Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

camp nano

With April right around the corner, I find myself prepping for this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Last year’s camp project was a disaster. I started out with lots of hope and ambition; I wanted to reach a goal of 60,000 words. In the end I finished out the month with just over 7,000. Some would say that any words written were a success, and in that light they are right, but I was sad that I couldn’t meet my goals.

My pregnancy was a lot tougher than I had expected. Physically, it was pretty mild, I didn’t have too many complications other than my gallbladder, but emotionally I was a wreck. Anxiety would keep me awake for days, just staring at the clock, and then depression would hit and I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I was still working at the school at the time as well, so between yo-yoing emotions and trying to put on a happy face and work, I was not focused on writing at all.

This year I’m in a much better place. I was really worried about post-postpartum depression, but things have been really positive. The first three months of being a mom were a blur, so I didn’t even attempt NaNoWriMo, but now I feel that I’m in a good groove with parenting, so I’m going to give Camp a go. Baby boy is by no means on a strict schedule, but he does nap several times a day, so I’m taking advantage of those times to get back into the swing of writing.

For this year’s Camp, I am going to be working on the sequel to my first Nano novel. After I finished that one, I realized that it served better as backstory for another character and his journey. At first I was really upset that I had written almost 300 pages of something that only scratched the surface of the story I really want to tell, but in actuality, I feel like I’m in a much better place to write this new story, because of all the work I did on the first.

I don’t have a title yet, but I do have a blurb written:

Hal, an orphaned young man lives in the restrictive confines of the American Resistance Compound. The world outside is a dangerous place; ravaged by war and disease after the North American Power Grid failed twenty years prior, the once free country fell to the oppressive power of the Chinese government.

Now with the ARC’s infrastructure failing and the appearance of a beautiful young Chinese scientist carrying a mysterious vial, the outside world is crashing in. People are getting sick from the plague they have battled to keep out for so long, and the only way to save them is a dangerous journey to a laboratory run by the Chinese that is rumored to have a cure.

Can Hal survive the outside world long enough to save the only family he has ever known? And can he trust his heart along the way?

 —

I’m really excited to get started! And with Camp’s more relaxed rules, I may just get writing a little early.

Are you participating in Camp this April? What are you writing? Let me know in the comments below!

Camp NaNoWriMo Prepping Fun!

It’s been a while since my last writing update, and with only a day left before Camp NaNoWriMo begins it’s perfect timing for one. My goal was to write every day after November, figuring that I would have a really great habit going, but it didn’t work out. The holidays were a perfect distraction, but I am happy to say that I am writing more, it not every day. Actually writing down brainstorm ideas (keep a note going in your phone- it’s always with you anyway!) alone was a big step in the right direction- inspiration is everywhere. I also worked on a couple of shorter length pieces, and prepped for a couple new novel ideas.

Editing has proved to be tougher than I believed. I can see the problems with my novel, but it just seems so much more overwhelming than writing. It’s a slower process, and I may need a little more time away from it. The most frustrating thing is how illusive the right title is. I’ve been through about five at this point and it sounds like a little thing, but without a title I’m having clarity issues. I keep plodding through bit by bit, and plan on using it as a distraction when I want to work on something other than the current project.

Overall, I find I’m happier when I’m writing and accomplishing things, so I make sure to make time to sit down and actually put words on the page.

CAMP NANO PREP

Originally I was going to use the more flexible camp format to work on an Adult Sci-fi idea that I was developing. With an ensemble cast of 7 characters I was going to work on their backstories so I had a strong base to begin writing.

But things rarely go as planned right? Since finding out I am pregnant my sleeping patterns have totally changed. I have a harder time getting to sleep, and tend to sleep in, lingering in bed late, especially on weekends. On one such weekend, I woke with a great idea forming in my head. The setting was inspired by an article about overcrowding in New York City, and I had characters, a loose plot, and a great setting in mind. I grabbed my phone and typed it all in. I was so excited. Everything seemed to work and it was more solid than the idea I had been developing, so I made the choice to switch ideas.

My (much smaller this time) scene breakdown I printed for my Camp Novel.

My (much smaller this time) scene breakdown I printed for my Camp Novel.

Since the synopsis I wrote is available publicly on the Camp site I would share it here as well:

————

16 year-old Kaitlyn lives in a future NYC where the buildings have literally grown into every possible space, looming overhead; an interconnected conglomerate of brick and steel fire-escapes.

Suffocating in the middle of a brick tomb, Kaitlyn must get a job to help support her family when her mother becomes injured. She turns to the Runner’s Agency; a group that hires out fearless runners to navigate the city’s dangerous steel avenues to deliver goods to it’s citizens with enough money to stay safe inside their upper level homes.

Kaitlyn soon meets Archer, a top-level boy while running errands for his family. Sheltered by his family’s wealth he nurtures a love for history, art, and tales of the world beyond New York. He helps fuel Kaitlyn’s dreams of escaping the smog and everyday perils of the city. What she doesn’t know is that danger lurks in more places than just the hostile cityscape.

Kaitlyn’s determination to save enough money to leave causes her to rise through the runner ranks rapidly- upsetting those at the top of heap. And the consequences could be deadly.

————

I’m excited to take what I learned in November and apply it to this novel. Always looking for ways to improve and get better!

Are any of you going to Camp as well? What kind of projects are you working on? I would love to hear about it!

Post Mortem (NaNo Wrap-up)

Nano Post Mortem

post•mor•tem
pōstˈmôrdəm/

• An examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death.
• An analysis or discussion of an event held soon after it has occurred, especially in order to determine why it was a failure.

When I was attending college studying theatre, we would always hold a Post Mortem after each production. It was structured where we would ask three questions of ourselves and the department:

1. What worked?
2. What didn’t work?
3. What did I learn?

I think that this can be an excellent exercise for almost any project that you take on- whether you succeed or fail, it is important to be able to identify what things contributed to the outcome and learn from it.

My final word count as of 11/30 was: 60,577. I was a winner of NaNoWriMo, and met my personal goal of 60,000. I have not however, finished my first draft.

So, in this vein I will examine my first experience with NaNoWriMo:

1. What worked?

-Prep and Plotting
I did a lot of Prep (you can read about it in my previous blog posts) before NaNo started. I explored several different methods, and in the end, it paid off. I was able to sit and write without worrying about where my plot was going, or who the characters were. I had enough space to play and develop, but I had a roadmap as well. It also helped slow me down and not skip ahead to the next super exciting plot point. I have a good pace going where things are developing nicely.

-Writing in the morning
I have never been a morning person… but I can say, my best writing happened in the mornings. When I was in my routine and fully focused I could write and write. Not to say that I didn’t write at other times, but I had so many other distractions later in the day.

-NaNoWordSprints/Twitter
I turned to Twitter in the third and fourth week. Wordsprints and timed writing sessions were never about the high word count for me, but rather a focusing tool. I was being held accountable… sure no one would chastise me for not writing, but it was a little push I needed. I also followed a lot of different resources for writers, finding inspiration and great advice.

-Forums for Research
The Nano forums are a dangerous place… it is very easy to lose track of time reading there, but when I used them correctly they were great. Occasionally I would hit a place in my writing where I had a hole in my knowledge, and hadn’t researched. Usually it was something that a quick Google search couldn’t solve, so I would post to the forums and be able to breathe, go back to writing, and get some great responses.

-Writing goals were reasonable
2,000 words a day was a good goal for me. I picked it arbitrarily, but mostly because it was easier to do the math than with the standard 1,667. This goal kept me ahead of par, and I was able to take two days off this month for personal things, without falling behind and feeling guilty. Some days reaching two thousand words felt like scaling a mountain, but others it was so easy that I wrote above and beyond.

2. What didn’t work?

-Vague areas in my outline
I’m not sure how to fix this, but there were some places in my outline where I had ideas, but no actual scenes. I had written things like “Stuff happens here to show the disaster.” Great, but that doesn’t help when writing. I need to pay attention to where the characters are, and what the conflict is in each scene instead of just what it needs to accomplish. I had only some of the pieces and this made some parts extremely difficult.

-Microsoft Word?
I use Word for everything. I’m typing this blog post up in Word right now. I have used it when freelancing in the theatre, and school for forever. I utilized a lot of the cool tools available, and yet, this is the first project I’ve attempted on this scale. It is getting unwieldy, but I’m not sure about switching to Scrivner or some of the other programs out there. I may try the free trial for the planning of my next plot and see how I feel about it.

-Oversharing
I started the month sharing daily updates in several places- Facebook included. However it started to feel like a nuisance and I was worrying more about what people would say, etc than it was worth, so I ditched the overshare, and just kept it to my daily e-mails to my family.

-Procrastination
Procrastination is an ugly beast, and I don’t think it will ever leave me alone. Sometimes it is just hard to sit down, focus and write, even with the best intentions in the world. Does that make me a bad writer? No, I think it only makes me human. I will continue to strive to do better.

3. What did I learn?
First and foremost, I can do this. I can easily write 2,000 words most days and write well.

Even the best plans are not a complete thing. I thought my outline was as good as it was going to get and couldn’t be any more specific, but when I started working it was vague in a lot of areas- This showed me that I can’t plan everything out and it’s okay. Sometimes you have to slow down, and the plot will unfold. Stephen Kings talks about this in his book On Writing as the ‘excavation’ of the story.

I still like to write. I have something to say. This is exciting. I don’t want to throw it all out, or never type another word again.

I work very well with goals/pressure. I always did in theatre and school, and because I have a relatively open schedule nowadays, the daily writing goals were great motivators.

In conclusion…
NaNoWriMo was overwhelming at times. I thought I would breeze right through, and I didn’t. I did meet my goals and persevere however. It was a great jump start to my novel writing and I will be forever grateful.

You will find as many opinions of NaNoWriMo as you will find people on this planet. I won’t bother to list the myriad of articles and blogs that love or hate it. You can procrastinate on google for a good long time doing that (believe me.) I would recommend someone try NaNo if it sounded like a good idea to them, and something motivating rather than crushing, but it depends a lot on your own personal reasons for participating. It isn’t really a competition against other people, so if you want to use the month as motivation to help you write, you shouldn’t really worry about what other people are doing. Is a fanfic writer really going to ruin your literary fiction novel? No. The point is to write. And if you were going to write anyway- great! Other people writing (whether it is quality or not) doesn’t hurt what you do.

Finally, I have upped my personal goal to finish this thing before I arrive on the East Coast for Christmas. That gives me 10 more days. At my current rate I should reach about 80K before edits which is still within the recommended guidelines for my genre (New Adult). Hopefully I will have one final update when that is complete!

How did your NaNo go? What worked/didn’t work for you? What did you learn? Let me know in the comments below!

Fights and the Finish Line (NaNo Week Four)

Nano Progress Week 4

The final week of NaNo… The fights were literary AND real. I attacked my first fight scene in the novel with some trepidation. I also had to fight to sit down each day and write. As much as I love my story (still!) it is difficult to tune everything else out and get over that initial hurdle to write. There are officially two days left in the month and contest, but I am proud to report that this week, I crossed the imaginary finish line! I have a stretch goal of 60K for myself, but I made it to the NaNo winner’s circle, and it was a nice little boost, despite how far my story still has to go.

Total Word count: 56,878 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week: 
– I hit 50K!
– I managed to keep writing despite hitting 50K. This one was harder than I thought. It was exciting to reach the winners page and watch the fun cheering video, but then I stopped writing that night, short of my daily goal. I came back though and wrote a lot on the next day.
– My fight scene isn’t awful. It was weird to write, but I think I was psyching myself out too much beforehand. I took the time to outline it step by step on some scrap notes and was then able to just sit and write, having already thought of the necessary hits, injuries, etc.

Struggles this week:
– Sitting down to write after thanksgiving. I had planned on possibly writing something that day, because I wasn’t sure how long dinner and socializing would be here. This is our first year in Bush Alaska, and we celebrated with other teachers. Dinner was fantastic and the company was even better- we didn’t go to sleep until after midnight. Because of that, I slept late and as I have been normally taking mornings to write, I was thrown off. Habits are good, but sometimes they inhibit you as well.
– Writing when my husband is home is harder for me. I love to spend time with him, but he distracts me! Perhaps that was why writing in the mornings when he was at school was so much easier.

Inspirations and Surprises:
While on the forums this week I was connecting with others who have hit 50K and are still writing… now I big conflict a lot of people seem to have is the whole quality vs. quantity debate. I however, felt that while I was writing a lot, and staying above the daily goals, was not writing crap. I don’t see the point- If what I write is bad, why write it in the first place. Now, I know it isn’t perfect, but it is the best I can produce the first time around, and I think it is good. So when I came across this ‘Overachiever’ Pep Talk by Catherynne Valente I was stoked. This is what I needed. She says:

“You can be good and fast at the same time.

Though it is important not to put too much pressure on yourself, it is also important to know that quality and speed have absolutely nothing to do with one another. You can write something heart-catchingly brilliant in 30 days. You can do it in 10. There is no reason on this green earth not to try for glory. You’re going to spend these 30 days at the computer anyway. You might as well be mindful while you’re there.”

YES.

-Also for the week, I really forgot how much I love Twitter. The sprints motivate me, and I also love the wealth of information that some of the editors and publishers out there share. It keeps that long term goal in my mind, and jumpstarts me to writing, and finishing my draft!

-Weird confession… I have been looking up agents who would be good to submit to (a loooong time from now when my novel is shiny and polished and the best it can be) when I am feeling down. I did something similar to this when I worked in theatre, where I would apply for the next freelance job and it made me feel better. I don’t know what it is about it, but I now have added a couple of their headshots to my (secret) Pintrest board for my book. It sounds a little creepy when I say it like that…

Anyway, thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the fourth week? Did you enter the winner’s circle?? Let’s continue the conversation below!

Wrestling, Words and the Z.W.D. (NaNo Week Three)

Nano Progress Week 3

This week was an enlightening one for me- I feel like I’m learning a lot from my NaNo journey. As someone who grew up and ended up working in the Arts, I am prone to self-evaluation, and for the most part I think that has helped me grow. So, even though I am sitting here today, not having yet written my words for today, I decided that it was important to reflect on this week, and how it has unfolded. My writing is chugging along, and if I get in my words today I will be exactly on target for my personal goal, and still ahead of the NaNo goal. While I may not be one of the people validating my 50K just yet, I’m still on a roll. So here’s where I stand:

Total Word count: 42,037 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week:
I have managed to stay ahead of the word counts, while still writing what I think are quality scenes. I am also hitting some of the more touchy subject matter in the story, and I believe that I have handled it with care. I’m trying to write a book that is about all the types of beautiful and diverse people that I’ve met- and although my protagonist may be a white girl from small town USA, I’m trying to show that when she leaves her small town, there is a world of people different from her- and they aren’t alien. But rather, human and real. It’s something I’ve personally experienced, and I think it is important to write about- sometimes a book can open someone’s mind and heart, if they haven’t been able to go out into the world themselves.

Struggles this week:
This week I hit a part of my outline that was pretty vague… essentially it said: “Discovery of The Sister” and then, “Introduction of ‘this character'” followed by, “Introduction of ‘this other character'”. Brilliant.

Although I knew what had to happen, I hadn’t decided HOW to show this to my audience. So instead of being able to focus on writing the scenes and making them strong, I was worried about where we were and what we were doing. This made the writing so. dang. slow.

So finally, after a day of agonizing writing that was like wading through molasses to get from word to word, I made myself a cup of tea, and sat on the couch with my husband. I started to talk it through. What did my characters want? What would they be doing to get that? What was it like where they were? By asking these questions, and with the occasional comment from the husband (who was pretty wrapped up playing Skyrim to be honest) I figured out where I was going with the outline. So then I sat down and typed up the basic idea for about the next 5 or 6 scenes that I had to write.

The next morning, I was back in the groove. I could picture the scene and live in it, so that I was just writing what I saw happen. It was wonderful.

Inspirations and Surprises:
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned this week is that sometimes it’s okay to take a break. I’ve always been an overachiever and someone who would literally push myself to the breaking point (and end up sick) to achieve a goal. This week started out difficult, but I took a day off to travel with the school’s wrestling team to a tournament in Bethel (I will blog about this after November!) and -gasp- didn’t write a SINGLE WORD on Friday. The dreaded NaNoWriMo Z.W.D. (Zero Word Day) And Surprise; It didn’t kill me. I’m not drowning in good old Catholic guilt. I am sitting down today, and I’m going to write, with a clearer mind, and excited again about my project. Like everything, persistence is important but you can overtax yourself- taking a break is okay- as long as you make sure you get back to work!

Thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the third week? Did you hit the goal yet?? Let’s continue the conversation below!

Milestones and Stumbling Blocks (NaNo Week Two)

Nano Progress Week 2

I entered NaNoWriMo with an indomitable spirit; sure that I was stronger than the masses of people who complained about how they got tired and how the pressure to write would effect their lives. After all, I am a pretty level headed person, and I have a lot of time on my hands right? Well, the second week of NaNo was full of ups and a few pretty dramatic downs for me. I worked a full week subbing, and hit a few walls in my writing marathon. Let’s review:

Total Word count: 30,703 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week:
Starting with the positives! I’m over halfway- both for the Nano goal of 50K and my personal goal of 60K. I think it’s going to take more than that to finish, but I’m happy with my progress thus far.

I am consistently writing. Even on days where I want to do anything but, I’ve sat down and worked. I think I’m a little bit harder on myself than some NaNo participants because I absolutely refuse to write garbage for the sake of a word count. If I know it is going to absolutely be edited out, I’m not going to write it in the first place. So actually getting words down that I’m okay with each day is a big deal. I’m not saying any of it is perfect (No one is that good!) but I know what I’m writing progresses or adds to the story.

I’m happy with how things are going. I’ve gotten past the exposition this week, and my rising action is working. Next week I’m going to be getting into some of the real meaty stuff, including a bunch of new characters we have been waiting to meet, so I’m still excited and positive. The story is still working- which I attribute to my extensive planning and outlining. I don’t have to think about where I’m going because I’ve already done that. I can simply immerse myself in Mae’s world and focus on writing well.

Struggles this week:
From the previous paragraph you might think that it has been a smooth journey this week, but that is not the truth of it. I am using a really great app called Writeometer on my phone to track my writing progress and I love that I can add comments to each separate writing session. There were quite a few this week where I had some wonderful comments, such as:

“Aggggg!” (Nov. 9th 9:59 PM)

“Ugh. Today it is like pulling teeth to write. Just not feeling it.” (Nov. 11th 8:35 PM)

“Arrrrrrgh. Done for tonight. Blagh” (Nov. 11th 10:57 PM)

November 11th was hard. I didn’t start writing until much later in the day, and I’ve found that I don’t work as well late at night… at least when it comes to writing, which is interesting because I’ve always considered myself a night owl. Maybe moving to the Tundra where the sun sets at 5pm is starting to really effect me!

This week I also faced the struggle to keep up with my regular life duties in addition to work and writing. My husband and I had a tense moment over something (probably dishes or ironing… two things I have been avoiding) and he showed me amazing grace. I was snappy and just stressed. Later we talked it out and he told me he almost said “Talk to me after November is over”. Looking at how I was behaving- I don’t blame him. It was a rough couple of days there.

Inspirations and Surprises:
The past couple of days I have turned around my attitude. I’m actively choosing to be happy and positive- something I like to practice in my life anyway, and quite frankly it is a great thing during this process. I surprised myself how much more I could get done when I was happy. Something as simple as putting a smile on my face could get me excited about what I was writing, even when it was difficult.

ChooseHappy

In terms of Inspiration and happiness, I downloaded the new Taylor Swift Album, 1989 on Friday. I’m in love with it and it is so much fun. As long as I keep the volume low I can write with it on. The upbeat vibe and sound are a great backdrop- even when I’m writing stuff that isn’t exactly uplifting.

Thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the second week? Let’s continue the conversation below!

Not Another NaNo Update! (Week One)

Nano Progress Week 1

I know, I know, there are a TON of NaNoWriMo updates going on right now- but ’tis the season right? I am going to keep mine weekly so that I am more focused on writing the Important stuff this month (the novel!) and not endlessly bombarding everyone with word count updates… so here it is, week one:

Weekly Word count: 15,586 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week:
I started out on a roll this week- writing a lot my first two days, and I have stayed about 1 or 2 days ahead of the suggested word counts. Mostly this is due to the fact that I set a higher goal for myself, had good habits and made time to write. I am really lucky that I only work as a substitute teacher, and only worked 3 days this past week, so I have plenty of time to write, but in reality I probably spend less than two hours each day typing, except for on the weekend.

My outline is working, and I’m happy with how the story is unfolding. I share what I have written every day with three people- my mother, sister, and a friend (and writing buddy!) from back home. I just paste the words into an e-mail and send it. I don’t ask for feedback or advice, but just the act of sharing it has been really freeing for me. I want to publish down the road, so people ARE going to read what I write. Sharing it now helps me break down that heavy emotional relationship I usually have with my work, so I will be able to talk about it, share it, break it down and make it better.

Struggles this week:
About 5 scenes into my outline I had a lot of question marks. Until the inciting incident I had a clear idea of setting, etc. After that point I knew what would be happening as a result of the inciting incident (a large Solar Event shutting down the North American Power Grid) because I had done a lot of scientific research. What had me hung up, was how did I show these effects when locked into a 3rd person limited POV? I struggled for a couple of days- talked it out with some people close to me, and figured it out. I have started keeping secrets from the reader, and as an author this is scary because I want them to know everything I know- after all, I did tons of research- but in the end, this makes the story better!
Here is a picture of all the edits and additions on that section of my outline:

IMG_20141106_081055047

Title trouble has also plagued me this week. I was lying awake the other night trying to think of something better because I’m just not happy with “Sky Full of Stars”. First of all it is one letter removed from a Coldplay song, and secondly, I don’t think it will fit the overall book. In the end I have decided to just keep it as a working title and jot down ideas as the come. This is something I can worry about later- after all- what good is a title for an unfinished book?

And yesterday I started out strong, with a great writing session of almost 1,000 words. Then life got in the way- as it has a way of doing. I had to pack for my husband and arrange travel plans for our puppy which turned into a much bigger problem than I had anticipated. I worked a book fair that night and thought I would get some writing done during the downtime, but instead was distracted by friends and books… so that isn’t really a bad thing right? Well, that is why we write extra on other days!

Inspirations and Surprises:
I really loved the pep talk from Veronica Roth this week. There seems to be a ton of polarization on the NaNoWriMo forums when it comes to writing styles. Plotters vs. Pantsers and the like. She essentially says to throw all of that out and just write- what is working for you right now, may not always work- and when you get stuck, try something new. The advice helped me for sure this week when I had to slog through some scenes that I didn’t see so clearly.

I personally re-read and do a quick edit of everything I have written for the day,, and in the process I like to pull out some of my favorite lines. Usually they are ones that make me laugh, so I would like to share some with you now:

Chapter One:
“Super important mission from the Mayor?” Jackie asked.
“Something like that.” Mae replied. “The town’s economy is going to be destroyed if I don’t go get some Shake n Bake right now. Serious business.”

Chapter Two:
Jess was sleepily walking down the stairs. “Power’s out.” She said, stifling a yawn. “Guess that sun thing actually happened.”
“End of the world as we know it right?” Mae said smiling at her friend. “Is it everything you thought it would be?”
“Cold showers and no lights? Yeah, pretty much.” Jess quipped. “I’m just waiting for the zombies to show up at the door.”
“Damn it, I am so not prepared for zombies!” Mae cried in mock distress. “What are we going to do?”
“Dan keeps a baseball bat in his car, just for this very reason.”
“Seriously?” Mae said surprised.
“Yeah.” Jess laughed. “That’s why I like him. He plans ahead.”

Chapter Three:
Maybe if the power doesn’t come back on by tonight I can eat the whole thing of ice cream back home, and not have to feel guilty about it. The thought made her smile. She didn’t want to mope around, especially if he had so publically moved on- and she had been the one to break up with him- but in the end, she couldn’t see letting a whole tub of ice cream go to waste either.

Thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the first week? Let’s continue the conversation below!

My NaNo Plan-o

image
You can see my hair goes crazy, the later it gets during my NaNo prep sessions!

So it is just one day before NaNoWriMo begins! Many people will be staying up until midnight tonight to write madly as the clock strikes 12. Some areas have planned midnight kick off parties to all get together and write. Living in rural Alaska, I don’t know anyone within 400 miles doing this as well so I will be writing on my own. I am going to pass on the midnight madness though- not because I’m not excited, but I have to be up early to take my dog out, and I’m becoming an old lady who goes to bed early! I blame it on working for the school and having to be up at 7am every day I substitute. Regardless, I plan on getting up early and sticking to my routine for writing. I talked about the benefits of a routine in a previous NaNoWriMo Prep post.

I have been prepping all of October, using a combination of methods that work for me, (Including Snowflake Method, Hero’s Journey, and Pinterest) and I wanted to share the product of that with all of you:

My Plot Outline

My Plot Outline

The photo shows the final plot outline I have created for my novel. It is essentially the final step of the Snowflake method, although I tweaked it a little to make sense in my brain. I have posted it on my husbands whiteboard in his classroom, so that I can see the entire plot right in front of me. I actually learned a lot about my structure and how things were working by getting it all out in front of me in one piece. I love technology, and working on my laptop, but with a file this big, it was begging to be printed. I then was able to read through, making notes about who was in what scene, as well as things I wanted to include or needed to research. It was very helpful to me.

By doing this, I actually saw that there was a huge problem with the original ending I had. This led to a night in turmoil while I freaked out and paced a lot talking to my husband trying to fix the end. Finally, I was able to scribble some notes in my notebook, having figured out how to solve the problem. The next day I added those excel pages to the end of my outline, and was able to see a clean 3 act structure had emerged.

To finish it off, I printed my novel’s Pinterest board, and pasted in the corner the pictures of my main characters and some quotes I found that related to their personalities or the overall story. Now I have inspiration at a quick glance! I am going to post this on the wall next to my table where I write (which happens to be in my dining room) so I will also have a really large, literally looming, reminder to write everyday!

Now I think that the next step is to simply sit down and write. Hopefully this will expedite the process for me, and I can fly through my first draft! I will be updating you all each week on Saturdays with my NaNo Progress.

How do you prepare for Nano? Are you excited to begin? Let me know your strategies (or how you are doing!) in the comments below.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Expecations (and Managing Them)

Nano Prep week 4

I looked at my calendar and couldn’t believe it; we are in our last week of prep before the main event! Hopefully you’ve got some sort of plan, and are still excited about writing. In this last week before the craziness unfolds I wanted to talk about managing expectations for the next month, and beyond. A lot of people don’t realize how much 50,000 words really is. You are not going to get there the first day, or week (as a general rule- there are always exceptions) and there will come a time in the month when you might want to throw in the towel, because all of a sudden writing is getting hard, you are running out of steam, and you are questioning why you even thought you had a good idea in the first place. That’s okay. That’s why you’ve put together a support system to rally around you.

However, if you are one of the many who manage to cross the finish line and become a ‘winner’ of NaNoWriMo, rejoice! But then remember- you do not yet have a novel. You have a first draft- or more realistically, you have a part of a first draft. As a new writer entering the exciting world of NaNoWriMo, it is easy to get pulled in to the fast paced forums, exciting word wars and start dreaming big about your novel. The adrenaline and ‘what if’s’ couple together to form an intoxicating dream of quick success and fame. Don’t let the excitement of NaNoWriMo give you unrealistic expectations about the publishing and writing industries though. NaNo is probably the only really fast paced thing out there.

Publishing is a slow industry. Reaching that NaNoWriMo goal will be exciting, and it’s great to dream big; we all want to be bestsellers. But there is a reason that books become bestsellers, and a lot of it has to do with the enormous amount of work that went into them. But don’t get discouraged! Your exciting writing journey is just getting under way! December will present you with a few choices:

1. Finish the first draft.
If 50,000 words were not enough to convey your story, that is okay. It is important to note that most published novels are at least double this amount. So if you need more time to finish your plot, do it! Just because November is over and you are a NaNoWriMo winner doesn’t mean you should stop writing, or abandon your book, half finished.

2. Editing.
Now if you did finish your first draft (in however many words) you can choose to start editing right away. Some authors, especially ones with deadlines, jump right into edits. A lot suggest that you start first with just an overall read of the manuscript to catch any major problems. After that you can delve in deeper and do the closer edits.

Other authors however, are proponents for taking a break before edits. Stephen King’s book On Writing suggests that readers take a substantial break after the first draft in order to come at the edits with a fresh eye. I tend to agree with this school of thought, and practice it with my blog. Now, when I’m editing posts that tend to be 1,000 words or less I don’t let them sit for months, or even weeks, but it is amazing to me what a day or two can reveal. I catch a lot of small mistakes, delete unnecessary or redundant information, and rearrange content to make more sense.

3. Shelf the novel.
Maybe your manuscript wore you out. Maybe by the end of the month you hate your characters, and plot. Maybe the book just got away from your and you are frustrated. That’s okay. No one says that you have to keep going. You can put that novel away and come back to it later- or not at all. This was your story. I only suggest that you don’t destroy it. You never know what day in the future you will want to look back on it and steal a character, or maybe even start writing it again with a fresh perspective.

You might be looking at all of this thinking “Well, if what I produce during this month isn’t really a finished Novel, does this mean that NaNoWriMo isn’t worth it?” Not at all. This month pulls together people from all over the world to write- and that is exciting!

Single Step

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” Think of NaNoWriMo as that first single step towards your novel. Just because it doesn’t get you all the way to your goal of having a published novel doesn’t diminish its importance. Understanding that this is only the first step in what can be a long slow journey will help you stay creative, and positive during the trials to come.

What are your expectations for NaNoWriMo? Are you excited to finally start writing something? Share your comments and reasons for writing in the section below!

NaNoWriMo Prep: Support Systems

Nano Prep week 3

(Catch up on Prep Advice from Week One and Week Two.)

A support system is important when writing a novel- you want to make sure you have strong points throughout so that you can avoid that notorious sagging middle, and to ensure you actually make it all the way to the finish line at the end of your story. But support systems aren’t just for your plot- they are important in real life as well. In your life, you need supporting characters who help you on your writing journey as well.

These ‘supporting characters’ can be anyone really- friends, family, even writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo website; what is really important is that you surround yourself with people who will support you during the times when you maybe aren’t too sure what you are doing and need a little push in the right direction.

So what should you be looking for in your support system?

– Positivity
Obviously you want positive people on your side, but this isn’t to say that your support system should be full of one note ‘yes men’ and mindless cheerleaders- but they should be people who are able to be sensitive enough to you and your work that they know when to be critical, and when to come to your side with a box of tissues and slab of chocolate. Overall they should be encouraging and uplifting; nothing sucks the life, ambition, and creativity out of a room faster than a person who can only see the glass as half full.

– Acceptance
Sometimes all you need is a hug because you didn’t get the dishes done, your plot is a mess and your characters seem to have a life of their own that you can’t control. Your support system should include someone who can open their arms and accept you for the mess you have become during this crazy month. How many times have you read book dedications that mention this person? They are your rock, and arguably the most important person in your support system.

– Understanding
Not everyone is going to understand what you are about to undertake. Lots of NaNoers lament at the lack of understanding their family has for the reason you have suddenly decided to become a hermit locked away in your bedroom furiously typing late into the night. Find someone who knows what it is like to follow their dreams- whatever they may be.

With a strong support structure in place in your life, you can then feel free and confident to take risks and experience the excitement of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, knowing that your supporters will be there to catch you.

Who are the key players in your support system? What kinds of valuable support do they provide for you? Let me know what you think, and we can continue the discussion in the comments below!