Category Archives: PepTalks

Week 2 – Time for Renewed Steam in our Creative Airship

Week 2 – Time for Renewed Steam in our Creative Airship

We started week 1 with the joy and enthusiasm of unbridled creativity.  We set sail together on our steampunk airship called the NaNoLansing Sojourner.  Led by your flight captains Contemplative Cat and A_Rachelle, our group of ragtag writer enthusiast wrimos took off on the adventure of a lifetime.  The steam was flowing through our writing letting us ride the stream of ingenuity.

And then week 2 came.  Perhaps your family and friends are questioning why you are doing this.  Perhaps you have some naysayers who even doubt it’s possible.  Perhaps you too are questioning your ability to achieve this seemingly impossible thing called NaNoWriMo.

That’s where hanging onto the philosophy behind steampunk will pull you through.  We took off on this improbable journey filled with endless possibilities.  Those possibilities are still there.  Just like the steampunk captains who built and piloted those unlikely contraptions of creative and brilliant gadgetry, we too can ignore any doubts from ourselves or others and pilot our creativity on – bringing new life to our novels.

When you look at those scenes you wrote and start to believe the lies of the unimaginative, just leave them there and start a new scene.  Your acquaintances are starting to tell you you’re crazy?  Write them into your story and have at them.  Use all of your life experiences now to add steam to your novel.  Who cares if you just went from a romantic love story to a death by shovel?  Keep writing.  Your creative juices will start to return.  They really will.

The world and your environment will provide the raw materials needed to forge ahead, just like our steampunk heroes have done.  And then when you finish week 2, you can be proud that you didn’t jump ship.  You stayed with your ship mates and hunkered through the darkness and you can see the dawn breaking just on the horizon as you pass the half-way point.

To help fill you with more steam, I’ll remind you of these resources:

Write ins:
Thursday 11-13
Go Green, Go Write 11-15
Battle of Midway 11-15
Tuesday 11-18 Old Chicago

Daily writing prompts

Chat room.

Now go forth and pour some steam into those novels!

Annette aka Contemplative Cat
Your co-captain of the Airship NaNoLansing Sojourner aka co-Municipal Liaison for USA::Michigan::Lansing

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Week One: When 'What If' meets 'Yes, and…'

Week One: When 'What If' meets 'Yes, and…'

Ah, week one. You learn a lot about your novel in week one. You may have discovered that you hate your plot and changed it or had your first character rebellion. You may have fallen in love with a place or gotten side-tracked on a detail. One week end the world is full of possibilities. Don’t be afraid of them.

This year we took one look at the artwork from the Office of Letters and Light and knew that steampunk would be the theme for our region, but what, you may ask, is steampunk? The term appears to have originated in a letter written by K.W. Jeter to Locus magazine in the mid-80s, but its influences reach back into the Victorian where steam ruled and the scientific romances of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells came into being. More recently it can be found in the work of authors like Cassandra Clare (City of Bones) and Raven Dane (Cyrus Darian And The Technomicron).

Steampunk is an amazingly versatile genre. Authors have taken the feel and technology of the Victorian era and asked themselves the question ‘What if?’. What if there was magic? What if instead of futuristic cyborgs, people were augmented with clockwork parts? What if combustion engines didn’t overtake steam as an energy source? Then they ran with it.

In the world of theatre we have an improv game called ‘Yes, and…”. It’s our equivalent of committing to ‘what ifs’ in our storytelling. While playing the game you are not allowed to say no. It doesn’t matter what the previous person threw at you, you have to accept it and go. Beavers may be bowling or aliens kidnapped you in the middle of a lovely date. You can’t change where the story has taken you, you can only take the ‘what if’ you’ve been given, follow it with a ‘Yes,’ and run with it.

As we head into our second week, that is what I encourage each and every one of you to do. When you hit writers block take an idea that is totally outside of your novel and ask ‘what if’. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it. Make ‘Yes, and…’ a regular part of your writing experience. Bring in an element of sci-fi to your literary fiction or horror into your fantasy. It may not live past December 1st, but it also may open you up to ideas that you never would have thought of otherwise.

Not sure where to get a crazy what-if? Here are a few places to find them:

  • Ask your friends and fellow writers
  • Visit the Adoption Society or Plot Doctoring forum threads
  • Use a plot generator (Here’s one, but there are a ton out there)
  • Browse a library, bookstore, Amazon, or your own bookshelves

Whatever you do, remember that NaNo isn’t just an opportunity to write a novel with a bunch of other somewhat crazy fellow writers, it’s an opportunity to explore. So just like those authors that started this whole steampunk culture, and in the immortal words of Nike, just do it.

I mean now. There are three weeks left, but I promise they will fly, so write like the wind, my wrimos.

Alaina aka A_Rachelle
Co-Municipal Liaison, USA::Michigan::Lansing

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Week 4 – The Week of Valor and Completion

Week 4 – The Week of Valor and Completion

We’re in the last week of NaNoWriMo.  Some of us are blazing trails with our novels, others are ahead of schedule, still others are running a little behind and others are looking at their word counts wondering if they should just shuck it all now.  Regardless of where we are, the end of this week marks the completion of our NaNo journey.

If you’re one of the ahead of schedule folks, congratulations!  You can rest in your accomplishments or use the energy of the week to finish your novel – which is my plan.

If you find yourself behind in the game, you can draw upon the strength of the ninja to forge ahead toward the end, diligently writing every day seeing your word counts rise.

If you feel so far behind, you're unsure you can catch up, you don’t have to give up.  If you still want to go for it, remember that magical things have happened in the last week of NaNo.  Several fearless Ninja Wrimos have made it into the hall of records by writing more than half their novel during the last few days of the month.  You too could find yourself in the annuls of amazing.  If you have the will, you can make it happen.

Like a ninja be ingenious and find creative ways to get your words in.  Is it time for a journal entry?  Will your MC break out in song?  Should they daydream what they are planning and in the process lay out your future plot points.  There are all kinds of creative ways to increase your word count and now is the time to use them – no holds barred.  We will cheer you on every step of the way!

Perhaps you just don't have it in you to try for the 50K.  Regardless of where you are in your process, your bravery brought forth a new creation.  There is no failure.  You've succeeded in writing more words than you would have before this month began.  You can feel proud of that.  So Yea You!  Celebrate!

Activities for the week:

Happy Thanksgiving! 
Holidays give many of us time off from school and work.  Write in between bites of turkey and pie and watch your word counts rise.

Virtual Write Ins:
Check out the chat rooms.  I’ll be there on and off throughout the week and even if our chat room is quiet, you can jump in on other regional word wars.  It's a great way to motivate yourself to get more words written.

Write Ins:

  • Saturday 11-30 11 am to 2 pm Pie Factory EL
  • Saturday 11-30 7 pm to Midnight – Last Blast Get Your Words In Party and Write In – Old Chicago.

Even if you’ve reached your 50K, you can still write with us – and pass out those last guilt monkeys.  😉  It’s always a blast to wring in the 1st together.  I have new prizes for our Cauldron of Doom word sprints and candy. Lots of candy.  😛

TGIO Party:

Sunday 12-1 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm will be our TGIO Party at the Haslett Library.

  • Book exchange – bring a book to share.
  • Nominate fellow wrimos here.  We'll be passing out award certificates at the party (and will have .pdfs available on our website for those unable to attend.)
  • Prizes for Guilt Monkeys
  • Win your very own NaNoRhino
  • It's a pot luck.  Please let us know what you're bringing here.
  • RSVP here.

Validate Your Novel:
You haven't officially won NaNo until the word count validator says so.  For step by step information on how to do that (with visuals), check out our Winning NaNoWriMo FAQ thread.

Shout out your Success!
Share yours or someone else's win with the rest of us at the Winner's Hall of Fame thread.

Cheering you all on at the finish line!  (Where ever that winds up being for you.)

Annette (Contemplative Cat) and Alaina (A_Rachelle)
Co-Municipal Liaisons  USA::Michigan::Lansing

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Week 2 – Channeling Your Inner Ninja

Week 2 – Channeling Your Inner Ninja

Welcome to Week 2, fellow Wrimos!

As of this writing, collectively we have written 2,162,561 words.  Wow!  Over TWO MILLION words!  Those are words that never would have been written without NaNoWriMo.  We have over 300 writing warriors forging a trail through heroic and creative endeavors.  We’ve been going strong!

And then week 2 hits.

This is a time when many things can happen.  Perhaps your characters have decided that they don’t know what to do?  Maybe you’re starting to wonder why you even started this whole crazy thing?  Possibly you haven’t really even started and are thinking about just chucking it all. Or it could be that you’re looking at someone else’s word counts and instead of being motivated, feel you’ll never get there. Or perchance you’re still so excited about your novel that you just don’t want to stop writing.

If you fall into the “it’s too difficult” category right now, then this is the time to draw upon your inner ninja.

Ninjas are fierce.  They are honor driven and they don’t let fear and negativity slow them down.  Ninjas forge ahead against all obstacles and never give up until they meet their objective.  They are resourceful too and they will use any tool they can find along the way.

Now is the time to gather all of your Ninja Tools and use them.

  • Pull out your plot ninja rescue ring and find one to incorporate into your plot.  (If you didn’t get one and would like one, send me a PM and let me know when you’ll be at a write in and I’ll see if I can get one to you.)
  • Take your plastic plot ninja and set him by you as you write to remind you that you can do this!  (We have more of these available as prizes for winning Cauldron of Doom sprints at our write ins.)
  • If you need extra encouragement, collect all of the plot ninjas and have them lined up protecting you from the “I can’t do this” villainous thoughts that creep in.
  • Try out a challenge in our challenge thread.
  • Come to a write in.  We will be meeting this week on Thursday 11-14 from 7-10 pm at Old Chicago in Okemos.
  • Do a writing marathon and plan on heading up with us to Saginaw on Saturday the 16th for the Battle of Midway and use that time to catch up on your words.
  • Join us in the chat room and do word wars online.  Instructions can be found here.
  • Strive to win the award for most guilt monkeys passed along and let that motivate you.
  • Post something on the Faces thread and watch your word counts rise on the graph with others.
  • Enlist the help of others in the Pimp My Plot thread.
  • Remind yourself that even famous authors go through the I can’t do this doldrums by reading one of the best week 2 pep talks I’ve read by Neil Gaiman.

So channel your inner Ninja.  Honor the story that is forming and keep writing.  Be persistent and like the ninja, you will push through the obstacles of week 2 and come through victorious!

Annette (Contemplative Cat) and Alaina (A_Rachelle)
Co-Municipal Liasions, USA::Michigan::Lansing

Find us online! 
Our Forums

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!

Get Ready, Set, Write!

Get Ready, Set, Write!

Greetings Fellow Authors,

In just a few minutes, our exciting journey begins. Whether you have your entire novel plotted out and fully developed or you plan to sit in front of your screen with no idea in mind, or like me, are somewhere in-between, we’re in for a wonderfully fun ride.

Remember to pack the bags for your inner editor and inner critic and send them on their way to a month long vacation. They are neither needed nor wanted this month. This is a month for just writing for the sheer joy of it. And do write. This first day write something. Anything. Just start writing. Get your juices flowing with those first few words and then let those words go forth and multiply like rabbits. You have a story that is ready to be told!

The biggest contributing factor to those who do not succeed in NaNo is that they don’t write. Simple, huh? So try to write every single day, even if it’s only 15 words. You’re still 15 words closer to your goal.

To help get you started with those first few words, we’ll have our first write in of the month tomorrow night (Thursday 1st) at the Pie Factory in East Lansing. Come join Alaina and me as we kick off the month together.

We will also have a chat room up and running in a few days. Those of you who can’t make it to a write in will be able to chat with each other there. We can also have one or two scheduled virtual write-ins during the month. I’ll post all of the information as soon as it is set up.

If you would like to see how your word counts compare to others, be sure to stop by this thread and post a note. We have 7 so far, but with several hundred participants in our region, there is room for many, many more. It would be awesome to have a whole bunch of you participate in this.

Well it’s almost midnight and I’m thinking about staying up until 1 am to jump start the season. I’m much more of a morning person, so we’ll see how this goes. If I’m a little blurry eyed tomorrow night at the write in, you’ll know my NaNo insomnia got the best of me. But if I have my words done by the time I head to the office tomorrow, it will be well worth it.

Happy writing everyone and I hope to see a lot of you tomorrow at the pie factory!