Camp Nanowrimo

camp-nanoYou’ve heard me talk about Nanowrimo before. One month, one novel. For some of you November is never a good time of year to do it. Now there’s Camp Nanowrimo in July. You don’t necessarily have to write a novel (though writing anything but a novel is still called ‘rebelling‘). You can write a memoir, an epic poem, non-fiction etc. For some of you this is a good opportunity start the habit of writing regularly.

And yes, you guessed it, I’m thinking about doing it. Not a novel this time.

We’ll see….

6 things about Nanowrimo 2012

It was surprisingly easy this time around.

I’m a little embarrassed by how easy it was. I guess my life is not really all that busy or I can write like a machine compared to the first time I did Nanowrimo 8 years ago. But it was quite easy. Then I surprised myself by accidentally finishing two days early! These are not meant to be brags! I’m honestly shocked and like I said, embarrassed. I’m embarrassed because I’m hearing ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s about how I’m writing a novel (which isn’t a big deal because people do it all the time with Nanowrimo) and people make it sound like it’s hard when it’s just not. Not because I’m special, but because people are just making it out to be bigger than it really is. I think? That’s why I want people to do Nanowrimo. So they can see that it’s not that hard. Just like anyone can run a 5K, anyone can win Nanowrimo with the conditions in their favour.

Having cheerleaders helps make it fun and actually get it done.

This year I got to know a group of Montrealers who were doing Nanowrimo as well. I had a lot of fun encouraging them via twitter, writing with them in real life (the one time I was able to make it to a write-in), doing word-wars with them where we’d compete to see how much we could write in 10, 15, or 20 minute time slots. The first time I did Nano, I was keeping it a secret from basically everyone because I didn’t want to be embarrassed by my own failure if that was the case. Being open about it helped so much! I would never do it alone again. That’s torture.

StayFocused was hugely helpful for my focus (thanks, Di!)

My friend Diane suggested the browser plug-in StayFocused. You input the sites you want to block and what days/hours you want them blocked and it will simply not let you on them at those times. It was really revealing how in a split second I could open a new tab and be on Facebook, completely subconsciously! Even after I would just close the window, I’d lose my train of thought and be back. It was actually kind of eerie a few times. StayFocused helped me, well, stay focused.

It turns out I have a lot of free time in the evenings/weekends.

This semester with my husband having to leave by 5:45 every day for class, it means that we eat early. It also means I can get a lot done if I actually have things to do and energy to do it with. I can only think of three days where my story was hard to write and it took me 2 hours to write my 1667 words. Otherwise, I pumped out my word count in an hour and then did other things. The main thing is having motivation to do things with people since I find myself pretty tired from hanging out with people all day long at work.

My favourite thing about Nanowrimo

My favourite thing is the freedom in writing to let the story tell itself. If you sit in on the NanoMTL chat room you’d daily hear someone say “I have a block” and then someone else say “KILL A CHARACTER” with much viciousness. Both times I did Nano seriously, I was shocked at how the story ended up telling itself almost better than if I had painstakingly planned out every scene. I just planned broad stroke ideas. It did the rest. I love that. And no, I didn’t kill any characters (though in my first novel, I burned down an old folks home. Everyone that was healthy made it out safe because I couldn’t bear anyone actually dying.).

Finally: “Can I read your novel?”

People have been asking me if they can read my novel. At this point, I’m probably going to say no – mostly because taking the time to read through it to make sure there are no major plot holes etc. will take time. Writing in 1667 word batches makes for a lot of forgetting what was said/done in the previous section! But I might be persuadable as long as people don’t expect anything close to literature.

A pep-talk

Source: marianovsky

Pep talks are key to my success. Business leaders or others might call it ‘casting vision’ for what you’re about to do. To make meetings less boring I (try to remember to) remind my staff why this meeting is important. It’s not just us sitting here for an hour and a half wasting our time, it’s because the decisions we will make in that hour and a half will impact our achievements that week and could change the course of our year entirely. That hour and a half could change our jobs, it could impact the world.

I don’t think we can have success in very much without pep talks or vision. Without being reminded of why we’re doing things, it’s so easily to get lost in the what or the why does this suck? of present reality. This is why I loved this pep talk by Chris Baty, the founder of Nanowrimo. It’s a bit long, but it’s worth the read. The last few days I’ve been feeling my novel is crappy (it was never meant to be published), more than crappy, I still had 30,000 words to write and very little plot space left to achieve what I wanted. I made some changes, but the writing was ARDUOUS at best. At the beginning, I was pumping out my daily 1,667 words in under an hour. Yesterday it took me THREE.

I needed someone to remind me that it will get better. Because it does. While this could be a pep-talk for life as well (it usually does get better), I’m reminded of the importance of vision and having people around me to encourage me, who are rooting for me to succeed. Do you have those people?

Here’s Chris’s pep talk:

You’re watching a movie. And halfway through it, the hero crumbles.

He or she is lost. Surrounded by zombies or forsaken by love or separated from their favorite wookiee. They stare forlornly at the mess their life has become, hope fading that things will ever be put right again.

Screenwriters call this moment “the long, dark night of the soul.” Every Hollywood movie has one because we love seeing our protagonists pummeled for a while before they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and head out to kick some ass.

NaNoWriMo participants go through their own long, dark nights of the soul halfway through November. If you haven’t experienced one already, you will very soon.

I say this with certainty because we’ve spent a lot of time and money making the middle stretch of this year’s adventure especially difficult.

We don’t have the costumes or the makeup budget to send a convincing-looking group of zombies to your door. Instead, we’ve relied on smaller, cheaper things to demoralize you mid-month. We’ve convinced your bosses and teachers to heap projects on you at the last minute. We’ve gotten your family to pitch fits when you need to get caught up on your word count. Most insidiously, we’ve paid your novel’s cast to stumble through their scenes with all the eloquence and charm of a baked potato.

Why? Because we have to do something to make your novel-in-a-month endeavor a fair fight. Which it isn’t. Look at you! You’re a fantastically gifted individual, with fierce courage and an imagination powerful enough to knock out a dozen books in November.

If you don’t believe me, just scroll back through all you’ve written so far. That’s more than most people achieve in a year, and you did it in two weeks. It may be less than you’d hoped, and the quality may be crappier than you’d envisioned. But first drafts are supposed to be rough, and I guarantee you’re too deep in the process right to recognize all the great stuff you’ve put on those pages. Despite our meddling, you’ve achieved a truck-load of literary goodness. And it’s just a taste of what’s ahead.

Because the second half of this noveling marathon is when things really begin to move. For starters, the NaNoWriMo-funded interference will end. This is partly because we’ve realized the whole “fair fight” thing was a dumb idea, and partly because we blew all of our harassment budget on yesterday’s spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to crash every word processor in Manitoba.

Shenanigans aside, the back half of NaNoWriMo has always been a place where writers get their second winds. As long as you keep working, your potatoes will turn back into charismatic protagonists, and your imagination will build a path right out of these mid-month doldrums.

You can help build that path faster by hitting your writing goals for the next three days. This may sound like a small thing, but little, consistent writing achievements open the door to huge writing breakthroughs.

If you’ve fallen behind on your word count or lost the thread of your story, you may think no breakthrough will be big enough to save your book. Take heart: There are 300,000 of us out there right now living that exact same movie. We’re all struggling to balance our books with the crazy stuff life has chucked at us these past two weeks. We’re all wondering if we have what it takes to see this thing through. And we’re all about to stand up, dust ourselves off, and go kick some major ass.

The long, dark night is ending, my friend. The homestretch lies ahead.

I’ll see you at the finish line.


Morning routine + NaNoWriMo Update

I’ve had a few people text me and leave comments to congratulate me on starting to run. I’ve also had people tell me I’m crazy for doing both at the same time, which is not all that far off, perhaps. Aside from being sick last week and this week which affected my runs, things have been going well. I managed to desire to get up and go, but just take it a little easier, which has been good.

Why am I doing two things that require so much discipline at the same time?

It’s a good question. I think part of it is is that it doesn’t feel like it’s requiring that much discipline, but here are a few more reasons.

  1. These are two things I want to build into my life as habits. Natural responses, things I do automatically.
  2. My morning routine had been going quite well so it didn’t feel like too challenging to add the writing challenge.
  3. My husband has night classes three nights a week, which means I have plenty of time to write and not feel like I’m neglecting our relationship. He was the one who encouraged me to do it, anyways.
  4. I wanted meet people outside of work who had similar interests to me.

So far, I have runs scheduled into my week and I look forward to them. The days I’m not so sure I want to go, my husband reminds me that I’ll enjoy it. I always do, so that’s a big win. I’m ahead of schedule so far on the novel in terms of word count. I’ve got nearly 10,000 words which is 1/5th of the book (obviously). I feel confident because I have lots to write yet in plot development etc. I should be able to finish no problem unless life just suddenly goes crazy, which is totally a possibility.

Nanowrimo on the go (using Evernote)

You know the moment, you’ve got this image in your mind of how the scene should play out. You can feel the emotions, you’ve got the best lines… but you’re on the metro and you’ve got to get it down.

Evernote has saved many of these scenes for me. I recently tried out Byword which is also a great app because it syncs through Dropbox.

I wanted to point you to a post from the Evernote Life Blog about how an employee/novelist keeps track of his writing using Evernote. He says he uses Evernote to:

  • for remembering ideas.
  • for planning.
  • while I’m writing.
  • when I’m done writing.
  •  to improve my writing skills.

Read on for more tips!

What about you, writers? What do you use?

Scrivener: The program that makes writing sane

I found out about Scrivener through Nanowrimo a few years ago. I can’t really imagine my life without it. It’s so unbelievably handy for writing a novel, a book, or even for keeping a blog. I have a blog called The Righteousness Project this year that did a bunch of research into themes, kind of like the Happiness Project did. I would have gone mental without Scrivener. It neatly held all my research, my links, my files, PDFs and kept them all nice and tidy. And then I had all my drafts and plans nicely divided by month/topic etc. Glorious.

I got a deal thanks to Nano and now would have zero problem paying whatever the full price is for this thing. I highly recommend it if you want to keep your wits about you when you write and manage a bunch of info. It’s far more powerful as a program than you might think you’d need, but man are those features great.

This year you can get 50% off Scrivener if you win Nanowrimo, and get 20% off for all participants. Check it out here.

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