I sit outside, absorbing the sun. Wondering if I might be the only one who understands it’s power. These days the only power anyone can see is money. They don’t see how plants reach out of the darkness in search of the sun. They don’t see how our bodies crave it or how we start to go insane without it. Their power is an off brand shade of mint green. It’s printed and sold as if it’s rare, but really there is plenty to go around. Really, we don’t even need it. I sit here, little ol’ me, experiencing the universe. Existing only to exist. Think about it. What goes to the grave with us? Not money. Not fame. I believe it is only our experiences that go with us. I believe that we are recycled into the universe indefinitely to experience life in every form.
I suppose the title says enough. There are four days now until November first. As some of you might know, November first, for some, marks the beginning of the years most hectic month, but not because of Christmas shopping and turkey basting. It’s hectic because we get to begin a lot of that and write a novel. If you haven’t already read my first NaNoWriMo post, I encourage you to do so here. I won’t go over survival tips at this time, since I have some of the main ones in the last post. I am here to encourage you.
I didn’t do NaNo the first year I learned of it. I thought my friends were nuts for trying to do such a thing, especially since we were all in high school at the time. I had been writing but everything I wrote was small. Mostly short stories and poems. I didn’t think a high schooler was capable of writing something that long, after all we were still learning the basics, weren’t we? I was mistaken of course, and it wasn’t until the next year that I realized it. As my friends became more and more comfortable with sharing their work, I started to realize that someone so young could still write well regardless of how many classes they took. Writing isn’t about how many classes you have under your belt, nor is it about how official the writing is. What I learned is that to be a writer, you have to write. You can’t wait until you’re ready to write. You have to just do it, and poorly. You write poorly for however long it takes until you learn on your own what your own voice sounds like. Each writer has their own voice, and the words you use only help your voice, but no matter how many fancy words you throw in there, your voice is still your voice. So just write.
I can barely even share my writing with the world, but I’m going to write a novel. I already have a novel written, and two half complete novels. Those were the stories I gave up on and then proceeded to beat myself up over. What kind of writer gives up on their writing? Truth is, most. In fact, they all might have given up on a story at one time or another. Not all stories are meant to be published, or even finished. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just suggest not giving up on each and every story, there are some that will sweep you away in the blink of an eye and you’ll be along for the journey just as your readers will be. Writing is fun and I encourage you to seek out the thrill of writing a story. It’s addicting too, so before you know it you’ll have plenty of notebooks filled up with different colored inks and quotes wrapped around your wrists and arms. Trust me, that was our thing in high school.
Don’t give up, if you’ve considered participating in a NaNoWriMo season, I strongly suggest you go along with it. The mere curiosity is proof enough that you are ready, otherwise you’d be wondering about cutting out paper snowflakes or which dumplings are best, the poofy light ones that float to the top of the gravy or the ones that are dense and doughy and sink to the bottom. You’re wondering about writing, writing a novel at that, so I say you’re ready. The time doesn’t get more perfect than it is now, with NaNo in just four days. You even have enough time to plan, considering most seasoned WriMo’s don’t even do that much before November first.
Give it a try, I promise you’ll like it.
All about NaNoWriMo
To those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a writing challenge that takes place during the month of November, from November 1st to November 30th. The goal is to write 50,000 words within those 30 days. The rules are that you have to write every word within those 30 days, midnight to midnight. I suppose that’s the only rule. Lots of people start something new, but it doesn’t have to be new. It can even be a re-write of something old, as long as all 50,000 words are newly written during November. You update your word count on the very useful website NaNoWriMo.org. I have been doing this for almost 5 years now, but the only year I have officially completed was last year. The two years previous to that I was unable to update online, so they kind of didn’t count.
I had been editing last year’s NaNo, and even added to it during Camp NaNo, which takes place during the months of April and July. During Camp Nano, you are able to choose your word count goal, and change it at any time. I chose 25,000 for both, but because I was moving during July, I was unable to continue that month. I’m actually going to start something new this year.
So what do you do if you’re interested in NaNoWriMo?
The very first thing I would suggest doing is breathe. 50,ooo words sounds like a lot. In some ways, it is a lot. But remember this. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is only 90,000 words. That book doesn’t take too long to read, and it kicked off an insanely amazing series, who’s books only grew in size. 50,000 is a good start to a rough draft, and since NaNoWriMo is intended to be only the rough draft, I’d say don’t worry too much about how large of a number 50,000 is.
The idea behind NaNo (short for NaNoWriMo) is that we are all getting ready to build a sand castle. What’s the first thing you do when you build a sand castle? You gather the sand. Each and every word is a grain of sand. Your completed NaNo will be the sand you need to mold a castle. Most WriMo’s (NaNo writers) go back and edit during December and January.
So, you’ve decided to do NaNo. Okay. Gather some materials now. I’d say one notebook, a few pens, a highlighter or two, coffee (or tea/soda) and some munchies. You’re about to start a long process. I never start with the title. In fact, I don’t start with much except for one simple sentence. I expand on that when something comes to me, but other than that I move down to the next line and start another sentence. This is how I find the topic I will eventually write about. Keep a notebook, or folded piece of scribble paper handy. October is going to be a crucial month, this is the time where you get ready to write. All of the planning, if any, will be done now.
You’ve got your materials now, and a few ideas. Start forming characters, worlds, plots and my favorite part, the villains. Just brainstorm. All over the notebook. I don’t spend much time thinking either, if you over think, nothing gets written down. Just write. That’s how NaNo goes.
There is something very important you need to know about NaNo
The most important tip I have for you is this:
Do. Not. Edit.
The month of November is not for editing. It’s for writing. Brainstorming. It’s for mistakes and mind changes. But whatever you do, do not put that pinky on the backspace button! Even if you forget a period or to capitalize a characters name. Even if you forgot to put the i before the e. Just keep writing.
It’s almost November
Now, you’ve gone through the first motions of creating a book baby. You’ve created a few characters, an intriguing world, and a semi formed plot twist. You have notes scribbled in the margins of the notebook and you’ve found your favorite pen. What now? Well, it’ll almost be November now. It’s almost time to start your NaNo. What you need to know about writing is that there are certain programs that will help you during this time. My favorite one is Scrivener. They offer a free 30 day trial (and a discount to all winners). What better time to try out the program than during your NaNo? Spend some time looking over the details of the program and see if it’s for you. There are numerous videos on youtube showing how to use the program. On Nov 1st, go ahead and activate the free trial. It’ll help more than I can describe.
Do I have any tips for you?
I’ve already told you not to edit. So I stress, don’t edit! But beyond that, I need you to know that there are other tips that can help you survive NaNoWriMo. Let your family and friends know what you’re doing. Writing 50,000 words isn’t easy, and it takes up a bit of time. Be prepared to spend lots of November doing nothing but writing. I like to try and keep myself a day ahead. I always start out with a bang, I over write. I try to keep up on that as long as possible because at some point something is going to happen that is going to make you lose a day or two. If you have a healthy amount of extra words, you can safely lose this time and not fall behind on NaNo. Which brings me to my second very important tip.
DO NOT FALL BEHIND. I really do mean this. Falling behind is what causes lots of WriMo’s to quite early. It becomes overwhelming and feels like a task that you no longer want to do. Try not to fall behind, and the best way I can say to do this is to write what you can. If you’re having a seriously busy day, don’t just put off your words for the next day. Try your hardest to get any amount of time in, weather it’s 15 minutes or 30. Half of your daily count means you won’t have as much to make up the next day.
Another thing that helps me is to do sprints. Set a timer, shut off any electronics, disconnect the internet if you must. Turn off the tv and close the door. The timer should be set for an amount of time that you feel comfortable with, 15-30 minutes. Write that entire time. I usually can get away with doing this twice a day and I end up with my daily count.
Speaking of which, you will have to write 1,667 words a day. That usually takes me about an hour, I type quickly. I suggest trying to work on how quickly and efficiently you can type in the month of October. You’re going to need it.
Sleep when you are tired. I remember last year when I was writing. I refused to drink coffee because I knew that once I got my word count in, I was going to go to sleep for the night. Half way through my writing I ended up dozing off, while typing. I guess it was more like a trance in which I was daydreaming, typing with my eyes shut. Somehow, my sci-fi character began talking about rescuing the second main character from “Hogwartz”. Just like that. I began rambling about this. Before I knew it, I had my word count, but it was all about this “Hogwartz” place. Get your sleep folks.
My final piece of advice? Don’t give up. Please. I beg you. Do not give up. This is important work. It’s a story itching to get out of you. It’s an entire world that will never exist if you don’t put it on paper. It’s a part of you that the world might never know, unless you write it down. Whatever you do, push through it, and keep pushing. Push until you can’t anymore, and then push some more. What you’re doing this November could change your entire world. Remember that. Look forward to how it will feel to have an entire novel at the end of November.
If you are going to do NaNoWriMo this year, I encourage you to share with everyone else. I encourage you to have fun with it. Insert tiny t-rex characters or a character that owns a cat who likes to cuddle the character’s left shoe. Be silly. Be serious. Make jokes. Be who you really are, and don’t doubt. At the end of this, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to show a single person. You don’t send your actual words to anyone, only the word count.
I wish you good luck, and happy typing. 🙂
I recently read a blog post that talked about writing space. I’d never really put much thought into where I did my writing until that post. I guess I just choose what feels most comfortable to me at the time that I choose to write, and tonight it seems I’ve chosen to sit next to a 44′ picture window while it thunderstorms out. If any of you have ever seen a thunderstorm from the mid-west part of America, you’ll know what vibes are around right now. For those who don’t know about the thunderstorms in the mid-west, you need to know that it’s constant lightning. I don’t mind thunder, I actually enjoy it. So what did I do when I heart the first roll of thunder? I opened up my document program and began typing, almost as if that was the only time that I could write. I suppose, I’ve found the best writing space for me.
Of course, I can’t have my thunderstorms all the time (though, according to family, there have been more thunderstorms here than there usually are on average). Where do I choose to write then, when the thunder just isn’t on my side? Well, the couch is usually the first spot, nestled next to one or two of the cats with a latte or a cup of tea. I like it to be quiet when I write, but sometimes I actually put on Mozart or dubstep, depending on my mood. And I always listen to it with headphones, for some reason the noise that comes from my speakers just irritates me when I’m writing. And I don’t always use my laptop for writing, sometimes I need to put pen to paper, and boy do I have quite the collection of pens. Two for each mood I suppose. Got the fine tips, the medium tips, free ink, gel pens, and felt tip pens, all with different grippies and weights, each one is a pleasant color and shape. My notebooks are thick, non spiral, college ruled. Some of them don’t even have lined paper, which I usually use when writing with my fountain pens. I have a lap desk, one of those little cushion things that you rest on your lap and it allows you to have a hard surface to write on.
When do I write the best though? Believe it or not, it’s not when I’m next to a violent thunderstorm or while I’m sipping the Earl Grey, it’s actually when I’m out and about. Back in NY I used to have to wait at the local grocery store before my shift at work. I had to wait because my boyfriend worked a few hours before me and my job was too far away to be able to walk to. I had invested in a Thinkpad, which I swore would be used to further my writing (and so far it has) and I purchased a nice laptop bag for it. I began to settle into a routine. My boyfriend drops me off at the grocery store, I wander around looking for something to quench my thirst (usually a pomegranate drink), I buy a slice of pizza or pack of sushi then I proceed to sit at an empty booth in the cafe and set up my laptop. This was during the busiest part of the day, when people are transitioning between their lunch breaks and the rest of their shift, or just getting off of their shift and stopping in for lunch. Sometimes I would even see people conduct small meetings at one of the round tables. I guess it’s convenient, there’s plenty of food and drinks, and you can sit there for as long as you like and just keep refilling your soda cup. For some reason, this is where I did my best writing.
At the time that I began doing this, I was just finishing up a round of NaNoWriMo and was jumping into the editing portion of it. I was always in the zone during this time and I would over shoot my word count, or re write a portion of the NaNo and create so much flow that I then had to either edit, delete or create new chapters to make it all fit. It wasn’t the food or the pomegranate drinks that kept me in the game, it was the hustle and bustle. Something about the environment, about being around people who were focused, kept me focused that much more. And maybe a little was my anxiety too, I didn’t want to be bothered by anybody that might want to talk, so I would put on the headphones and create my own space at that booth. The vague smell of smoked chicken and ribs, coffee and pizza dough helped to comfort me as well. I happen to like food, especially pizza, smoked meat and coffee. Being surrounded by my comfort foods helped quite a bit, and I bet if there was a candle to make my house smell like those three, I might buy just one to see if it was worth it. I can’t keep my house smelling like that all the time, it’s expensive to smoke meat all the time. So the post I saw today got me thinking. What do other people do to create their own writing space? Do you have a special place you like to go, or sit? Or a special snack to fuel your brain as it hatches ideas? Perhaps a certain candle you light? I’d love to hear about your writing ‘ritual’.