31 October 2010

NaNoWriMo Prep: Here we go!

Ladies and gentlemen, NaNoWriMo starts in less than 24 hours! Are you ready?

Now is the time for last-minute outline tweaking, making sure you're stocked up on all the supplies you need (paper and pens if you're using them, coffee, frozen meals for your family), and spending some time with friends and family before you abandon them for the crazy, big adventure that is 50,000 words in 30 days.

It's going to be a strange ride for you whether this is your first, second, fifth, or eleventh trip to NaNoLand. Things may not go according to plan. You may spend some of the month hating your novel. And that's okay because you'll also learn something about yourself along the way. You'll learn that you can make time to write. You can write a full-length novel in one month. That's what this experience is really about. It could be that all you need to really push yourself is to show yourself that the time is there, as long as the passion is.

I know what you may be thinking as you watch the clock tick down on the NaNo homepage. You may be thinking something along the lines of, "Oh, my goodness! What have I gotten myself into? Why did I think I could do this? I don't have an outline, my main character is flat, and the plot is worse than Plan 9 from Outer Space! Who does this every year?"

Before you start hyperventilating, I have one bit of advice.

It's going to be okay.

NaNo is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be a way for you to prove to yourself that you can make time in your busy life to spend time with the characters that follow you around all day. It's okay if you don't finish. It's okay if your plot is so bad you won't even reread it yourself. That's not what this is about.

So when midnight arrives, take a deep breath, open a blank word document, and start writing. Don't let the non-writer in you talk you out of it. Just have fun!

Good luck, and happy scribbling!

28 October 2010

NaNoWriMo Prep: Call for photos

Orlando, Florida, November 2009
This month I'd like to share pictures of writers...well, writing, of course! Whether you're participating in NaNo or not, I'd love to share pictures of you writing during November (the photo doesn't have to have been taking in November).

You can be writing anything anywhere, as straightforward or creative as you'd like. However you'd like to represent yourself writing (no offensive images, please) is fine with me!

In addition to the photo and any caption you'd like, I'll also include a link to your blog or website of choice. The photos will be posted in the order in which they're received.

Please send your photos to me at nicolepalmby (at) gmail (dot) com. Include any information you would like posted with the photo in the blog (caption, bio, link, etc.). I will send email confirmation that the photo was received within a day or two. There's not really a deadline for the photos, but I would like to post as many as possible during the month of November.

So prove to me that writers write! Send your photos!

27 October 2010

NaNoWriMo Cheerleader or....?

The start of NaNoWriMo is just a few days away, ladies and gentlemen! I hope you're getting your pencils sharpened, stocking your coffee in bulk, and having chats with your characters. I can hardly believe it's nearly here!

And while I'm so excited to be cheering everyone on this November, I'm also sad that I won't be participating. (So much so that I've been trying to figure out if I still can actually participate.) I love NaNoWriMo. I love the excitement, the atmosphere, the whole deal. I love knowing it forces me to take time out of my schedule every day to spend time with my fictional characters. I love NaNoWriMo.

November is going to be a crazy month for my family. In addition to the regular chaos that Thanksgiving brings, we're moving to a new apartment on November 16th. I have a prenatal appointment on November 17th. Then, my darling Bean is having a minor surgical procedure on November 18th. That week alone will be...well, crazy. This is all on top of packing and unpacking our lives, working full time, and chasing Bean around all day.

So I'd be crazy to do NaNoWriMo....right? Then why do I find myself working on an outline?

I have this story I want to write. And it's important to me for a lot of reasons. It won't leave me alone. And I find the more I try to set it aside, the more I think about it. The more aspects of it seem to pop up in my non-writing life. And I keep going back to it. It's begging to be written.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to prove to yourself you can make time to write a novel. You don't even have to finish. It's not like they're going to kick you out of some secret society if you don't hit 50,000+ words by November 30th. The point is to make time to write. And maybe now is the perfect time for me to do that.

My life is changing right now. We have baby #2 on the way, I'm working full time from home, and we're moving to a new place in a great area. Maybe this is the time for me to get back to work on this story instead of letting it linger in the "background/outlining" stage of writing.

So, dear friends and coffee lovers, while I will still be cheering you on during November, I've decided that my cheers will not be from the sidelines, but as someone who is right there with you, working away toward that magical number.

Yes, it's crazy. And I know I probably won't "win." But I have to at least try. If this is the time for me to write this story and I let it pass me by, I'll never forgive myself. I have to give this story--and myself--a chance, and now is the time to do it.

Wish me luck.

I'm doing NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Prep: How to pad your word count

As you're preparing for the wild and crazy adventure that is NaNoWriMo, you may be thinking about that end-of-the-month number: 50,000 words. Even when you break it down (a little under 2,000 words a day), it can seem daunting. But have no fear. There are things you can do to help pad your word count.

Description, description, description

When I write fiction, I generally try to keep things simple. Even when I describe something, I try to let the reader's mind fill in as much as possible. And then, when I edit, I often find myself slashing descriptions out of the story.

Well, NaNoWriMo is different. This is the opportunity for you to elaborate on every possible thing that can be described in your story.

Don't tell the reader your main character is using a black pen. Tell the reader your main character is using a new black Sharpie pen because she loves felt tip markers and these last so much longer than traditional felt tip markers. Besides, they look so cool when the ink swirls out on the page. When you describe a room, make it as vivid as you possibly can. Don't worry about it reading as purple prose. (This is just the first draft, after all.)

The more description you have, the higher your word count.

Do not use contractions

This is something I've done for a couple of years in NaNoWriMo. It does take a little getting used to as you write, but it can really add words! Think about it: every time you would normally write "it's," you'd get one extra word. This is really great in stories with lots of dialogue, too.

Don't hyphenate

This doesn't come up terribly often (except in combination with the next tip), but can help. So write full time instead of full-time, e mail instead of e-mail, and well rounded instead of well-rounded. Again, every time you do this, you get an extra word.

Write out numbers

Always. 53 is one word, but fifty three is two. Six hundred fifty three is three words (and if you say "six hundred and fifty three, you get four!).

Use "that"

This is something some writers do naturally. They include "that" when it's not needed. They may have, for example, written the first sentence of this section like this: This is something that some writers do naturally.

It's taken me some time to keep "that" out when it's not needed, but when November rolls around, it's a word that gets a work-out! I use it frequently to boost my word count.

These are just a few of the things you can do to help pad your word count. Sure, you'll have to go back through and fix them if you decide to edit, but for now, they can help you get to that magic number by November 30th.

20 October 2010

NaNoWriMo Prep: Writing Schedules

For normal people, NaNoWriMo is a hectic time.  In addition to a full time day gig, people have family and personal obligations, which makes NaNoWriMo one of those things that's crammed into the spaces between life and work and sleep (well, sometimes sleep is skipped).  So for normal people, a writing schedule is key to reaching that magical 50,000-word finish line.

[Please note: I'm emphasizing "normal" because some of us are fortunate enough to work from home, so scheduling is less of an ordeal.  This post is directed to those who work a traditional full time job (we'll say 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. for the purposes of this discussion).]

When you create a writing schedule for NaNoWriMo, try to keep it as routine as possible.  If you switch around your timing too much, you may forget when you're supposed to be writing, and before you know it you'll be 30,000 words behind where you should be.

So if you get home from work at 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, schedule your writing time for, say, 8:00-10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.  This regularity ensures that you know that between 8 and 10 every evening, you're writing.  That's not to say you would only write between 8 and 10 at night, but as long as your time is regular, you'll be much more likely to stick to the schedule.

Something else you should keep in mind as you create a writing schedule is the minimum daily word count for the event.  If you write 1,700 words every day (including Saturday and Sunday) during November, you'll reach 51,000 words by November 30th.  Allow enough time each day to reach your minimum word count for that day.  If you go over, wonderful, but if you go under, you'll need to make the word count up on another day.  If you have a tight schedule in November this may not always be possible.  So plan to write around 2,000 words each day, just to be safe. That includes weekends, by the way.

As you create your schedule, try to do what works for you.  If you can't write in long stretches on the weekends, try scheduling short spurts throughout the day, taking frequent breaks.  Don't force yourself into a schedule you know will burn you out before the end of the month.  That's a very counter-productive way to work.

Once you work out your writing schedule, commit it to paper.  Post it in your writing space, as well as a common area that will allow family members, friends, and roommates to see it.  It's important for those around you to know when you're writing so they can give you the time and space to get your work done.  Having the schedule on paper may also help make it more concrete for you.  That works for me; if I see something on paper, it carries more weight than if it's just on my computer or in my head.

Finally, remember to be flexible.  Life happens, even during NaNoWriMo.  So you may not be able to stick to your exact writing schedule every day.  And that's okay.  Steal an extra half hour of writing over breakfast before work, or on your lunch break.

Remember that NaNoWriMo is not life-or-death writing.  It's meant to be fun.  So don't take yourself or your schedule too, too seriously.  Just write.  And enjoy it.

17 October 2010

October is Purple, too!

It's October, so everywhere you look, there are pink ribbons. Even the NFL is sporting pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But there's another color important in October that's often overlooked outside of the people it affects: purple.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's an opportunity for people to raise awareness about the violence that occurs in homes and relationships every day. To remember people who are no longer here because they didn't get out soon enough, and to celebrate those who are speaking out about their own experiences to help save others.

Domestic violence prevention is something that's close to my heart. My best friend is a survivor of domestic violence, as well as some of my family members. They were in physically abusive relationships, and by their strength and the grace of God they're safe now. If I was asked to give money to a cause, domestic violence prevention would be it.

But there's another reason it's such an important issue to me. For three years, I was in an abusive relationship with a man.

I'm not prepared to tell my story here--although anyone who wants to know is welcome to email me and I'll gladly share it with you--but it was a difficult time in my life, and one that I'm still healing from.

The thing about domestic violence is that, most often, it lurks behind closed doors, is hidden under make-up and clothing, or leaves no visible scars at all. It's a poison that spreads to hurt more than just the person being abused. It kills people, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

You may know someone who was--or is--abused and not know it. It's a very scary thing to find out your friend or family member has been hiding something like that, even trying to justify it to him or herself. I did. I thought it was my fault, that I deserved it, even that that was how relationships were supposed to be.

Whether you know someone touched by domestic violence or not, please take some time this month to pray for those who have been affected by it. Pray that those who have survived will stay strong and tell their stories. Pray that those who are still getting hurt will find the strength and support they need to leave. Pray that those who didn't survive are at peace with the Lord, and that their families and friends can be strong enough to speak out now.

Don't let domestic violence be a silent killer. Speak out. Stop the violence.

13 October 2010

NaNoWriMo Prep: Character Biographies

As writers prepare for NaNoWriMo (just a few weeks away!), writing time is spent preparing to write a novel.  Since you can't actually start writing until November 1st, all you can do right now is organization/pre-writing.  Hopefully, you already have a story idea, and maybe even an outline (or a rough idea of your plot, at least).  But there is more to pre-writing than knowing your story.

Just as you need to know where your story is going, you need to know who's in your story.  That's why lots of people take some of their writing prep time to create character biographies.

The idea behind a character biography is to develop your character before you start writing.  That way, you know your character much better, and can write your characters better, making them more believable to read.

So what goes in to a character biography?

Obviously, the basic character information should be included.  The character's name, age, spirituality, ethnicity, etc.  This is the kind of information that would go on a census.  Beyond that, though, think about who your character really is.  What are his/her hobbies?  What is s/he passionate about?  What is his/her biggest pet peeve?

And once you've thought of all of those types of things, go further.  What is his/her favorite book?  If s/he was stuck on a desert island, what five things would go, too?  If your character were a coffee house table, who would s/he want to sit at him/her, and why?

It's strange, but these are the kinds of things you should think about when creating your characters.  After all, if you don't think of them as three-dimensional, how can you expect your readers to do the same?  So when you write your character biographies, don't just write the bare bones of a biography.  Come up with every possible detail you can.  Answer the strangest questions you can think of that would help you (and your readers) get to know your characters.

Something that may be helpful is to get one of those fill-in-the-blank books about yourself.  The types of prompts and questions that are in these books can help create great biographies for your characters.

One of the biggest things to remember is that you shouldn't sell your characters short.  If you don't know them, your readers won't, either.

06 October 2010

NaNoWriMo Prep: Outlines

[NOTE: This is a NaNo prep article I posted last year, and I thought it was worth repeating. Enjoy!]

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time again!  Writers everywhere are signing up, ordering shirts, and declaring their participation in NaNoWriMo 2010.  And in their excitement, they're thinking about their novel idea for this year.  (Do you have yours yet?)

I'm a bit of an organization freak, so every year I create an outline for my NaNo novel.  Even if you're not a big fan of outlines, it might be a good idea to create one for NaNo.  It'll help keep you on track as you're writing, since time is such a factor in the event.  I can't speak for you, but many times when I'm writing without an outline (even a very rough one) I tend to ramble and end up in a very different place than I intended when I began.

The good thing, though, is that outlines are very personal things.  Yours can be a very detailed and elaborate outline (as mine usually are) that gives information about what happens in each scene, or a very generalized outline that just gives a sentence or two covering each of the major plot points.  Or it could be something completely different.  You have to figure out what works for your writing style.

Regardless of what kind of outline you make, though, I do recommend that you create some sort of outline, even if it's just some notes jotted to help you remember what your plan is for the month.  It will give you a writing plan, and help you flesh out your story idea a little bit.  Sometimes I've had ideas and, after outlining, I've discovered that the idea is better as a short story rather than a longer project (or vice versa).  Or I've figured out that the idea isn't developed enough.  Outlining now will help keep you from getting to November 20th and realizing you really have a problem with your novel.

It might help get you excited about the month, too!

So take out a piece of paper, make some notes, and see what develops!

Fall weather, family news, and a little sadness

The weather is getting cooler here. Finally. In fact, earlier this week, it was in the 50s when Hubby left for work. I'm so glad, too. I really love fall.

Our family life is still quite chaotic. Let me 'splain.

No. Is too much to 'splain. Let me sum up.