Nanowrimo Support and Encouragement

Sigh.  Heavy sigh.  Slumped shoulders.  Glazed eyes.

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This, according to the photographer, is the "Plot Dog." Hope he helps you, too!

That's me, because I'm not doing Nanowrimo and I miss it.  I miss the flat-out gonzo nuttiness of hurling words at the page and the feeling you get after nailing 1K or 2K or more words.   The last time I wrote like this was the first two weeks of September, when I participating in a class devoted to fast drafting. (You can read more about my experience below.)

But I'm deep into the first rewrite of my novel and I've got a lot of other stuff going on, too.  (Like wonderful clients.  And other novels to promote.  A live workshop in Nashville in February to plan. Next year's France retreat to dream about. Things to knit.  And a ukelele to learn how to play.) And so I thought it best to focus my efforts on revision, even though I keep getting wonderful ideas for the half-finished mystery I did in September.  (Dutifully, I am noting said ideas in the little notebook I keep for that purpose, just as I advise my clients to do.)

I do, however, want to support all of you out there who are chugging along at Nanowrimo.  So rather than regurgitate stuff I've written before, I offer you links that I hope will be of help.  Enjoy!

Here are posts from my blog:

Fast Drafting Fiction (Or Any Kind of Writing)

This Series on Writing Fast Will Blow Your Creative Mind--And Inspire You

Shhh! Here's the Secret to Prolific Writing

How I Wrote (Almost) 10K Words Yesterday

The Magic Formula for Getting Lots of Writing Done

And here are a couple from other sites:

NaNoWriMo Inspiration (from the wonderful Rachael Herron, on whom I have a huge girl crush)

10K Day for Writers  (Milli's site is alas inactive at the moment, but there's tons of good stuff on writing a lot on it, so have a look around)

Nanowrimo Inspiration (A Tumblr blog I just found which seems to be a wonderful mish-mash of ideas and yes, inspiration

Inventive Writing Prompts (My own Tumblr blog with a prompt every day, over 100 now.)

A Pinterest board!

Five Links for Nanowrimo Inspiration (An article on Forbes--yes, Forbes!--from a couple of years ago with good stuff in it.

Okay, I would say that is quite enough reading material for you, especially because you are going to be spending so much time writing over the next month.  Right? And do tell: are you doing Nanowrimo this year?  Is it your first year or are you a seasoned pro?

Plot Dog photo by gothick_matt.


The Magic Formula For Getting Tons of Writing Done

Okay, guys, Nanowrimo is on the horizon, swiftly approaching...just four more days!  I know many of you like to torture yourself with the task of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month.  And even those of you not participating this year (I'm sitting it out) still would like to know the magic formula for getting tons of writing done.

Amiright? Crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafb

I thought so.

I shall share it with you, and bear in mind there is good news and bad news that comes along with it. The good news being that a magic formula exists.  The bad news being that magic formulas don't work unless you use them.

So, here it is: 

Commitment + Consistency + Courage = Creativity

And guess what? Creativity equals words on the page and words on the page result in a finished book. So let's look at each element in turn.

1. Commitment.  For most people, this is likely the hardest part of the formula.  I know it is for me. You tell yourself you're going to get up at 5:30 and get those words written....and then you see something interesting on Facebook (Or CNN if you're a newshound like me). And instead of writing, you're browsing the internet.  If this happens once or twice, give yourself a break, maybe your brain needs a rest.  But if it is a regular occurrence, take a look at yourself.  Where's your integrity? Ouch.  I hate calling you (and myself) on the carpet.  But, sometimes it is necessary.  So, do yourself a big favor. If you say you're going to write, by God, go write.  Integrity feeds on integrity.  And procrastination feeds on procrastination. (As in, I've blown it now, why bother? This is the same sentiment that derails diets.  Don't ask me how I know this, just trust me, okay?)

2. Consistency.  Another difficult one.  If you're anything like me, you get a good momentum going and then rebel against it.  A little rebellion is okay--it allows your ego to thing its in charge.  But only a little! Because consistently showing up at the page, day after day after day is how you get tons of writing done.  I knew a writer who scheduled writing days once a month.  Didn't work, because in the vast distance between writing dates he lost the threads of his project and it took hours to get caught up again.  Last I heard, he wasn't writing any more.  Don't be him!  Write as often as you can!

3. Courage.  You need it.  Period.  You need it for when you dredge up those old dormant emotions in order to inject realism into your characters.  And you need it for when your kids want your attention and you just need to finish a paragraph.  Or for when your spouse tells you he misses you sitting next to him on the couch at night, watching TV.  Or for when your mother makes a snide remark about how much time you're spending on that dumb-novel-that's-not-going-anywhere.  You need it to persevere, to commit and be consistent.

Put those three elements together and you get:

Creativity.  The mad delight of putting words on the page.  The feeling that all is right with the world.  The joy of being so in the moment that you don't even realize time has passed.  The satisfaction of meeting your word count.  Yeah, some days it is hard to convince yourself to get to the page, but oh my goodness, it is worth it!

So dive in!  The words and sentences don't have to be perfect, they just have to be.  Get them out of you and onto the computer, or typewriter, or spiral or whatever you write in.

(By the way, this magic formula is taken from a little Ebook I wrote called Set the Words Free, which I will be releasing soon.) 

Do you have a magic formula for getting your writing done?  Please share in the comments!

I snitched the image from the Nanowrimo website.  I don't think they'll mind too much.


Novel Prep: The Master Timeline

It's two days until Nanowrimo starts!  Are you ready?

You have two more days to write character dossiers, descriptions of locations, and figure out the plot. The rules of Nanowrimo state that you can do as much prep work as you like, so long as you don't begin the actual writing of the novel until November 1.

I highly recommend doing prep work for your novel.  As you might guess from this statement, I'm a plotter, not a pantser.  When I fly without a plan, I go off on tangents and my characters' motivations and actions tend to make no logical sense.  So I like to plan a bit ahead of time.  However, a bit is the operative phrase--I write character dossiers, figure out where they live and work and hang out and get a loose outline of the plot down on paper.  I like to leave room for the magic to happen--for a new character to walk on, or for an existing one to do something unexpected--and this method does that for me.

I've been puzzling over the plot of my WIP.  I'm not officially doing Nanowrimo because I've already gotten some words written, but I'm thinking I'll write along with those of you who are doing it as a way to kick-start this novel.

So I've been working on prepping.

And I've hit on what for me is a brilliant aid to figuring out the plot.

It's the master timeline, which is a timeline that mushes together all the events in all the characters' backstories.  I've made individual timelines for characters lives before, but never done it this way, with them all together.  For some reason, it works brilliantly for me to not only keep track of what happened in the past (when characters married, divorced, bore babies, etc.) but also to generate ideas for plot and character.

I've always had the theory that if you keep an idea book, the ideas in it mate and bear children while you aren't looking and I think the same is true with the master timeline.  The characters on it talk to each other and create activities and ideas when I'm not looking, I swear.

I started the master timeline to get a solid idea of the cast's backstories as I was finding myself confused with what happened when.  Now that I've gotten that all down on paper, I'm realizing I'm going to go even farther with the timeline, plugging into dates and events from the actual plot.

It's brilliant, I tell you, brilliant. 

So try it.  You've got time before Nanowrimo starts.  You can thank me on December 1st.

How do you prep for writing a novel, or any kind of book?  Or are you a pantser who just starts writing?  Leave a comment!


Lower Your Standards

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I am currently doing Nanowrimo in a cheating sort of way.

Cheating because the rules of Nanowrimo say that you can't have written any of your novel before November 1st, and I'd written, oh, 60 pages.  But I wanted to use the energy of the event to galvanize my writing and get back to a regular writing schedule.

So I set a goal for myself to write 2,000 words every day and I met that goal every day in November until Sunday.

When my writing screeched to a halt.

I knew exactly why the flow stopped.  It was because I only had a couple day's worth of work until I didn't know where I was going in the book.  Up until this time, I could let the words roll because I knew what scene happened next.

Now, after a few more sessions, I'd be stuck.

And I let the fear of that moment stop me.

But I really didn't want to lose my momentum.  So I did what any self-respecting writer would do.  I lowered my standards.

First, I told myself that I only had to write 1,000 words a day.  Then I reminded myself that I could write as badly as I wanted.  Not only could, but should, write what Anne Lamott calls a Shitty First Draft. 

Lowering my standards did the trick.  Writing 1,000 bad words a day is at least making progress, and that was the point of participating in Nanowrimo in the first place.

Today my assignment is to figure out what comes next.  I have ideas, they just aren't in any logical order.  And even if I lower my standards to only spending 15 minutes on this project, I'll have met my expectations.

I'm telling you, lowering your standards is amazing.  It will help you get the writing done.  If there's one thing I know for sure, to borrow a phrase from Oprah, it's that we're all way too hard on ourselves anyway.  Lowering your standards is one way to subvert this.

Have you ever successfully lowered your standards around writing?

**By the way, sometimes even lowering your standards doesn't help.  If you're well and truly stuck in your writing, I can help.  Check out my services page for more information.


Writing Every Morning

I'm participating in Nanowrimo this year.  Sort of. Lightfx_landscapes_nature_273036_h

I doing it, but not really doing it.  The Nanowrimo rules state you can do as much prep work as possible up to November 1st, but you can't actually start writing until the first day of the month.  And I'd already written about 60 pages of my next novel, so I can't actually compete.

But I can use the energy of a gazillion people writing novels to boost my own creativity. 

And that is exactly what I'm doing.   I've been clipping along, writing by hand every morning, but my muse warned me I was coming up on the time when I didn't know exactly what happened next in my story.  And I realized that this was a danger zone, a time when my every-morning writing habit might fall apart under the weight of uncertainty.

So I resolved to use Nanowrimo to take me to a new level of seriousness and commitment to this novel.

I committed to writing 2,000 words a day, as I had when I wrote Emma Jean, and  carved out a bit of time on Halloween to get organized for the next push, as in, please God and handsome Muse, (my muse is a hot young male who favors tight jeans and T-shirts that show off his muscles), please help me to figure out where I'm going next.

What became evident immediately as I pawed through the hand-written pages of my notebooks was this:

I didn't know where I was in the story.

And if I didn't know where I was, how could I figure out where I was going?

So my first order of business was to get my hand-written pages onto the computer, 2,000 words at a time.  I had to abandon my hand-writing habit if I was ever going to wrap my brain around the entirety of this novel.

This morning I finished feeding the words in and got to the part where I'm writing new stuff.  I was a bit nervous, because I'd also asked my muse if we could please compose on the computer again.  I'm so, so grateful for the month I sat on a chair in the living room and wrote by hand every morning because it got me going on the novel again.  But it is hard to keep track of story and characters doing it by hand.

Today, the words flowed.  I organized the next few chapters in my mind, and whipped along, typing away.  It actually took me less time to write 2,000 words of original material than it did to feed those hand-written words in.

Phew.

So here are my two take-aways from this experience that might be helpful to you:

1.  Writing every morning is glorious.  It is the best thing ever.  Period.  After I've written my 2,000 words every day, I feel great.  I'm in love with the world, because I've done the most important thing to me first.  And that makes everything flow better.

2.  It's helpful to stay flexible throughout the process.  I'm learning that the process for every novel is different.  You might write the first one in strict chronological order and then find out that doesn't work for the next one.  Like me, you might start our writing on the computer, switch to writing by hand, and then return to the computer.  The point is, it doesn't matter.  Do what gets the words on the page.  Do what works for you in the moment!

 What about you?  What's your writing process?

 Photo from Everystockphoto.

By the way, if you're truly stalled on your writing and can't make any progress, my favorite thing to do besides writing novels and blog posts is coach writers.  Check out my services page for more information.


There's a Reason Nanowrimo is Held in November

The first time I did Nanowrimo (really the only official time, since I'm a cheater this year) I couldn't imagine why they held it in November.  I mean, its the month with Thanksgiving in it, and all kinds of holiday preparations going on. Landscape-alone-village-7449-l

But when I thought more about it, I got it.

Because these dark days (daylight savings time ends on Sunday, yikes) of late fall are among my most creative of times.   November and December are months when it is not only easy for me to happily make progress on current projects, but they are also times when I get tons of new ideas.

It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it?  All around us, the weather is getting colder, leaves are falling, plants are dying.  Now what we usually associate with creativity.

What gives?

I've thought about this a lot, and here's what I've come up with.

First, its a time when the encroaching outside darkness forces us within.  (For the record, I love it when dark begins to fall early.  I know, I'm the one human being on the planet who feels this way.  It's my Danish heritage.  Oh, right, so wait, there's probably some more folks like me, lovers of these dark days, up in Scandinavia.)  When night falls by 5 PM we've got to find ways to entertain ourselves indoors, and for many of us, that means writing.  And so we spend more time looking within.  And that's where ideas are born.

Second, we mimic nature.  Plants and seeds may be going dormant, but this doesn't mean nothing is happening.  Here's the Wikipedia definition of dormancy: "Dormancy is a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and (in animals) physical activity are temporarily stopped." Note the words, growth, development, activity, which correspond to our spring and summer busyness.  Dormant periods are rich times of retreat and renewal, vital aspects of the creative cycle, which can be hugely beneficial for the generation of creative ideas.

Baby-manger-nativity-72863-lThird, in western cultures, the advent of winter is the most sacred of times, when we celebrate the birth of a savior.  And even if you practice a different religious tradition, the story of the birth of Jesus so predominates as to be a cultural meme.  And what is more symbolic of new life, new energy, and new ideas, than a baby?

So I've learned to honor and appreciate these dark, creative days.  And I've also realized that seeing November and December as times that will generate new ideas gives me a good jump on the new year.  I'm already riding the crest of the new by the time the new year comes along.  (And something tells me that next year is going to be a doozy, seeing as how its 2012 and all.)

This year, I've decided to take my honoring of the season a step further and offer a class around it.  Hence, Cultivate Your Creative Seeds: Goose the Muse and Gather Goals to Generate Writing Success in 2012.  It's a two-session teleclass.  The first class will focus on tips and techniques for getting ideas, corralling them, and not getting overwhelmed by them. During the second class, we'll focus on turning those ideas into goals (in a creative, non-threatening manner) so that we can make huge, rabid progress on our writing next year. 

I'm keeping the cost of this class low because everyone money is an issue for folks right now, and you'll also get a recording and cool handouts.  Interested?  Click here for more information.  Or email me at charlotte@charlotterainsdixon.com for more info.

Call me crazy, but just as I wrote this blog post, I had a brain fart storm.  And that is to offer a Nanowrimo special of $30 off, which brings the cost of the class to an extremely reasonable $67.  But my brainstorm won't last long, I'm only going to offer this price until the end of the weekend, midnight Pacific time on November 6th.

So go sign up.  And then come back here and tell me what your most creative time of the year is.

 

Image credits: winter tree by ywel; baby in manger by debsch, both found on Everystockphoto.

 


Writing Beginnings: Nanowrimo, Day One, a Story about Sometimes

The energy of beginning things is so interesting and exciting.  I felt it this morning when I rose at 6 and sat in my writing chair, journal in hand.  Because I knew that all around the world, thousands, if not millions, of other writers were rising with the same intention in mind: to start a new writing project.

So I ended up writing about beginnings instead of working on my novel.  (But never fear, heeding my own oft-repeated advice, I did spend a few minutes free writing about the novel.  Remember, I'm actually cheating on Nanowrimo this year.)

Here's what I was thinking about:

Sometimes, in life, creativity, or writing, we don't even notice a beginning.  It is suddenly just there. When I look back on the genesis of my completed novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, for instance, I cannot point to a specific time when I thought, that's it, that's what I'm going to write about.  The idea just bloomed inside me.  And then it was if it had always been there.

An idea blossoms, and we decide whether to let it grow or not.  Sometimes, we let the idea go but it keeps coming back, so that we know its ours. 

And sometimes, it stays away.  Which means it is somebody else's to grow.

Sometimes, the beginning of a writing project is easy, and you keep it the exact way you wrote it the first time, because you can't make it better.  This happened with my finished novel.  But these sometimes are rare.

Sometimes, way more often, you wrestle with the beginning over and over again.

Prompts and writing exercises sometimes inspire entire novels. 

And sometimes they don't.

Sometimes we start with a bang, and keep right on going.  And sometimes we write in fits and starts.  And sometimes, always, every novel or book you write will proceed in a different way, even though you expect it to go just the way the last one did.

But always--never sometimes--beginnings are good.  Because without beginning, you'll never get to the end.

So happy Nanowrimo, day one!

How is your writing day going so far?  Are you on track with your first day's goal?  How do you feel about writing beginnings?


Nanowrimo Commitment (With Full Confession of Intention to Cheat)

I've made a commitment to do Nanowrimo again this year.

With a huge caveat.

I've actually already begun my novel, and written a chapter and a half of it.  So I won't be competing to write a whole 50,000 word novel during the month of November. 

I will, however, be using the collective energy that occurs each year around this event to set a regular writing schedule and stick to it.  Currently, I'm getting up and working on my novel about twice a week, sometimes three times.  I want it to increase to five times a week and I want to get up earlier and have a longer writing session every morning.

A brief aside about getting up early.  Last night at my regular writing group, we set writing goals for the rest of the year.  And we talked about the difficulty of holding to a schedule for any kind of creative writing, with the pull of family and career.  One common thread among us was the issue of creative energy and head space.  All agreed that writing in the afternoon or evening is often impossible because our heads are so full of the daily business of life.  And thus the best way to get words on the page is by getting up early.  One man in the group routinely rises at 5:30 AM to write before he turns to the work day.  And another--wait for it--gets up at 3:30 AM or 4 every morning to work on his memoir.  So I can damn well get myself out of bed a half an hour early.  How about you?

I've written about Nanowrimo before in numerous posts throughout the years.  Here's some of them, and check them out, because they've got good solid info on getting ready for it.

Nanowrimo Prep

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo

It's Nanowrimo, Day One, Do You Know Where Your Words Are?

Writing Inspiration, Whether You Are Nanowrimo-ing or Not

I'm publicly stating my goal so that you guys can hold me to it.  And in return, if you're onboard for Nanowrimo, note it in the comments and we can all support each other.  So how about it?  Are you with me?  Let's do it!  Chime in below and we'll write together during November.