writing community on Twitter is a HUGE resource, even though I keep who I follow to under 200. Monday’s are great, so many links to so many great articles, it’s hard to choose what to read first. (I open up a browser just for these links, so it’s not on the same page as my Real Life work links.) Even if you don’t have any time, you can *favorite* the tweet and go back to it later.

I have no idea whether or not I’ve sold any books via Twitter. Ever the non-salesman, I just want to observe, learn, and keep my nose clean. I want people to see I’m not some sort of flake, that I’m serious about writing, even with the pitfalls I stumble into along the way. (I did experience one brief WHEE! TWITTER moment when an agent once tweeted out that she was looking for serious, literary fiction, I answered, and she tweeted back that once I was finished editing, I should query her. Update: I haven’t yet.)

My Twitter strategy is to leave the page open. For me, it’s the most bang for the social media buck.

The key thing for writers to remember is this: being a social is nice, but if you haven’t written anything, you’re a butterfly without a book.

🙂

And here’s where you can find me.

Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Virtually Yours, now on Amazon