NaNoWriMo: TGIO, Let the editing begin tomorrow

December 1st. Everyone take a big deep breath and let it out in a sigh of relief. NaNoWriMo 2010 is over. Welcome to the first day of editing procrastination.

This was my fifth year participating and every year December 1st is a day of mixed feelings. There is the relief that won or not it’s over. Burn it or build on it – whatever you choose to do from there is totally up to you. If you’re ‘won’ there is a feeling of euphoria that comes from the purple winner bar.

This year my thought right after the woo hoo! of the winner message was never again. Not never again doing NaNo, but never again will I wait so long to write for it. It is not that I haven’t had other valid things that distracted me from NaNo this year, but… yeah, it was insanity these last few days. I took a screen shot of my stats lest you disbelieve me:

image of statistics page from my NaNo profile

So, what now?

First, a song of celebration:

Still to come is our 2010 TGIO (Thank God It’s Over) party in which we all celebrate our survival and share war stories. These will be happening in regions around the world over the next couple of weeks. Ours is going to double as a donation drop for the NaNoWriMo Bookdrive which runs until the 15th.

NaNoWriMo is just the beginning though. Now comes the editing and the re-writing and the intermittent feelings of brilliance and desire to destroy all evidence that anything was ever written this past month.

I made a few major cuts myself before I even went to bed last night (technically in the wee hours of this morning) but am thinking that before I get too absorbed in my editing I should probably do the dishes, water the plants and make my living room look less like a tornado went through it. Maybe. More likely I’ll end up working on that half-finished sweater pinned to my dress form.

I really will edit this year. I promise. I may even post an except eventually when I consider it readable by others, so in about 10 years ;)

Anyway, here is a quote I stumbled across today on Mental Floss that seemed appropriate to share on the first day of eleven months of editing:

“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.”
– Mark Twain

NaNoWriMo: Going for the finish

Three more days. Wow. This month has just flown past. At least it has for me.

Entering into these last few days the pressure is on to get those last words in before midnight on the 30th, but perhaps the inspiration just is not there.

Sometimes our characters reveal some facet that gets the creative juices flowing. My MC (main character) just revealed that he is, in fact, a spymaster in training. As the fourth son of a king it is not as if he is actually expected to ever take the throne. This one fact gives me a whole patch of raw material I can dip my fingers into, no, grasp whole-handedly to help make up my word count gap.

This is not always the case though, so here are a few other ideas of great things that can help your word count. Most of them can even provide you with helpful insights into your characters.

Describe an important place or character.

We have all read one of those stories where the writer just got a bit too caught up in their adjectives and descriptions. I am always reminded of The Scarlet Letter and that entire chapter devoted to a parade. That in mind, these descriptions may not make draft two or three, but the information is still good to have for reference so go ahead and give those characters and places some fine descriptive text.

Write a flashback.

Again, this may or may not end up staying in, but choose an important point in your characters life previous to your storyline and have them remember it. Maybe it is the death of parents like Bruce Wayne’s memories in Batman or a first love or even the first time the character ever had dark chocolate. Sometimes those little moments can be life altering.

Flesh out a conversation.

I do not know about you, but when I write out a conversation a lot of times I do a good bit of dialog and only put in the most important actions and emotions of my characters because I am more concerned with the flow of conversation then the rest at that moment. Putting the rest of it in there is not only helpful to getting the full feeling of the conversation but it also can add a nice bit to your word count.

Daydream.

If flashbacks help to see where your characters are coming from, daydreams help to show where they wish to go. Both are important.

The steamy scene.

This is something of a running joke in our region. Need words? Follow in the footsteps of a lot of those well known romance authors. One of our writers told me a few weeks ago that in a previous NaNo she got 5,000 words that way. Another told me she had done it but would never be able to show it to her mother and it was going away in her first revision. With as much as we joke about it I could not help but put in it the list.

Any other hot tips for word counts? Feel free to share them below.

NaNoWriMo: Filling in the Gaps

NaNoWriMo Web Badge

We’ve sailed past the halfway mark now and landed at just about every point along the writing path. Some have already hit their goal for this month, some are behind and some are just where they planned on being.

Good job to all you Wrimos still going for the goal (or having already surpassed it)! No matter where you end up at the end of the month in word count you’re a winner as long as you don’t give up. Life happens to us all. I know it certainly has happened for me this month.

On to tips for week three.

Hopefully at this point you’ve got an idea of where your plot is headed. If not, stop reading this post and take care of that. For everyone else, there’s a good chance that unless you are a strictly chronological writer you’ve done a bit of skipping around. Not necessarily massive leaps across the storyline, but smaller scenes that add to the overall story without being major plot points have been left in the dust of your writing.

Now is the time to revisit those and, no, I don’t mean edit them. Instead I am talking about those conversations that are all dialog and no context or the battle that is all clanging swords and no emotion. Be aware of your pacing in these places – don’t bog it down – but don’t leave them as bare bones either.

Other gaps may be between major scenes. Your MCs (main characters) rushed off from one major mess into another. Is there room for a quiet night in the journey to contrast the rushing with something a little different? Contrast is as important in writing as it is in any other art. Without the dark, would we know what light is? If everything is full of sorrow, how can we know that happiness is even possible? Of course, the reverse of all of those is true as well.

So, if you’re in need of a little inspiration, take a few minutes and review – not edit! – your story thus far to find the unfinished gems you may have missed in the initial writing rush.

Previous NaNoWriMo posts

Character Chaos
NaNoWriMo: Week One – Don’t Panic
NaNoWriMo: Preparation
NaNoWriMo: 5 Reasons I Choose to NaNo
NaNoWriMo: It’s not as crazy as you think

NaNoWriMo: Character Chaos

NaNoWriMo web badge

“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.”
W M Thackeray (1811-1863) Novelist (via @Quotes4Writers)

I completely agree with Thackeray. There are a thousand thoughts lying around we’re not aware of until the pen hits the… well,  the fingers hit the keyboard. In fact, some of them you aren’t even aware of until they’ve already poured out onto the page. Which brings us to the issue of recalcitrant characters.

Any NaNo author will confirm that once you get past that first week or so of writing your characters start to truly become themselves – even if its not the self you had in mind. They fall in love with the wrong person. They murder. They die. They decide to be a mystery instead of a romance (or vice versa). They start quests that never had anything to do with the plot points that you set out for them.

When this occurs you really only have two options:

1. Put them in their place.

You are the author. If you don’t like where the characters are taking you then rein them in and make them go the way you want them to. Mark that rebellious bit in red so that you know to come back and ax it later. They’ll learn their place soon enough.

2. Roll with it.

While some characters just have delusions of grandeur, others will open you up to whole new awesome and amazing plot lines that you never even conceived of before they showed up on your page. These you keep.

It really comes down to whether those character changes are going to enrich your story or detract from it.

P.S. If people start looking at your funny because you talk about your characters like they have minds of their own it’s okay. There’s no 12-step program for it, but your local write-in is a great place to find support for it.

5 Things I Love – Nov 8

image for weekly list of five things I'm currently loving in life, music, art, etc.

1. lia sophia

I was going to say working for lia sophia or my customer/hostesses/friends in lia sophia, but really it just comes down to an overall love. In this past week I have felt such support from my lia sophia peeps all around from the very nice woman I spoke to at Corporate last Friday to the lovely women who enjoy wearing lia sophia jewelry as much as I do.

2. Connecting with old friends

Between all of the lia sophia things going on this last week and random happenstance, I’ve had the opportunity to get in contact with a number of people I just don’t encounter normally and it is a great thing to catch up with old friends again.

3. @NaNoLansing Write-Ins

I’ll admit it, I talk. A lot. Very quickly (or so I’m told). It has been wonderful to catch up with my writers again – see #2 – and meet the whole host of new people joining our region this year. We have had great turn-outs to our write-ins and, in spite of my personal word count, this is shaping up to be a great year for the NaNoRhinos of Lansing.

4. Desktop Tower Defense

I’ll admit it. I have a slight addiction to this game. I will from time to time manage to ignore said addiction before getting sucked back in. I’ve been attempting to mastermind level 23 all of this past week. Perhaps if I just beat the thing my word count would improve. I could also give it up for a few weeks, but let’s be realistic here.

5. Falling back

It may get dark an hour earlier now, but that extra hour of sleep was still amazing last Sunday and because of it everyone on Praise Team actually got there on time for practice :)

NaNoWriMo: Week One – Don’t Panic

Don't Panic illustrative image

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Douglas Adams

Week One. Day Three. Far less words than I should have.

A few years ago I might have panicked at my current word count, but as a fifth year participant I am here to tell you it will all be okay.

See, there are still 27 days left and while I know that some will be as crazy as these last couple, I also know that there will be plenty of them that will not be. I’ve also learned that given a free afternoon and some quiet I can turn out 5,000 words fairly easily.

Other concerns not worth panicking over at this point:
– Plot holes
– Under-developed characters
– Editing (Got that? NO EDITING!)
– Impromptu character appearances
– Etc.

These things are all normal. Really, unless you main character died of a horrible accident yesterday or you already have a major unintentional paradox on page 3 things aren’t that bad. Even those things aren’t worth wasting precious energy panicking over.

Instead, take a deep breath, drink some nice warm tea and contemplate the best next step in your characters’ journey. Now type. One word. Another. Keep going. It will happen and remember, every word you type is one more word down than you had before.

If you’d like a little more impetus to help your word count, I hear a lot about ‘Write or Die‘ which will start deleting words if you take too long of a break from typing. If that sounds a bit too stressful, there’s also @nanowordsprints on twitter and, of course, attending a local (or online) write in. Sure, there will be some conversing, but those 10 and 15 minute word wars can do wonders for your word count.

Most of all – Don’t Panic.

NaNoWriMo: Bonus! NaNo meets Pirates of Penzance

This video was forwarded out via @NaNoWriMo’s twitter feed yesterday and it was so fabulous I thought I’d post it here to share with you all.

Now we shall return to our regular NaNoWriMo posting schedule.

P.S. Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween weekend, everyone!

NaNoWriMo: Preparation

2010 NaNoWriMo Alarm Clock

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
E B White (1899-1985) Writer (via @Quotes4Writers)

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. Are you ready for it?

Yes, yes, that should have had some sort of deep ominous swell of sound behind it. I’m sure there are a few nanites out there who are prepared, but most of us stare at the calendar with dropped jaws at this point and realize that still not sure exactly what we’re writing about.

I’m here to tell you it is all going to be alright. Take deep breathes. Don’t stress. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for the coming month.

Choose a Protagonist

Knowing who your antagonist is would also be good at this point, but knowing who your central character is is a really good start. Once you know who your protagonist is you can start asking the big questions that will help you determine your plot like what do they look like and where do they live. Probably not what you thought I would say, but these things make a difference.

Let’s try out an example. Your as yet undescribed character’s big dream is to be the best wrestler in the world. If this character is young, buff and talented you’re going to need a conflict to make this an interesting journey for the reader. What if the character is a woman? How about a scrawny kid living in the middle of nowhere?

Not only are these choices going to impact your story, but they also make great fodder for your first few pages if your not sure where your plot is going yet at 12:01 am on November 1st.

Notify Your Close Friends and Family

This is mainly so that they won’t think you’re dead when you disappear into a hole otherwise known as your room or mentally unbalanced when you show up ravenously seeking coffee.

Do you have to share specifics with them? Not unless you want to. There’s commentary both ways on the benefits of sharing goals. Think back on goals you’ve achieved in the past. Did you succeed when your friends all knew or when it was a little more private? Choose whichever way works best for you.

Go Grocery Shopping

Plan now and plan wisely for writing munchies. You’re using a lot of mental energy so, choose brain healthy foods like easily munched fruits, vegetables and cheese sticks. Nuts are great too, just keep in mind that they aren’t the lowest calorie foods. I know I probably sound like your mother or trainer at the moment, but if you don’t have healthy options at hand you may find yourself doing a new workout at the gym on December 1st instead of finishing up those last writing details.

Clean Up Your Writing Area

If you have notes, find a way to organize them so you can find what you’re looking for. Otherwise clear out the clutter if for no other reason than so that you have a place to put those snacks so that they won’t chance hitting your computer and causing electronic misery.

Determine a Back-Up Plan

… as in backing up your files. No one wants to think about computer problems during NaNo but I can attest that they happen. Once the month starts you’ll be distracted and this can easily get pushed to the back burner causing potential heartache in the long run. I usually have a copy on my computer which is backed up to a flash drive and also on Google docs. Not only does that provide me with several options should one fail, but it also keeps my document portable.

To Outline or Not to Outline

Last, but not least, the eternal Hamlet-esque question – to outline or not to outline. I do not outline. Other people do. I actually did try to outline my first year and discovered that a number of changes had occurred by the time I reached mid-book. Most people I’ve had this discussion with have said the same, but I’m sure there are others who love their outlines and can’t imagine life without them

What do I do? I determine plot points. These are things that I know need to happen in the arc of the story. Usually this consists of the beginning and the end with a few major developments in between. It’s the bare bones of the story that get fleshed out as I write it.

Here’s an example from last year’s novel:

Ayree (protagonist), a nobleman’s daughter, is taken captive while traveling and given as a war prize to the field general
Field general recognizes the possibility of building goodwill and takes her to the capital
On the way there she meets Shalen (main character, protagonist in different story)
In capital catches the eye of the king
King finds out she’s the daughter of a duke/advisor to neighboring king
Political marriage is arranged

Obviously there’s a lot more to the story than that, especially since it’s the first of a trilogy, but those are the basics and provide ample base for the writing to begin.

I should also mention that a lot of that happens between the 29th and the 31st of October.

In conclusion, I’m not going to tell you that my way is the only way. People complete NaNo with a lot of different methods. These are just a few of the things that I do every year to try and start my month out right.

“If you could get up the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.”
David Viscott (1938-1996) Pychiatrist, Author (via @Qutes4Writers)

What do you do to prepare for NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo: 5 Reasons Why I Choose to NaNo

NaNoWriMo participant badge

1. The NaNo Community

My first year of NaNo was pretty much a fail with, well, life happened. My second year I had just moved to a new community about six months previously and really only knew a handful of people outside of those I met through work. When I joined and shortly thereafter became a Municipal Liaison (ML) for the Lansing region, I met a great group of people. Our write-ins are always filled with interjections of laughter between word sprints. We encourage each both online and off throughout the month.

Then there’s the online community. Every fall I connect with MLs from around the world, including one lovely lady over in Scotland who has issued a standing invite for tea the next time I make it there. Most of these people I will never meet face to face in in real life, but they’ve enriched my life none the less.

The same is true of my region. Some of my Nanites will never make it to an event, but one of the most popular threads in our forum (besides our introduction thread) is the one where everyone is sharing the things that inspire them in their writing which is inspiring in and of itself.

2. The Excuse to Write

One of the most common things that I hear from people who are actually considering NaNoWriMo for the first time is that they’ve had this story percolating in the back of their minds, some of them for years, and for one reason or another they’ve never written it down. NaNo is a great excuse to start writing that story down. It won’t be completely done in that month, but every word that’s written is one word closer.

3. Death to the Inner Editor

Okay, so maybe it’s more like freezing in carbonite for a month, but one of the rules of NaNoWriMo is that you don’t edit until December. I’ll admit that I occasionally backtrack to fix something but usually because I can get more words out of it then. NaNo isn’t about writing perfectly, it’s about getting the words out. After the month is done and you’ve got that first draft together, then you start the editing part of the process.

4. The Satisfaction of Winning

I freely admit that I have a competitive streak. I love winning and entering that final word count, getting the purple status bar and certificate – it’s a great feeling.

5. Fun

That community I mentioned? We do more than just write together. We start and end the month with a party, and that’s not even counting the write-ins and forum talking in between. On the story level there’s also the craziness of seeing what your characters will do next (it’s not always what you were initially thinking). It’s just fun overall – if you’re willing to let it be.

The fun starts even before the month does. Don’t believe me? Read this forum entry from Hero:

Hello Wrimos.

Look at your novel, now back to mine, now back at your novel, now back to MINE.
Sadly, it isn’t mine, but if you started writing 1667 words a day it could be as long as mine.
Look down, back up, where are you? You’re at your computer WITH THE NOVEL YOUR NOVEL COULD LOOK LIKE.
What’s in your hand? Back at me. It’s the remains of your silenced inner editor.
Look again.
THE EDITOR IS NOW DIAMONDS!
Anything is possible with NaNoWriMo.
I’m on a forum.

And he’s right. Anything is possible with NaNoWriMo.

To all of you out there who take part in the annual insanity – why do you you NaNo?

Miss the first post about NaNoWriMo? Check it out here.

NaNoWriMo: It’s Not as Crazy as You Think

30 days. 50,000 words. National Novel Writing Month.

Yes, I know. Right about now you’re most likely reading this thinking, “Your title lied!”

Maybe it is a little crazy, but crazier things happen all the time or maybe that’s just my life. After all, I was just in the midst of destruction caused by invisible robotic aliens just a few weeks ago in the name of big screen entertainment. It’s too bad it wasn’t November. I could have gotten a lot of writing done sitting in extra holding.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Quite simply put NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an international challenge put forth by the Office of Letters and Light every November for authors or every age, ethnicity and experience level to write a 50,000 words novel from scratch in 30 days.

There are a few reactions I usually get after explaining it to people.

The first is the ‘what on earth are you thinking woman have you lost your mind’ response, which generally occurs after a moment of consternated staring. If this is you it’s really okay. It’s not the first time I’ve been called crazy/weird/insane before and it’s not likely to be the last either.

This is also usually the group who ask what we ‘win’ for accomplishing this goal. A purple status bar, partially finished novel and the sweet satisfaction of reaching my goal don’t seem to impress them as prizes. Go figure.

The second is the ‘wow that sounds cool but I’d never be able to do it’ response. If this is you, what does it hurt to try? If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that 50,000 is too much make a smaller goal this year and work up to that big one. You’ll never swim the ocean without first stepping in the water.

The third, and rarest, is the ‘wow I want to do that I think I just might have to’ response. To those of you who fall in this category – Huzzah! Come join us. We are always excited to see a new writer in our midst :)

But I’m not an author…

Have you ever put a pen to the page to tell a story (or perhaps fingers to the keyboard)? Yes? You’re an author.

Do you have a story inside of you that you want to tell but have never written down? Yes? You’re an author to be.

Yes, there are people who participate who are published writers, some of whom have even had NaNo books published, but the majority of us are everyday people who choose to do something crazy and wonderful in the month of November.

Then there are NaNo fans.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking there’s no way I can make that commitment. Whether it be because your life is too crazy to handle it or the desire just isn’t there, you can always be a fan.

NaNoWriMo may be a great and awesome thing for those participating, but it’s the fans, the cheerleaders in our lives who get us through the month

Fans can also support NaNoWriMo by making a tax deductible donation to support NaNoWriMo, purchasing some awesome merchandise, donating used books to the Great NaNoWriMo Book Drive or even just spreading the word to people you think might be interested in participating.

That’s it for now. Feel free to find out more about NaNoWrimo by visiting their website. I will be posting more on NaNoWrimo over the next couple of months including why I choose to participate and more information on the Great NaNoWriMo Book Drive.