NaNoWriMo: Thoughts from November

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So November is definitely over.

Boy, was it a hard one for this writer! Each year I tell myself I will hit the 50K goal, and I can count on one hand the amount of times I have managed it. This year was no exception, and possibly even more difficult than I had originally thought it might be.

Aside from outside influences causing issues with my writing, I also began to hit the point in my pregnancy with my third child where mental and psychical fatigue kicked into high gear. With a school aged child, and a toddler already taking up my time and energy this made for a hard time writing. There just weren’t enough hours in the day.

It was either choose sleep, or choose writing.

At this stage the choices I made were simple in nature to make. I chose to let myself rest in November instead of keep up with the challenge, but I did try to write when I could find the time.

Does this make me a failure, though? Of course not!

Even those few thousand words I managed helped with my writing. Each and every chance I get to write helps to further my novel along. Perhaps one day my novels will be complete, but for now this writer mom is preparing for her newest arrival in early January. I couldn’t be happier with putting my novels aside for this endeavor. They will be waiting for me when I return, refreshed and ready to bring them to completion.

How did your NaNoWriMo adventure go this year? Win or lose, at least you tried!

NaNoWriMo: Week 1

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Well, here we are! We are a few days into NaNoWriMo now, and for those of you who have joined me on this journey you know full good and well what you should be doing right now.

Writing, of course!

I expected that NaNoWriMo would start off easier for some, but for those of us who are struggling it is only day 3. Today I should personally be at 5,000 words, but due to a busy schedule I can’t always seem to find the time.

I have well over 3,000 words in order to hit the daily word count. It seems like a lot, but thankfully I remember the tips and tricks to help me survive this November.

This year, I am going easy on myself by writing short stories as well as revisiting a novel idea that never got past the first chapter. For me, this NaNo challenge is more of a way to get myself writing regularly again. As a stay-at-home mom this can be especially hard with young children. Regularly for me means not allowing myself to go over two days without writing something. It means writing during nap time, writing before bed, and writing when my toddler happens to be distracted with an episode of The Wiggles, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

NaNoWriMo isn’t about winning for me. While I have won a few times it isn’t hitting 50,000 words that makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something. It is writing, pure a simple, even if it may suck at times. It is giving myself a timetable of when I should have things completed, and striving toward that goal. It is failing some years, and winning others.

Remember this month as you write that however things turn out at least something is written. You have put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and worked your tail off. It may not be that amazing prose you expect, but it is a start.

That is all that matters.

Happy writing, everyone!

NaNoWriMo: Surviving the Challenge

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As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts NaNoWriMo: What Is It?, and NaNoWriMo: Preparing for November it is that time again; time to think about, and get ready for the challenge ahead that begins November 1st.

Now it is time, I believe, to take a moment to talk about how to survive the challenge. These little tips and tricks are proven effective. Don’t believe me? The study has been conducted by the Institute of NaNoing.

No, it isn’t a real institute, but it should be! Haha!

There are a lot of different tips and tricks out there, and many of them can be found on the official forums if you are so inclined to take a peek. However, I will just focus on three tips that have helped me out countless times during NaNoWriMo.

First, go to the write-ins. Believe it or not, spending time with writers in a social setting can do wonders for your writing. Not only are Wrimos there for the same thing, but they are perfect to help bounce ideas off of when you get stuck. The encouragement you get from others who are just as passionate about writing as you are can do wonders for your writing.

Second, participate in word wars and sprints. Word wars are typically a set limit of time for you to do your absolute best by writing as fast as you can in that time limit. Sprints are normally a set limit of words you must reach. Often these will happen at write-ins, but you can also find plenty online in the forums. The best place, though? Watch Twitter’s NaNoWordSprints, where the staff often tweet out wars and sprints all throughout November.

Third, and mostly importantly, silence your inner editor. This is the little voice in your head that feeds you the doubts that you feel about your work, and/or makes you feel the need to edit as you go. Editing during November slows you down. A rough draft is simply that; rough, and unpolished, but at least it is written down. It is perfectly fine to have a rough draft that needs a lot of work than to not have a rough draft at all. That is one of the main points of NaNoWriMo; to simply write it all down as quickly as possible with a deadline looming over you.

There are eleven days until NaNoWriMo begins. Take these tips for surviving November to heart, and you won’t regret it.

Are there any tips and tricks you use during November to keep the momentum going?

NaNoWriMo: Preparing for November

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In my last blog post I talked about National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. If you are still on the fence about joining in on this fun, but challenging, endeavor then I highly recommend you try it at least once in life. If you’ve chosen to take the plunge, but you aren’t sure how to make the most of it, then here are a few tips on how to prepare for the writing challenge starting on November 1st.

One of the first things that I advise is to join a region. This will become your home region. Depending on where you live there might be several to choose from, and it’s best to choose one close to where you live. The ML of that region is responsible for all of the local events, like write-ins and parties, as well as be a sort of cheerleader to help push you to the finish line. Write-ins are a great way to get the inspiration, and motivation that you need to make it through the next 30 days. It’s also great to be social with others who get your passion for writing, and often leads to lasting friendships beyond the challenge.

Next, decide on your survival kit for November. It seems silly, but in reality this could be the basic essentials you will need to keep you focused on your writing. For me, some of the necessities I need are: my laptop, a notebook, pens, my NaNoWriMo book manual with my outline in it, and an external back-up hard drive for regular backing up of my novel. Some people don’t use all of that, and others use much more. An assortment of coffee and tea are often on the list of necessities for other Wrimos, too. Writers love their caffeine, after all.

Another great thing to do before November is to decide on what kind of incentives you can use to reward yourself. This can be something big like a shopping spree at your favorite bookstore, or it can be small like your favorite candy bar. Rewards can be just about anything within reason, and having something to look forward to always makes that extra push toward the finish line that much sweeter. All of these things can make November a bit smoother when the 1st rolls around.

If you have taken the NaNoWriMo challenge before, what are some tips and tricks you have used to prepare for November?

NaNoWriMo: What Is It?

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It’s October 1st!

For some, that’s just a typical start to another month. For others, like myself, when October 1st rolls around it starts a countdown to November. What happens in November, you ask?

National Novel Writing Month. It is otherwise known as NaNoWriMo for short. NaNoWriMo is a month long challenge in November to write a novel, but not just any sort of novel; it is a chance to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it?

It is definitely a challenge, but it seems to grow continuously each and every year. In 2015 alone about 431,626 people took the pledge to write their butts off in an attempt to hit that 50,000 goal. This includes about 80,137 students and teachers that have joined in, opting for a program known as the Young Writers Program.

NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization with the focus on teaching school aged children how to write; a skill that is highly valued in today’s society, and may birth the next generation of classic literature.

So what does NaNoWriMo entail?

Simple enough, really. NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st. Writers from around the globe put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, etc.) in an attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The rules are pretty simple to follow, too. You start a novel from scratch, and write at least 1,667 words per day in 30 days in order to reach your goal. All genres are welcome from fiction to non-fiction, and there isn’t a need to plug your novel into the main website until it is time to verify your win.

Interested?

Go check out the website NaNoWriMo for more information.

As for me? I will be over here, prepping for another go at NaNoWriMo in November. So much to do, so little time left. Hope to see you there!

On Being A Mom Writer

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Kids.

They are such a joy, aren’t they?

Each and every day my children bring so much happiness to my life. Watching them grow into productive members of society should be my #1 priority in life, shouldn’t it? Seeing these babies succeed should give me a huge sense of accomplishment, right?

As much as I love my children, I know that there are things in my life that would likely be much different had I focused more on my career as a writer, though. I hear the collective gasps, the hushed whispers.

“Did she really say that?”

When you sit at the laptop to focus on writing only to have a toddler at your feet screaming for whatever reason they deem fit, or a school-aged child come in with a pile of homework, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to focus on writing that future bestselling novel.

For an example: As I started on that last paragraph at 11:00 PM at night, thinking I had finally found an opportunity to write this post, my 1-year-old woke crying and tried to come and crawl into bed with me. I could have given in, but instead I set my laptop down and took him back to his bed. After laying with him for several minutes he passed back out. Even when I think I’m safe to sit and focus on my writing, my children instead often end up needing me in those times.

Being a mother, and a writer, is hard work.

Over the years I have read many opinions on being a mom writer, too. Some saying that it is impossible with more than one child (well, gee, had I known I would have reconsidered the second child), some saying it involves a lot of discipline (I imagine this is a bit more probable with older children as toddler logic does not include discipline), and others simply say you should write whenever you can fit it in.

So what is my opinion on the subject? Simply do what you have to do. If you can hire someone to watch the kids while you work a few hours a week, do it. If you can squeeze in some writing before the kids wake, or after they go to bed, fit it in. If you can write a paragraph while waiting in line at school to pick up your child, make sure that you have pen and paper at all times. If you find your time so limited that writing has to take a backseat to your children, do it without guilt.

As mom writers we have a duty to our children first, and our writing second. Our children will only be little for so long, though. As much as I wish I could write more than I do now, I know soon enough I will have all of the time in the world.

Being a mom writer is so hard, but so fulfilling at the same time. I wouldn’t change a thing.

When You’re Stuck In a Rut

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Don’t you just love how easy the words flow? It is like a constant stream of consciousness that flows in and out of your brain, and down into your fingertips. Somehow, from there, it ends up written on the page. It’s beautiful, it’s profound, and you’re so very proud of all you have accomplished in such a short span of time.

What is that?

Did I just hear you laugh? Was that a roll of the eyes I spotted?

Okay, yeah, I am going to level with you. I rarely ever feel that way anymore. Between my two kids, being pregnant with our third, and keeping our household from burning to the ground, writing has become more of a chore that takes a lot to accomplish on most days. Some days I feel like the idea of writing is like listening to nails on a chalkboard (you know you just cringed!). Other days I would love to be able to sit at the screen for longer than two minutes, but I’m accompanied by a screaming toddler, and questioning how he got into the markers again.

Not every writer finds themselves in the same situation as I am, but every writer knows there are days when it’s just so hard to focus up, and write on. Do you know what I do on these days when the words just won’t come to me?

I back away.

I breathe.

Writing has to have a little element of fun to it. If it is feeling more like a chore then sometimes it is better in the long run to let it go for a bit. Have other hobbies? Do them. Have kids? Soak up all of the family time you can. Do what makes you feel good. Ultimately, writing will happen again if that is a huge part of who you are. If you take a moment away from the screen (or typewriter, notebook, etc.) it doesn’t mean you have given up. You are not a quitter. You just need some time.

What are your ways of handling the inevitable rut you find yourself in? Can you think of any new ways that could benefit you when you hit a rough patch?

How I Outline

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Believe it or not, I used to be a pantser.

For non-writer types that term might be a bit confusing. Essentially, a pantser is a writer who doesn’t outline and writes “by the seat of their pants”. I did this with one successful outcome (Bloodstream) out of many unsuccessful ones. I cannot tell you the frustration when I would lose steam halfway through a project, or forget the basics that I had in my head at the time that I began a new project.

Since then, I have been trying to find the “right” outlining method for me. There isn’t a one size fits all outlining template out there. Actually, there are many, and though each one seems to work to a degree there has never quite been one that has fit like a glove.

So I began to pull what does work and leave out the pieces that don’t. I decided to snatch up a few (cheap) empty binders and designated them for my novel projects. These are what I call my book manuals. So what goes in a book manual, you ask?

Each area has designated information. Outline, the characters, and the setting are the important parts of my manual. I don’t feel I need anything aside from these three things so I haven’t added anymore. I’m keeping it simple.

So while this particular project is set in modern day Earth, it’s nice to add a few bits of information in case I need a quick fact about the State my book is primarily set in. Plus, it keeps me from Googling it and then getting lost in research. Distractions are limited that way.

The character portion will have detailed character sheets, and maybe a portrait or two of what my character looks like to keep them in mind when I’m writing them. This way, I can just double check the manual to make sure I got the info right the first time.

The outline portion is a beast. It hosts practically the entire story itself; main plot, plot twists, timeline, scene outlines, and practically anything else I need to remember. This is also the most flexible and ever-changing portion of my manual. I’ll add the bits I need, or take away what I decide needs to be discarded as the book progresses.

This is still a huge work in progress for me, but so far it’s working. I’m so excited to delve into this novel with my book manual at my side. But, for now, I am still filling it with the information I know is still needed in order for me to begin.

The New Year, The New Me

Well, it’s 2016!

Sure, I could talk about all of the promises I’ve made to myself this year, but we all know that by the end of the month I had already messed up on more than I can count. Between sickness, an infant, and a million different distractions from every direction my “good intentions” were left in the dust.

Does that mean I am giving up on those resolutions I made?

Of course not!

A few years back I set my writing to the wayside and let it collect dust. It was the best thing I had ever done for myself, to be honest. At the time I needed space; I needed time away from something that I loved to do in order to get a fresh perspective. The idea that I needed to write something spectacular in order to get it out there had taken over my love of writing. Everything had been replaced with the ideals that if I couldn’t show off what I wrote and feel good about it, it was crap. A steaming pile of poo, if you will. I wasn’t sure what had caused this line of thinking, though. So it affected my mood toward writing, it affected my mood toward others…

I knew something was wrong.

I slowly realized that it wasn’t that my writing wasn’t good, it was that my line of thinking toward myself that had caused this. I wasn’t myself; I had locked myself away in my own mind to not deal with reality. So I got help, I restructured myself, I let go of toxic relationships, and I rebuilt the ones with those I love.

Now here I am.

I may not be in the place I need to be, but I am working on it. Ever so slowly, my writing has again become a priority in my life. While I have a goal to be published this year (by any means), I no longer take myself or my writing too seriously and allow myself to be locked away in my own head. I’m happier for it, too.

So this is my year. I have goals, and I will meet them. I will fail at times, but I will strive to be better. I’m discovering so many new things about my writing that makes me excited again that I can’t wait to begin.

This is the new writer me. I like it so far.

Stuck

For me, blogging doesn’t come naturally. It never has. Back in the day I used to have a personal blog where I would bitch and moan about all of life’s little problems.

I was a teenager. Life’s little problems meant my baby brother had done something to annoy me.

Well, now I’m stuck. I’ve been stuck before – in the writing sense of the word, anyway. Stuck is that moment when you look at the project you have to complete and dread it. Stuck is when the characters that typically rule your head are oddly silent. Stuck is when you just don’t care about the thing you once loved.

Sometimes it takes a few days, and sometimes it takes a few months before I feel “unstuck”. Normally I just shrug it off and say: “Oh, it’ll be back before I know it!” but this time is different. I miss it. I miss every bit of writing, but yet I can’t bring myself to think for too long. If I do, I get a headache. Writing literally has been giving me headaches. I’ve not written a thing to my current project in almost three weeks. Editing my rough draft has come along okay, but it’s still a pain at times. There is often a lot of sighing, or frustrated groans when I sit at the computer to write. I’m so ready to get back into the groove of it, and yet I’m not sure where I left my groove.

How does one get their groove back? Maybe I should as an emperor.

Oh well…time to get back to the grind!

Oh, and Happy 3rd Anniversary to my Husband, who’s always been there to listen to my frustration, my excitement, and even my insanity when it comes to my writing. I love you, dear!