Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Midweek NaNo Post

If you haven't begun writing your NaNoWriMo novel yet, don't beat yourself up over it. I mean it. You've still got twenty-eight days left, and while I don't recommend waiting until the twenty-seventh to start your novel, coming out of the gate a little late may be your subconscious's way of giving you a little more time to get your head in the right place.

Most writers do something to align our creative selves and prep for the story journey. We have rituals and warm-ups and self-motivational habits that we refine and hone to get the maximum benefits. Writing a novel can be like running a mental marathon, so it makes sense to warm-up right before the race (and be sure to double-knot our lucky sneakers.)

Mental writing preparation doesn't have to be all about the work. Putting together my novel notebook and writing a synopsis are two of my pre-novel rituals, but they're no more important than my daily thirty-minute morning meditations or picking out the right socks to wear each morning (green, blue or black with no obvious patterns.) Your choice of prep do doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you; the important thing is that it works.

If you feel like you're stuck in a writing rut, you might consider mixing things up a bit. If possible, trying changing things like where you write, the time of day or night you write, or alter the length of your writing sessions. If your empty word counter is bugging the hell out of you, get rid of it. The internet can be a huge distraction as well as a source of endless temptations that can and will derail your writing, so try unplugging for a day or two. Don't worry, Twitter will still be there when you get back.

Reading while you're writing a novel can also be a tricky business. I am not an advocate of reading your favorite author(s) books when you're writing because of the tendency to compare your writing with theirs as well as the temptation to (consciously or unconsciously) lift things from their work. Aside from what research I need to reference, I tend to stick to nonfiction books that are entirely unrelated to what I'm working on (today's TBR stack is Quilts en Provence, The Pirate's Primer and Dungeon, Fire & Sword.) I also stock up on cooking, architectural and archaeological magazines for writing break times. P.S. If you don't agree with me, and find reading your favorite authors doesn't mess with your own work, go for it. In all things writing, do what works for you.

If you know the only thing keeping you from your story is self doubt and/or fear of failure, I invite you to join the No Expectations Club. We don't charge dues because as writers we've been informed -- repeatedly -- that we suck, we can't write, and we'll never produce a bestseller, interest a single reader or attain even a tiny crumb of that mythical fame and fortune that has been bestowed on far better writers. Naturally we won't; we're serious losers.

In fact, everything we write is probably going to be utter garbage that should be used only to publicly humiliate us, or line kitty litter boxes, or be burned along with our effigies at the next BEA. Sad, but true. So come on, say the club's motto with me: We're totally worthless, no one cares about us, and we know it. See, once you join the club and accept our charter, you can write whatever you want. No expectations = complete freedom.

I've made this novel journey almost a hundred times now, taken the same roads, moved at the same speed, and followed the same lines. Even when I make stops in the same places, not once has it ever been the same trip. It's always different. No matter how carefully I plan, I will never really know what's around the next page corner. That won't stop me from writing, because a big part of this is discovering what's waiting for me to find it.

So how are you guys doing with NaNo?


  1. I'm stumbling along at a slightly better than minimum pace but not where I'd hoped to be. Trouble is because I changed projects at the last second, I don't have enough scenes to scope out my plans and it's making me less progress oriented. At some point I'm going to give up and take a couple days to try and outline. I'd forgotten how frustrating writing without one is...there's a reason I went from taking 6+months to finish a novel to 1-3.

    Hope your words are pouring from your mind as fast as you can capture them.

  2. Oh your posts bring me such comfort! :) I haven't even reached 1K yet, but this is a new genre adventure for me this month. Somehow, what I thought would be my normal stories is turning into a romance. I don't know how to write ROMANCE!!! :)

    At any rate, I'm still plugging away and can't wait to see what develops as I forge ahead in this new venture. :)

  3. I'm just over half-way, but only a quarter into the book.

    I'm not sure what's going wrong, but it all feels slightly... off. I think there's a bit of miscommunication between what's going on in my head and what's going down on the keyboard.

    Fortunately, I've beaten off the 'just have a wee peek at what you've already written and do it again' gnome. He's booted until December, or January and he's currently staying with the 'You need to get rid of the passive sentences' fairy.

  4. I haven't started yet, and this post has made me feel a lot better about that!

    I'm finishing up page proofs on my first novel, but will hopefully be diving back into the sequel tomorrow - or Friday at the latest.


  5. I love the No Expectations Club.

  6. Anonymous9:59 AM

    I am opting out of NaNoWriMo this month b/c I'm editing last year's novel. I haven't decided which job is harder. What do I do when I get stuck: go for a walk, stretch, wash the dishes, bake bread, go to the library, and, yes, surf the internet. The biggest challenge is not to let those distractions get in the way when you could otherwise be writing. (or editing...)
    good luck nanowrimo-ers!

  7. I love the No Expectations Club, too.

    My Nano has about 121 words in it right now because I've been a tad distracted with agent-hunting, and since as of yesterday I am done agent-hunting, with a fabulous agent to show for it, I'll have to start back into the old mss for revisions (YAY!) so I don't think I'll be adding too much more, but we'll see how far I get till the letter comes. :)

  8. Day 1 = great. Just a bit more than my daily goal. Yes, I used a spreadsheet to calculate roughly where I "should" be, how much left, % complete, words left to complete. What can I say, I'm an engineer (literally).

    Day 2 = nada. Not a single word. Too many real-life distractions (if you can call things like the day job and children "distractions").

    Day 3 = more real life. Low probability of getting to a keyboard where I'm allowed to write for pleasure.

    Luckily, I've done this before and I know I can make up time on other days.

  9. I attended World Fantasy for the first time (Oct 28-31). It was Great, but Nov 1-2 were me sitting on the couch drooling and trying to remember how to function. I had a good writing session this morning on my WIP, though, so I hope to begin on my NaNo tonight.

    This will be an interesting year, as it's the first time I'm trying two projects concurrently. My WIP is 67K written, dark, and in present tense. I plan to put in an hour on it every morning, do things in the afternoon that will shift gears in my brain, and then write a sunny, elfy NaNo in the evenings.

    We'll see how it goes. Any suggestions on juggling two projects?

  10. While it is only day three, I am cautiously optimistic. I chose to write 30 short stories instead of a novel because that is what the writer in me wants right now, and I have enough unfinished novels cluttering up my laptop. I don't need another yet. I am finding that forcing myself to write a complete short story each day is also helping me journey into areas I am not usually comfortable writing in. Because I don't have the time to question whether or not I have the ability to plausibly get into the head of a psycho who also happens to be a killer. . . perhaps serial. . . I just do it. I can doubt my abilities in December when I go to revise it. For right now, I am loving the new territory I am venturing into with my short stories. We'll see how I'm feeling about things in another week. . .

    Happy writing, all!


  11. Liz B5:49 PM

    I've only been able to crank out about 1500 words so far. I've been busy, but I hope to be able to work more in the coming weeks. I'm actually happy that I've managed to get any of it done with how much I've had to do. Thanks for reminding me that I have time and shouldn't be too worried yet. I actually felt a weight lift off of me when I read that.

  12. I am a no expectation. *sigh* I could whine, but I won't. I'm at 500 or so words and fit the No Expectations club definition To A Tee!

  13. Amity wrote: We'll see how it goes. Any suggestions on juggling two projects?

    If you find your morning/evening switch approach isn't working for you, you might try dividing up the week and alternating days on your projects (i.e. Project A on Monday, Project B on Tuesday, Project A on Wednesday, etc.) That's how I manage working on up to four novels at the same time, and I've found having a night to sleep before I shift story gears seems to help me make a smoother transition.

    Another trick of mine is to set a mood for each particular project. I put together a CD of story-inspiring songs and listen to it in the morning on the day I'm working on that particular book. I also burn different scented candles in my writing space to create an atmosphere for each story (I know how weird that may sound but scent is a big trigger for my imagination.) Sometimes I'll switch the type of tea I drink in the morning, or wear a particular color T-shirt, too. Back whenever I was working on a StarDoc novel, I'd always wear my old surgical scrubs to write in to get back into the medical mindset. Seems like another silly thing to do, but it really got me into the correct gear. :)

  14. DiDi wrote: I chose to write 30 short stories instead of a novel because that is what the writer in me wants right now, and I have enough unfinished novels cluttering up my laptop.

    What a great idea -- and whew, what a serious writing challenge. I've found short stories can be even more demanding than a novel, but there's something really exhilarating about being able to wrap up one in a day or two versus six months to a year. Good luck with yours, DiDi.

  15. Anonymous11:21 PM

    This is novel number eight for this year's Nano and I still wonder what I'm doing. Will I ever get this writing thing down pat? :-)

    Good luck to us all with our writing.

    Ron B

  16. I'm not an official NaNo participant, because I don't want to give up on my current WIP. However, I decided to use the opportunity to start a new project in November and see how it goes.

    My new November project currently stands at 1751 words. Total wordcount for the month is 3530 words.

  17. I currently have 5,012 words written of the Nano novel. The first day was horribly difficult -I didn't research enough and did a huge no-no by winging something I'll have to fix later- but day two went pretty smoothly. Today was another bad day and instead of it only taking me an hour to finish my scene it took more like three. Very frustrating. But at least the words are coming. I wish I had planned this novel more. I have most of my scenes yes, but when it comes to research...epic fail. And I wonder how realistic most of the stuff I'm writing really is...would a character act this way and so on. Ugh.

    But I keep telling myself this will all be worth it someday, like in December. Then I'll have two projects to revise instead of one and I can switch between them whenever I want.

    I'm not particularly proud of anything I've written. Most of it feels like garbage at this point. Is this normal? Because for all the garbage...there is points of pure brilliance that I just love. This is the novel of my heart. I am glad to be writing it. But at the same time I feel like I will never be able to write it the way it deserves to be written. Does that make sense?

    I'm hoping it will get better soon...

  18. Hugs, Tori. I finally broke down last night and stopped trying for forward motion. Instead, I wrote the initial synopsis I require of myself before starting a project...usually. Not too surprising, the story had gone in a different direction once it gelled which is why the writing was so difficult. I'm hoping I can keep going with just that synopsis and outlining as I go rather than having to stop dead again and do the second preferred step before I start writing :p.

  19. I'm so excited - I finally managed to finish a tough project I've been working on off and on all year! Just one of those really emotional stories that took a huge toll the longer I worked on it.

    Of course I'm nowhere near 50K so it's a good thing I have several other projects lined up. My biggest battle now will be defeating the desire to lay back and bask in the glow of "the end" and push forward in another project. Ironically, it's a short novella (est. 20K), so I'll have another crash as soon as I finish it!

  20. I wrote 10k on the first day as I had a day off, really. 5k the next day and the rest 5k spread in the past days.
    I am enjoying nano, but it worrying, the owrd count bugs me, but now that
    I have supoort, I can't say that I'm that worried, as I could be, but I still truly am.


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