Prep for NaNoWriMo

We are a week away from NaNoWriMo. If you plan to participate, sign up now! This year will be my second. I had so much fun writing that first one, and having a completed first draft in 30 days, that I’m going to do it again. If you have always wondered if you can write a novel, jump in and try this!

So, you signed up and have a great story ideaWe are a week away from NaNoWriMo. If you plan to participate, sign up now! This year will be my second. Or, maybe a good story idea. Or, some story idea. What do you do now? You prepare. Keep in mind that the goal of the month of November is 50,000 words. If you want, get your kids to participate, too. Sign them up and they can set their own word target. To hit a 50,000 word target, you need to write about 1,600 words a day. If you plan to work four hours a day, that is only 400 words per hour.

I can type about 70 to 80 words per minute, with errors. Full out, I can produce 4200 words of junk in one hour. I could probably write about 400 to 500 words per hour of decent material. I know I have written about a 1,000 words of pretty good material in an hour (that is about four pages of standard, double-spaced copy). Figure out your metrics and you can set your own schedule and meet your targets.

Keep in mind that November is full of what I call “time traps.” These are holidays and family time. Veterans Day is the 11th. Please honor our vets. Thanksgiving (in the US) is the 28th, but you all know folks take more than one day here. Plan for the time traps and adjust your daily word target to allow you some wiggle room for holidays and family time. It also helps to keep writing when you are on a roll, because there will be days you just have trouble getting the words out.

What else do you need to do? Here are a few tips.

  1. Outline. Remember all that stuff about outlines you learned in grammar and high school? Forget it. Use an outliner, of course. I use NeO for the Mac and it is great. I set out the number of chapters I think I’ll need. Then I add notes to each chapter entry, trying to set up a chronological list of what will happen in the novel. If you need help in character arc or plot planning, use John Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (Google that and you’ll find all kinds of outlines for it). Normally, I get about three chapters in and have departed so far from the original outline, I just push it to the side. My outline this year has chronological notes through Chapter 7. What this tells me is I have a defined story and I can follow this plan. Don’t let the outline drive the story, though, let the characters do that.
  2. Character sketches. You should have a good idea of who your main character is, and who your antagonist is (the evil villain, bad guy, whatever). Sketch our your supporting cast, too. Scrivener includes a basic character sketch template in the novel template. Use that. If you want more detail, you can edit the basic template to include other material you gather from friends or other WriMo’s (participants in NaNoWriMo).
  3. Set up your document. If you use Word, that involves just having a new document open and do a Save As to give it a name. In Scrivener, you set up your project with chapters, scenes and all your document and font settings ahead of time. In Word, make sure you have the document set for the correct default font (12 point Times Roman), page margins (1 inch per side, top and bottom), double-spaced and any headers/footers you want to have on pages after the first. If you use Pages, set up a new document, name it, set the default font, line spacing and margins (same as above). Have this ready before the first of November.
  4. Get connected to your NaNoWriMo community. Check the NaNoWriMo site for your region, find activities and a Municipal Liaison (ML) or other participants in your area. Look for “write-ins” or other events where you can connect, get support, and write. Write-ins can be fun and productive. There are also “word wars.” I haven’t done one of those, yet. I added the local write-ins to my calendar and will try to go to as many as possible this year. Our region also starts the writing on Nov. 1 with a midnight write at a local truck stop. Yes, a truck stop. Who else is open and serving hot coffee at midnight to writers? We also have a kick-off party this last week before the writing.
  5. Make sure your system is up to date. Did you run your updates on your Windows system this month? How about the upgrade to Mavericks on your Mac? How about all the application updates that were subsequently required? Get your system humming and updated. Make sure your anti-virus or anti-malware is current and working. If you don’t have those, you can get free protection tools for Windows (Security Essentials) or for the Mac (Sophos AV for Mac). These are as good as most commercial packages. Most write-ins are at public wi-fi locations. You need protection.
  6. Prepare your friends and family. You will be writing in November. Writing, writing, writing. Set the schedule, let them know this is writing time. Reduce the interruptions and time traps. If you can put it off to December, do so.
  7. Leave your internal editor in the closet, or under the bed, in the garage. Wherever you keep your internal editor, lock it away. Don’t worry about editing. Your goal is to generate a 50,000 word, plus, novel in 30 days. Editing will slow you down. You want to complete a first draft, first! Then worry about editing. Yeah, that last page you wrote is a lot of junk and makes no sense. It will when you go back in December or January to clean up your work. Then, you can make it shine! To be honest, that probably isn’t the only place that needs work. Your first reader will find all the sins, don’t worry.

The Office of Lights and Letters, hosts of NaNoWriMo, is a great supporter of writing, especially for kids. They need donations. If you can, donate.

Hope that helps. If this is your first time, welcome! Keep writing.


NaNoWriMo is coming


I made some good progress on the current novel, but National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming Nov. 1. There are some other ideas floating around in my hhttp://nanowrimo.orgead and there are some support meetings this month in the Spokane area to help with getting ready and planning. NaNoWriMo makes November an intense and productive writing month and I’m very interested in participating again.

So, I’m trying to decide if I want to start a new project within the confines of NaNoWriMo, or just be a cheerleader for others while I continue on my current project. If I start a new project, I’ll have to put the current project aside for the duration. That really shouldn’t be a problem.


I hope.

Thing is, I had so much fun writing that first project (Sudden Mission) in NaNoWriMo last year that I’d like to do it again. Can I repeat the magic? Saturday is a Character Development workshop. I think I’ll attend and see where things go from here.

Keep writing.


Life Happens

I’d like to find the perfect writer’s tool. Do you know what that would be? It would be something that would help get the things of life out of the way, taken care of, so I could spend the necessary hours at the workstation writing.

This wonderful tool would deal with the transportation of grandchildren to and from school, sports events, and back to their homes.

This perfect tool would handle doctor appointments, dental appointments, grocery shopping and similar tasks. It would leave me to the writing.

But, this tool does not exist and I can’t afford a personal assistant. So I deal with life’s events, tasks and appointments instead of sitting at the workstation, writing. Many of those events, though, I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Thus, I again missed another arbitrary deadline. I don’t accept this as failure. I accept this as just part of life and an opportunity to check in, reset and try again. So, I’ll do just that.

In the meantime, I’ve sent the first novel to a professional editor for a “substantive edit.” I hope this means that the resulting work–after I do the suggested changes and edits–will be ready for either self-publishing, or an agent/editor in the traditional publishing path. Still, one short story is on a short list and another is making the rounds.

So, now to get back to the writing.


Course Corrections

August turned out just too full of other things, so I won’t get this draft done by the end of the month. I’ll be making a course correction and setting the deadline to September 30.

The key here is to not take this as a disaster and just give up on the project. Just like in project management, things happen and you have to make adjustments to deadlines, deliverables and reports to the honchos. Adjustments to the timeline are normal and taken with a healthy dose of “what happened, what went wrong and what can we do to stay on task and on target?”

Schedule slip is going to happen. Think about the priorities in your life, like family, health, work around the house and others. These have a place and writing cannot push all of them aside all the time. When I get to spend some great, quality time with my grandkids, the writing gets set aside. When I need to visit my mother, who may not remember who I am next time, the writing gets pushed aside.

But, I realize the deadline approaches and I need to refocus my efforts. I’m well into the story and know roughly where it will go. So, I just hunker down and get back to work. Can I hit the goal by September 30? Certainly. I know I can because I’ve done it before (thank you, NaNoWriMo!).

“Prepare to come about!”

“Aye, aye!”

“Jibe, jibe, jibe!”

Keep writing.


Staying the course

I’m about a month into my new novel, but I’m not making the progress I had hoped. The story is strong, I think, and there is a solid structure in place. But, I’m only on chapter three. My word count has me at almost 7,000 words. To meet the goal, I have to get another 50,0000+ words done by the  end of August. I’m also tracking two short stories through the submission, rejection, submission process.

I’ll keep plugging away, but in the meantime, I have a trip to Boise next week, SpoCon this weekend, a wedding the next weekend, and some other activities. Summer is just too full of things to do, including play time with grandkids and quality time with family and friends.

I try to sit down for a bit in the morning, check what I did the day before, then add more story. I’m about to hit the story’s first crisis point. I need to look at my outline of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey.” This is a useful tool in establishing the story arc, though you do not have to stick to it lock-step. Since I’m writing a young adult novel, Christian-based, there are parts of the story arc I’ll do … differently.

Still, it helps to have that outline, graphic or whatever you would use to define the “monomyth” handy. It helps you answer the repeating question: “What happens next?”

Keep writing.