Sunday, June 30, 2013

Win Some, Write Some

Today is the last day of my newbie experience with JuNoWriMo. I thought I'd share some highlights and keep the whining to a minimum. The one sentence take-away: Try JuNoWriMo, you'll like it.


1. Thanks to the daily writing, I was (finally!) able to smash through a word count hurdle I'd had for a while. Getting past 20,000 total words in the WIP had been elusive. It felt really freeing to hit that milestone and keep going.

2. Although this sounds obvious as I type it, working on my draft EVERY DAY (at least for a while) really helped me keep my characters consistent and the ideas flowing.

3. Daily writing also allowed me to write in smaller chunks of time. Yes, I am usually obsessing about my story, and have been for the past year, but it was difficult to pick up where I'd left off if I hadn't been able to work on it for a few days or weeks. I'd set up my "writing lair" and spend (way too much) time getting back into the story in a detailed way. But, once I was really into it scene by scene, oftentimes from just hours before thanks to writing every darn day, I didn't feel like I needed a "lair" and could just start typing with a few free minutes. The timer feature on my phone, along with wordsprints really helped with this too.

4. I "met" and interacted with other JuNoWriMo participants, either on the website or via twitter. Except when it becomes a time-suck, twitter is always a good thing. :) I also liked the group experience of knowing there were other writers trying to meet the same goals, struggling too, and generally keeping their sense of humor. See? Twitter is amazing.

5. The JuNoWriMo wordsprints and challenges were helpful. I may not have used all of them, but I started keeping a list and refer to them whenever I get stuck. So, so helpful.

6. Unless today I manage to churn out a freakish amount of words, I am heading into the last hours of JuNoWriMo having written just over 26,000 words in the month of June. My total word count for the WIP is over 41,000! Fan-freaking-tastic. *happy dancing


1. So, technically, I am not a JuNoWriMo winner. I didn't get to 50,000 words. Reaching that goal would have brought me into near completion of my novel. While that would have been great, I'm not entirely bummed. (See above.) I do admire others' commitment and wish them lots of luck catching up on sleep, laundry, etc. I didn't even get that far and I still spent the past few days off work catching up with work. Boo.

2. Too many zero days. Ack! After the first week, I kept a written tally of my daily wordcount. It's possible Scrivener has a way to access this after the fact, but I didn't have time to look for that feature. I just wrote it down before logging off for the night. Anyway, out of the thirty days in June I had 12 zero word count days. I am fighting back the shame. Bad writer. But, the bright side is that I did what I could do and it wasn't that bad. Now, in terms of those zero days, I think if I'd been able to squeak out some words each day, I would be that much closer. I'm sure you can all figure this out, but it was something to experience that after three days of writing 1667 words/day, you hit 5000 words. Just three days. That feels fabulous. Yay, math!

3. I haz excuses. I won't bore you with them. I'm using them to see if I'll do NaNoWriMo. *wiping tears out of my eyes. So crazy. I doubt at this point that I will because November is a very busy month for me (as it is for lots of people), but I am actively trying to take lessons learned from WriMo-ing and apply them to my writing. Although, now that I think about how awful the weather is in November, why wouldn't I be happier writing? Hm.

Just thought of another for my first list. I know that there are lots of ways of learning: observation, practice, experience, etc. I'm not always a fan of experience (yes, I'm working on this trait of cautiousness), but there are things I learned about myself and my writing from DOING JuNoWriMo. These things were in theory until I could actually try and then have the "Oh yeah that does happen" moment. For instance: a first draft is a first draft--just write it, tell your inner editor to zip it, write scenes out of order and then move them around as you need to, daily writing is a great strategy but you can pick up if you are exhausted and need a couple of days to just rest. See. Learning.

I wish you all the best in your writing and in achieving your goals, whatever they are. :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Sunday's a day I plan to spend with family, although mine is generously giving me time to write too. BBQ goes with Wri-Mo-ing, right?

Thanks to my wonderful husband. Such a great, supportive spouse and a real Super Dad. <3 U!

Happy Writing & Reading!

P.S. Advice from a toddler. Mine just said, "Let's do this!" So cute.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Thoughts on Wri-Mo-ing: Leashing My Inner Editor

As I mentioned in my previous post, I tried to NaNo last year and lasted just a few days. The writing I did was great (in terms of word count) and I enjoyed the structure but it was difficult to sustain. So after a few days, I stopped but vowed to try again.

So, this time around as an official participant of JuNoWriMo, I really wanted to keep up with the word count goals. For the most part, it's gone well. I took a zero day as I was feeling sick, but tried to get right back on it the next day. That was another lower day, although much of it was spent plotting. But I'm back on track and as of this morning have added over 12,000 total words to my WIP. Overall, that's a lot of forward motion.

Here are some strategies and tips that have worked for me:

*Do not edit: I have tried to keep my editing brief and just look over the last few paragraphs I worked on the day before, or, in the case of starting a new chapter or scene, reread the last scene with those characters. Great in theory, but in practice it is a time-suck. Several times now, I've noticed that I will rewrite something that does not seem to improve it dramatically, and will have spent WAY TOO MUCH time doing so. I've even found that I will add a couple of sentences, thinking "Oh, yes. This will sound so much better!" only to notice nearly the same phrases a paragraph away. So, basically, I'm reworking it to sound...the same. Nerp. Waste of time. It also lowers my word count. And for this month, my goals are more words and to move the story along. Get going, don't dawdle and dither.

*No, really. Don't even sneak-edit: I also got tripped up thinking I would just read over a scene to "refresh myself" about where I'd left off. This happened after spending a day writing scenes for my B-plot. No. Don't do it. Fix it later. What I found that works better is to scan my outline, or, in this case, my Scrivener notecards view. That way, I can see the overview of where I was, but not get sucked into the actual text. Even if I change a few words, we're talking two or three because it's just on a notecard. It's brief and it is all I really need to do to get back into it.

*Scan books or blogposts on craft sparingly: I realized that I wanted to refresh myself on some plot points. I picked up Save the Cat, went over chapter 4 again (Let's Beat it Out), and did some more plotting in the past couple of days. Lurve, lurve this book. The tone was perfect. Casual, direct, and focused. It was not the time to continue with The Writer's Journey. (FYI: I linked to the 3rd edition, although the one I have is the 2nd.) Also a fabulous resource, but it can intimidate the shit out of me. Fragile writer nerves, after all. I'll return to that after the draft is done.

Most blogposts I've read in the past few days have been helpful. They have normalized the process: from "Ohmigod, I think I used the word 'change' six times in a row! now!", to "Today, I just kept myself from typing random words. Barely." And as a special bonus, I've made some new acquaintances. Woo!

There are a lot of helpful suggestions out there. My challenge is to be open to learning but to pace myself. Too many tips at once, and I get stuck. *cough. Don't we all? I have had to remind myself that there's plenty of time to learn and that those posts aren't going away. (What don't I "favorite" on my TL? That's where I hoard those suggestions, so thanks.)

*Your writing lair can be anywhere: I prefer to write in a certain room, wearing a certain cardigan, eating twizzlers, and after 7am (strictly latte o'clock), I drink lemonade. Now, if all that helped me crank out the words by the thousands, I would organize my life around doing that for my writing time. But I've seen that my word count isn't any different (Gasp! Or is perhaps worse?), when I sink into the mindset of Must Create Perfect Writing Space. No. Just. Stop. So, I've been moving around to different spots. I actually got a fair amount of writing done while my toddler was playing London Bridges with my legs. Go figure.

*Word sprints: Let's just say I highly encourage you to do these. Not only do they teach you to practice writing in small chunks, the WriMo Admin Queens also include helpful suggestions: write about a furry animal, your MC meets someone new, discover a magical tome, cross a bridge. My at-home reaction (and occasional accompanying tweet) tends to be, "What? B'okay! Hey, that was super freaking helpful." Yeah. Like eerily so. Accept the help. Work with the prompts. They know what they are talking about. ;)

And, above all: Write (nearly) every damn day! Best advice ever. The amazing King Pen-Monkey himself, Chuck Wendig has a 5 day/week slow-and-steady method that seems pretty doable too.

What I have liked the most about Wri-Mo-ing is that I have been able to stay in my story. I don't have to remind myself of some quirk or motivation because I am actively writing them, not just daydreaming.  

Last thought: It's like your mom told you: quit watching tv and stay off the internet. Except twitter in small bursts. Gotta keep some lil vice.

What are your do's and don'ts for amping up your word count? Do you have any rituals that help? Have you noticed any that hurt?

Best of luck, wherever you are with your writing! Hold firm on that leash!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Signed Up to Do JuNoWriMo

It is day four of JuNoWriMo, a month-long writing extravaganza. The goal is to write at least 1,667 words per day, every day of a novel, for the month of June. Last November, I tried to do a little NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and did not get very far as November is a crazy month for me.

Summertime is a little more relaxed and this seemed like a good fit. So far I've met my writing goals and enjoyed the push past my inner editor. Not only am I hoping to get closer to finishing my current WIP, I am also hoping to use the experience as a training ground for writing more, longer, faster. Yes, it's hectic, but the practice of making time and squeezing little bits of time for writing is what will help me and this is an immersion into that process. It takes a few weeks to develop a new habit, and I think JuNoWriMo is just enough time to get used to cranking out the words.

I plan to continue writing blog posts, but they may be shorter. (Ha!) I also want to thank Ms. Banana for being my first commenter. Yay!

Any advice from veteran NaNo or JuNoWriMo-ers? Any other newbies like me? If you are signed up, and are a romance writer, please consider joining the Romance group at JuNoWriMo.

Happy Writing! Apologies in advance for my late-night, slap-happy tweets. ;)