On the Eve of NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo starts in 4 hours where I am. It has been a hard-fought month of prep for me. For one thing, I was just getting myself back to a place where I could work on my writing regularly again at the beginning of the month. I got back into the swing of posting every day to hold myself accountable to doing some form of writing work each day.

There were 3 main things I wanted to do before November came:
1. Clean my main writing space.
2. Post a synopsis for my novel, along with 2-3 other posts about NaNo, writing in general, and my other novels.
3. Make a solid outline for my NaNoNovel.

Then I got sick. And let’s see how my plans worked out?

1. I did get this done, just today. Initially, my husband and I planned to clean more around my writing space too, but today, he said, “What do you want done, bare minimum?” So now my work desk is cleaned off, so I can put aside work things and focus on writing more easily, and I have even organized various papers, notebooks, and scrapbooking things into a filing cabinet that I’ve had for a while, but was too lazy to do much with.

2. This post is a compromise for me…I had more detail I wanted to share about things I learned during my prep time this month, but some of it has actually sort of been watered down in my mind by snags that came after the exciting moments. I know that probably doesn’t make sense, but that’s okay. Once I get past the first few scary days of November, and hopefully past this flu (I’m just guessing it’s the flu, but it tracks), I will still post some of the other things I wanted to share, but there’s one that will probably never be written (titled “Planners are Cheaters,” by the way).

3. And then there’s my NaNoNovel…The novel I’ve planned to write next month will delve into the mind of someone more broken and dark than any characters I’ve written about so far.  It’s not the first time I’ve planned to write something out of my comfort zone. Two years ago, I wrote 2 murder-mystery themed stories, which was a first for me. Last year, I wrote about the time my dad spent in the hospital for 3 weeks in September of that year. Writing like that was very different for me.

However, the shape and form of this novel has changed pretty drastically about 100 times since I started planning it 3 weeks ago. I have been concerned for most of those 3 weeks that I won’t be ready in time. I don’t need a long, detailed outline, sheets on every character, note cards, or any other such degree of planning. But I wasn’t even sure I would have a broad outline, and I can’t stress this enough–I am not a pantser. (I’ve tried.)

Fortunately, just yesterday, I finished a 2-page, handwritten outline. When I say “finished”…well, I got as far as I could without knowing where the writing will take me. I often (not always, but often) will write 2/3 of an outline, and then start writing, because I’m not even sure what is going to happen next, but I have good reason to believe that the actual writing will bring out the rest. This outline covers about half, maybe more, of the story. The other half(ish) of the story has a fairly solid timeline to help me know that broad plot points.

I’ve decided that I can’t post a synopsis for my story though, at least not more than the early one I already did. The story is still too much of a mystery to me, so much that I can’t even say what the true “main story” is going to be until I write it. This one’s going to be a fun one to edit, I think…

Okay, now looking ahead to tonight, and the rest of the month, I have two key things I want to say:
1. I will be starting right at midnight. I do that every year, and whether I write 500 words or 3000 words, anything I get done before going to bed is a huge mental jump start on the month!

2. I will blog every day about my experience doing NaNoWriMo. This will be the third year I’ve done this, since starting my blog (2014 and 2015). There may be those who are curious about how others get through the month (I know I am). I have also found that I really enjoy being able to look back in later years and read about my progress through the month. And since I already post here every day that I got any writing work done, as a way of staying accountable, it’s not much of a stretch.

I have not yet heard for sure whether or not we will have new NaNoToons this year, but if so, I will share those every day. (If not, maybe I’ll go back and share them from an earlier year!) I will also post episodes from the NaNoMusical throughout the month, because I still love it to pieces and can’t not try to get others to love it too!

I wish my fellow Wrimos well, and hope to hear from some of you during the month!

Are you ready for NaNo to begin? Do you plan to do the midnight sprint tonight?

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Daily Writing Check-in: October 30, 2017

Words/Time: approx. 45 minutes of NaNoPrep

I did manage to work on my outline for my NaNoNovel some, though I was still sick today. I think I have a decent start on the main storyline, and the “letters” storyline I think is already sort of outlined in the timeline. So I’m getting close. I’m hyper-aware of the fact that at this time tomorrow, I will be preparing to start the midnight sprint, and I still feel lousy.

My husband suggested I take the first few days of the month off, but I can’t quite explain to him why that’s not an option. I don’t expect to rocket ahead like I have in previous years, but I don’t think I can just not write when November 1st comes.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

A Monday Moment: The Kidnapping

When I started doing these Monday Moment posts, I vowed to post something I’d written in the last week, and that if I hadn’t written anything new by Sunday or Monday, well, I’d just have to get to writing.

However, I’ve written a fair bit over the last week…it’s just all too spoiler-filled, or too confusing if you don’t know a lot of backstory. Since I’ve been sick, I had no desire to push myself to write something else. It’s all I can do to keep moving forward on NaNoPrep.

I wrote this about 2 years ago. I did already post it on my blog back then, in a regular daily check-in post, because I liked it. (This was before I started my Monday series.) So I’m sharing it again now as an official Monday Moment. Prompt used is at the bottom.


Why should they get to have such an extravagant life while I have to wait until I’m 21 to see any of their money? I can’t believe they cut me off, just because I lost a little of their money. I mean, what’s $10,000 to people who have millions?

This will show them. I can’t believe how easy this is going to be. I know they’re not happy with me right now, but they still love me. They’ll pay anything we ask to make sure I’m safe.

I didn’t think those guys were really going to hit me. I thought we’d use some kind of make-up or something. Or fake blood like they use in movies. Man, that really hurt. But it’s okay. Once we get the million from my parents, I can get myself fixed up. The pain is so going to be worth it.

Why am I tied up? Why did I agree to this? Who said this was supposed to be uncomfortable? I just wanted to take some pictures and go stay in a motel. That girl they brought in really knows how to convince me to do things. Stupid things. First they beat me up, and then they left me here, tied up. Man, I’m hungry.

I’m starting to think that the guys I hired to fake this with me aren’t faking. Who would have thought that finding some guys in an alley would have led to this? I figured they’d be so happy to make so much money without having to do much, they’d go along with whatever I said. I’m so hungry, I would eat a rat right now. Hey…what’s that moving over in the corner?

I’m pretty sure…I’m going to die here. I haven’t seen anyone since they took the picture they were supposed to use as proof of life. The girl said she’d be back with food and left. I’ve been tied to this chair for two days now. I…I think I’ll just sleep now. Maybe it’ll make the end easier…

…hunh? What’s that bright light? Where am I going? Is this the end? Oh, there’s my mom. She looks mad. Why is she mad at me? I’m the one who was tied to a chair and left to starve to death. Wait, there’s that girl…what’s she doing here? Is she handcuffed? Oh, my wrists are finally free. Now I can get out of this chair and–

Well, moving didn’t really work. I seem to be at the mercy of these people who are lifting me onto a bed. I suppose I’ll have to go to the hospital and be checked out before I can go home. I wonder where my dad is, why he’s not here with Mom. Maybe he was too busy to come. Or he’s even angrier than Mom is. They must know what I did.

Oh, there’s Dad. Wait, why is he in handcuffs? What’s going on?


Prompt used: Staging a fake kidnapping to get money out of your rich parents

Daily Writing Check-in: October 29, 2017

Words/Time: 308 words, and approx. 45 minutes of NaNoPrep

I did some writing practice with a prompt, in the hopes of drumming up something for tomorrow’s Monday Moment. It turned out to be a little too cryptic to share, but incredibly interesting to me for a backstory of another character who has always been a bit of a mystery to me (his past has been…not so much his present).

I also started from scratch once again on trying to outline my NaNoNovel. I got through about a page, and then had no idea where to go next. Even though I have made some amazing and insightful strides with part of this story, the other part is still such a blank in my mind. And the part that is shaping up is not nearly enough to be a stand-alone story.

I’m still shaking off some sickness, and need to be back to work tomorrow. My mind has been fuzzy for 3 days, so that most likely has something to do with my difficulty in figuring this story out (at least I hope so). It just seems like every time I think I figure something out, more questions come up. I can’t even say this is the most unprepared for NaNoWriMo I’ve ever felt, but I still don’t like it.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 28, 2017

Words/Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes of NaNoPrep of a sort

I’m still trying to get a handle on what the main plot line for my NaNoNovel is going to be, after realizing that what I thought would be the main plot line is now going to be told in letters, and wouldn’t work as well as the main plot. So a sub-plot that has been in the back of my mind this whole time needs to step up, and it’s being resistant. I worked on sorting that out today for almost 2 hours, but I’m not sure I got anywhere. It’s going to be an interesting next 3 days as we careen towards November 1st, and I feel unprepared. (I’m still trying to convince the main character that he should be the main character!)


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 27, 2017

Words/Time: 188 words of writing practice

I’ve been sick, but that’s only half the reason I only did some writing practice today. My husband and I have been binge-watching Stranger Things season 2, which because of sickness and kids has taken us all day. I have high hopes for a lot of time to work on NaNoPrep tomorrow. (I’m pretty happy I at least did some writing, tbh, even though it wasn’t directly related to my NaNoNovel.)


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

My NaNo Survival Kit

I figured with NaNoWriMo drawing ever closer, I’d share my own list of items that I’m collecting for my November survival kit. Some are ready to go, some I still need to get ready.

1. Laptop – The laptop itself is ready; in fact, I have a new one this year. It’s a work laptop, which comes home with me, and it’s very nice. The keyboard is a little frustrating though. I can’t say exactly why, but when I type my normal speed, I end up skipping letters way more often than I do on my desktop.

My writing space around my laptop is what I still need to work on. It’s piled high with papers and notebooks, related to both work and writing. I have a wooden filing cabinet near my desk that I plan to use to start organizing work papers, and go from there. That’s on my to-do list for the rest of October

2. Outline – I keep starting on this, and keep running into questions. I may need to stop worrying so much about a physical outline, and at least think through all of the broad points (it helps that I do have a timeline with key events listed out) to make sure there aren’t any more huge questions that need answered now, while I have more time. And this is just one plot thread I’ve been trying to outline. There will be another one, that I just realized yesterday might actually be a bigger thread than I thought, that I haven’t even started thinking about yet. So yeah, lots of work left to do on this, and I have how many days left?

3. Timeline
timeline Vin
I may not have an outline yet, but, as I mentioned, I do have a timeline. Because my 2017 NaNoNovel encompasses several other books, with some intertwining characters and plot points, I had to get this timeline set up a long time ago. Events have moved around a lot since then, even a lot just in the last couple of weeks, but I think it’s set now. And if I don’t end up with much of an outline, this will at least be something.

4. Notebook, pencil, & eraser

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And believe me, I has all the notebooks!

I still love the tactile feeling of writing by hand. I don’t do it much during NaNo, because it’s just…so…slow. But I always have at least one notebook with me when I leave the house during November, in case I have a chance to write, or even just a stray idea to jot down.

4-b. Thinkink Pen
fidget pen
The pen is metal and bendable, and comes with attachments that are either magnetic, or at least metal. It’s a fidget pen. I’ve noticed a tendency to take apart mechanical pencils when I’m in a meeting, or when I’m writing and have to stop to think. I’ve broken more than my share of pencils that way. This thing has been great!

5. Leftover Halloween candy & other snacks – It’s become a tradition for my husband and me to go out on the day after a major candy holiday (mostly Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter) and get a few bags full at half-off. It’s really the only times we buy candy, and then we split it between the 4 of us in our family, and make it last as long as we can. I tend to stress eat when I’m writing. It’s not a good habit, but one I can’t seem to shake during NaNo.

6. Full stock of coffee – For me, this is about more than the caffeine. I enjoy coffee, cappuccino, or hot chocolate when I’m settling in for my writing time simply for the taste. And the warmth, since it tends to be cold here during November.

7. Thumb drive – Somewhere I have a thumb drive with my writing backed up on it. It’s probably 2 years out of date, since there’s no way I was organized enough to back anything up during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ll have to dig it out, catch it up, and then use it to store my writing on. I tend to go back and forth between my laptop and desktop, because the laptop is upstairs in my bedroom where it’s quiet, but sometimes it’s nice to be at my desktop–more comfortable, amongst the people (downsides there, of course), and usually warmer.

8. AlphaSmart Neo

I did an entire blog post on this already, so I won’t go into much detail here. This will be my first NaNo with it, and I am really looking forward to it. I’ve already gotten quite a bit of use out of it during prep time. In fact, after using it for 3 days to “interview” one of my main characters as a way to break through some blocks, I had transferred the writing to my computer, and tried to finish it there. But it just wasn’t the same, and I couldn’t quite focus. This thing may transform the way I do NaNoWriMo. Or it may just be a fun toy. (Though if nothing else, it will definitely come in incredibly useful for writing away from the house.) Either way, I’m hooked!

What’s in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Are you prepared for November 1st?

Daily Writing Check-in: October 26, 2017

Words/Time: 136 words of writing practice

During the last few weeks as NaNoWriMo approaches, I get to my evening writing time and work on NaNoPrep right up until midnight, when I stop and blog about how much I got done. I’m calling it quits 40 minutes before midnight…and I haven’t done any actual prep. And the 136 words were written last night, after midnight, so I count them for today.

I started coming down sick today. My daughter has been sick for a few weeks (mostly shook it, but still has a sore throat), and my husband has been sick for 4 days, so apparently now it’s my turn. I am having some serious joint aches, along with sore throat, and my brain is a bit muddled. Prep will not happen today, and most likely I’ll feel even worse tomorrow. I hope that’s all, though, because I do still need to do a good amount of prep work, and (when I’m not medicated as I am now), my fingers hurt too much to type.

The 136 words, though, were a pretty big deal, so that’s something. I wrote them starting with a writing prompt from this site. The word I used was “correspondence.” I had recently wondered if my protagonist could write a letter to his favorite person (a very wise man) right before the climax, and if that could make the climax better. I hadn’t decided 100% to do that, though, so I decided to see what that letter would look like.

By the time I’d reached the end, I had another sudden moment of realization (I’ve been having those a lot while working out this story, and it’s incredible!). What if the protagonist has been writing letters to this wise old man the whole story?

See, without getting into too much detail, because I want to go lie down, way back in the day, I had thought this story would be told through journal entries by Vin (who is currently the protagonist). I figured other things would have to be mixed in there too, a sub-plot that was more normal prose, but it made sense. But when I started outlining, I forgot (or maybe just figured I didn’t need to do it that way). I got through a page of broad outline and realized it was just too much detail. Not just in my outline, but it would be too much detail in the story. Way too much happens in this story to tell it all, but that’s okay, because a lot of it has already been told in other stories. So why rehash it, just because it’s a different point of view?

So I went back to the journal entries idea, and it started to feel better again. But then this morning, I thought…letters to the wise old man, instead of journal entries, and suddenly–it felt great!

There’s just one problem though…I don’t think he can be the protagonist anymore. These letters are going to be more introspective than anything exciting or action-y, and I don’t want the story to drag. So I think that sub-plot I mentioned above will need to actually be the “main plot,” with these letters being every 2nd or 3rd chapter.  I have no idea about the flow yet, but something like that maybe.

And the biggest issue with that now is that I’ve spent the last several weeks getting to know Vin, which is totally fine and necessary. But I have not outlined the other plot at all. At all. I know very broad strokes about what happens, but no clue at all what fills between those. And I can’t stress this enough–I am not a pantser. I don’t need a super-detailed outline, but I need a little more than what I know.

And now I’m sick.

I will take advantage of every medicated few hours where my fingers don’t hurt to try to find this plot…well, except when I’m binge-watching Stranger Things with my husband tomorrow. In that way, and that way only, maybe this is a good time to be sick. (Unless I get really sick and can’t even enjoy the show.)

Seriously, this post is crazy long for how little work I did, and the fact that I’m achey and ready to lie down. I think I got an adrenaline shot remembering my excitement this morning. It’s going away now. Time for bed.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 25, 2017

Words/Time: 1.5 hours of NaNoPrep

So I finally went back to my outline for my NaNoNovel, “Vin.” I changed a few things that were decided during my recent musings, made it through a few more plot points, and then I was struck with a sudden thought. It was one of those, “This is a plan I had years ago, it’s been set in stone, but now suddenly, it makes perfect sense to change it a bit to be connected to this story!” moments. I’m sure you’ve had them too. But, once again, it wasn’t just a definite yes. There were questions, reasons that it might not work.

So now that I have realized that talking directly to Vin can produce such clarity, I went right to him. I may have yelled at him a bit for lying to me yesterday (because this new idea went directly against something he said yesterday). But we were cool again by the end. So that killed an hour and a half, but honestly, I’m having a lot of fun with this type of prep work.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Tips for NaNoWriMo, Part 5

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In 2015, I wrote a series of posts about NaNoWriMo, covering things like tips for prep time, help in the actual prep work, tips for November, and even some of my favorite writing tools.

Earlier this month, I picked out some of my favorite NaNoPrep tips and boiled them down into a single post, and then I promised a post with tips about the actual writing. However, this time, I don’t want to re-hash my old tips, since I do actually have a few more to add to the list.

I will at least list the headers from 2 posts with tips about how to survive–and thrive–during NaNoWriMo, and suggest that if you want to read the details about any of them, you click the links that will take you to the two posts in which I first gave these tips:

Post 1
Break up the words.
Write in sprints.
Reward yourself.
Stay hydrated.
Back up your work.
Limit your time on the forums (and other online activities).
Don’t expect too much.

Post 2
DO NOT EDIT. (I can never stress this one enough)
Don’t go back and read.
Use placeholder words.
Take notes of things to fix later.
Stop in the middle of a scene.
Don’t be afraid to go off-script.
Dirty tricks to pad your word count (are not always a good idea).

Now to add a few more to those:

1. Don’t stop at 1667.
Sometimes my tips are a little hypocritical, but hear me out. If you reach the daily goal (1667 if you’re going the traditional route), but you still have some time left during whatever writing time you’ve carved out for yourself, don’t stop. Keep going until you have to make supper, go to bed, go to work, or whatever your end cap is. Those extra words will most likely be needed later in the month, and even if they’re not, hitting 50k early can be a lot of fun! Or who knows, maybe you’ll end up writing more than 50k this month!

In a similar vein, if you do write extra one day, don’t let that cause you to stop short the next day. I try to take each day as its own word count. No matter what my total is, I try to write 1667 each day (unless I’m behind, then I try to write more). Again, if you can build up a buffer, it will very likely come in handy later.

2. Plan your writing days & daily word counts.
Your daily goal does not have to be 1667 words. You don’t have to write every single day. Yes, that’s part of the benefit–using NaNo to build a daily writing habit. But for some people, despite all of the “rules” out there stating to write every day (yes, I have a series with that title, but I definitely don’t call it a rule, and…I definitely can’t always do that myself), it’s just not an option. So before November starts, figure out what days you don’t think you’ll be able to write. Are Saturdays always full of family time? Does a full work week always leave you drained, so you know you won’t write on Fridays? Do you want to try to write more on weekends, and less during the week?

Whatever your days off need to be, or even your overall pattern of writing, do the math and alter your daily word count. Print out a calendar and have those daily goals where you can see them. Make the month work for you.

3. Don’t panic if you get behind.
If you get off-track, don’t panic and think that means you have to write double for a few days to catch up. Figure out how many total words you have left, and divide that out by how many days there are left. That will up your daily amount by a little every day, rather than a lot for a few days. (If you keep your word count updated on the NaNo site, it will do this math for you.)

4. Check your official word count.
You can update your word count on the NaNo site by typing the number into the field at the top of the page. I would suggest that every so often, you actually go ahead and check your official word count. I do this at the end of every day, because if I’m 100 words lower than I’d thought, I want to know as soon as possible. The reason for this is that different word processors count words differently, and the NaNo site counts them differently than some of those word processors. By the end of the month, you could be even up to a thousand or more words off, and if you’re just barely getting to 50k, you don’t want to suddenly find out at 11:50 pm on Nov. 30 that you’re 1000 words shy. So just copy & paste your whole novel into the field that comes up when you click on “Check my official word count” under the “update” button.

5. Find helpful ways to procrastinate.
Is there such a thing? My favorite example is the NaNoMusical. Created by WETangent in 2012, it is a brilliant 6-part video series with themes and situations familiar to any Wrimo. The music is catchy and fun, and…well, you should watch it. Watch the first episode, and if you enjoy it, use the rest of the episodes as rewards for a certain amount of words written.

By the end, you'll either want to punch Rick or love him to pieces!

“It’s November 1st, thousands of people madly writing….I hope you’re up for crazy, ’cause NaNoWriMo has begun!”

There are many other helpful ways to procrastinate though. Go for a walk, read something pointless, take a nap (because odds are you could use the sleep)…you probably have your own ideas. The point is something that is light-hearted and gets your mind off of that novel that might be stressing you out.

6. Don’t give up.
That is probably the most important thing I can tell you. Whether you’re writing for fun, a creative outlet, to relieve stress, or to have a finished project to do more with, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful event and can be a lot of fun. It doesn’t have to be stressful, but I know it can be to some. The stakes aren’t exactly high, and losing is not the end of the world. You shouldn’t dread your writing time, or worry about how badly your writing is going.

If you find your story is going a completely different route than you’d expect, just follow it and see what happens. Maybe a side character is becoming more interesting to you. Give them all the time they need. Your main story will still be there later. If your words are lagging so badly, you don’t see how you could get back on track, make a new track! Set a personal goal of less words, or plan to keep going after November (though frankly, that is easier said than done). Come back in April or July for Camp NaNoWriMo.  Just don’t quit.

I had more new tips than I thought! And there are more out there floating around on the internet! In fact, here’s one just on NaNo Etiquette! The most important tip, though, is that when November 1st comes…just write.

We’re in the last week of NaNoPrep now, and this pretty much sums up how I’m feeling:

Jen

If you don’t know about NaNoToons, you’re missing out!

What about you? Are you ready for November 1st? Are you new to NaNoWriMo, or do you have tips of your own you can share?