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The Final Sprint

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 25

Total number of words written: 39740

Words Written Today: 2255

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 2 fun size Snickers, ice-cream drizzled with chocolate topping

Technically it’s the morning of day 26 for me, but I was so busy trying to get a decent word count yesterday I didn’t get a chance to write my blog post, so I’m writing it first thing this morning and pretending it’s still yesterday.

At the moment I’m still trying to push uphill. I should have hit 40000 words on day 24. As it stands now I’m still about 260 words from hitting that mark. Although I’m getting good writing days in here and there (like yesterday when I got over 2000 words for the day), on the other days my word count is low, making it hard to catch back up. I’m finding the time factor to be playing a big role this year. My calendar continues to fill up, my days are packed full of busyness (shopping takes longer at the moment because I’m starting to get organised for Christmas and my son’s birthday), and pregnancy means I’m more tired (and sore) than usual after a day of activities and housework.

Working title will most likely change. I haven't done graphics in months and have never used photoshop before, so it's a rough cover.

Enter procrastination. I’ll admit I spent yesterday morning playing with photoshop to make a mock book cover for my NaNo novel (I had gone on photoshop originally to make invitations for my son’s birthday party, then ended up making the mock cover too). The time spent on photoshop making the mock cover, would have been better spent actually writing the novel itself, though I convinced myself I was doing it for inspiration. After chastising myself for procrastinating, I did end up with a good word count for the day, so maybe it was good motivation after all.

Write or Die has been my saviour. I can largely thank it for my good word count days this half of NaNo. If I’m sitting there procrastinating I just get Write or Die up and I can guarantee myself just over 400 words in fifteen minutes. A couple of bursts like that through the day really helps get the words on the page.

I’m still determined to reach 50000 in the next five days, though it will be a hard uphill battle. Somehow I will fit those words in around babysitting this afternoon, shopping and play rehearsal on Monday and playgroup on Wednesday. 10000 words in five days. Can I do it? I sure hope so. But if I don’t, I’ll have made a good go at it.

Photo Credits: Angelina Jolie, Tomb Raider (Paramount); Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood (HBO); texture by C4D

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Not Giving Up

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 20

Total number of words written: 31533

Words Written Today: 1512 (so far)

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: none 😦 We have completely run out of chocolate in the house. There’s not even any Milo left. Oh wait, I ate one of the kids’ tubs of chocolate custard (it was opened and left uneaten by one of the kids, so I did what any good mother would do. Couldn’t let it go to waste after all).

I know quite a few fellow NaNo-ers who have pulled out of NaNoWriMo this year after finding it just wasn’t working for them, whether because the story wasn’t inspiring them or life was just not allowing them the time to write. It can be a brave move having the guts to realise it’s not working and pulling out. I, on the other hand, have a stubborn personality and a competitive nature that won’t let me give up.

Things have not been looking good on the word count front the past week. I had my first zero word count day on Thursday. I’d had a dismal word count the day before and was already behind, but I’d had a stressful morning dealing with business paperwork and screaming kids while also suffering from dizziness and a mega headache (possibly the headache was related to the screaming kids)–not exactly conducive to getting any writing done. By the afternoon the kids had calmed down (okay, so I resorted to putting on a DVD and turned them into zombies for an hour), the paperwork was out of the way and my headache had subsided. But by this point all I wanted to do was relax, so I decided I would have a complete break from my novel that day, even though I knew it would mean a lot of catching up. I think I needed that break, so I didn’t regret doing it

Friday was a scorcher here. We hit 35 degrees celsius. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t cope well in heat, especially when I’m pregnant. But still, I managed to get 600 words written, which wasn’t too bad considering.

Yesterday I was looking at a mountain of words in front of me to catch up. It was daunting. I was sitting about 4000 words behind where I needed to be. I knew it was time to break out Write or Die. I got a few good writing bursts out of it, including 450 words in 15 minutes in one session. Even with a visit to my sister’s in the afternoon I had managed to push past 30000 by the end of the day, and even though I was still behind, it felt good to get past that mark.

I had planned another big writing day today to get me back on par, but waking up with nearly no voice, a sore throat and feeling like death warmed up, my plans were dashed. I’ve managed 1500 despite feeling horrible, but my head really isn’t in it today. Thank goodness hubby suggested ordering a roast chicken meal to be home delivered so I don’t have to cook tonight.

I’ll be starting this week a day behind, but maybe I’ll get a couple of good days in. I’m still determined to hit that 50000 mark by November 30.

P.S. I got a surprise in my inbox the other day: an email telling me my blog had been listed on the ’50 Best Blogs for NaNoWriMo Support’. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo check out the list, there are some really great sites listed.

3 Symptoms of the Week 2 Blues (and How to Cure It)

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 10

Total number of words written: 16283

Words Written Today: 250 (so far)

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 1 fun size Crunchie, half a cup of Milo–by which I mean just dry Milo, no milk or hot water involved (so far, but it’s only 2pm) (have sadly run out of milky ways) I should probably also mention the caramel popcorn and starbursts, but technically they’re not chocolate 🙂

In NaNo land there is something known as the ‘Week 2 blues’ and unfortunately it seems to have hit me the past few days.On top of that, it’s been a super busy week in Mummy land. I’ve had antenatal appointments, immunisations for Miss 2 (which turned out to be much more of a drama than it was supposed to be), an afternoon at the cinema with a group of playgroup mums and the usual weekly shopping trip. I’ve just signed my son up for the local Christmas play, so we’ll be attending rehearsals for that every week, the first one was on Monday. I also decided this week the fridge was in desperate need of a cleanout, not to mention the cupboard under the sink. And November’s calendar is filling up fast!

Sunday and Monday were both low word count days. On Sunday I consumed at 3 cans of Coke, ate a great deal of chocolate and ended up getting KFC for dinner, but still didn’t get near the daily word goal. I did go to the movies in the afternoon, though, and even though I lost a few hours writing time, I think I needed that break and to get out of the house to reenergise.

Since there’s nothing I can do about life’s happenings, I’m going to focus on getting over these week two blues.

The Symptoms:

1. Motivational high of week one has pretty much all fizzled out. All the excitement of going into a new story, all the buzz of new ideas, that spurred an initial surge of words spewing onto the page has died down.

2. It’s getting harder to push words out onto the page. You find yourself staring at the page, letting distractions take over. Whereas in the first week the words seemed to flow onto the page easily, this week you feel like you have to pry them from your brain.

3. You know where you want your characters to go, but don’t know how to get them there. You have your plan, you know what your next plot point is, but trying to get them there has you stumped.

So how am I supposed to get past this week two slump? I know other NaNoers who have simply quit, deciding NaNo just isn’t working for them this year. Some have changed stories and gone into a new idea with renewed motivation (I did this last year). Some have decided to take the pressure off by not worrying about the word count and just writing what they can, when they can.

I still love my story idea, and I want to keep on, so here are some ways I’m going to try to tackle the week two blues that have worked for me in the past.

The Cure:

1. Stay focused on where I want my story to go, but also let it surprise me with plot twists and extra details. My characters have just found the first clue to a conspiracy that I had not planned at all. It was an interesting surprise and a nice addition to build upon my plot.

2. Push past the ‘writer’s block’ by just writing. Write or Die has been a big help with this in the past in getting from one point to another.Wordwars/wordsprints are helpful too, and there are always NaNoers around on Twitter who are up for some word wars.

3. Decrease distractions by writing on my laptop (which has only Word programs and is not connected to the internet).

I am so grateful for that week one padding I built up when my motivation was still high, it has helped a lot this week. At the moment I’m trying to keep just ahead each day. I find if I think, “I only have to write 900 words tomorrow to reach the goal”, it gives me motivation going into the next day, because the goal isn’t as overwhelming as staring at the prospect of writing 1667. And then when I’ve hit the goal, I think, “Well now it’s only 700 more and I’ll have written 1667”. It breaks it into chunks, which makes the goal seem easier to reach.

Author Jody Hedlund has a great post on writing after the initial passion has fizzled: How to Keep Writing When the Honeymoon is Over

How is everyone else going? Have you been hit with the week 2 blues? How are you coping with them? What strategies are you using to keep on going?

The Best Cure for Writer’s Block

I think all writers encounter writer’s block at some point, whether you are in the middle of a novel and you’re not sure how to progress to the next scene, or you don’t know what you want to happen next, or you want to write a short story, but don’t even know what to write about. There are lots of causes for writer’s block, but what is the best cure?

When I did NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2009 I discovered the best cure for writer’s block: Just write! Because during NaNoWriMo I had a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month, I didn’t have time to sit around procrastinating over a scene until the answer came to me – I wanted to reach my daily word goal. So I wrote. Sometimes what I wrote was pure drivel, but I was writing. I could always go back later and edit or cut out. By writing when I thought I was stuck I got past the writer’s block. Once I discovered this, I’ve never been bothered by writer’s block again. Here are some methods I use to write past writer’s block:

1. Write or Die. I loved this free program during my first NaNoWriMo. The idea is to set a goal and a punishment for yourself, then start writing. The punishment occurs if you stop writing for too long and could be as simple as a siren going off or as harsh as erasing what you’ve already written. Because you have to write to stop the punishment occurring, you don’t have time to stop and procrastinate. I used this many times when I got stuck on a scene on my novel. (Remember you can edit later, so don’t worry if what you write even makes sense at this point.) If you don’t want to use Write or Die, set yourself a timer, close down any other distractions on your computer and just write until the timer goes off.

2. The Writing Book by Kate Grenville. There are some great writing prompts and writing exercises in this book. I got assigned this book when I was studying writing at university, and it’s one of the few assigned books I still refer to. Stuck on your character? There’s a chapter on character. Don’t know where to begin? Try the chapter on getting started. Here’s an example of an exercise from the book:

Write for 60 seconds without stopping. Just write exactly what comes into your head, even if it’s only ‘I can’t think of anything to write this is a stupid thing to do.’

3. Plan Ahead. Particularly if you are writing a novel or a longer piece it can help to plan before you write. Obviously this is not for everyone and some people find it too restrictive, but I find it helps me have an idea of where I want my story to go. By knowing where my story is going, and what plot points I want to include, it gives me something to work towards. That way if I get stuck, I just refer to my notes, look at what my next important plot point is, and write towards that scene.

How do you get past writer’s block?

Image: Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – October 2010 Edition

For this month’s helpful writing sites post I’m going to put the links under two sections. The first section will be sites and blog posts specific to NaNoWriMo since I’ve come across a few of these in the lead up to NaNoWriMo and the other section will be for general writing sites and blog posts, so if you’re not doing NaNoWriMo you can just skip down to that section (of course quite a few the NaNoWriMo specific links have some great information for all writers, so they’re worth a look anyway).

NaNoWriMo

Official NaNoWriMo Site

This is where you sign up if you want to be an official participant in NaNoWriMo. You can set up a bio page, connect with fellow NaNoWriMoers and find out information about National Novel Writing Month. There’s also a handy link to the forums.

NaNoWriMo Forums

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo and haven’t already checked out the forums you should. There are a multitude of groups you can join, from age specific groups to genre specific groups. If you put in your location when you signed up there should also be a subforum visible for your area where you can connect with others near you and find out about local events like write-ins. There are also many threads that will prove to be helpful once the madness of November begins.

NaNo Notebook

One NaNoWriMoer describes a great way to organise a novel notebook in preparation for NaNoWriMo. At the end of the post she also includes some links to some writing tools that can be found online.

5 Reasons You Should Do NaNoWriMo

Still undecided if you should do NaNoWriMo or not? There’s still time to join! Johanna Penn lists some great reasons why NaNoWriMo is beneficial to any writer. I agree with every one of them.

Write or Die

I used this tool last year for NaNoWriMo and I don’t think I could have got as much written as I did without it. The idea is you have to keep writing until you reach the amount of time/words you set or you get ‘punished’. The punishments range from mild (an annoying noise) to severe (it starts erasing what you’ve written!). You get one pause, but once you’ve used it you can’t use it again for that session. I would use this one a lot if I got writers block, because it forced me to just write. It is also good if you are so many words off reaching your word goal for the day, as you can set the word goal you want to reach and just keep writing until you get to that goal. Don’t forget to copy and paste into your Word doc when your session is over.

General

Know Your Female Character Stereotypes

Wondering if your female character is stereotypical or original? Try this flowchart. Start at the start and answer the questions truthfully to see where your character falls.

Three Essential Tips for Writing a Publishable Novel

This post outlines three quick tips you can apply to write a publishable novel.

12 Common Picture Book Mistakes

A list of common errors picture book writers make.

The #1 culprit of Why Pitch Paragraphs in Adult or Children’s SF&F Query Letters Miss

As well as outlining the number one culprit of rejection of science fiction and fantasy book queries, agent Kristen also includes a list of the top ten reasons why SF&F query letters get rejected.

Top 25 Reasons Your Submissions Are Rejected

A list of reasons why agents and publishers reject writers’ submissions.

Does Your Book Have Series Potential?

This post was a lead-in to a scribechat that took place in early October, so the topic of whether your book has series potential isn’t discussed in this post. It does however have a handy little list describing the different types of series that exist.

Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this year. For me it starts tomorrow! I’ll keep you updated on my progress throughout November.

NaNoWriMo is Coming

image from NaNoWriMo

Last year I particpated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, well unofficially anyway. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November and the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Last year I decided to do NaNoWriMo (though I never offically joined the site because I’d technically already started writing my novel and due to time constrictions in my life at the time I knew I’d never reach 50k words). I took part last year to get some much needed motivation to get my novel written (and stop procrastinating). I got so much more out of it than I ever thought I would. Some things I learned:

1. Making Time to Write

It’s so easy to become distracted (by social media, by television, etc) that writing goes on the backburner. I had started writing a novel, but I wasn’t giving writing the priority I needed to give it. I would procrastinate and become distracted mucking around on Facebook. To reach 50k in one month I set myself a goal of writing a set amount each day, which meant any time I had spare time to write that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t waste time playing Harry Potter on PS3 or even starting that new book I bought. I wrote. NaNoWriMo taught me if I gave writing priority over time-wasting activities I could get a lot written.

2. The Cure for Writer’s Block

Before NaNoWriMo if I got stuck with a scene I would sit there and stare at the blank page and sometimes even give up, hoping it would come to me later, only to return and stare at the blank page again with still no idea how to proceed. This is usually where the procrastination would come in. I would divert back to the old standbys of social media and video games while I ‘thought’. It didn’t work too well. Procrastinating wasn’t an option during NaNoWriMo, I needed to get those words on the page if I had any hope of reaching my daily writing goal. So I just wrote, whether I was stuck or not. I found ‘Write or Die‘ was great for this. Basically you set up a word/time goal and write until you reach that goal. If you stop writing for more than a few seconds you get ‘punished’ (there are several punishment options to choose from). Maybe what I wrote during these forced sessions wasn’t the most brilliant writing and maybe I had to modify scenes later on (that’s what editing is for), but I got past my writer’s block every time.

3. Turning Off My Inner Editor

I’m a real perfectionist when it comes to writing and one thing I always used to do was edit as I wrote. I would write a scene, or sometimes even a paragraph, then I would go back and fix all the spelling errors because I couldn’t stand having them there or I would rewrite the scene again and again until it flowed just right. It made writing a long process and often I would lose steam before I ever finished the story. For NaNoWriMo I forced myself to turn off my inner editor. I made myself refrain from reading back over anything I had written until I finished that first draft completely. Sure there were lots of spelling and grammatical errors throughout that first draft and there were a lot of scenes that needed to be rewritten, but I got it written. I got the story written out to completion without losing steam. I didn’t get 50k in November, I think I only hit 30k (which was still a huge achievement for me), but I kept up the steam until it was finished (in January). The first draft is just that, a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect, that’s what editing is for.

I’ve decided to take part in NaNoWriMo officially this year(my NaNo page is here). Although I’m not certain I’ll reach 50k this year (I still have to balance my other time commitments), at least I’m starting from scratch this time. I’ve been tossing up between a couple of ideas, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to the one I want to write. Now to start the planning!