Monday, October 26, 2015

5 Reasons to Try NaNoWriMo

Normally we give tips on writing, but this week I am going to change things up a little.  Last week I provided tips for writing if you participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Since then I've had a number of people ask me why I take part every year and why it might be helpful for them to try NaNoWriMo. More than one person has indicated an interest, but the thought of writing 50,000 words in four weeks can be a little daunting. But don't despair. It can be done and you might find yourself enjoying it.

I know why I do it. I find that it helps me get a story written and November is a great month to do it. With the cold weather setting in so that I have to spend more time at home and because writing a novel now is a great way to wrap up the year and give me a sense of accomplishment, I really have grown to like the premise of writing a novel in November. So what are some of the benefits you might see if you take part in NaNoWriMo?

1.  Getting something written before the end of the year. As I noted that is a big reason I like to do it. After spending months promising to get some writing done, having a month when writing is my total focus really sharpens the writing edge for the next few months and gets me through the winter.

2. The long hours can help sharpen discipline.  The idea of having to write nearly two thousand words a day means you have to set aside some hours to work. Having to write that much for 30 days can make writing a thousand words a day seem a lot easier. That means setting a schedule and setting aside certain hours to write. All those words won't get written if you think you're going to write only a few minutes a day. Setting a schedule can help later when you think you don't have the time. Go back to the November schedule for a few days, or a full week later and before long you'll find yourself with a normal writing schedule.

3. Write that story you've been planning but haven't been able to start. Sometimes getting a story started is as simple as deciding to sit down and get going. By saying you're taking part in NaNoWriMo you can focus on starting on November 1 and just get going. That date provides a finite starting point and the idea of finishing by the end of the month gives you a definite date for finishing.

4. It can free you from your inner editor. Sometimes we get too focused on whether the words we're writing are good enough or all the mechanics of the writing process. Doing NaNoWriMo where the word count is all important can free you from going back and laboring over one sentence. Write it and move on. You don't have time to agonize.

5.  Finally, there is the final (even if it needs work) product. At the end of the month you will have a novel written. It may not be your best work. It will undoubtedly need editing, but it will definitely be enough to work on to get the novel in shape to be published.

For the next month I will be focusing on other NaNo ideas.  If you have something you'd like to share with me about your NaNo adventures, please email me at .  
And if you'd like to sign up to try it, here's the link --

Monday, October 19, 2015

5 Tips for NaNoWriMo

November has become a major writing month for me, courtesy of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month ( It's an endeavor I have often taken part in and one I have already signed up for this year. What NaNoWriMo stands for is writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  Some people love the idea and some people have tried it and decided it is not for them.  I used NaNoWriMo to get a good handle on my newest published book, Blues at 11, and I am currently editing another book (Dead Man's Treasure)  I did as part of writing challenge another year.

Why do I like NaNoWriMo?  For me, it's a good way to make myself focus on just one project for an entire month.  I've been known to jump around a lot in my writing, but this one-month long challenge keeps me focused.  As someone who loves to set goals and then work toward them, I like knowing that I can see my progress every day, and that the progress will be a direct result of the work I put into my writing.  It's great for someone who enjoys challenges too. I want to make certain that I can do it. Getting those 50,000 words written in 30 days makes me feel like a winner.

This month I've had people in several of my writing groups say they'd like to try but they don't quite know how to get ready for NaNoWriMo.  The challenge of sitting down and writing 50,000 words seems overwhelming. It doesn't have to be.  Here are some pointers for you if you want to participate in NaNoWriMo:

1. Set up a writing schedule.  Winning at NaNoWriMo means being disciplined and getting the writing done.  If you have certain hours set aside for it, that is the most effective. When I was working regularly, I used to write first thing in the morning -- from 6 until 7am.  I know I am much more able to get things done that early in the day, so I plan on writing first thing in the morning. After retiring I also found that from 3 to 5 in the afternoon was a good period of time for my creative juices so I generally set aside those hours for my writing.  Winning at this requires around 1500 to 2000 words a day, but it can be done.  Some days I might find myself writing well belong those 3 hours I was setting aside.

2. Have at least a  brief idea of the book you want to write--maybe the beginning and ending.  You might also want to do a regular plot outline.  I don't usually write with an outline so if you don't have one, I say don't worry.  Let your characters and their circumstances take you where you want to go. I've had books and characters all outlined and ready and then discovered once I started writing, that wasn't at all what I wanted to do. I changed things as I went along.

3. Know your characters.  This can be critical. Like the outline they can be changed or developed as you are writing, but you don't want to start the first day without even an idea of the characters. You'll spend all day thinking about it. Have a few details of your characters and who they are before you start.

Okay, we're halfway through the ideas here and are you worried about getting stuck?  Let's finish with some thoughts on what to do if we get stuck.

4.  Re-read your earlier pages.  See what scenes you might want to include as a result of what you've already written.  Spending a couple of hours the previous night or before you start writing again seeing what you have can get you back into the mood to get going again.

5.  Write scenes you want to write or know are necessary for the book. Yes, I know this totally destroys things for those who need to write the story straight through from beginning to end, but sometimes it can help to jump ahead or go back and write a necessary scene.  What you don't want to do is to get stuck rewriting the same scene.  You can fix it later, but don't let fear of just one scene stop you from moving on. Keep plugging away.

Finally, banish that editor to the closet for the month. Don't worry about fixing everything now. You can always fix a manuscript later, but you can't edit what you haven't written. 

Have fun, let your creative juices flow and for one month, just WRITE!

Good luck. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

5 Tips to Re-energizing Your Writing

It happens to all of us. We've been working long, hard hours with our writing and we think we'll step back for a few days and take some time off.  And then that "few days" becomes a week, and then a few weeks.  Or we come back to work and find we can't sit still for long. Pretty soon the work that began last week actually began two weeks ago or a month ago, and that goal to finish grows farther and farther away.  We all need some down time, but then how do we get re-energized to get back to work. I don't know how many times I've heard writers say they just can't seem to get re-motivated once they've taken a break. When that happens to me I sometimes have to force myself to get going again.

1. Re-read Your Last Pages -- This is always a good way to get back on the ball and get excited about your story again. Look for problem areas that might have been slowing the story down that made the work seem like such a drudge in the first place.  Some writers will re-read their work every day, and that can also be a good way to keep going.
2.  Try Writing Some Place Else -- Sometimes your desk is the problem. Maybe it's a mess or maybe you just need a change in scenery.  Try to work at a coffee shop or if you don't like all that noise, there is always the library where you can have peace and quiet.
3. Try Doing Research --  This can be good if you know you need a break but you also have information you know you need for the story. Yes, you can get the information online, but get out of the house. Instead of reading about the 19th century, visit a museum where you can see actual articles or clothing from the period.  One caveat here -- don't get so wound up in your research it becomes another excuse for not writing.
4.  Try a New Time to Write -- Last weekend I had a reader ask me when my best time for writing was. It has been in the early morning for years, but that was when I had a daily job to get to. I would write from 6 to 8 and then get ready for work. While I still often write early in the morning, I also have found that late in the afternoon is a good time for me to write too, so sometimes I let my writing go until then.
5. Try a Retreat -- Getting away from it all to write can be a real blessing. It is a great way to get a story going, to get a story plotted or to totally  immerse yourself in your story world. I've done personal retreats where I've locked myself in a hotel room and worked to finish a story, or just gone away for a weekend and written. I've also gone to writers' retreats and I heartily recommend them. Next month I will be going to one in Denver -- Danica Favorite's "Nourishing the Writer's Spirit Retreat" and I'm really looking forward to the experience.  It's a chance to talk to other writers and work on my story as well as get come creative ideas.  If you'd like more information, please visit: .
There is still time to sign up! Good luck with getting re-energized!

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