28 November 2008

NaNo Pep Talk: End of Week Four

We're coming to the end now.  Today is the last Friday of the month, and by midnight on Sunday, we'll have written 50,000 words in 30 days.

Some people have finished, others are nearly there.  And still others, not unlike myself, have  ways to go before that beautiful, intimidating word count bar turns purple.

I am...behind.  And yet, I'm encouraged.  It is moments like these, when all seems lost, that I find some strength I didn't know I had and pound out the words until I hit and exceed 50,000 words.  I've done it before, and I'll do it again.

Here's the deal.  We're at the end of the month, but it's Thanksgiving week, and there are still almost three full days before the alarm goes off and time is up.  And two of those days are Saturday and Sunday, which gives most of us two days work-free during which family and friends can be ignored, large pots of strong coffee can be brewed, and novels can be written.

This is the time to pull out all the stops.  Write out contractions, use the word "and" instead of commas, break compound words into two words.  Do whatever it takes to push that word count higher.

You may have been struggling with plot or characterization lately.  You may have been dreading opening that word document and staring at the screen for hours.  And though your word count has been creeping upward, it's only been creeping.

Take heart.  There is time.  And this is the time you'll become a super-human writer.  You'll start typing, perhaps slowly, and before you know it, you'll pause for a much-needed sip of coffee, check your word count, and holy crap I'm almost done! will happen.  It will.  It always does.

You can hit 50,000 words.  Just keep plugging away.  There's still time, and lots of words to be written, and the NaNo victory is within you.

Just a couple of days left, then we'll all head over to the Cantina for several shots of tequila, political snark, and a break, with 50,000 words proudly behind us!


25 November 2008

Stare at Screen. Type Your Name. Delete Your Name. Repeat.

I've been doing a lot of little articles for a variety of clients lately.  The topics have ranged from eliminating anxiety from your life to designer handbag replicas to coffee (my favorite topic EVAH) and even one on animal welfare activists vs. animal rights activists.  Most of the articles have been right around 500 words, so they haven't taken that long to write, and I've been able to do them easily.

I have a set of ten short articles due this week.  So I opened the word document for the first article with the intention of writing it quickly, maybe doing a few of the other articles, then working on NaNo this afternoon.

Apparently, writing so much so fast lately has tapped me out.  I got nothin'.  I've been trying to start this article for about twenty minutes, and it's just not working.

I love NaNo because it reminds me of all I love about writing.  But this is my first year doing NaNo as a full time writer, and  under-estimated the exact amount of writing I'd be doing this month.


22 November 2008

Coffee? Good. Roast beef? Good. Coffee roast beef? Mmmmmm....!

I have a dear friend and foodie who always has great recipes that I often try the next week in my own kitchen, much to the satisfaction of Hubby.

I can't wait to try this one!

If you like coffee, try it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The photo is directly from Frazzoo's blog post about the recipe (linked above), and she has all the copyrights to it.  Don't take her photo because she's my friend.  If you do, I'll punch you in the throat.

21 November 2008

Need an Extra Boost?

Dana has written a pep talk over at En Tequila Es Verdad, which includes Neil Gaiman's pep talk from last year.  If my words of wisdom aren't quite enough, head over to the Cantina for an extra pat on the back, a shot of tequila, and a fresh pen.

Dana tells us:
We've got only nine days, but that includes two weekends. Some of us even have a four-day weekend coming up. [...] We'll catch up at Christmas. This holiday, we write.

We can do this thing.

Ten thousand word weekends are possible. I've done them. Chuck the Inner Editor out the window and just get typing. Run through the tape. Push through the pain. Do that, and you'll win.

Stop worrying. Take a deep breath. Start typing.

Don't stop.

You'll get there.

Happy scribbling!

NaNo Pep Talk: End of Week Three

So Week Three just kind of flew by, didn't it?  And for all my last week, and for all the energy with which I entered the week, it kind of fizzled on me, and I got a little stuck at 21,000 words.

So as I watched the tequila-laced updates of my dear friend and heart sister Dana, my happiness at her increasing word count, I was a little jealous, and found myself getting discouraged at my own stagnant word count.  My freelance calendar suddenly filled up, so after pounding out article after article on various topics, I needed a break from Microsoft Word for a bit.  And before I knew it, it was time for bed or time to work again, and my NaNo dreams were fading away.

When I started the month I had the ambitious goal of writing two novels this year.  That ain't happenin'.  I started out well, but my work schedule has changed, so I'll have to try next year to do that.  Now I'd just like to finish one novel.

It's the end of Week Three, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I'm about 14,000 words behind.  But here's the kicker.

I still think I can finish.

I know.  Crazy, right?  But I think I can, and here's why.
  • I did it last year.
  • Last year, I wrote more than 50,000 words in less than a week.
  • I'm starting the last week with 21,000 words already committed to paper.  That's a great start.
  • Even though Thanksgiving is this week, it'll be a quiet Thanksgiving, so I'll have more time to myself than I originally thought.
  • I have friends who don't think it can be done, and I'm damned determined to prove them wrong.
  • I'm an Irish Taurus.
Week Four is beginning.  This is it.  If you're on target, you're at around 35,000 words, and well into the downhill of your novel.  One of the days this week you'll finish a thought, check your word count, and it'll be over 50,000 words.  I will, too.

This week is what NaNoWriMo is all about.  We can do it.  After all, we're WriMos!

Happy scribbling!

19 November 2008

Reading, Writing, and the Blog

Any writer will tell you that reading is as important to the craft as anything else.  Writers are readers.  They read for pleasure.  They read to learn.  They read to support their fellow writers.

I read blogs.  No, not just mine, but I read the blogs of friends, fellow writers, and interesting blogs I happen upon in the vast pool of distraction that is the Interwebs.  Blogger's new little gadget that allows me to easily follow blogs on my Dashboard has been a wonderful addition to my daily web-surfing.  Instead of spending twenty minutes typing in the different web addresses of the blogs I read into my Internet window, I can just look at my Dashboard and open the blogs that have new entries.  I love it!

As I've been adding to my I-read-this-blog list, I've been thinking about what kinds of blogs draw me in and make me check them regularly.  (I don't comment on people's blogs as much as I should, and I'm working on that, but believe me: I read your blogs.  So keep writing!)  There are a few reasons I might add a blog to my Dashboard following thingy.

It might be a fun, unique blog that makes me smile.  A great example of this is Cake Wrecks.  In this blog, Jen posts pictures of professionally made cakes gone wrong with accompanying snarky comments and corny jokes.  I've never seen a blog like it, and even though I'm not a foodie (or a cake-ie) I love seeing the wrecktacular creations Jen posts each day.  Especially when it's broken up with masterpieces like these.  Cake Wrecks gives me a dose of fun each day, so I keep going back.

I might also add a blog to my Dashboard if it's one that gives me advice I can use.  I recently discovered the blog of literary agent Nathan Bransford.  His blog, too, makes me laugh, but I've bookmarked many of his posts because of the great insider advice he gives about the publishing industry with a much more neighborly approach than other blogs I've read.  He even has said on his blog that if you're not sure whether he'll like your work or not, send it anyway.  That's my kind of agent!  Mr. Bransford's is a blog I've also recommended to fellow writers to give them good information for getting started or how to keep going or what to do next.  The information I get from his posts has already been incredibly helpful, which has earned him a place on my Dashboard.

As I mentioned, I also regularly read blogs by friends and fellow writers.  I have a bit of a wacky schedule, so reading blogs is sometimes a good way for me to keep in touch with friends.  It's no excuse for lack of emails or phone calls, but it gives me a little information from time to time as to how they're doing, that they're still around, and reminds me to call or email once in a while.  As for fellow writers, well...any blog that offers political and religious snark and tequila is okay by me.

How do bloggers get on your Dashboard?

17 November 2008

Balancing Writing and the Holidays

Thanksgiving is next week (for those who celebrate it in the U.S., that is).  And for those of us participating in the chaos of NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving is not just a time of the celebration of food with family and friends, but a day (or more) away from adding to the word count.  Add to this the complications of planning and/or hosting the November feast, and Thanksgiving could mean much more time away from the scribbling during the end of the month when time is vital to reaching that 50,000-word goal.

So what do you do when the holidays roll around and you have deadlines and word count goals?  Balance is, of course, the key in such situations.  You can, in fact, make time for family/friends and writing during the holidays.  It just takes a little creative scheduling and determination to accomplish your goals.

Plan ahead.  Because I know I'll be busy through Thanksgiving weekend (and probably on Wednesday, as well), I'm trying to get extra writing done this week so in case I don't get any writing done until after Thanksgiving, I'll at least have boosted my word count this week so I won't be faced with writing 30,000 words in the last few days of November.  If you write even an extra 500 words (that's about two pages double-spaced) each day this week, you'll be in a better position to not write on Thursday and Friday next week.  This is probably your best tool in balancing writing with the holidays.  The more you get done ahead of time, the more you can enjoy your holiday without worrying about looming deadlines or making your NaNo word count.

Remember: there will be down time.  Even families who want to do a lot together when they visit will need a little time away from the chaos to relax.  During those times, pick up a pad and paper--or sneak away to your computer--and get a little scribbling done.  Even if it's just an hour, you can add to your word count without taking away from family time.  Just be sure to use your down time wisely to keep on top of your writing during the holidays.

Keep a notepad and pen by your bed.  I try to keep pen and paper in my nightstand regardless of what month it is, but during November, I make sure I have a small notebook or notepad and a pen handy for when I go to bed.  Even after a long day with family/friends, I don't fall asleep right away, and the time I have before falling asleep I can use to get a little writing done.  This works in the mornings, as well.  Try getting up an hour or two before everyone else to get some writing done before breakfast.  It'll be nice and quiet, and boosting your word count is a great way to start your day!

Above all, go with the flow.  You may not be able to add to your word count during the holidays.  That's okay.  When the family says goodbye and your friends go home, the writing will still be there.  If you're in the middle of a great scene and you get interrupted because Nana wants help making noodles from scratch, make a couple of notes to help you remember where you are and go make noodles.  Family comes first, and you never know what great scenes may arise from conversations during the holidays!

Enjoy the time you have next week with family and friends.  Relax, do a little scribbling, have some turkey.  And I'll see you on the other side.

Happy scribbling!

16 November 2008

Write or Die!

So I've been receiving updates in my inbox for the Orlando regional forum on the NaNoWriMo site.  Earlier today I got a nice little message about an application to encourage distractable writers to keep writing.

I know lots of writers are distractable.  I find myself jumping to Blogger when I should be scribbling, and I know I'm not the only one.  But I just may try this application if I feel like I can't stay on track.

Here's how it works.  You set your word count goal and your time goal, then select a mode.  A text box opens that tracks your time and word count.  In gentle mode, if you stop writing, a little pop up comes up to remind you that you haven't met your word count goal.  In normal mode, an annoying song plays.  In kamikaze mode you get a little more incentive to keep writing.  Your text starts deleting itself, word by word, until it's gone, or until you start writing again.  I don't know about you, but that would encourage me to keep writing!

Here's the YouTube video demonstration of the application:

Pretty cool, eh?

15 November 2008

Check This Out

This is a great step in writing education.

I wish more schools did this.

NaNo Update

Well, I hit 20,000 words last night, and I'm on my way to 21,000.  Hooray!

My week was not as productive as I would've liked, but I'm hoping Week Three will be much better for me.  This will be the week that helps me get caught up, I think.  I got a lot of work done this past week, so I should be able to scribble like mad.  By the end of the week I hope to be ahead in my word count.

As I've said before, I hate going into the week of Thanksgiving behind in my word count, so I'll step it up this week and get where I want to be so I'm not feeling overwhelmed for Thanksgiving.

How's your word count?

14 November 2008

NaNo Pep Talk: End of Week Two

So how's the writing going?  What's your word count?  Mine's a touch under 20,000.  According to the NaNo formula, you should be at 23,338.  I don't know about you, but Week Two is always a slow week for me.

Week One is crazy--since it's the beginning of the month, I usually write like crazy and get way ahead.  Then, during Week Two, I get a little complacent, relying on behind ahead to carry me through the week.  And when the week is over, I realize I'm behind where I should be, and the month is half over.  Fortunately, Week Three is a good week for writing.

The "honeymoon" of NaNo is over now, you're right around 20,000 words: almost halfway there!  And you've got a mini-deadline looming: Thanksgiving.

The reason Week Three is such a key week for me is because I refuse to head into the week of Thanksgiving behind in my word count.  Usually, Thanksgiving means at least two days that I get very little (or no) writing done, and I can't afford to fall behind at the end like that.  So it's time to push through!

50,000 words is quite a large goal.  Do you break it down into little goals?  You're almost to 20,000 (or past it, even), and 25,000 words is in sight.  That's halfway to your goal!  If you hit 25,000 words tomorrow, you'll be right on track for hitting 50,000 by the end of the month.  But with the halfway mark may come a niggling doubt in the back of your mind.  You may be tempted to go back through what you've written to check for clarity, cohesiveness, plot-hole plugging.  I urge you with all that I am:


If you step away from the end of your document for even a moment to fix something, you'll fall victim to that haughty bitch, your Inner Editor.  She'll pull you into the Land of Red Ink, and you'll spend the rest of the month fixing what you've written instead of pushing ahead to add to it.  And that's not what this month is about.  You know it, I know it, and even though she wants you to edit, she knows it, too.  Don't give in to her siren song.  Let her call to you all she wants, but keep writing forward, keep adding to your story, to the characters, to the dialogue, and let March worry about your Inner Editor.

I know it's overwhelming.  The month is half over, but there's still half the month left to use to write.  Just get to the next round number, whether it be 25,000, 15,000, or even 5,000.  Just get to the next round number in your word count.  And when you hit it, pat yourself on the back, and just keep writing.  Get to the next round number in your word count.  And when you hit 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 words, keep writing.

You can hit 50,000 words before the end of the month.  I know you can.  And I can, too.

This Week Three.  This is the time to write.  Let the Muse beat the crap out of your Inner Editor for a little while, and just keep writing.

50,000 words, baby!  We're halfway there!

12 November 2008

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Hubby and I watched Girl with a Pearl Earring last night.  Well...I watched.  Hubby slept.  I read the book on which it was based earlier this year and enjoyed it quite a bit.  (If you haven't read or seen it, I recommend reading first, as there are a few things left out of the movie that make the story a little richer.)

As I watched, I was struck by the way the movie portrayed  Vermeer's (played by Colin Firth) inspiration for paintings.  In one scene, he walks into his studio and Griet (played by Scarlet Johansson) is washing the windows.  He sees her with one hand on the glass and the other on the table, and sees a scene he wants to capture on canvas.

It reminds me of the writing process.  I have had moments like that.  I see someone standing at a bus stop or in the mall and a character unfolds.  Or I walk through a park and suddenly see a setting for an intimate conversation between two characters.  Sometimes writing is like that.  You're walking along, living your life, and the inspiration materializes before you.

It's not always like that, of course.  Sometimes writing is a bitch, and you have to pull characters from your fingertips.  But it's those quiet moments when you suddenly see what you've been missing or hear a bit of dialogue that fits seamlessly into a scene that are the moments that are immortalized.  After all, it's much more glamorous to get the inspiration that way because, as Kay Eiffel says in her immortalization (see previous link), "...like anything worth writing, it [comes] inexplicably and without method."

As writers, I think we want to believe that the best written moments are revealed to us when we're gazing out windows or walking in the mall or coming home from buying cigarettes and seeing an apple roll onto the street.  (You didn't get that one, either?  Seriously, watch this movie.)  We want the craft to be wrapped in mysterious inspiration.  We want our art to be the product of whispers from the muse.  We want the craft to be glamorous.

Not every writing moment is standing on a desk, thinking about leaping off buildings.  Enjoy those moments, but don't discount the words that are pulled from us, sculpted, painted, glazed.  Because whether we walk into a room and see the maid standing in the perfect pose, waiting to be painted, or we spend hours tapping away until the right words appear, we still write.

11 November 2008

How to Take a Freelance Vacation

When I began writing full time, one of the things I was looking forward to was being able to travel to Illinois to visit my family and friends without having to take vacation days from work.  I don't have to think about how many days I have saved up, or if my vacation would even get approved.  As a freelance writer who works almost exclusively online, I have the ability to bring work with me, so I can keep working on vacation as long as there's Wi-Fi somewhere.

Some see this as a downfall for working from home.  After all, if you can write anywhere, you can write anywhere.  You're never really on vacation if you're working on vacation, right?

Yes and no.

There are ways for freelance writers to keep working and still take a vacation.

One way to take a freelance vacation is to plan it as a traditional vacation.  Let your clients know you'll be away from the office for a set amount of time, and plan projects around your vacation.  Let them know where you'll be in case of an emergency, as you would your employer in a traditional job, but let them know you'll be on vacation (or out of town or however you want to word it).  Of course the disadvantage to this is that you aren't working on vacation.  The loss of income during the vacation may not be a possibility for you.

Another way to take a freelance vacation is to lighten your work load while you're gone.  Let your clients know you'll have limited time for projects because you'll be out of town, and cut back to, say, half-time while you're on vacation.  This method works well in balancing spending time with family and friends while still generating an income during vacation.  I don't know about you, but if I have a busy day with family and friends on vacation, I often want to return to my hotel room after dinner and relax a little bit.  That relaxing time could be used for work time.

Finally, you could maintain your work schedule and simply move your self to your vacation spot.  This method obviously limits the amount of time you spend with family and friends while on vacation, but it doesn't affect your income during the vacation.
Of course, there are variations among these three suggestions, and you can find your own balance between work and vacation.  The point I'd like to make is that despite freelance writers being able to work anywhere, we don't have to work everywhere.  Writing is work just like any 9-to-5 job, and just as cubicle jockeys need to take time away, freelance writers do, too.  Just because we work in slippers doesn't mean we don't work.  In the same way we can work anywhere, when your office is in your home, it's quite a bit easier to keep the office open, even after putting in ten or twelve hours in a day.

So don't be afraid to make plans and slip away for a weekend or a week or however long you need to recharge yourself, reconnect with family and friends, and remember why you're working as hard as you do every day.

Photo 1 by NP

10 November 2008

What's Important to You?

This is a little exercise from Dana over at En Tequila Es Verdad.  She may not have intended it to be a meme, but who would I be if I didn't make it one, eh, Dana?  (Bwahahahaha!)  So you know how these things work.  Copy the text, link the original post (Dana, not me), and substitute your own list of ten items.  Post it, let us know, and see what happens.

If you and I sat down and made lists of things that are important to us, there would be a lot of duplicate items. Why don't we try an exercise? Take a pen and paper right now, and list out ten things that are important to you. I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

Ready? Here's mine, in no particular order of importance:

  1. My husband
  2. My spiritual path/Nature
  3. Writing
  4. Family (which includes my fur babies)
  5. Friends
  6. Learning and sharing what I've learned with others
  7. Seeking equality
  8. Breaking down stereotypes
  9. Trying new things
  10. Coffee

How many things do we have in common? Probably quite a few. If we got into specifics, we'd probably notice quite a few differences in the details, some of them superficial, some of them more serious. But there's enough there to work with, isn't there?
I won't tag anyone for this, as those I tag may just kill me, but I invite you to make your own list and post it on your own blog.  If you do, please let me know, as well as letting Dana know.

I think we could get some very interesting conversations going with these lists, and that's what Dana wants, after all.

07 November 2008

Coffee-Stained Pep Talk: Week One

We are at the end of the first week of NaNoWriMo, and word counts should be at around 11,669 for those adhering to the 1,667 words per day model.  If you're not there, don't worry.  It's only the end of week one, and there was a considerable distraction on Tuesday.

Many who participate in NaNo refer to this first week as the "honeymoon."  Being the first week of writing, many are excited, and are sure that if they keep pushing through (which they surely will), they'll exceed the 50,000-word goal in no time.  And why wouldn't they keep writing more than 2,000 words a day?  After all, it's NaNo, and their ideas are so brilliant, writing will be a breeze!

Well, tomorrow (Saturday) marks the first day of week two.  And I hate to bring you down, but things are going to change during week two.  Maybe you'll have a busy day so you'll only get 1,500 or 1,000 or 500 words.  Maybe you'll look at what you've already written and decide it's not really working as the beginning of a novel.  Maybe you'll think you can just take a few minutes to edit what you've written before you move on to new writing.  No matter how it happens, you'll probably find that you'll slow a little.  You'll find yourself dragging to get to 15,000 words.  And you may look at the task ahead and regret ever clicking on that blue logo on the right side of my blog.

I'm here to tell you not to give up.

You may think 50,000 words in 30 days is impossible, but it's not.  All it takes is the willpower to sit down in front of your computer (or notebook) and keep writing.  All it takes is the desire to finish.

Chris Baty and the group of friends who decided ten years ago to challenge themselves to write a full-length novel in 30 days did it because they were tired of waiting for the right time to write a novel.  Well, guess what.  Now is the time.  If you've gotten to 11,669 words, you're right on target.  If you've gotten to 10,000 words, you're well on your way.  If you've even written 5,000 words in the first week, you're writing a novel!  So why do you think now, after this first glorious week of writing, that you can't do it?

Part of this experience is to teach writers to quash their Inner Editor for a bit.  There will be time for editing, but this month is for writing.  And hard as it may be to write, unhindered by the superfluous apostrophes, glaring plotholes, or lack of contractions to help you make word count, it's important to remember that this month is not about writing the next great American novel, it's about simply writing a novel.

So keep writing.  Keep writing.  Keep writing.

You'll get there.  I believe in you.  Take a little time each day to work on your NaNo novel.  And little by little your word count will climb.  Before you know it, you'll be within sight of 20,000 words.  After that, you'll hit 25,000, and you'll realize you're halfway there.  Keep writing after that because you'll eventually hit 50,000 words.

And when you do, I'll be here, and we'll both head over to the Cantina for a drink.

Happy scribbling!

NP (13,000 words and counting)

05 November 2008

Michael Crichton Dies at 66

Best-selling author Michael Crichton, best known for Jurassic Park and ER, died suddenly to cancer yesterday in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer.

He will be missed.

02 November 2008

What Have You Done Instead of Writing?

Recently I posted a list of things to do when you should be writing.  It was meant as something fun in preparation for NaNoWriMo.  I would like to repost that list, in its entirety, indicating things I have done since November 1st by bolding them.  Enjoy!
  • Read En Tequila Es Verdad for your daily dose of a "fountain of liberal rage."
  • Check your email.
  • Make and drink a pot of coffee.
  • Rewrite your to do list with nicer handwriting.
  • Better yet, you should do it in Microsoft Word, then print it out.
  • Add to your to do list.
  • Make sure your books are still alphabetized by author's last name.
  • Visit the forums for NaNoWriMo.
  • Update your status on Facebook to say "NP is not scribbling."
  • Vacuum the living room.
  • Play fetch with the cat (yes, one of my cats plays fetch).
  • Make Thanksgiving plans.
  • Read.
  • Rework your NaNo outline.
  • Adjust the font and margins of your NaNo novel.
  • Play the Expert level of Minesweeper until you can win twice in a row.
  • Do some early Christmas shopping online.
  • Print out your NaNo outline to put in a folder since you're trying to be more organized.
  • Check your word count.
  • Watch Law & Order to get character ideas. (Don't worry about what time it is; L&O is always on somewhere.)
  • See if any of your NaNo buddies are on AIM.
  • Do some laundry.
  • Gaze out the window.
  • Stare at a wall.
  • Look for writerly Christmas gifts online that you might want.
  • Start a NaNo scrapbook to document your life in November.
  • Go through your story and find ways to pad the word count (omitting contractions, changing all hyphens to spaces, lengthening lists like this one, adding mundane details that border on purple prose, etc.)
  • Take a quick little nap to recharge yourself.
  • Check the time to see how much more writing time you have.
  • Watch the cat sleep.
  • Blog.
  • Play Mahjong Solitaire.
  • Fill out an email survey and email it to everyone in your address book.
  • Add page numbers to your story.
  • Take the page numbers out.
  • Add a title page.
  • Add an Acknowledgements page.
  • Add an "About the Author" page.
  • Create an interview that could be included in the paperback edition.
  • Come up with lists for your blog.
Okay, now that that's done, I guess I'll get back to writing.


I'm NaNoing.