Reasons to NOT do NaNoWriMo, and why those reasons are bogus!

It’s that time of year again when hundreds of thousands of writers and would-be writers converge on a global scale to unleash the novel within them. And every year there’s a new group of eye-rolling naysayers that complain that NaNoWriMo is the opposite of what any writer should do.

I’m here to dispel these arguments once and for all.

Argument #1: NaNoWriMo confuses discipline with motivation

Here the argument is that one should write every day in order to excel at something instead of getting excited and running right out of the gate. And, there’s some truth to that. You can’t expect to write for 30 days out of 365 and become a master storyteller.

That’s not what NaNoWriMo is. WriMo is about breaking through the barrier that is the blank page. It’s about having writing coaches and encouragement. It’s about learning that “waiting for your Muse” is no way for anyone to get better or even do ANYTHING.

NaNo takes the motivation and excitement, builds on it, and makes you keep going for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, I’ve met few who reach the 50k goal and DON’T keep writing. Why? Simply put, it creates discipline.

Argument #2: NaNoWriMo trivializes the writing process

This comes from “serious” writers and authors who have toiled and tormented over their work for decades and expects the same from you even when you first start out.

Their argument rests on the fact that they have long since forgotten how they started out as a writer. Sitting in their room at 14 and scratching away at their composition notebook. They didn’t toil and bleed then. It grew into a craft. NaNo says it’s time to up your game from the short scribblings and “plans” to write that novel.

Sure, some people write during NaNo and don’t write the rest of the year. Those people will never publish and probably have zero interest in publishing. They’re just having a little fun living in a world they created. The rest of us treat it and the craft with the utmost respect.

Argument #3: Writing a novel is a year-round process

So true. Nobody said that come December 1st you have a finished novel that is then ready for publication.

WriMo is for getting the words down on paper. It’s a first draft. It’s getting you over the biggest hurdles: the blank page and the Internal Editor. It lets you unabashedly try new things, new ideas, new plot points, that you wouldn’t allow yourself to consider otherwise. Heck, it pushes you to work out all the details so you can then go back (AFTER NOVEMBER OF COURSE) and edit and perfect the word choice and grammar.

There are a small percentage that write in November and then try to publish in December, but that’s not the majority and those people are off anyway. Then again, 1% of 400,000 + people is still WAY more than any agent or publisher wants to see in December.

Argument 4: Word count isn’t everything

This might be true. And in WriMo, we only care about word count. But the serious WriMos still consider the words in that count counts for something. Most don’t just drop gobbledygook.

But again, remember, NaNo is just as much about building discipline and building muscle (both imagination muscles and typing/writing muscles) as it about word count. It’s just that word count is a quantifiable goal. Just like Book In A Week which uses page numbers as the goal.

Conclusion

A lot of writers, myself included, need goals and deadlines. NaNo provides both and does so in a fun and entertaining way.

For me, I use NaNoWriMo to write the first draft of my new novel. I spend the rest of the year editing, writing short stories, rewriting, and submitting older novels and short stories. I need the kick in the pants to get past the dreaded Blank Page. And writing a full novel from nothing is daunting. November gets me over that hump in a way that’s fun for me. This is true of many many other WriMos.

There’s nothing damaging about WriMo and nothing bad about it. But like anything fun, misused it because a problem. If you ONLY write anything in November, you lose. If you submit your 1st draft of ANYTHING to any agent or publisher, you’re bonkers!

 

 

Lessons from this years NaNoWriMo…so far

Day 10 of NaNoWriMo has me ruminating on this year’s NaNo event thus far.

1. Being a Municipal Liaison is more fun than I expected

This is my first year as an ML and I set up more Write-Ins than I think I should have. But I’m meeting lots of new writers from all walks of life. People seem to enjoy my writing sprints/word wars, and my co-ML and outgoing ML tutor are so helpful it’s hard NOT to have fun doing this.

2. Even well-outlined stories do their own thing

I never used to outline my novels before writing them. Then NaNoWriMo 2010 happened to me. Now I map out my story from start to finish. Character bios, chapter expectations, main plot points, themes, the whole shebang!

But, as I’ve learned this year, even those specific and extensive outlines can go down the crappy fast. Not in a bad way. The story and the characters just seem to do their own thing once the fingers hit the keyboard on November 1st. I’ve learned to embrace this. Instead of seeing my outline as something I have to follow, I live breathe, and eat my outline so long, I know where I want my story to go. If I go off track, that’s OK.

Truthfully, I only look back at my outline when I get stuck and try to figure out what it is my characters are trying to tell me. An outline for me is a guide when the “writer’s block” takes effect.

3. Falling behind isn’t the end of the world

I tell new Wrimos that not making your 50k isn’t the end of the world OR something to feel disappointed about. They still wrote more than they would have otherwise. They should be proud of their accomplishments. But I say this as a Wrimo who has ALWAYS won and ALWAYS stayed ahead. Until this year!

This year I had a family emergency at the beginning of the month that set me behind by about 6k. I had 4k words written and was supposed to be at 10k. OUCH! I never thought I’d catch up. You can’t write 6k in one day! Can you? Well, turns out you can!

Being behind is a great motivator…as is being behind other friends that are WAY ahead of you on their word counts. This is exacerbated by the fact that I’m the NaNoWriMo volunteer (ML) for the entire region. I CAN’T fall behind!

4. You go a little loopy by Day 10

NaNoWriMo is like what I’ve heard child birth is like. You always think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world…until the birth! Then it’s the worst thing in the world. Then, over the next 11 months, you forget the pain and insanity, and you think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world again.

I should remember how loopy I get by this time but it always surprises me. I start talking to myself (not normal for me), arguing with other writers’ characters of Facebook (just as weird as it sounds), and ideas and dialog gets so far out there I wonder if I’ll ever be allowed in public again!

5. Library Wi-fi is great for NaNo word count updates…and that’s it

Libraries are great. Free Wi-fi at libraries is real great. But slow speeds and choppy connections means no music streaming and my plan to send my Write-Ins into the stratosphere through Google Hangouts On Air was a total failure. But, that’s OK. I hate seeing myself on camera anyway.

6. Blog posts are a great way to procrastinate

Need I say more? Yes, this was me procrastinating. But to be fair, I’ve made my 1700 for today.

NaNoWriMo Live Writing

Like last year, I’m allowing anyone who wishes to, to follow me as I type out my NaNoWriMo novel: LIVE!

The Google Doc I’m using to write my NaNo novel is blank right now. But once Friday hits, you can click the link below and follow along as I write. Why, you ask?

Mostly because I love Google Docs (or Google Drive) that much. And, any chance I can nerd it up just a little more, the better. So keep an eye out. Right now I’ve only set the Doc to be view-able. No comments and no editing. Don’t want you changing my word count on me. Or telling me how crappy a passage is.

American Dream: A NaNoWriMo Novel

As you can see, I’ve already begun the NaNo nerdy-ness.

NaNoWriMo Survival Gear

Just over a week away, let’s get down and dirty with NaNoWriMo preparations. Half of your success comes from outlines and such. The other half comes from the gear you’ve got by your side. So here’s your essential list of necessary gear for surviving NaNoWriMo 2013.

1. Candy

Sugar and caffeine is a must. You’re already going to be loopy and tired. Sugar and caffeine will aleviate at least one of those issues.

2. Loose fitting clothing

You’re going to be sitting a long while. Unless you’ve mastered the art of running and writing. Which I bet you haven’t. Sweat pants, sweatshirts, PJ’s. That’s right. There’s no shame in being comfortable while you write. All the best writers wore their PJ’s while writing. I don’t know who, but I’m certain some of them did.

3. Notebooks

These are my favorite notebooks on the planet. I’ve been using them for work and for writing for years now. Moleskin are a little on the pricey side. But they come in all sizes, are super durable, and come in a variety of colors and styles of paper. I use the pocket sized ones…because they fit in my pocket which means I carry them EVERYWHERE.

But any notebook will work. Friends of mine wait till Back to School sales and buy piles of those spiral notebooks for 10 cents a piece. I also use the notebook on my smartphone. Evernote is a great little app that works on all devices and even in your computer browser. So it’s everywhere you are.

4. Space

You don’t need a huge space. My wife and I live in a one bedroom apartment. No den. And I can’t write in libraries anymore. Too many PTSD memories of grad school. But I do section off part of the dining room for my laptop and have requested “me” time. That time means my wife can’t be in the same room. She’s my biggest critic. So, even if she’s sitting on the other side of the room, I feel her eyes on me and I can’t write. When the weather is good, I’ll go outside on our small porch. New Mexico provides warm Novembers.

So find a space. Whatever that space is. And call it your headquarters.

5. The Cloud

I really don’t care what cloud service you use. I don’t. I’m particular about my own cloud choice. But get one!!! I’m so crazy sick of hearing about people who’ve lost their work because their computer exploded, their dog ate their hard drive, or they got a virus because they were looking at porn opened an attachment.

There are dozens of options. Many of them free. All of them secure to one degree or another. All of them more reliable than your email, hard drive, flash drive, or bank vault.

6. NaNoWriMo Swag

You didn’t think I’d actually forget this part did you? The nanowrimo.org site has tons of swag. And what better way to get pumped up for the coming month than to wear the funness too! Besides, NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization. You’d be helping a good cause.

What’s your favorite NaNoWriMo preparation gear?

Charater Biographies: A NaNoWriMo How To

One of the quickest ways to get bogged down in “writer’s block” is to not know your characters. Not knowing your main characters leaves you (and your characters) speechless when push comes to shove. And there will be a lot of shoving in November. National Novel Writing Month is fun, but it can get…hectic.

How do you get through it?

I say character bios are the best way.

You probably know what a character bio is, but try and sit down and write one. Just try it. Go ahead I’ll wait…

See! What do you have? Birthplace? Age? Gender? Name? Occupation? Not much huh?

How about this:

Facebook Page: This might sound silly, but think about it. What do people put on their FB pages? Everything! And who doesn’t know FB already. I even had a friend of mine actually create a FB page for her main jerk character. She did it because everyone who read her story hated him and she wanted to play with us. It was a riot!

Plus, you get to know your character inside and out. Their desires, their “likes”, their friends, hometown, dislikes.

Conversations: Some of my writer friends actually have conversations with their characters in their head. Laugh as you will, it seems to work for them. Me, I recognize the borderline mental illness that comes with having lively conversations with imaginary friends. Then again, don’t all fiction writers do this to some extent?

Me? I actually write dialogs. I have my character talk to whoever or whatever I want. Just something, so I can get a sense of their voice. Without knowing your character’s voice, they will sound just like your narrator, and unless you’re writing first person, that’s a problem.

I also write long back stories. I don’t write actual back STORIES like friends of mine, but I take extensive notes that include everything from relatives to pets to regular irritations, loves, hates, and the like. Anything that comes to mind that builds my characters into living breathing individuals. See? I’m just as ill.

Note Cards and Separate Documents: Have all these bios surrounding you. Either on the way where you write most often or on your phone or on your computer so you can easily get to them when the going gets tough and the time gets going.

How do you write your Character Bios?

NaNoWriMo: How are you preparing?

Less than 4 weeks away before the official kick-off of the NaNoWriMo season. Of course, that doesn’t mean that NOTHING is happening between now and November 1st. OH NO! There’s prep!

So what do you do to prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo?

Here’s what I do:

1. Outlines: Whatever it is you want to call an outline. I don’t do the spider web or bubble designs for outlines. I write loads of notes.

My notes get written/typed out in a million different places and I still haven’t figured out the best means to my easy ends. I use Evernote for much of my phone note making. But I also use a small pocket notebook (the traditional paper kind), GTasks To-Do app that allows me to add reminder notifications, and Google Keep. I’ve attempted to use Scrivener on a large scale for my big products. It’s super handy for outlines and prepping for NaNoWriMo. Problem is, it has ZERO mobile component.

If I’m not at my computer and come up with a great idea, it CAN’T go into Scrivener. Period. So, as things get closer, I have to piece everything together. Not the best method. But it’s mostly because I’m still trying to find ways to get all my notes and writing in one place.

2. Friends and Writing Buddies: That’s right. Find others that can keep you motivated, help you along, and just generally provide pep talks when the times get…rocky. I already have 10 or so, which is twice as many as last year and the year before that I did it alone. Friendly competitions works well as a self-motivator.

3. NaNoWriMo Swag: Who can’t live with a little more stuff? Especially when that stuff is stickers, posters, t-shirts, and the like. I bought a friendly competition poster where all our names will go up and progress will be followed. Winner gets bragging writes. Since we’re all writers, bragging rights are hard to come by and well sought after.

4. Scheduling: This one might not seem obvious, but 1700 words a day for 30 days can take some effort. Now is the time to figure out when and how that’s going to happen. If you’ve got family (and most of us do), you’ll be spending time with them during the holiday weekend. That knocks several days off your list. Are you going to write late at night? Early in the morning? During breaks? In your sleep?

Since I’m a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, I’ve already scheduled my time into a bunch of Write-ins I’m hosting. But that doesn’t I’m writing then. I’ll be hosting those events. I have to find time elsewhere. Which I haven’t yet. EEK!

5. Candy: I need an endless supply of sugar and other bad for me stimulants. I’ve got buckets stacked to the ceiling waiting for day one. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do the next 29 days later.

NaNoWriMo in Albuquerque just got SERIOUS

I’ve signed the paperwork.

NaNoWriMo 2013

The official NaNoWriMo Tips and Tricks (Pre-Kickoff) Talk will take place October 19th at Cherry Hills Library in Albuquerque. I, and maybe my co-Municipal Liaison, will give a talk on what NaNoWriMo is, why you should do it, and how you can succeed this year.

The room holds enough people (I hope).

I’ve also ordered the Albuquerque NaNoWriMo toolkit. It will arrive shortly. Stickers and other goodies, including a nerdy t-shirt and poster for moi!

The Official Kickoff party will likely be October 26th or 27th, maybe on the CNM campus. It will include a “Build Your Muse” or “Make your Monster Internal Editor.” Crafty things will be provided!

AND, in case you weren’t already pumped enough, I’m collecting a bunch of close friends to hold an unofficial, private competition this year. This will be my 4th year, but only my 2nd year with people I know outside of NaNoWriMo writing along side me. We had so much fun last year, that I decided to up the ante!

I can’t give away too many details. It’s a surprise for my friends. But let me say this much. There will be stuff, and things, and a whole lot of really nerdy writer goodness.

NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison-ship

This week I became an official NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison.

What that means:

It means I am 1 of 2 Go-To people in Albuquerque (and much of the rest of New Mexico) for National Novel Writing Month. I get to be a big writer nerd for one month out of the year. I can already see my wife rolling her eyes, as she knows I’m a writer nerd 12 months out of the year.

Why I’m doing it:

I fell in love with NaNoWriMo four years ago. Last year I tried to become an ML but looked into the idea too late. And, last year I manged to convince 5 friends to try it out. We ALL REACHED OUR GOAL! I must admit, I’m partially to blame for their current WIPs. ^_^

Also, I must admit, this opportunity, which has boat loads of benefits, not the least of which is helping/supporting other writers reach their goals this November and beyond. It also means I’m helping the broader writing community. It means I’m pushing myself even further into that community. It means I can try to make NaNoWriMo a little awesome-er.

Why you should too:

Ever say, “I’m a writer, I just haven’t found time, or my muse.”

Now’s your chance. Show your muse whose who! Join NaNoWriMo for 30 days of, in Mrs McGonagall’s words, well-mannered frivolity. And in the words of NaNoWriMo, some reckless abandon.

You don’t need to become an ML and it’s totally free. So come on down. Join the fun!

NaNoWriMo Tips and Tricks

NaNoWriMo is about to kick off. Since I can’t get my mind off my (unrelated) presentation this Friday on Increasing mobility options for adults with developmental disabilities, I’m going to share teasers of the Tips and Tricks presentation I’m giving next week at Page One Books in Albuquerque.

First thing to realize if you’re a new WriMo nerd, you’re already halfway to your destination.

Most people say, “I’m gonna write a book” or “I have a great idea for a book. I just need to find the time.”

You’ve already put your money where your mouth is (literally, I hope by donating a minimum of $10 to the WriMo cause…though it’s completely free to join and participate). You’ve decided to put up or shut up. You know you have a book to write and a story to tell. Congrats. The worst is over.

Now comes the easy part.

1.) Go to NaNoWriMo.org. Sign up. Build a bio. Super easy Facebook bio sort of stuff.

2.) Notice at the top of your dashboard that you can click on lots of fun links. DO THAT!

  • You can join “regional” aka local WriMo groups that host “write-ins” around your area. These can be great morale boosters. A bunch of you crazed Wrimo’arians getting together in the middle of the night or during the day to type out a million billion words while sucking down hot chocolate and sharing stories. What more could you ask for???
  • You can buy crap tons of NaNoWriMo swag. I bought the Camp WriMo box, stickers, and all sorts of fun stuff!
  • You can donate to the cause. Though it’s completely free to join and participate in NaNoWriMo, it is not free to produce. If you give a simple $10 donation, you get a thank you, a halo over your picture, and you pay for 30,000 words worth of someone doing NaNoWriMo. Awesome. 
  • Like any other social site, you friend other WriMoarians.
3.) Let your friends and family know what you’re up to. They will thank you later. Trust me. Most WriMoarians are not unemployed couch potatoes. We have jobs, we have families, we have school, have to SLEEP!
Let everyone around you know that you’re going to be…how shall we say…less available??? over the coming month. Tell them you love them and you hope Aunt Edna’s birthday goes on without a hitch. Because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start losing sleep, your fingers will have minds of their own, and you will just go plum crazy. 
4.) Prepare yourself for anything!
It never ceases to amaze me how many people DON’T SAVE THEIR DOCUMENTS REGULARLY! Personal home computers have existed for an entire generation now. And people still forget to save their work, their computer dies, their dog pees on their keyboard, SOMETHING!
Personally, I use Google Docs. You might hate Google for whatever hipster reason you want, but Docs saves every keystroke instantly and saves everything to the cloud instantly. I never ever EVER have to worry about losing my novel. 
Hope this was a good start for you. I’m sure I’ll post more. I’ll also be posting NaNo drafts of each chapter as they are written. Keep reading and keep writing!