Archive for November, 2015



Happy second week in the trenches!

8579377205_54a29c5cfb_zLook at you, halfway through National Novel Writing Month. You’ve made it this far, you can stick with it for sixteen more days. Don’t worry about being behind. Don’t worry about Thanksgiving robbing you of writing time. Write what you can, when you can. Remember, NaNoWriMo exists to kick you into action. If you need let your NaNo project bleed into December or January or February, let it.

Just don’t give up.

Before we get started, here’s my Week 2 NaNoWriMo 2015 update:

Project #1: edited to page 98

Project #2: 19,299 words written

Not quite where I’d like to be, but further than I was on October 31st. That’s what I love about NaNoWriMo, it gives you a standard to measure against…and it gives you a whole bunch of buddies working toward the same (or similar) goals.

And Margaret needs goals.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a planner. A list maker. A tracker. I love writing goals down and checking them off. It’s great. Fools people into thinking I’m far more organized than I am. You whip out a planner, start checking things off, and people who don’t know better assume you have it all together—that you know what you’re doing.

For me, it varies.

Some days, I’m really good about sticking to the list. I write all the words, edit all the pages, and get all the stickers (more on that in a moment). Other days, I write the list, consider it and then decide to burn it. Most days are in between—for various reasons. You know, life intrudes. Other ideas happen. The newest chapter of that fic you’re really into comes out.

Writing down your goals is important–whether they’re goals for the day, the week, the month, or the year. They become tangible. The words make them real. It’s one thing to think, “Hey, I should do NaNoWriMo this year”, but open that planner or that writing journal or even just pull out a piece of paper and write “50,000 words by November 30” and it develops substance.

I’m not really one for five year plans or ten year plans—too much can change too easily for me to get on that train. I’d get all wrapped up in what needs to happen and what’s not happening and end up upset and frustrated (I know this works for some people, I just have a hard time seeing that far ahead). I like to tackle my stuff in less mind-boggling bites. Break it down. I focus on the 4,000 words I need to write today to stay on track, instead of getting caught up in how far behind I am.

While some of my goals stretch out into next (get my own place, be able to run a 5k, attend a writer’s conference next year, survive this season of Once Upon a Time, etc.), I work best with monthly and daily goals.

At the beginning of the month, I figure out what I want/need to accomplish writing-wise over the next four weeks or so. That way I have targets to aim for. For instance, this blog. Currently, I’m aiming for one post a week, with a Saturday deadline. Will my world end if I don’t publish a post every Saturday? Technically, no. But that list with four slots reading “Blog post” is powerful motivation. And it feel good to check off that little box. Just that one action leaves me as satisfied as a good jog does.

Those monthly goals get printed out and glued in the back of my planner (I haven’t always been a consistent planner girl, the blank pages in my current planner attests that I’m still not some weeks). When I plan out my week—writing time is always easier to find when you know what else needs your time—I refer to that list. And I refer to it when I sit down to plan my day. Going back to the blog, I see that blank space next to “11/14” and I plan time to write a blog post—this post, actually.

I do my best to keep my goals specific. “Write today” could mean anything, but “Work on WIP #2” gives me some direction. I don’t stop there though, after all, that leaves so much wiggle room. One sentence technically meets that goal.

So I give myself something to measure against. “Work on WIP #2” becomes “Write 1k words for WIP #2” and now I have something to reach for, something to achieve.

Of course, there’s common sense mixed in there too. After all, if I only have an hour to write, one thousand words is a reasonable goal. It gives me just enough time to warm up and find my writing groove. To try writing three thousand words, though? Even I’m not that delusional. I know my limits.

And now, to impart my most reliable secret to staying on task:

STICKERS!

Yes, I know, I sound like a five-year old. (Though, at least I don’t plaster them to every flat surface in the house anymore. You’re welcome, Mom).

Seeing the fruit of my labors is difficult when everything lives on my computer. I don’t get to watch a notebook get all warped as I fill the pages up. Instead, I wait until it’s time to print the draft and start lugging it around. To combat this, I use stickers—which serve as both progress markers and little mini rewards. Each sticker has a value. For every thousand words I write, I get a star. Did I edit five pages? Great, I get a big heart. What if it was only two pages? I get a smaller star. Read a book? I have a sticker for that. Publish a blog? Yep, sticker for that. Finish a draft? Oh, you bet I have a sticker for that. Nice big, shiny, adorable owl stickers.

Every time I earn one of these stickers, I slap that thing into my planner with pride. Especially when I can look back at the stickers I earned the day before (or the lack there of, let me tell you that’s motivation itself). It’s a great way to keep track of what I’ve done and it’s portable, which is important since my office is whatever Starbucks or library I’ve ended up in that day. I can’t claim credit for this idea. I stole it from my friend, Dot, who stole it from author Victoria Schwab (Vicious, A Darker Shade of Magic) who probably stole it from some elementary school teacher. Feel free to steal from me, or come up with your own method. But find a way.

Give yourself something to accomplish and then go after it. Don’t let anything stop you. You can do it.

Question of the Week:

What are some of the writing goals you’d like to accomplish by year’s end?


Image: Inspiring moleskine by cathredfern, CC BY-NC 2.0

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9322492135_1814439892_zHappy first week of NaNoWriMo 2015.

If it’s going well for you: Huzzah! Pat yourself on the back.

If you’re struggling: Don’t give up! You may want to throw in the towel, but it’s only November 7th—every word that you write is a word you didn’t have yesterday.

Regardless: KEEP WRITING! You have a whole twenty-three days of NaNo left, think about everything you can accomplish in those twenty-three days.

And because you guys keep me accountable, here’s my NaNo 2015 weekly update:

Project #1: edited to page 77

Project #2: 10,028 words written

I mentioned in my last post that I’m working on two projects this November. (In case you’re wondering, the original plan involved only one project, but I procrastinated with Project #1, so here we are.) Whether or not I should walk around with a “Hi, my name is Overachiever” nametag, only time will tell. No matter my expectations, NaNo motivates me. The hype inspires focus that I often lack. Someday, I hope to be this driven all year long, but for now, I’m going to make the most of the power of NaNo

Project #1 is the one people are used to hearing me gripe about. You know, the one that was kicking my butt in this post. Written last spring, it still needs work, but if Rick Riordan’s first novel (Big Red Tequila) needed fourteen drafts before it was ready to shop around, I can go through at least half as many before I shelve it (or trunk it).

Project #2 is brand new project…sort of. I might have stolen the premise from a (unpublished) fanfic I wrote last March. Before you name me E.L. James 2.0 (don’t…just don’t), you should know that I’ve done more than change the names. By the time I’m done with this, you shouldn’t even be able to tell what fandom inspiried the original story from (Everything but the premise has been scrapped). No, I won’t tell you which fandom. I’m so excited to finally be taking a swing at this idea. You can’t see me grinning, but I’m grinning.

Now that that’s out of the way, time for today’s topic: the first draft. Specifically, NaNoWriMo first drafts. I know people that think NaNo is crazy—churning out fifty thousand words in thirty will only result in trash.

To those people I’d say: All first drafts are trash.

No matter what, your book will need at least one edit. Likely several. The grand picture in your head always gets a little lost in translation. Don’t worry about that now, especially if you’re trying to NaNo. Believe me, I know your fingers itch to pick at the chapter you wrote yesterday, to start hacking it apart and turn it into a piece of fine literature. I used to do that too, but not  anymore. Why? I found that when I pause to backtrack, I lose sight of the story. I used to get stuck going over what I’d already written, leaving the rest of the story to stagnate. There are writers who work this way. Published writers. Published writers who tell you that you have to have every sentence perfect before you move on to the next one.

I’m here to tell you: You don’t have to do it that way.

And if you want to win at NaNo this year, may I suggest that you put that thinking aside. At least for November. You don’t have time to edit. (If you’re like me, you barely have time to write.) The typos will still be there in twenty-four days, the story might not be. Turn down your inner editor. Give yourself permission to get lost in the writing.

What if your main character tells you her eyes are blue instead of brown? Or switches the point of view from a third person past tense to first person present tense Jot down a quick note, maybe fantasize about what you’d do to her if you didn’t need them, and then keep going as though you wrote it that way from the start. Sure, that leaves you with forty thousand words that you have to go back and edit later, but you’ll have finished the story. I cannot stress the importance of finishing enough. Giving up is much easier at forty thousand words than it is at ninety thousand.

Don’t worry about your novel being perfect. It won’t be. Not even after it’s gone through you, your mother, your three best friends, your other writer friends, your agent AND your editor, you will find something you missed. NaNoWriMo isn’t about producing Tolkein level prose (The Lord of the Rings alone took him twelve years), it’s about creating something you can shape. It’s about digging the raw material out of the folds of your brain and so you can sculpt your David.

My challenge to you between today and November 30th is this: Keep your eyes on the road. And if that inner editor of yours tries back seat driving? Stick a sock in their mouth, wrap them in ducktape, and throw them in the back of your car until you reach the end.

Good luck in your NaNoWriMo endeavors this week, I’d love to hear about them, either here or through Twitter or tumblr.

If you need to, please revisit my writing advice disclaimer.

Question of the week:

Outside of November, do you prefer to write straight through your first draft or do you edit as you go?


Image: Don’t Stop Me Now by K.G.Hawes, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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