Monday, January 31, 2011

NaNoWrimo is over - now what?

NaNoWriMo is behind us. The holidays are over. Now what happens? NaNo is a great kick starter to get you writing every day. It helps create a habit of being in the story every day and getting a lot of words on the page. But now that the madness is over is that an excuse to stop writing? No. If writing is just a hobby for you and NaNoWriMo was just for fun then sure, you don't need to keep writing. If you're like me though, someone who wants to write professionally, NaNoWriMo just helped reinforce the importance of writing every day.

It's a new year. A great time to keep up that every day writing habit. If you need help I highly recommend joining a goals loop, a challenge loop, a writing loop. Find a place with like minded people you can talk to about the struggles to keep writing when your muse has gone on strike.

I have three groups set up to help writers keep writing.

The 100 words challenge loop and the NaNoWriMo challenge loop are Yahoo groups open to any writer who wants to challenge themselves. Guelph Write Now is a local group where we get together to talk writing.

I'll be back every so often to check in with writing progress.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Calling all UoG students and anyone else looking for a write-in!

Have you ever thought, "I wish I could go straight from this class to a write-in?" Or, "I wish I could find other students to write with!" since we all know that there are plenty of students participating.

If so, (or even if not) you're in luck! We will be holding a write-in on campus this Thursday, November 18th 2010! It will begin at 6:00pm in MacKinnon 237, and who knows when it will end?

If you need to kick-start your word-count, if you need a break from studying and writing papers, or if you're just looking for a quiet place to get some words done, come on out and write with us!

Hope to see you there,

Elizabeth (aka litchick89)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Half way point pep talk

Please welcome guest blogger Marie Andreas!

Hello you mad, wild, and crazy NaNo’ers- happy halfway point!

My name is Marie and while I have won NaNo the two years I did it ( the last two ;)), I’m not doing it this year. I had to do my own “NaNo” in Sept where, through my own screw up, I had to crank out about 20,000 words in one week. So, I’m out this year- but will be back next! However- I’m here to cheer you on and remind you just WHY you’ve spent the last 15 days counting and hoarding every word, refusing to delete anything, and becoming obsessed with your writing.

First of all- you all need to pat yourselves on the back. Regardless of your current word count, you’ve been writing far outside your normal comfort zone for over two weeks now. Heck, just by being writers we’re going above and beyond “normal” folks. Ask any five people on the street if they’ve ever wanted to write and I’ll bet four will say yes. But they don’t do it. Just by writing you’ve taken that step to follow your dreams.

And many writers don’t do NaNo. For a myriad of reasons, probably as many as you all have for being here, they chose not to face the gauntlet of word madness. I think they’re missing out on something magical.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Because it’s a challenge. NaNo is like Mt. Kilimanjaro for writers. And it’s a great learning tool. Most writers, even we seat of the pants type folks- have some inner censor going on when we write. Some little voice that makes us stop and question ourselves mid-chapter.

You can’t do that during NaNo (and if you have managed to do so the last 15 days- STOP NOW! You’ll end up spraining your brain or some other vital organ ;)). In pure self-defence you have to take that little voice, stick a gag in his mouth and ship him off to Siberia. When you’re cranking out 50,000 words (page count of 170-200 pages depending on the writer) in one month- you are writing CRAP. Lots, and lots, of crap. And you don’t care! Your only goal is to fill up those pages. You can’t listen to any inner voice no matter how loud- because you simply don’t have time.

Right now you should all be hip deep in it. It’s not supposed to be pretty. It’s supposed to be hard. Even if you are looking at your word count in despair- don’t give up! Yes, 50,000 words are needed for the win, but even crossing that finish line- saying that you gave it your all for 30 days will do wonders for who you are as a writer.

And that’s really what this whole thing is about, expanding who we are as writers. Each time you run through NaNo you learn something new about yourself and your writing. Right now you all are halfway through one of the most difficult and wonderful things a writer can do.

Take a moment out to pat yourself on the back one more time, then crank up the writing music and dive back into the fray. No matter how many NaNo’s you’ve done this one will be special.

I know you’ll make it! Best of luck and most important of all- HAVE FUN!!

Cindy here - I want to thank Marie for being with us today. There was some great, motivating stuff in there. Check out her blog about writers, writing, and the oddness of the written word.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo - You CAN do do it

Thanks to Cindy for inviting me to join you all here today. It’s a pleasure, particularly as we’re discussing one of my favourite events – NaNoWriMo!

This is my fourth time doing NaNo this year. Every year I have won the challenge. More than that, I have improved my own writing performance. Last year in the month of November, I actually wrote a complete first draft of a single title Romantic Suspense book, writing a total of 93,600 words in 30 days.

I was amazed at how the book went down on paper. I was an all out pantzer with that book with only the characters’ names and occupations and a two sentence blurb in my head as to who and what was going to happen. I’m hoping for a repeat performance this year. I’m writing another RS and hope to finish around 90,000 words again. There are several differences from this year to last year’s though.

First off, this year, I have a slight more understanding of the plot of the book, in that I knew roughly what the first hook and the first major turning point were before I started. True enough, I only figured those out on the day before NaNo, but hey, they were there when I needed them. The other change is actually due to last year’s NaNo experience. After NaNo ended, I worked hard on maintaining a steady stream of writing throughout the year, building up a routine. This year’s NaNo wasn’t a chance to sit down and get a book on paper, it was another opportunity to continue my wicked word counts and do a
little more. See this last year, three to four months in a row, I wrote over 65,000 words EVERY month.

NaNo helped me to build up to and establish a pace of writing that was comfortable for me – and way beyond what I’d been doing before. It helped me to create a writing routine, a positive mindset, and made it possible to write on days that I wouldn’t have considered making the attempt previously.

Writing is a daily event during the month of November – not just Monday to Friday, but every day. Sure there are the odd days that life blows up, or the powder snow on the mountain is just too inviting to ignore and I put down my writing to go and live life. But even then, I will often write when I get home, or after the kids go to bed and I can relax.

That’s another difference now with my writing after years of NaNo. I write any time and any place. I don’t have to have peace and quiet. I no longer need an office or even a desk that’s mine. I often sit in the living room with my laptop, a movie on for one child, another doing homework beside me in case he needs help, and the other two could be with us or off in their rooms. I don’t race at the beginning of the month and run out of steam. I work on a slow and steady basis. 3,000 words a day is my goal. If I get it great, if I don’t, I try to make it up on a day when I can. I’m quite capable of writing 6,000 to 7,000 words a day for a full week if need be – but I’m usually worn out when I’m done. I work full time, I’m a single mom of four, but my writing is important to me, so it’s up there in my priorities.

All of that can’t be credited to NaNo, true, but much of it can in that it was one more step in my journey to becoming a productive writer. Learning, establishing and then following good writing habits is something anyone can be taught – even you! And Nano is a great teacher.

Cindy here – I want to thank Dale for being our guest today. She’s one of the people who inspired me to do NaNo this year. She did so well last year with a ton of stuff going on in her life. I don’t have kids, or pets. I have a boyfriend and a day job. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to win NaNo.

Dale made it to the next round of the Brava Writing With the Stars contest. Please take a minute to go over, read the entries, and vote for the one you like best. I voted for Dale!

Happy writing everyone!


Monday, November 8, 2010

A week down and a write in!

The first week of NaNoWriMo is over. How did everyone do? I know the Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo region had a weekend of catching up. How far away from the target 11,669 words for Sunday were you? Did you meet that target? Were you already at the target by Sunday with no need to catch up?

I am so happy to say that I have written more in the first week of NaNoWriMo this year than I did for all of last year’s NaNo. One thing keeping me motivated is the desire to have an official Guelph region next year. To apply to be an ML (Municipal Liaison) you need to have won at least one NaNoWriMo challenge. I have another motivator too. I’ll tell you all about that if it happens.

I am a little behind where I want to be even though I am ahead technically. One thing last week has taught me is that my days of 100 words a day are over. My weeks of squeaking out maybe 1,000 words are history. I wrote 15,882 words last week. I’m not saying I’ll be able to do that all the time. But there’s no reason I can’t do that the majority of the time. I can write 2,000 words a day. When NaNo is over that will be my ongoing goal.

Also wanted to give a heads up to any Guelph Wrimos out there. We’re having a write in at the William’s Coffee Pub on Stone Road tomorrow, November 9 at 7:00 PM. I’m holding it with my usual Guelph Write Now write-in and we’d love to see some new faces! We usually sit at the front and I have a sign on the table.

Oh and be sure to come back on Wednesday when we'll have guest blogger Dale Mayer talking about how she wrote 93,000 words last November.

Happy writing everyone!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting into the thick of things

So, we are now 5 days into NaNoWriMo for this year. Actually, by the time I get this posted, we will be really close to the start of the 6th day, but that's just a technicality, and for now I'm just going to pretend we're on day 5 still. Because if it's day 5, I'm still ahead of schedule.

Last night, we had our first write-in in Guelph. It was rather small, but we got work done. I'm not sure how many words were actually written among us, but I'm pretty sure I wrote close to 1500 words myself. But I have to say, the best part of it was simply getting out and writing somewhere different, and being able to talk, face to face, with people doing the same thing, trying to write this many words in just 30 days.

But to do this, to keep with your novel and writing every day, you need to enjoy it. Either that, or a very strong stubborn streak that keeps you writing even when you hate what you're writing about. Me and another NaNo'er who was out last night, who goes by phlegm on the boards, was taking about this last night. She had actually restarted her NaNo yesterday because her first plan wasn't working out. I'm not sure how many words she has on it at this point, because she made sure to tell me that her word count on the site is far from accurate. How many others out there are having trouble getting on the site to update your word counts? I know that there are many times during the day and evening when the site is very slow.

But, my big accomplishment yesterday was that I wrote over 4600 words. How, you might ask? It was a combination of not having to work (and so I spent most of the day, when not being distracted) writing, going to the write in, and then participating in word wars when I got home. Lots of writing, which would not have happened if I hadn't had an outline to work from.

But, with Saturday's goal (the number of words you should have to be on track to finish by the 30th) being 10,002 words, we all need to get back to writing this weekend. K-W/Cambridge are having a write in tomorrow at 1pm and another Monday at 6pm, for anyone interested in going. So, whether you are writing on your own, going to a write in, or participating in a word war or NaNo Sprint, let's get some words out this weekend! Even if you're ahead of schedule, keep writing and save those words for a rainy day. Or, more likely, a sunny day, so you can go out and enjoy the weather without worrying about meeting your word count that day.

And just remember, 50,000 words isn't a stopping point, it's a goal. If you can manage more, go for it! Even if those extra words are after November is finished.

The NaNoWriMo Experience

Please welcome guest blogger Sharon Clare!

Last year, for the first time, I successfully completed the NaNoWriMo challenge having spewed out 50,178 words during the month of November. And spewed out pretty much sums it up.

To share some of last year’s statistics on NaNo, 167,150 people participated. Of those writers, 32,173 writers completed the challenge successfully meaning a 19.2% win rate. A little less than I expected, but none too shabby either.

To get ready for the competition, I outlined my novel using Karen Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Days. With this method, I described each scene in a few sentences, so when it came time to write, I didn’t waste time pondering what to put on the page. To keep up the pace, as a daily goal, I tried to write 1,700 words. For the most part I was able to keep to this, but missing one day meant writing 3,400 the next day, so after a couple of those days, I really focused on writing each day.

With the launch of NaNo 2010, I reflected back on last year’s experience to tally up the benefits of this all-out write-a-thon. Well, one major benefit, I wrote 50,178 words. Admittedly, it’s an incredibly rough manuscript that I’d never share with a human soul, but it’s also a spring board to what I hope will be a good story—with major revisions. That said, I now realize a year has passed and I’ve not gone back to that manuscript yet. Not yet, but I will.

Benefit number two. Even though the competition ended at midnight on November 30th, we were not been abandoned by the NaNo organization. On the NaNo website, authors gave advice on how to rewrite those 50,000 odd words into a sellable manuscript. Chris Baty is the founder of NaNoWriMo and author of No Plot? No Problem! His advice struck a chord with me: "Do not spend a single second making your prose readable until you're absolutely, positively sure that you have your story locked down.”

This has been a major hurdle for me. I’ve never been able to resist tightening each sentence from the previous day’s work before I could continue writing. And my rewriting obsession didn’t end there. I then polished each chapter in linear sequence. The main reason for this was to present a decent read to my critique group. In my defense, I’m not alone in this. Many of us in the group write that way, presenting our polished but first drafts to each other, looking for feedback one scene at a time. And while this is helpful on one level, I’m not sure it best serves the story because once I’ve polished a scene I’m reluctant to part with it. From NaNo, I have a different perspective. Writing the story from start to finish without editing means truly feeling no attachment to any sentence.

I thought I had a fairly good outline to work from with conflict in every scene, yet as I wrote some scenes fell short. Kate Moses, author of Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath, advises: "Pay attention to your instincts and deep little voices, including the ones that say, "It's wrong!"

Again, I had no time to consider changing those particular scenes. I had to keep writing. Now, I wonder if I’d not had the NaNo time pressure, would I have been stalled by those scenes, unable to resist the urge to fix them. Instead I moved past them and now I have a much broader perspective. There may be no fixing those scenes. They may need to go, and again since I’d not invested much time in them, the cut won’t be painful.

There’s also no denying that I work better with a deadline, and I’m highly motivated once I’ve made a goal public knowledge. I had great support from other NaNo writers, my family and friends. Because of my virtual writing world connections, I was able to connect with writers world wild and it was great fun to spur each other on. Overall, I do reflect positively on NaNo. Writing may be a solitary occupation, but it doesn’t mean we need to go it all alone.