Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Week Four Countdown

The Week Four Countdown

Hello, NaNoLansing! Welcome to Week Four. It’s hard to believe there’s less than a week until month’s end.

As I was flipping through one of my dad’s magazines today, I saw an ad for a five stone synthesized diamond ring. According to the ad they are supposed to be even more perfect than naturally mine diamonds as well as being far more inexpensive to produce thus their price of only $99.99.

When I was a teenager I inherited an engagement ring from my grandmother, the center of which featured a beautiful old mine cut diamond. It has far more facets than the cuts that I see now when wandering past jewelry stores, but what you cannot see with the naked eyes is that there is a flaw just beneath the surface. Any jeweler who purchased it would cut it down for a smaller but more perfect stone, but to me that makes the stone unique. Even history aside there is none other quite like it.

Now, I have nothing against imitation stones. They can be quite lovely and are great for day to day, but there is beauty in imperfections.

Right now, our novels are like that old family diamond. They are not perfect. In fact, you may feel like yours is still that just mined hunk of stone that has as yet to be more than pulled from the earth. That is okay. Those imperfections make that novel unique and yours.

It is easy at this point to become distracted by all of the imperfections that we see in our work. There are scenes you hate, superfluous descriptions, misbehaving characters and any other variety of things that you are just waiting until December 1st to edit away. For these last five days forget about them. There are another eleven months of the year that can be spent polishing them into a gorgeous, glittering gem.

Embrace your imperfections. Embrace your mess. Go into these last few days rejoicing at what you’ve completed and not the things that you haven’t. Find the beauty in those things and use it to spur you on to even more interesting story ideas. You can do it. We believe in you.

Happy Week Three!

Happy Week Three!

Happy Day-After-Halfway-Day!

Also, Welcome to Week Three!

You’ve done it. You have made it past the halfway mark and are still reading our messages, which probably means you have drunk far far too much coffee in the last 15 days.

At this point in the month there are a few places that you could be.

A) Riding high on a fabulous word count that may even be over 50,000 already. If so, hats off to you! Congrats!

B) Right on with 1,667 words a day (or somewhere around 26,667 words at this point). Like the tortoise you are set to win the race. Hold fast to the goal and do not forget to back-up your novel in multiple places.

C) A little – or a lot – behind where you had hoped you would be with your word count. To you I want to say don’t give up.

I have been where you are. That graph with the nice diagonal line of where I should be was my nemesis sent to torment me with my lack of progress. Perhaps your characters rebelled, your plot disintegrated or that ‘real’ life thing invaded and took all of your writing time. Whatever the cause, write on. There is still time to catch up. In my years with NaNo I have seen amazing things come about in the last two weeks of the month. You can do this. We believe in you.

If you need a little inspiration there are several things you can do…

Check out NaNoWordSprints on Twitter. You can scope out their page even if you don’t use Twitter yourself. Not only can you sprint along, you can also snitch their inspirations. Tom Selleck’s mustache may not seem to fit in your story but you never know where it might take you.

Give NaNoLansing Chat a try. You can challenge others to word wars or ask Timmy, the ever helpful bot, to give you a challenge.

Visit a write-in. I’ve only been to the ML sponsored ones but we’ve had a great crowd and the Cauldron of Doom spawns more than just monkey trading.

Bring in ninjas to get your unruly characters back into line. Describe a location that is important to your story. Incorporate the Traveling Shovel of Death. Most importantly – keep writing. You never know what is just over the horizon.

What NaNo Means to Me

What NaNo Means to Me

I haven’t been the best about blogging this month what with getting in word counts, but it seemed appropriate to share here my response to #whatnanomeanstome as posted to my personal blog. It does involve you all after all.

I was reading through my email today (I haven’t gone to bed yet so I am still in denial that it is past midnight) and saw that with today being Donation Day for NaNoWriMo* there is a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #whatnanomeanstome. Being in my 7th year as a NaNo participant and 6th as a ML**, I went over to the Twitter to craft a tweet to join the horde only as I stared at it words failed me. How could I sum up when NaNo means to me in 140 characters?

Obviously the answer is to write a blog post and short link it. That’s how I roll.

I could not have imagined in the fall of 2005 when my friend Sarah mentioned this writing challenge thing that it would mean what it does to me now. That year I had a NaNo that I use now as a cautionary tale to my region of why one should always back up your novel in multiple places. I lost my work in progress THREE TIMES before I threw up my hands and said I’d try again next year.

Six years later I am glad that I tried again.

When I joined my new region it was a hodge podge of writers whose ML – the person who organizes things – had disappeared just before the month started, so we arranged our own write-in and the dark parking lot of Schueler’s Books that night three of us decided that we wanted more.

I may be a NaNo ‘winner’ five times over but I do not have the words to describe how excited I was to realize the other day that our regional calendar this year has something going for our writers almost every day of the month. Our kick-off was awesome (Thank you, Jim Hines!) and our write-ins have been packed. Our new Guilt Monkey program has been met with enthusiasm, which has led to a new writing buddy of mine – Ferdinand the Ferocious.

Ferdinand the Ferocious, my personal Guilt Monkey for November

This really does tie into what NaNo means to me. I think I would love NaNoWriMo as a program even if I just used it as an excuse to all out write for a month, but it is so much more than that. It is this amazing community that spans the globe that encourage and challenge each other along the way. Sometimes they kick your butt when you’ve been loafing on your word count. Other times they are lending you a hand and word of encouragement when you just feel like you can not make it through.

This year I have two friends in the region that I met through NaNo and I can tell you quite truthfully that I would not be at 35,005 words right now if not for our friendly competition. I may not talk to them every day, but I know that we are all keeping an eye on each other’s word counts.

The same can be said of previous years. I may not have ever been this far ahead, but I made my goal in part because I knew I had people cheering me along as I got in those last 500 words before the cut off. It really is a community and it has been both wonderful and humbling to be a part of seeing it grow. We are all ages and all walks of life, but when we come together we have a common thread that is astonishingly strong in spite of that – or perhaps because of it.

One of the things that I want from life is to make a difference in the lives of those around me and watching our writers blossom is an incredible thing. Everybody has a story. It is just a matter of finding it.

It is not just about the community, though. I have been writing in some form for as long as I can remember, but NaNoWriMo pushes me and I do believe that it has made me become a better writer. Not that you could probably tell from my unedited piece of fiction in progress, but it has made me consider how I write best, what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are and plot out beyond a short story.

NaNoWriMo is a place where creativity is allowed to flourish. We talk a fair amount about constraints in the design world and how they force us to think beyond what our modus operandi might be to explore entirely new possibilities. NaNo does that. You do not have time to dwell on the details and so you do not get stuck in them – unless you really need an extra 500 words.

To sum it up, what NaNoWriMo is to me is a community where creativity thrives and invites you to thrive along with it no matter what your background, age or ethnicity. It has blessed my life and so I have and continue to support it.

P.S. I have not been part of the group who are doing the things they are thankful every day, but I am thankful for NaNoWriMo. I am thankful for the awesome people I have met and had a chance to write alongside, my wonderful co-ML and the opportunity to be a part of such a great program. Maybe this coming year I’ll even finish one of my NaNo novels 😉

P.P.S. In the spirit of NaNo only minimal editing was done of this before posting. My inner editor is locked away in Saskatchewan at until Dec. 1.


*National Novel Writing Month
**Municipal Liasion aka those who attempt to wrangle cats, I mean, writers in their region. Also organizers of events and disseminators of information.

Welcome to Week 2!

Welcome to Week 2!

Welcome to Week 2!

This is the week that traditionally becomes a bit of a slippery slope for wrimos. They hate their novel, feel their characters are cardboard and find new and inventive ways to procrastinate. Or they look at the regional stars’ word counts and compare it to their own and think, “I’ll never catch up, so why bother?”

Well don’t worry. This is normal. It WILL pass. As Douglas Adams says, “Don’t Panic!” All will be well.

If you’re worried about your word count, don’t. Just keep plugging along. Don’t look at the 50K goal. Look at 300 words and then another 300 words and then another. Pretty soon those 300 word bits will multiply and you’ll find yourself with several thousand more words!

If you’re like me and a little competition helps, find someone who is close in word count to you and let them be your carrot that you follow and strive to surpass. Alaina has been my carrot this year. She mostly writes in the evening and I’m a morning writer. So every morning I’ve been waking up to find that she was 1500 to 2000 words ahead of me. It has helped to push me to write just a leetle bit more than her. It’s been a great motivator.

Also use word wars. Some years I don’t do too many of these, but whenever I get stuck, they are excellent at getting me moving and I can usually churn out several hundred words per sprint. At least 1/3 of my novel this year is thanks to word wars. If you want to find a word war, you can head over to #nanowordsprints at twitter, go to the NaNo Word Wars thread, go to the NaNoLansing chat room and start one yourself, or ask Timmy the bot the challenge you to something.

If you respond to kamikaze motivation, try Write or die, but don’t use the highest setting unless you are very serious because your words will start to erase if you stop typing. Or if you like kittens, try written kitten where every 1000 words graces you with another kitten picture.

The other thing that helps is going to write ins. There’s nothing like the energy of a room full of wrimos fervently typing away to motivate you to do the same.

Here’s some other strategies – if you hate your plot, jump to another scene. You don’t have to sit and grumble choking out words like water from an empty thermos. Try something new. Bring in another character and see what they have to tell you. My novel is jumping around more than those leaping plot bunnies we passed out at the kick off party and for cauldron of doom prizes. But it’s all right. With each scene, I’m laying out the foundation to flesh out later. And I keep myself entertained and maintain the fun.

But most of all, give yourself credit! You’ve passed week one and your story is being told! You have written more than those folks who never try, so YEA YOU! Now just keep going. Bit by bit, your novel will unfold and you’ll see those word counts rise!

Happy writing!