Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

The Unique Panic of NaNoWriMo

I always panic a little every Halloween. Not for the typical reasons of haunted houses, spooky costumes, or ghoulish frights. I am panicking because it is Nano Eve, the night before the crazy month-long novel-writing marathon kicks off. I am panicking because the challenge seems insurmountable. It seems that way every year.

This year my particular panic is related to time. Or perhaps that’s misleading – it’s really more of a question of energy. I am still recovering from a bout of bronchitis which zapped almost all of October for me. Being sick stole all the time and energy I had reserved for actually outlining my novel and putting together character sketches. Instead of creating, I spent most of the month sleeping. In addition, I started a part-time job that I’m still quite new at and I will be starting a full-time job within a week. So while time (or lack thereof) is definitely a valid factor, I have always been pretty good at squirreling away little pockets of time to get my writing done. But after what could be 60 hour work weeks, I’m afraid I won’t have much of a brain left to do the mentally taxing work of plotting, characterization, and ya know, putting words together in coherent sentences.

My First Nano

I still count my first Nanowrimo as my best – partly because the whole experience felt so new and liberating. It was a whole different attitude toward writing than I had previously held. I used to slave away quietly by myself, agonizing over word choices and plot points. Back then I was more prolific than I am now – maybe the world hadn’t beaten the spirit out of me yet. Writing was a very serious business to me, to be undertaken seriously and to have serious feelings about. I was introduced to Nanowrimo in college by my good friend Megan. She knew that I loved to write, yet I’d been experiencing a block for a long time. She encouraged me to try it. I protested that it was impossible. She said, “Just try it.”

It was the Nanowrimo of legends, I’m telling you:  I came up with a premise the night before, and I flew totally by the seat of my pants. I think it was the first time I had ever tried “pantsing” – the Nanowrimo term that refers to just making up the story as you go along with no outline to guide you. I can see why some people are die-hard pantsers – it’s pretty thrilling if you can pull it off. Somehow, by November 30, I had dragged myself through 50,000 words. I guess in some way, I am still chasing that thrill because I keep returning to Nanowrimo year after year, hoping to recapture some of that magic.

How I’m Going to Get Through This Month

I don’t think I could do this crazy month-long ride without the support of the writing community. Nanowrimo is, after all, the unifying force that brought our local group together all those years ago. I keep coming back to Nano because it’s so inspiring. I love to hear other author’s war stories, to see them emerge triumphant on the other side clutching all the words they cranked out. I love hearing that Nano has helped them to write more words than all the other months. I love being able to complain about parts of the noveling process with people who have been through the same emotional slog. If you have never been part of a writing group, it is a hard feeling to describe. It feels validating.

During my first Nano, the door to the online writing community really opened up to me. I had been reading some author blogs quite regularly, but it always felt like a rather small pool and the mode was experts (published authors) teaching the beginner (me). But Nano was different. There are forums and group chats. You could find a writing buddy halfway across the world – some nocturnal wrimos like being able to chat with someone in a different time zone. And everyone was in the same boat for the most part – we’re all just trying to write as much as we can in a short amount of time and not get discouraged along the way. I love that there is a different forum for each stage on the Nanowrimo website. Whether you are racing along with the Overachievers (we have a couple of those) or lamenting the first 10k (you know I have been there), there is always someone right alongside of you.

Of course our local in-person write-ins are always a fun time. There is something about having an excuse to get out of my house that really motivates me to get work done. It’s hard for me to write at home these days – too many distractions – so I look forward to our many write-ins at different libraries and local restaurants. Hearing the tippity-tap of everyone’s fingers flying across the keys also gives me a competitive streak – I feel like I am not doing enough if my fingers are not tippity-tapping too. All the official write-ins are on the calendar, but members can always propose unofficial meet-ups any time during the month and see if anybody is up to join.

I love how inclusive Nanowrimo is. There is no punishment if you don’t win. No one strips you of the title of “author” or flogs you for not meeting your word count. You can write about whatever you want. There’s no pressure to publish at the end. I feel that Peowrimos is especially inclusive, because we are just happy if you wrote more words this month – whether it’s fiction, poetry, whatever! The word count doesn’t actually matter. It’s the fact that you put forth the effort to do something that’s important to you.

With all that said, the only way I’m gonna get through Nano this year is to commit. To dig deep, grit my teeth, and discipline myself to write. Nanowrimo is like a crucible in that way – there’s no time to wallow in self-doubt when you have a deadline to hit. I have always been pretty motivated by deadlines, even if they are just self-imposed and made up. So I hereby announce with the publication of this blog post, I am going to try my hardest to win this year.

Are you committing to Nano?

A lot of writers don’t like Nano because they feel constricted, pressured, or rushed. I see it as more of convenient shorthand – a quick way to say, “I’m making my writing a priority this month with a bunch of buddies.” It’s a quick way to let other writers know that you’re a little crazy, you may need a lot of support, and that you are choosing your writing first over all the other things you could be doing this month.

If you want to be my online buddy, you can find me on the NaNoWriMo.org website as natfee.

And if you’re wondering whether I’m going to use this blog post toward my word count:  you bet I am.

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NaNoWriMo Tips

Celestial Bear

National Novel Writing Month kicks off on November 1st, which is this Sunday!

Okay, for those panicking (much like me), remember that nice deep breaths are your buddy. NaNoWriMo is exciting for sure, but it can be a little overwhelming even if you’ve won challenges in the past. In the last couple of days, my brain’s been running over a series of tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years that will help make my NaNo easier. I thought I’d share a few.

  • Remember, writing is fun!

This can be a hard to remember in the middle of a draft. I get thinking about everything I’ve done, everything left to go, and I lose track of why I sat down at the keyboard in the first place: Because I like it. Because I have fun telling stories and getting words out to share with other people. Sometimes, I need…

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nano what now?

Happy December, writer-types!

I hope your NaNoWriMo went well. And even if it didn’t, I hope you’re doing alright yourself.

We have big plans for 2015, and we’ll have some more details for you as we get them figured out! But for now, let me leave you with some of our big ideas:

Workshops: we’re going to shift our focus from less of Barb talking at you, to a round table. In January, we’ll talk about self-editing, giving/getting feedback on your work, and the likes. Then in February-April, we’ll be discussing the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins from a writing/story perspective. You should be able to follow along without reading (or at least watching the movie), but to get the most out of it, I hope you’ll read the book.

Critique Circles: Once a month, we’ll try to meet and share each other’s work! We’re still working out some of the details on this, but look for us to update the guidelines page for an idea of what to expect within the group. A friendly reminder on critiques in general: the more you give, the more you get out of these experiences. So get involved in the group and be prepared to learn!

Seminars on publishing, self-publishing, querying, formatting: you asked, we deliver! Look for some events to be scheduled in the next few months that touch on how to get work from document to paper.

Happy Writing!

virtual write ins for november

Greetings, WriMos!

Our calendar is almost finalized (barring tornadoes, snowstorms, and the wayward zombie apocalypse). Tabby and I just added the virtual write ins for this upcoming month. Here’s a few things you ought to know about our virtual write ins.

What is a virtual write-in, exactly?

I’m so glad you asked! WriMos are invited to log into chatnano.net while you’re writing to chat with us–you know, cheer other WriMos on, commiserate about your plot bunnies, and in general remind yourself that you aren’t alone in this great big novelling challenge.

How do I register for chatnano.net?

Before you can actually get into our chatroom, you’ll need to register your NaNoWriMo name for the chatroom’s client. Instructions:

*****WRIMO REGISTRATION INSTRUCTIONS*****

WriMos who used the chat rooms last year should go to the login page. Newbies need to register first.

WriMos go to this URL: http://chatnano.net/IrcUsers/register_wrimo

  • Fill in Nick (same as here only with no spaces)
  • Choose region from drop-down menu
  • E-mail address
  • Password
  • Click Submit

​Once they are registered they ALWAYS login at http://chatnano.net/IrcUsers/login.

Put in the Nick and password they registered with.

If they prefer a client to Mibbit, they need to point their client at irc.kydance.net, port 6667, and login using the name they registered at the first URL given. If they are logging in using a client, they will need to enter their password when they do so. The command for this is /ns identify PASSWORD where they change PASSWORD to their actual password that they registered with.

What’s this Espresso Shot and why does it seem like Barb has a caffeine problem?

I plead the fifth, but I’m happy to tell you about Espresso Shots. On Friday mornings, I pledge to spend thirty minutes furiously writing. We’ll do some fun stuff, too, like weekly progress reports and the usual moral support.

What else is there to these virtual write-ins?

That’s it. A virtual write-in is us going into a chatroom. That’s really all there is to it. It may not sound like much, but writing can be a lonely venture, and writing a novel in a month even more so. A virtual space is important.

But if we’re chatting in a chatroom, we’re not really writing…

You got me there. That’s why no one is expected to spend the whole time yammering. Just sign in, say hello, and keep the chatroom running in the background so you can pop over to celebrate your victories and ask questions. Stay as long as you need, or just drop by to say hi if you like.

I hope to see you there!

Happy Writing!!

find your why

I still really, really can’t adjust to the idea that November 2014 is less than a week away. My son conveniently has a birthday on NaNoWriMo’s kickoff, so this time of year is always my reality check: time is flying.

Writing a novel in a month has become even more important to me, because the weeks and months go by so fast unless I commit to firm deadlines. I know December will be crazy busy with baking, revising another novel, and family. That leaves November as my last great sprint towards meeting my goals for this whole year.

That’s part terrifying, but also fairly exciting.

Last week at our Meet & Greet, I got to see a lot of familiar faces and some new ones. It was great. I love hearing about what other people are writing. I love that we’re writing together. This shared experience of ours makes writing even more fun.

This year, I’m writing the third novel in my modern-day fantasy series about clueless angels and sympathetic demons. And while that sounds like it’s not personal, it is. I’ve got some scenes planned that hit close to home–my own mistakes in faith and self-acceptance have to fuel the fire of this year’s NaNo novel.

That’s my advice to you, in case you thought I could get through a whole NaNoWriMo post without doling out bits of writing encouragement (pro tip: I can’t). Find what makes your novel important this year. It doesn’t have to be memoir or propaganda to be intensely personal and extraordinarily passionate.

But it ought to be passionate and personal. Find the why in your story, why you need to write it, why those characters exist, why someone else needs to hear these words. Hold fast to that why–you’ll need it when the what, the when, the where, and the how have abandoned you. You’ll have the why, and you’ll have the way.

peowrimos regional partnership

Hello, writer-types!

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and we’re happy to announce a partnership with two other NaNo-regions, Fredericton, New Brunswick and Seoul, South Korea!! We’ve got some fun stuff in store–virtual write-ins, word wars, and frenemy match-ups.

Want to sign up for a frenemy aka writing buddy from either Korea or Canada? Great! We have the link for you right here.

Stay tuned for more great NaNoWriMo events. 🙂

story prep workshop

I had a great time at yesterday’s workshop, WriMos!

In case you missed it, we talked about a lot of ways to plan and prep your story, because NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Here are some links we shared, plus a few more, because I love arming you with resources:

Candy Bar Scenes — Holly Lisle’s website is a treasure trove of writing inspiration and information.
Snowflake Method — Advancedfictionwriting.com has novel design down to a science, or close to it as you can get. This method is great for plotters.
Scene and Sequel, MRUs — Advancedfictionwriting.com has another great article for how to structure scenes, both large- and small-scale.
Story Engineering Beat Sheet — Storyfix.com has some great resources for story planning as well as this beat sheet.
Jami Gold’s Website — all the fill-in spreadsheets and plotting devices you could dream of, and then some.

NaNoWrimo YWP Novelist Handbook — ignore the fact that these are for kids. No, really. There is some great advice in these pages, as well as some awesome printouts.
Scrivener NaNoWriMO 2014 Free Trial — Scrivener is offering a free trial of their writing software for this year’s NaNo, from now until December 7th. If you win, you get a coupon for 50% off.
Sacred Cow of Publishing: Writing is Hard — deanwesleysmith.com tackles the myth that writing is hard.
Sacred Cow of Publishing: Writing Fast is Bad — deanwesleysmith.com tackles the myth that writing speed = writing quality.

We’re about to get very busy, WriMos. November is coming–we are ready with write-ins, workshops, and a write-a-thon. Check our calendar at nanowrimo.org or on the calendar button at the top of this page. I can’t wait to see you there.

Happy Writing!

nanowrimo goodies

In the past, Literature and Latte (creators of Scrivener) have offered NaNoWriMo winners a coupon code for 50% off.

This year, they’re doing the same, but if you want to try Scrivener during NaNoWriMo, they’re offering a free trial (larger than their regular trial) so you can Novel away until December 7th.

I really like this software. To be fair, it’s the only special noveling software I’ve ever tried, but I like it. So if you want to give it a try, now’s a great chance to check it out!

Link to Literature and Latte

prep your story

I am absolutely not going to panic that we have a month and 4 days left before NaNoWriMo. Nope, nope, nope, not gonna do it.

Instead of panicking, I’m going to talk story prep. We’re hosting a workshop on October 12th, but in the meantime, here’s a link I’ve found helpful in planning stories, from Storyfix.com: The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool (that fits on one page).

There’s a lot of balls for a planner to juggle. But one thing I’ve found is that if I can nail down the first plot point and set my character down the path of emotional growth and give them proper agency, then the rest of it comes together.

A few things to remember about the first plot point:

  • this is the moment your character commits to the story
  • there is no going back
  • it should be the protagonist’s choice, not coerced
  • it should show a shift in the protagonist’s emotions or thinking, for better or worse, a willingness to change or a realization that change must happen
  • the first plot point bridges the gap between part 1 and part 2 (of a 4-part story), in which the character goes from setup to response
  • plan this big moment between 20%-25% into your story

Don’t let first plot points scare you. They can be high-stakes or low-key, from betting the farm to admitting to yourself that yes, maybe the house is actually haunted. Both of these moments require a response–now the the farm is at stake, the wager (and work) begins. Once you admit the house is haunted, you have do something–either prove there are no ghosts, move out, call in a priest, or learn to play nice with your ethereal cohabitants.

In fact, your protagonist might have to do all those things, but first, they have to admit those strange sounds at night aren’t just mice in the wall boards. That’s the power of the first plot point.