~ By Leigh Duvan
There are only a few days left to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2017.
You may still be on the fence about NaNo or thinking there’s no way you can win, so why bother even doing it. Today I’m going to tell you in Nike form to JUST DO IT! Sign up! Unless you’re going to be hiding under a rock for the month of November, there’s no reason not to be a participant. I’ll even make it easy for you. Here’s the sign up link: https://nanowrimo.org/
Now, before you think I’m crazy, hear me out. I've participated in NaNo four times over the course of the last four years. And in that time I've only officially won ONE TIME - yep, once. That very first year. It wasn’t easy and life was crazier than crazy - my strategy then was to panster my way through my book and lock myself in a room at home or coffee shop for hours at a time on weekends to make up for weekdays I didn’t write. But dagnabit, I’m competitive and HAD to win. I HAD to hit 50,000 new words. Even if they were crappy. And many were. I used every trick in the book - first and last names of characters, fully writing contractions out. Writing a useless scene I knew I would cut. You name it, I did it. I WON and had something in MS format to work with at the end of the month. Did I mention it was my first year taking writing as a profession seriously...so yah, I HAD to win!
With the goal of NaNo being to create habits and get it done because consistency leads to achievement. I had to have a plan - even for a Panster. Here’s how I did it:
I added padding in for the days I knew I wouldn't be able to write 1,667 words, like the days work would be insane and for those days around Thanksgiving where I knew family and friends would take up my time. What that meant was that on another day I would need more time to get three, four, or five thousand words in (remember that locked room?).I made sure my family was supportive and knew that mommy needed some alone time, and hubby was on deck to handle the basics for an hour or two or five when needed. But this post ISN’t about winning NaNo. This post is about being a winner whether you officially win NaNo or not. You see, the second year I participated, I only wrote25,000 words over 30 days. By NaNoWriMo standards, I LOST. I was a BIG LOSER. I had two business trips that month for 4-5 days each and Thanksgiving. I barely had time to breathe much less write and I felt terrible. Here’s when reality hit me - for someone who didn’t have time to write consistently 25,000 NEW words was an incredible amount in a month. That’s a good ⅓ of a book. Most people don’t write a ⅓ of a book in a quarter or year much less a month. That’s a WIN.
Now if you are used to writing one, two, three or four thousand words a day and you’re consistent you go get that book out there and I can’t wait to read it. Use NaNo the way you need to for you which is different and a separate post.If you get a few hundred words a day or maybe you get a couple thousand words over the course of a week or two or a month then Nano is the jumpstart that you need to get consistency under your belt. That’s why you want to be a participant. Back to my story of year two and those 25,000 words that I wrote. I was technically a “BIG LOSER” yet I had a strong mindset so I turned things around on myself. I was really a winner in my book because I had 25,000 new words to be able to edit and adjust and do something with. More than I started with on November 1st. That’s SOMETHING to celebrate and as writer’s we need to celebrate the wins. Sure I didn’t get the sponsor prizes, but new words on the page to edit meant so much more to me.
Year three was a complete bust. I wrote something like 3,000 words in the month. I was working a day job for 70 hours a week and had all the kid and family duties as hubby was traveling too. My house was cray cray. There was no way any writing was going to be done much less 1,667 a day. This had nothing to do with mindset. This was reality. I didn’t have to to think much less write.Basically I signed up and didn't fully participate. I don’t count that as a win or lose. But I realized that it was a time that I probably should not have even put the stress of NaNo on my plate. Year Four I didn't do Nano. I didn't sign up. I didn't plan to do it. I just let it go and pass me by because I was in the same boat as year three.
Now in my fifth year as a committed writer I am signed up for NaNo and what I realized is that when I get started on November 1st - no matter what I write, as long as I write, I am starting and finishing a winner. And I will admit I’m only working about 50 hours a week and there are no business trips coming up. So, there IS less external pressure. There is definitely a time to be a realist versus an optimist ;-)
I’ve decided, this time around, I'm a winner whether I get 10 words a day, 100 words a day or the magical 1,667 a day. If I win by their standards of 50,000 words - I get some prizes, Yay Me. And yes, that’s what I’m going for this time. The “Official Win”. However, if I get 20,000 new words for the month I STILL win and so do my readers. That's the beauty of mindset. Mindset helps you be the winner. Your mindset is where it's at. How you think about the experience will guide your experience.I'm going into it and I want you to go into it thinking about the fact that you are a winner as long as you get words toward your story done and you begin to create some pattern of consistency.
Maybe in those 30 days you can only write four days a week. But if those four days a week yield words and you're consistent you're a winner. Or maybe you can only write on the weekends but you crank out five to six thousand words on the weekend. You're a winner.
Maybe you write every other day and that becomes your pattern. If you come out at the end with more words than you started with YOU ARE A WINNER. I want you to remember that. Whether you “officially” win or lose NaNo if you get new words on paper you win and your readers will too.Leigh Duvan is a digital marketing strategist by day & a contemporary romance writer by night. She writes sweet and sassy stories and loves a loveable hero. She's a specialist in marketing & brand building designed to drawn in loyal and sticky fans. Complete with two decades of sales/marketing experience, she teaches new and experienced authors how to build and keep an engaged audience through brand awareness and community building, starting even before their first book release. An avid napper, she spends time running her kids here to there and traveling with her husband as often as possible. You can visit her at http://LeighDuvan.com.
The ProblemPersonally, I can't do that. I can not handle not knowing what I'm going to write, and even though I've been successfully NaNo'ing since 2007, I have yet to learn how to let loose and "just write." And if try to do so without any mental preparation and just one idea to cling to, the struggle gets very real. But I've got a trick. (It's likely review for many of you, so feel free to chime in and expand on this awfully simplistic overview.)
The TrickThe trick is simple. Put all your thoughts and ideas about your novel aside. Write them down if you must, and then get them out of your head. And then, focus on three things:
- What does your character want?
- Why does your protagonist want what she wants?
A Bit of VocabularyIt's much easier to figure out your character's GMC if you truly understand the following terms and how they relate to each other: Protagonist: A character who has a goal and wants something (a McGuffin). Antagonist: A character who wants to stop your protagonist from reaching his or her goal thus creating conflict, but isn't necessarily a "bad guy." (A grown-up who stops a toddler from running into the street after a ball isn't being mean or bad, but is preventing the toddler from reaching the ball. Diana's mother and Steve are antagonists, but aren't necessarily bad.) Villain: Well, you know... But just to clarify. . . please note that your antagonist and villain can be the same character. But if they're not, like in the case of Wonder Woman, don't forget that your antagonist is really the one who has the biggest impact when it comes to moving your story forward. If you want to get really creative, your protagonist can be your villain, like Dr. Horrible. McGuffin: What your protagonist wants (her goal). It can be a bag of pretzels or it can be world peace. It doesn't matter, as long as she truly wants something, and for a good reason (motivation).
Get to WorkHere's a chart I give my elementary school students. No, you don't have to color (though it would probably thrill your muses). I hope it'll help you over the next week and through November and beyond. If you start your noveling process by figuring out GMC, the details and specifics of your story will work themselves out along the way. I promise. [One more tip: Give your protagonist a taste of what she wants and take it away. Or give her what she wants and make her hate it.] For more info on GMC, listen to this fantastic episode of How Story Works.
* Who are the protagonists, antagonists, and villains in your favorite stories? Why?*Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels. In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist. She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.
It’s the last Sunday of the month, which means that it’s time for one of our chapter PAN members (PAN stands for Published Authors Network, a professional designation within RWA open to members who reach a certain level of sales) to visit the blog to share some of their wisdom and expertise.This month, Mary E. Thompson is here to inspire us with some thoughts on why we write. Which for those of you who are striving to write 50,000 words this month, may feel like an extremely timely question. Take it away, Mary!
~ By Mary E. Thompson
Eight months ago a friend of mine released her first book. Leading up to the release, she did a countdown to release day on social media, shared it with everyone she knew, and was crazy excited. Three months later, sales were dismal. Recognition wasn’t there. She was discouraged.
Another friend took on a second job because her writing income wasn’t what she hoped for.
Yet another friend waited months to hear back from a submission only to get rejected.
None are new stories. Most authors start out the same way. No one knows who you are. No one is interested in your books. You pour yourself into a book and get a horrible review that rips the book, and your heart, to shreds.
So why do we do it? Why do we keep writing, keep pushing through in a career that may never be much more than a hobby? Why don’t we walk away and do something with more stability? A higher chance of success?
I think there are two reasons we keep going. Maybe only one of them drives you. Maybe it’s both. I’m guessing it’s both.
You know, without a doubt, that you have a book inside you that is going to make it all worthwhile.
We all want that elusive mega-success that seems to come so easily to some. We all want our book to be the next breakout story. The one that has movie producers and readers knocking down our door. We want the bestseller list and the raving fans that make every book bigger than our wildest dreams.
And we’re creative people. We have some crazy dreams.
If you don’t have faith in your own storytelling abilities, you’re going to give up. You know you’re good. You keep writing and learning and writing some more. Your books get better. Writing gets easier. You gain more recognition. You know it’s all going to pay off.
You have faith.
You truly have no choice. You’ve tried something else. Maybe you had a different career before. Or you have a second one now. Maybe writing was something you’ve always wanted to do.
No matter what, you’ve thought about walking away. Giving it all up and doing something else.
But you just can’t.
There are stories inside you. Stories that are demanding you tell them. Stories that you have to get out. It doesn’t matter if you have a million fans or one, you have to tell your stories.
How could we not do it?
Readers flock to romance. Everyone wants love. Romance novels make us believe anything can happen when love gets involved. Your best friend’s cute older brother will want you. The hot guy from your favorite coffee shop asks you out. Your sexy boss is pining for you. Anything is possible.
Is it any wonder we simply can’t stop writing our stories? Helping people fall in love? Pushing them to their limits only to shove them a little further to help them find that one person we all want to find? We can’t stop writing any more than our fans can stop reading. And that is a beautiful love story!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning. Her 26th release comes out November 29. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.
~ By Brenda Margriet
Note: On Wednesday, we posted an alternate view of National Novel Writing Month.
I am currently not writing. It doesn't feel good, but I am trying not to beat myself up about it. So with NaNoWriMo going full swing and many of my online writer friends posting amazing word counts I just want to say:
Shut up already!
Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. But for those of us (and I know you're out there!) who aren't doing NaNoWriMo for whatever reason, here's some encouragement on getting through the month and beyond.
Live your life
Yes, in order to be a better writer, to finish a book, to make a sale, you have to write. But you also have to read books you love, discover new authors. You have to watch the world go by, study people in a coffee shop, spend time enjoying your surroundings.
All these things colour your words, and can often get ignored while under the pressure of hitting a deadline or daily word count. Use this down time to experience life, to store up feelings and sensations and observations so that the next time you are writing in a white heat, you have them to draw on.
Keep writing – even when you can't
I may not be working on my next romance, but I am still writing. I'm doing this blog post, as well as blogging weekly on my own site. I'm lucky enough that my day job also involves creative writing to a certain extent, so I am working there. I am networking with other writers on Facebook through Messenger, which is also writing.
It's not, you say?
Well, think of it as a writing dialogue exercise. Study the patterns of the people you are messaging with. How does what they write "sound" different than what you write? How can you use that once you are again putting words on paper?
This too shall pass
Unless you're dealing with a true crisis of faith in your writing, remind yourself of all the times this has happened before. 'Fess up – you know it has. My first book took more than ten years to finish. I certainly wasn't writing every day during that time, and yet I GOT IT DONE!
Since publishing that book in October 2012, I have completed five more manuscripts and published two (soon to be three) of them. When I consider the ten-plus years MOUNTAIN FIRE took to complete, that's a furious pace for me.
During that time, I've also taken on a fairly stressful management level day job, helped three children grow to adulthood, and been generally busy. Maybe the last few weeks has simply been my brain telling me it needs a break.
Remember who you are and where you came from
I think part of the worry and frustration for me, personally, is I feel like I am wasting precious moments of writing time. I usually work on my novels for about 1.5 hours a day, maybe slightly more on weekends. With such a limited amount of time to write, any day I don't use that time makes me feel like I am falling deeper into writing "debt."
Yet even when I am writing full steam ahead, my daily quota is only 500 words. It's a total I find reasonably easy to achieve even on a bad day, and if I don't it is also reasonably easy to catch up. Would I love to have a higher number? Sure! Would it do any good? Probably not. I have to stop comparing myself to those writers who have published 30, 40, even 50 books since the self-publishing craze caught on. They are who they are – I am who I am. I am not a risk taker.
I need the stability of a regular paycheck. Maybe someday that will be from writing. But until it is, I need to accept my limitations and work within them.
How do you deal with not writing? Do you have a daily quota? If you do, do you find yourself wishing you could do more, no matter what it is? How are you planning to survive NaNoWriMo?
Brenda Margriet writes contemporary romances with heroes you'd meet at the grocery store. And by that she means real-life men – sexy, smart and looking for the love of their life. Her heroines are bold, savvy and determined to accept nothing less than the man they deserve.
A voracious reader since she was old enough to hold a book, Brenda's idea of the perfect holiday involves a comfortable chair near the water (ocean, lake or pool will do), a glass of wine, and a full-loaded e-reader.
She lives in Northern British Columbia with her husband (as well as various funny and furry pets) and has three adult children. Find out more about Brenda on her website www.brendamargriet.com
1. Anyone Can Do ItIn fact, hundreds of thousands of people do. Never written a novel? Doesn't matter. Are you a best-selling author like Sara Gruen? You can throw you hat into the ring, too! It's an event for anyone who wants to celebrate story.
2. I'm a PlotterAs somebody who leans more to the plotting side of the pantser / plotter spectrum, I should possibly run screaming from the idea of writing so freely for thirty days of "literary abandon." But here's the thing. Left to my own devices, I could spend years plotting and crafting my opening scene into a perfectly formatted, error-free, work of art. In other words, without the pressure, I'd get nowhere. I do plot my NaNo novels, and I so wish that my apartment was as crazily organized as my Scrivener documents. Because I plot, I can jump around from scene to scene. NaNo doesn't let me get stuck. NaNo forces me to move forward and not get hung up on details.
3. I Adore the CommunityWhen I began NaNo'ing, I lived in Manhattan. I was able to surround myself with hundreds of other crazy but brave local writers. Before I moved to Jerusalem, I checked the NaNo site to make sure there was a Jerusalem region. There was! During my first November in Israel, we were dealing with rocket fire from Gaza. At the time, the NaNo community was small. But I couldn't have been more grateful. Writing, especially in the company others, was a huge distraction and comfort. Last year, our local community grew. We even wrote on a boat. Best of all, thanks to social media and podcasts, the entire world can be your community.
4. Living in the Word of StoryDuring NaNo, I live and breathe my story. When I'm not writing, I listen to my story playlist as often as I can, which makes it almost impossible to escape my world. My desktop is my story collage (example here). Yes, life happens in November. I teach, I take care of the dogs, etc. Though I truly wish I could, I don't write full-time. November is my chance to make my story my #1 priority.
5. The AccomplishmentI'll never forget the moment I won my first NaNoWriMo. I was sitting on my couch with my computer on my lap. When I reached 50K, I went into shock. It took effort not to cry. I'd never written fiction, and suddenly, I had my own novel, in my favorite genre. The only reason I'd participated in the first place was that one of my favorite authors, Lani Diane Rich, had podcasted about it. That year, she won too. My favorite author and I had accomplished the exact same thing at the same time. How freaking cool is that? (Read our NaNo themed interview with her here.) If you can write a novel in a month, there's very little you can't do. Try it, and I promise that you'll feel like a superhero.
A Whole Month AheadIt's only Day 2, and I'm already tired. Luckily, we've had our first of three write - ins this week. I have no doubt that my fellow wrimos will help me stay on track. Want to learn more about NaNoWriMo? We have a whole archive and tips, tricks and resources to help you. It's not too late to dive into the maddness. The chapter is here to help and support you. Good luck, and write - on! (Add me to your NaNo buddy list!) * Are you participating in NaNo? If so, why? Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels. In July of 2012, she moved to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com
~ By Mary E. Thompson
Writing a novel in a month can seem like a daunting task. 50,000 words? I’d like that many zeroes in my bank account just as much as I’d like them in my WIP, but sadly, both have far fewer zeroes.
Getting the zeroes in my WIP is much easier than my bank account though, and by the end of November, I’ll have my 50,000 words. I’ve never done it before, but this year, I know I’ll succeed. I can write 50,000 words in a month, I’ve done it before, and with these simple tips, you can do it too!
Make a Plan
Nope, I’m not going to try to make you pantsers out there plotters. Knowing what you’re going to write ahead of time is a good idea, but don’t change your process when you’re trying to bump up your production.
The plan I’m talking about is figuring out how many words you need to get on a page each day. Breaking it down into smaller chunks can help. If you intend to write each of the thirty days of NaNo, you’ll need to write 1,667 words daily. If you’re like me, you won’t write all those days. There’s weekends, there’s Thanksgiving if you’re in the US, and don’t forget Black Friday and Veteran’s Day - a no school day for my kids which means a no work day for me.
When I add that all up, I’m left with 18 writing days for the month. That pushes my daily word count up to 2,778. It’s a lot, but it’s very doable for me. Especially since I know going in what I need to accomplish.
Find a Friend, or a Few
NaNo is a community. We’re all there cheering each other on. There’s no competition because you winning doesn’t mean I lose. We can all win together. Because of that, everyone is very encouraging. Add friends to your list of Writing Buddies and let out your inner cheerleader to encourage others. They’ll encourage you right back!
You can also join RWA’s Word Wars! There are a bunch of chapters participating in the challenge, some offering prizes for members with the most words written. If you like a little spark of competition, Word Wars might be just the thing you need!
To keep you going during the month, you can also go to a local Write In. Authors from your area will get together through the month and sit and write. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet others in your area and feel the connection to others who love what you love. Writing!
Enjoy the Process
Writing is a fun, exciting job. NaNoWriMo shouldn’t change that. If you don’t win NaNo, it’s not the end of the world. Things come up, and stories don’t always work out, but if you stress yourself out about the process, it’s not going to be something you’ll find enjoyable. And let’s face it, when he kisses her the first time, you should be enjoying it as much as she is!
When November 1 rolls around, be ready to go. Whether you’re old school or a rebel, you can get your 50,000 words on the page. And hey, maybe you’ll get that $50,000 one day too!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning and is kicking off NaNo with her 25th release on November 1. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.
All the write-ins organised during the month helped me to get my novel written. Writing is usually such a solitary activity, and sharing the experience with others who are attempting the same thing at the same time provides much needed encouragement. I particularly enjoyed our day on a boat in the port of Jaffa, five of us typing away as the boat gently bobbed on the waves. By chance, my characters were looking out at the same Mediterranean Sea, but further north, on a similar sunny day. In short, my fourth NaNoWriMo was by far the best I've experienced.
We met in cozy coffee shops, Israel's most legendary literary cafe, and a rustic high tech work hub. But the most amazing space of all was a boat docked in one of the most ancient ports on earth - Jaffa. I'd already finished my draft. Being on the boat in great company, surrounded by history and gently rocked by waves I closed my eyes and typed three pages inspired by a mystical Jewish concept of the Bible, using the concept of the horizon to create a modern commentary for my story. It was a truly creative highlight of the entire month.
Point is, if you feel you’re in a rut and are suffering from writer’s block, do something completely out of the ordinary. I continued the scenes I wrote that day and made it to the 50K word finish line the next morning. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity! Has a change of scenery ever helped you with your writing? Tell us about it in the comments! Happy Writing! :-) Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels. In July of 2012, she moved to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Visit her at http://melinakantor.com. She has been an avid NaNoWriMo participant since 2007, and this year was one of the municipal liaisons for the Jerusalem region.
There was a moment during NaNoWriMo that stands out for me. I was sitting on the aft deck of the boat in the Jaffa Port, from where real and fictional characters have arrived and left: Napoleon, Ramses, Neptune, Jonah. I was typing away, lost in the creation of the daily 1667 words, when I looked up at the water, the light, the light on the water - and I thought wow! I got here. This is all I have ever wanted. I am writing a book. Bonus: I am writing a book on a boat. Although there was water flowing beneath me, I know support and encouragement of our group that gave me the ground to make this commitment to myself and my gift. Sigh. Bliss.
~ Our Wonderful Host, Margot