RSS Feed

Posts Tagged ‘NaNoWriMo’

  1. Top Ten Tips to Survive NaNoWriMo

    October 26, 2014 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    If you peek behind the writer’s curtain on November 1st, you’ll see novelists and novelist-wannabes around the world plopping down in front of their writing devices to begin the tortuous task of writing a 50,000-world novel in thirty days. This amounts to 1,667 words per day, or approximately seven double-spaced pages.

    Why do they do this?

    Because of the challenge.

    Because they are writers.

    Because it’s National Novel Writing Month. Otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.

    I have participated in this excruciating yet exhilarating task four times. I have “won” three times. To “win” means to write at least 50,000 words by November 30, email it to NaNoWriMo headquarters before the stroke of midnight, and receive in return a nifty graphic that flashes “YOU’RE A WINNER!” in bold letters on your computer screen.

    For this, I sacrificed  good posture, balanced meals, social activity, sleep, and any semblance of life beyond the day job and the writing of my novel.

    Or rather, novella.

    Let’s be honest. What you’ll end up with is less of a novel, and more of a work in progress.

    To be revised.

    And revised.

    And revised.

    Or stashed away in a cardboard box.

    Don’t let that stop you! On November 1, open your laptop, or set out your pen and pad, and get ready to embark on an amazing journey of your imagination.

    As a seasoned NaNoWriMo finalist, I offer ten tips to get you to “The End” that I learned from my experience.

    1. The inner editor must go. Send the persnickety one on a vacation. If he (mine is definitely a “he”) refuses to leave, then write before he wakes up. Write quickly, so he can’t keep up if he’s leaning over your shoulder emitting noxious fumes. Do not pay attention if he leaps out of the closet and yells, “plot flaw!,” or whispers “your writing stinks” in your ear when you’re sleeping. Just lock him up again.

    2. Ask family members to provide treats to keep you fueled. My mother sent a weekly care package of power bars, dried fruit, and trail mix in an old Jif Peanut Butter jar. The jar held a place of honor next to my laptop.

    3. Every word counts. If you misspell a word, do not backspace to correct it. If you write garbage, do not delete it. If you can’t think of the right word to use, type a stream of words, and if none of them work, type FILL IN LATER which is three more words to add to your daily quota. If you write a scene and think of a better way to write it, write it again immediately. You can quickly italicize the weak scene so you know to cut it later. Trust me…if you backspace, your novel will flatline. Keep the heart beating in the piece and power on.

    4. Everything you encounter, dream, overhear, or recall during the month of November is fodder for your story. The overweight man stepping out of an SUV will appear in the novel. You’ll notice the details: red sports cap, lumbering gate. The waitress with an attitude who serves you tuna salad for lunch will be your villain. You’ll wonder what drives people to behave that way. You’ll develop a novelist’s eye, a novelist’s mindset. You’ll gobble up details and turn them into a waking dream. It’s like making bean muck—opening the pantry and taking out a can of beans, a can of corn, a can of tomatoes, a carton of broth—whatever is on hand to fill the pot, adding a handful of cheese from the fridge. Sounds awful, but it all comes together in a weird way.

    5. You will find yourself, somewhere around week three, veering off your plotted course. Don’t beat yourself up. Even Frank Sinatra veered. I saw him perform live, back when he was alive. He sang the classic “My Way” by Paul Anka, and at one point, he went his way, and the orchestra went another. Ol’ Blue Eyes meandered ’round the stage while the orchestra played gamely on and Sinatra’s bodyguards flexed their muscles. Eventually, he found his way again. You will, too.

    6. Your characters will take over. You can rein them back in, or let them take the lead. I say go with the flow. It will lead you to unexpected rewards. Remember: you can fix anything in the rewrite.

    7. Ideas will come to you in the shower. You’ll turn on the faucet and ideas will pour out. My advice: don’t power down your computer until after your shower, so you can quickly capture these thoughts.

    8. Sitting for hours takes a physical toll. Be sure to get up now and then to stretch, squat, or walk around the block. Otherwise, when December 1st rolls around, you’ll be permanently hunched, blinking at the sun’s glare when you step outside.

    9. On the upside, all of this wordsmithing will improve your communication skills. Words will bubble up, and you’ll find yourself entertaining your coworkers, friends and family with stories, anecdotes and jokes. Milk it. You’ll be your boring self again come December. But you’ll be a novelist.

    10. On the final third of this marathon writing madness you will find your writer’s voice. It’s a beautiful thing. Honor it. Treasure it. And celebrate.


  2. The Resilience of the Writer’s Spirit

    October 19, 2014 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    Two weeks ago, I stumbled off the writing track. Way off track. Way, way, way off track. All the way to Truckee.

    My plan was to spend five days in Truckee, writing.

    But first I had to pack.

    I packed winter and summer clothes, because the nights are below forty and the days above seventy. I packed shampoo and conditioner and face wash and body soap and a blow dryer and floss and toothpaste, and I zipped down to Walgreen’s to buy a travel toothbrush. I packed flip flops and slippers and hiking boots and sneakers and a backpack and a beach chair and suntan lotion and gluten-free snacks. I packed a bag of books because I wanted plenty to choose from, and oh yeah…I packed my laptop.

    I stuffed all my baggage into the backseat of my Corolla and sped down the expressway to pick up my ol’ pal Dave, who stuffed his version of baggage–plus an ice chest the size of a train depot–into the trunk (and whatever available space remained in the back seat), and somehow we both squeezed into the front and off we went, the car sinking, to relax in the high Sierra.

    By the time we arrived, the Bickersons had arrived as well.

    You know the Bickersons. They bicker about everything. The Bickersons appear whenever you’re stressed or overworked, or you’ve spent too much time in your head or in front of a computer or packing. They hijacked our bodies and controlled our vocal chords and complained about the country music station on the car radio, and the wind blowing every last hair off our heads through the open window. They complained about the ringing in our ears and the stiffness in our hips from the long ride, and they complained about having to stop at Safeway to load up for the week.

    And unpack the car.

    Oh, the Bickersons made their presence known.

    The first thing I unpacked was my laptop. I brought it so I could work on my novel.

    Dave brought hiking gear so he could conquer the highest ridgeline.

    I set my laptop on the mile-long kitchen table in the two-story, three-bedroom pine and granite “cabin” where we were staying, plugged it in, and headed out to the deck. I plopped down in a wooden folding chair with my feet on the railing, looked out at the pines and yellow aspens and the dried mules ears, then closed my eyes under a brilliant blue Truckee sky and meditated while Dave sipped coffee and the Bickersons vacated.

    My laptop sat unopened on the piney table.

    The next day I dragged my beach chair from the trunk of the car and set it up at the edge of Donner Lake and contemplated the rugged granite mountain peaks. I thought about the survivors of the Donner party, near starvation, trudging over those peaks for thirty-three days through sixty feet of snow in spots, all the way to Johnson’s Ranch some one hundred miles away. I contemplated the resilience of the human spirit while visualizing my car crammed with the comforts of home.

    My laptop sat unopened on the knotty pine table.

    The morning after, Dave and I drove to North Lake Tahoe and hiked around Spooner Lake and talked to a geezer on a bike who had breezed down the Tahoe Rim Trail. We saw a lot of geezers on bikes. All of them were in better shape than…well…me. That afternoon, one of them passed Dave who was sweltering up a steep incline for an hour on a borrowed bicycle. At an overlook, Dave stopped to cool the sweat from his T-shirt, grumbling to a fellow biker how embarrassed he was that an old guy had passed him by. The other biker peered at him and said, “Didn’t I just pass you? I’m the old guy.”

    The resilience of the human spirit.

    What about the resilience of the writer’s spirit? Where are the granite peaks that we trudge over? Where are the steep climbs that we swelter up?

    They’re there. Oh, they’re there. I just wasn’t forging them. I was relaxing in the thin dry Truckee air, my nasal passages and lips cracking in the altitude.

    Those 50,000-word novellas we pound out in thirty days during National Novel Writing Month are the mountains.

    Those 1500 words we aim for in one hour are the steep inclines.

    That novel that we rewrite is the long uphill climb.

    They’re there.

    But sometimes we need to kick back in a beach chair and be a mere mortal in God’s cathedral.

    Takeaways this week:

    It’s okay to take a vacation from writing. The subconscious will continue working while you loaf.

    When the Bickersons arrive, it’s a clear sign you need some downtime.

    When the vacation is over, put that writer’s cap back on, pick a goal, set a timer, and power onward. You can do it. I can do it. We’re writers.