I Feel Fine (and it’s weird)

Some days I wake up and feel fine.

It’s like a switch in my head flipped and suddenly I’m okay. The pit in the bottom of my stomach is gone. The shaking in my hands is still there, but I don’t want to chant “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” over and over anymore.

I feel invincible. I start making plans. Cleaning and decluttering is actually happening and not just something I think about. I bring out a writing project I’ve been planning on tackling for a YEAR and I actually get it done.

I’m finally filling in my Story Bible!!! (click image for details)

It’s amazing.

It’s also highly unsettling.

I feel good. Do I feel too good?

I wonder about hypomania. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the baby sister of the Mania someone with Bipolar Disorder experiences. It’s nowhere near as severe and doesn’t last as long (at least with me) but you get a taste of some of the feelings and impulsiveness.

Logically I know I’m not hypomanic. This just happens to me. The same way I wake up one day and feel horrible and anxious. No matter how much therapy and medication I take I’ll always have these swings. The treatment helps them tremendously, but it can’t take them away. My brain just doesn’t work like other people’s brains.

Today I feel great. I feel like I can take on the world, so I’m taking advantage of it. In the words of the great Jenny Lawson, I’m going to be “Furiously Happy”. I’m going to keep writing and outlining while the creativity holds. I’m going to clean and declutter while it’s not overwhelming. I’m going to go places and see people while those social situations don’t feel like being waterboarded.

Today is a good day.

Tomorrow might be a bad one.

But today is good.

Do you ever wake up and just feel good instead of bad? Do you like my new blog header? And more importantly, how awesome is Jenny Lawson?

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Should is a 4-Letter Word

“Should is a 4 letter word.”

This is possibly the most helpful thing my therapist has ever told me. She explained that the word “should” to the mentally ill mind is as offensive as certain four letter words. It tells us that we are failing in some way by not acting in a certain fashion.

For example, someone might say “I should be eating healthier”. The phrase immediately conjures up guilt at something you aren’t doing. What if you said “I WANT to be eating healthier”? Instead of shaming, it is a statement with a goal you can work towards. That make sense to you?

I try very hard to stop myself from making ‘should’ statements. I restructure them in my head and remind myself over and over how it is having a bad effect on me.

Unfortunately, one place that advice never made it to was my writing.

When I first joined Twitter, I was almost immediately enchanted. There were so many writers out there to interact and chat with, and they wanted to talk to me! It was so inspiring to share little tidbits of my process with people and read all about theirs.

At first, my writing was boosted. It was motivating to get my words written every day so I could share it with people. It was that tiny bit of accountability that I need. Until it started to do the opposite.

Like with everything else in the world, writers on Twitter have very forceful opinions. Most have the best of intentions, but that didn’t stop me from forgetting that everyone has to find their own way, and just because someone is more experienced about something than me it doesn’t mean they are right about everything.

It played up on my fear of publishing. I openly admit that I never plan on traditional publishing because I know my works isn’t “marketable”. Even though I write romance, I don’t fit into a narrow niche. (more on that subject in a future post) When I’m done with something, I plan on setting it loose in the world, whether or not anyone else reads it. Writing is something I have always done for me, not other people.

That’s all fine. Although there can be a stigma attached, lots of people self publish and are quite happy with their results. Naturally I was attracted to posts with tips and tricks in them.

I let people get in my head. I started worrying about making mistakes. I heard people who clearly have much harsher standards than I say that they would stop reading a book after finding a single typo (which listening to several podcasts by published authors recently reminded me was not something uncommon to traditionally published works too). I listened to people who talked about how you had to have this, and you had to have that before publishing, even if it cost more money than you could ever reasonably spend.

I believed them when they said you had to pay someone else to make your work the best it could possibly be.

My anxiety sent obsessive thoughts swirling around my head until I didn’t want to work on my novels anymore. Sure, I wrote little bits here and there, but whenever I thought about editing one of the many things I have first drafts of I would get that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that said it would never be good enough.

I let the world psych me out. I forgot that I know what I want out of my writing, and it doesn’t involve perfection. I want to write the stories in my head down and edit them until they say what matters to me. Me, not the rest of the world. Would I like people to read and like them? Of course! But that cannot, nor do I want it to be my main goal.

I’ve known for a few months that I needed to find a way to stop other people from stealing my joy of writing. Amusingly, it’s only been during a very stressful family crisis that I have been able to sort through my feelings and come to a sort of solution.

The solution was basically to think a lot about writing, listen to some of my favorite writing podcasts, and sort through the negative thoughts and “shoulds” that my brain had been infected by. I found the nest, sprayed for pests, and with any luck I can keep the infestation under control from now on.

Writing this entry was half the battle. What better way to sort out thoughts and feelings for a writer? For the first time in a long time, I feel positive about my writing. I’m looking forward to sitting down at putting words to page.

I’ve stopped ‘should-ing on myself’. And it feels great.

Do you find yourself plagued by ‘shoulds’? Has it negatively impacted your life (writing or otherwise)? As always, I hope something I’ve said resounds with someone and makes their life just a little bit easier.

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How I Made a Story Bible

A very long time ago, I shared photos on Instagram and Twitter of what I’ve heard some call a “Story Bible”. To my surprise people were interested and some (*couchShawnacough*) have been bugging me to write a blog post about how I did it. In typical Me fashion, I took photos for the entry and promptly forgot all about it.

i love putting my books on kindle!

Today, the procrastination ends and I will share my brilliant*, not-so-secret genius** ideas on how to create your very on Story Bible.

* decent
** hopefully useful

STEP ONE: Table of Contents

Endless reading about Bullet Journals on Pinterest taught me how to make a table of contents in a notebook. You can either buy one with numbered pages or like me, spend some time in front of the TV numbering the pages yourself.

The items in your table of contents depend on what you want in your Story Bible. I was looking to consolidate a lot of scattered information on my characters, their families, and an easy place to see what I’d already written.

As you add these sections in your notebook, write down what they are and on what pages you can find the information. The beauty of the table of contents is that if you need to add information in a different part of the notebook later because you ran out of room, you can jot that page number down here instead of ruffling through the pages while muttering unkind things under your breath. (Not that I have ever done such a thing.)

STEP TWO: Characters

I chose to make three categories of Characters: Main, Secondary, and Minor. Main Characters get a few pages, secondary ones get a page each, and minor characters a few sentences.

What you put in your character section is up to you. I chose to start with age, date of birth, and hair/eye color. These are the most common things I forget when writing a story. With any luck, I’ll stop changing eye color mid-story.

You can use a character profile from the internet if that’s something you use. Mine will likely be a list of facts and personality traits, major life events, etc.

STEP THREE: A Family Tree

one of several family trees in this section

Depending on your novel, this may or may not be something you need. In my novel, the majority of my characters come from one large family. Because it is the first in a series, I’ve also included ages to make things easier. (I have multiple versions of this family tree for different stories. Having one master copy with the original character set makes figuring out later ages much simpler.)

STEP FOUR: Timeline

With a large family, as well as an extensive backstory, figuring out the exact order of events has really helped. I don’t want to slip up on something stupid, like mentioning a character that wasn’t born yet being at an event.

You might want to use this space as a basic timeline for events in your novel. Or you might want to skip this section altogether. Use whatever works for your novel.

STEP FIVE: Outline

This was the section that originally sparked the idea for my Story Bible. I had a loose outline of scenes I wanted to write in my original notebook, but it often just mentioned dialogue ideas and sometimes the scenes ended up completely different from what I’d planned.

The outline section in my notebook is going to be filled out as I reread my novel and prepare for rewrites. Here I plan to write down a short summary of each scene, whose POV it’s in, and it’s purpose.

I haven’t finished filling out all the sections in my Story Bible yet, but I’m looking forward to having all my information in one central place.

I hope this entry was everything you were hoping for and that it helps someone in some way. If there was anything I didn’t address that you wanted to know, put it in the comments and I’ll be happy to respond.

Have you ever built a Book Bible? Does it sound like something you would like or just another way to avoid writing? I’d love to hear how other people keep their novel information organized.

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I’m a Nanowrimo Failure: Why You Should Be One Too

Last year I wrote an article called 10 Tips for Nanowrimo from a 12 Time Veteran. I’d won ten years in a row.

I’m also a Nanowrimo failure, and that’s what we are going to talk about today.

After so many wins, I’d gotten kind of cocky. I admit, I looked down a bit on people for not finishing. I really believed that if most people wanted it enough, if they’d worked hard enough, they could do it. You just had to make it a priority. Clearly, those people hadn’t.

I was very wrong.

I’m actually ashamed of the way I felt. Of all people, I should have understood why sometimes people just can’t. My own mental health has gotten in the way of my doing things I desperately want to more times than I can count.

The last two Novembers I have not completed Nanowrimo. In 2016, my mom had knee replacement surgery during the last week of the month. I’d kept up until then and had about 40k words written, but I chose to prioritize taking care of my mom instead of writing. I could have finished, but the stress could have sent me into an anxiety relapse that could have hurt how well I took care of her.

In 2017, I started out with a struggle. My sister and a couple other people were coming for the weekend and I was super stressed trying to get the house ready to be seen. I got some writing done, but finally accepted that I’d have to get caught up after the weekend.

That Saturday night, my cat Nutmeg died very unexpectedly after a short illness. I was devastated (More about this will be covered in a future blog entry). By the time Monday came around I announced on twitter that I was quitting. There was no doubt in my mind that I could not even try to finish out the challenge.

That was when I decided it was okay to fail. I put Nanowrimo first for so many years. I didn’t realize what a privilege that was. I’m not going to take that privilege for granted anymore. I’m proud to call myself a Nanowrimo failure, because there’s nothing wrong with that.

I still intend to start out every November fully intending to reach 50,000 words. But from now on, I’m going to remember that it’s okay to fail. Every word I write during Nano is a word that wouldn’t have been written otherwise, which makes everyone a winner.

Sometimes Nano can’t come first, or life gets in the way. Or maybe it just doesn’t feel right. So be a Nanowrimo Failure. Whether you win or lose, you still tried and that’s the most important thing, not how many words you wrote (or didn’t write).

Have you ever been a Nanowrimo failure? Winner? Tell me about your Nanowrimo experience(s). What has Nanowrimo taught you?

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My Stolen Imagination

imagination photo

When I was a kid and a teen I had a huge imagination. I had so many story ideas I couldn’t write them fast enough. I kept

lists of novels I wanted to write, ideas that I wanted to explore.

I loved going to bed at night. I would close my eyes and daydream, usually about members of boy bands meeting and falling madly in love with me. Or I’d pretend I was one of my characters and mentally write scenes that were yet to come and exactly what I would write down the next day.

But when I got depressed, that all ended.

I stopped writing, except during November of each year, for Nanowrimo. But I never wrote new ideas, only ones I had come up with years before. I chipped away at my list of novels I wanted to write. When November ended, I turned off my laptop and never went back.

I didn’t daydream anymore. I genuinely couldn’t think of anything to daydream about. My life was so dark and colorless that daydreaming was pointless. Instead, when I went to bed I read fanfiction for endless hours. The familiar characters comforted me. I didn’t like reading original fiction anymore. The idea of reading about new people made my stomach twist into knots.

 

alone photo
Photo by My name is Randy

 

When I finally admitted my depression and went on medication to fight it, everything started coming back. First was my motivation. I wanted to do things again. I cared about my surroundings. People didn’t have to drag me out of the house. I had things I wanted to do.

When we moved here two years ago, I made a rule for myself that I could only read fanfiction at night. No more going back to bed after meals and doing nothing but read fanfic and nap. I had the ability now and I was going to take advantage of it.

Then came reading. I’d never stopped buying books, but they’d sat unread on my shelves. I bought books I knew I’d have wanted before I was depressed, and they were all sitting on my bookshelves, dusty and waiting to be opened.

Lastly, my imagination came back.

For the first time in years, I have new novel ideas. In fact, I’m starting to build up a list again of things I want to write. As I read, ideas pop into my head I need to jot down, complete scenes, characters, little blurbs for future books.

It hit me today how much I’d missed my imagination. Depression had come like a dark cloud, covering up all that was beautiful in my life. It had done so so slowly that I didn’t even realize what was gone until I came out on the other side.

Every day I see a little more of ME come back. And I swear on everything I love that I will never forget to be grateful. Because when the black days come back, I know that the bright days will return.

And the bright days make everything else bearable.

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A Quick Camp Nanowrimo Progress Report

Camp Nanowrimo, April 2018

Goal: 25,000 words

Day 1: 1,694 words

Day 2: 1,810 words

Day 3: 1,001 words

Day 4: 0 words

Day 5: 0 words

Day 6:  922 words

Day 7: 1,060 words

Week 1 Total: 6,487 words

Participating in Camp Nanowrimo this month? How did your first week go? Remember, even if you aren’t meeting your goal, anything you write this month is more than you would have if you hadn’t tried at all.

temp cover to inspire me

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Things Left Undone- a rare poem

I have to be honest, I’m not a poetry fan. I don’t read it, I don’t write it, I just don’t particularly enjoy it at all.*

*with a couple of rare exceptions, such as Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, and ysome Dorothy Parker.

Last Sunday I took a bathroom break while reading the book “Every Last Word” by Tamara Ireland Stone (if you enjoy YA at all I strongly recommend this book)and when I sat back down this popped into my head and I had to write it down.

So, without further adieu, I present the only poem I have written since my teen years.

 

Things Left Undone

 

sometimes I look around
and all I see
are things left undone

books to be read
crafts to be finished
kits to be sold

a storage box I never filled
mugs never put away
folder laundry sitting there waiting
dresses that should be hanging

a yoga mat gathering dust
oh the dust
there’s so much dust

projects I haven’t started
pictures never hung
paper that needs to be filled
notebooks never defiled

a planner I do not write in
a shirt I will not keep
outfits I have yet to wear
canisters just sitting there

everywhere there’s a place to start
a step to take, a move to make
instead I sit here typing
wondering why
I cannot seem to move
I cannot seem to do

 

I shared this with my therapist yesterday and she found it insightful, so I thought I would share with my readers. If the mood strikes you, I’d of course love to know what you think.

Do you write/read poetry? Have you ever felt inspired to write poetry, even if it is not usually something you write?

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10 Weird Things I’ve Learned Researching Novels

The subject recently came up on Twitter about the strange things you end up knowing from novel research. It’s a favorite one of mine because you can’t help but retain bits of information that when repeated in polite company make you look like a psychopath.

Example:

Random Person: Joe got in a car accident yesterday.
Me: Is he okay?
Random Person: Yeah. He punctured a lung, but the doctors said he’s going to be fine.
Me: Yikes. Can you believe that some people get collapsed lungs for literally no reason? Like, they’re just walking along and bam! Lung collapsed, trouble breathing. Some people it happens to regularly.
Random Person:

Another Example:

Friend: (watching a crime show) Can’t they just dig up the body and test the DNA?
Me: Depends what’s left of the body. Flesh is all gone by this point. And depending on the soil acidity there might not even be bones left anymore.
Friend:

 

Yup, it’s interesting, to say the least, being friends with a writer. I’m full of all kinds of useless* facts and frequently frighten my friends and family.

* It’s actually all completely necessary. Knowing what to do if you’re confronted with a bear could come in handy someday!

So, without further adeau here’s a few of the miscellaneous pieces of information I’ve acquired while doing research that may or may not make me look like (more of) a lunatic on a daily basis.

1. Hearing aids are itchy, sweaty, and are pretty gross at the end of the day.

Ear wax gets everywhere, ya’ll.

2. Getting a family member’s body exhumed is a lot easier than you’d think.

It requires a judge to sign off, but moving Aunt Judy’s body to a closer cemetery isn’t that much of a hassle.

3. If you live in a building with a doorman, depending on his duties, you might not need to hire someone to feed Fluffy while you’re on vacation.

They’re also very useful if you frequently lock yourself out of your apartment or get heavy packages delivered.

4. DNA and blood testing results do not happen quickly.

Most take weeks or even months to come back from the lab and contain a lot less useful information than shown on TV.

5. A child with selective mutism may talk perfectly normal at home but clam up the second they are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation like school.

They also might speak to selected people in that environment, often whispering in the person’s ear.

6. You can’t inherit a rent controlled apartment in NYC unless you can prove you were living with the relative for at least a year prior to their death.

Basically, forget everything you learned on Friends.

7. There aren’t any bears in Maine that are likely to attack, and even then the chance of you being killed are statistically minuscule.

(To my dismay, as I required a bear to attack two young boys in that particular story)

8. Depending on the soil content and the conditions under which the person was buried, bones can decompose in a matter of decades, leaving little to no trace of the murder victim.

Which would be a much less interesting episode of Bones.

9. A large percentage of foster children wind up homeless within a year after aging out of the system.

A haunting statistic.

10. Probably the easiest, least traceable way to kill someone is by injecting air into their veins, causing an air embolism which is often written off as a heart attack or stroke.

I swear I’m not going to kill you*.

*Outside of a book. And probably only is you piss me off.

What kinds of strange (but interesting) kinds of information or tidbits do you know? Has sharing that information ever caused your friends or family to worry that you were going to murder them in their sleep? Share your stories, my readers. I love learning and reading about new things. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer. (possibly a blog post for another day)

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Beautiful Books Link-up: My 2017 Nanowrimo Novel Fear Itself

(I’ve never tried a blog link-up before so if I do this wrong you can either let me know or shake your head and giggle. I’m okay with either.)

 

So, because this sounded like fun and Cait (paperfury.com) is awesome, I decided to join the Beautiful Books blog link-up and introduce the novel I’m writing for Nanowrimo!

Onto the Questions!

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

 

Like many of my novels, the idea came from two separate ideas that begged to be merged together: I should write a cozy mystery and people never write realistic books about mental illness recovery. (as in it doesn’t happen in the course of a single book!)

I’ve been thinking about this idea for several months. I’ve known a few basics about the plot, and that I want it to be a mystery series where I slowly progress the characters.

 

 

2. Describe what your novel is about!

 

Basically, it’s about a former NYPD cop named Meg who witnessed a traumatic event and subsequently ended up with PTSD and Agoraphobia. She hasn’t left her apartment building in almost a year but the new owner is threatening her home and she can’t have that. The entire novel takes place in her apartment building.

I actually wrote a blurb for my Nano page, so here’s that too:

Agoraphobic former NYPD cop Meg McGill just wants to be left alone. Her family thinks she just needs to “get over” her PTSD, her former partner wants her to come back to work, her psychiatrist won’t stop calling, and now the guy who just moved in down the hall wants her help.
Sebastian Reid can’t shake off his suspensions that something wasn’t altogether natural about his uncle’s death. He needs help and all his neighbors tell him to talk to Meg. Now if he can just get her to answer the door…

 

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

 



 

 

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

Meg: Meg is in complete denial about her mental health. She’s totally fine! So what if she doesn’t leave the building? She can get anything she needs delivered and her best friends live upstairs. She’s a little prickly, but if she’s always willing to help a friend and has a weakness for fluffy things.

Enter Sebastian: Sebastian is a precious little cinnamon bun. He’s the kind of guy that you just want to pinch his cheeks all the time. He’s a trust fund baby that works at a non-profit animal shelter part time and has fluffy blonde ringlets. You just can’t help but like him.

There’s also Mac, Meg’s former partner who is now in a wheelchair, his wife Sonia, Meg’s best friend, and their daughter Cora who is probably Meg’s favorite person in the world. Not to mention my favorite building resident Jean, a hoarder with a cat named Gulliver who regularly steals newspapers from the trash room and knows everything that goes on in the building.

 

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, ect?)

 

I try to learn as much about my characters as possible before November hits and do ALL THE RESEARCH. I’m filling up a binder with information so I will always have things to look at when I get stuck and am trying to plot out the mystery at least somewhat so it will look like I know what I’m doing.

 

6. What are you looking forward to about this novel?

 

I’m really excited to try writing a real mystery (I don’t count the one I did years ago, it was really terrible). I’m also really excited about my characters and seeing them come alive on the page. They’ve become so real to me and I just can’t wait to spend time with them.

This is also the first time I’ve written something completely new in a few years. Two of the past three years for Nanowrimo I’ve focused on a novel I’ve been expanding for nearly fifteen years, so I know the characters and the general story like the back of my own hand.

Fear Itself is completely fresh. Every day I discover new things about the characters and the story. No matter how much planning I put in before November 1st, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.

 

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

 

I feel like this applies more the fantasy/historical novels, but I’ll give it a try:

  1. My novel takes place in Brooklyn, NYC. Specifically the Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill area. (A million thanks to my good friend Christie for answering my endless questions about living in NYC and helping me decide on the exact correct place for Meg and Sebastian to live).
  2. Meg might spend most of her time in her apartment, but her colorful bohemian style and overloaded bookshelves make it anything but boring!
  3. The building’s residents are equally colorful and also the roof is an awesome place to hang out if you can’t sleep in the middle of the night.

 

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

 

Meg’s number one goal is to keep anything from getting in the way of her staying in her home. Sebastian wants to know what really happened to his uncle. Standing in both of their ways is Sebastian’s cousin Lloyd, who recently inherited the building, and the developers he wants to sell the building to.

Meg is also coming to terms with her past life. It’s her own brain that’s standing in her way, specifically her denial that there’s anything wrong with her.

 

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

 

Meg is forced to confront her agoraphobia and PTSD and admit that she is not okay. She needs help, and by the end of the novel she’s starting to be ready to accept it.

 

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

 

Themes include mental health stigma, making your own happiness, and not letting the past (or your family) define you. I’d like people to leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling, the sense that everyone’s going to be all right, and looking forward to seeing Meg and Sebastian again in the next book!

 

That’s it! The working title for my novel is Fear Itself, and you’ll find me typing away during the month of November. You can find me spending way too much time on Twitter and if you’re doing Nanowrimo too I’d love to be buddies with you! (My Nano Profile)

Are you doing Nanowrimo? Does Fear Itself sound like something you might enjoy reading? What are you writing? Talk to me my friends.

 

I now have a Mailing List! I’ve yet to send one out, but I’d love it if you subscribed. At max you’ll get 1-2 emails a month, talking about what’s been going on in my life and letting you know about recent updates to this blog. And when I write a short story for this blog, you’ll get to see it first, before it gets posted to the public! 


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I’ve also recently figured out how to set up email alerts for new entries. If that’s something you’re interested in, you can find a link in the sidebar (or down below if you’re on your phone or tablet)

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10 Beginning Nanowrimo Tips From a 12 Time Veteran

 

(*Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Click here to read more!)

The first year I participated in Nanowrimo I failed spectacularly.

Actually, what I did was quit before the first week was over, with less than two thousand words written. I never touched that novel again (it was a cool idea, I should dust it off one of these days!).

The next year was 2005. I managed to finish on the very last day, just barely squeaking over the 50k mark. It changed my life. Since then I have participated every year but one. Twelve times in total, winning 10 of those 12 years. Last year I stopped at 40k when my mom had surgery the last week of November, choosing sanity over the last ten thousand words.

Every year I try to recruit more writers in participating in the month-long writing marathon. (Come on, you know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it!) So I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for success.

1. Read No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty
(Not an affiliate link, I just love this book!)

After my disastrous first year, I knew something had to change for me to actually make it to 50k. So I bought Chris Baty’s book (he’s the founder of Nanowrimo!). It’s basically a week by week guide to a 4 week first draft, teaching you how to let go and ride the roller coaster that is National Novel Writing Month. If the thought of writing 50k in a month is paralyzing, this is the book for you. (If you regularly write 2-3k every day, you can skip this step. Actually, why are you even here? You’ve obviously found something that works for you!)

 

2. Turn off your internal editor.

When I read Chris Baty’s book, this was a revolutionary idea for me. You know that annoying little voice in the back of your head telling you to delete adverbs and to stop writing this scene because it won’t make it into the final draft? That’s your internal editor. In November and all of my first drafts, I lock that annoying little whiner in the basement of my brain and do what I want.

Don’t worry, you’re not being mean. You can leave her food and water. But she can’t come out until December. There’s no place for her during Nanowrimo.

Your job is to write, not write well. Get the words down on the page and worry about how they sound later. It’s all fixable, as long as you have a draft to fix.

 

3. Commit.

If you’re feeling wishy-washy about this whole idea, it’s likely you won’t finish. Let’s face it, most of us need to see the word DEADLINE approaching fast to actually get anything done. (I hate all of you who can’t relate.)

If you want to do this, commit. Commit to yourself. Tell your family and friends. Don’t leave an easy way out. Bribe yourself if necessary. (There’s an entire awesome shop full of Nanowrimo swag. My first year I bought a t-shirt. I wore it until it was nearly translucent.)

 

4. Write what you’re most excited about.

If you’re like me, you don’t just have one story you want to tell. It’s likely there are several hanging around, just waiting to be pulled off the back burner and worked on. Forget what you should be working on. Pick the idea you’re the most excited about and use that as your project. If you’re excited about your novel you’re more likely to finish it than give up at the first sign of difficulty.

 

5. Put off anything unnecessary (but nothing necessary).

I know November is a busy month for many, because of the approaching holiday season and those pesky families expecting attention. Try to put off anything you don’t HAVE TO do. Stock up on prepared meals and coffee. Buy some extra underwear to avoid doing laundry. Plan to be less social. (Nanowrimo is a great excuse to avoid people. Use it!)

Save your energy for writing and for the most important things in your life. Don’t quit your job and release your children into the wild to fend for themselves. Those are necessities. (And don’t come crying to me when you’re broke and the kids are scratching at the back door.)

 

6. Stockpile words when you can.

Those first few days of any project are always the most magical. This novel is amazing! There’s so much you want to do with it! I could write forever!

Week two that feeling is starting to wane and by week three you’re wondering why you ever started writing something so stupid.

Take advantage of those early days when the writing seems effortless. Build up a buffer of words for when you can’t find them later on. You’ll thank me later.

 

7. Take a day off if you need, but never take off two.

Going along with the previous tip, at some point during the month you are going to need a break. Don’t take one until you absolutely need it, but also don’t feel guilty. We all need a break from time to time.

The key is to try* and not take more than one day off. One of the reasons Nanowrimo works is because you never have time to leave the story. Any more than one day and I start forgetting my characters. I lose the momentum of what I’d previously written. It’s easier to keep going than to start up again.

*Confession: I don’t always listen to this rule. That’s why I say try. Just like I say I’m trying to eat more vegetables. 😂

 

8. Connect with the community.

One of the many reasons I love Nanowrimo is the sense of community. All during the month there are thousands of writers filling the forums, sharing everything from writing dares, stories of success(or failure), and even offers of help with research from experts in certain subjects.

Join in. Make new friends. Participate in word wars. Ride the wave of other’s excitement and use it to keep excited.

 

9. Skip scenes and use placeholders.

Speed is the name of the game during Nanowrimo. If you’re stuck on a difficult scene, or just don’t feel like writing one, throw in a place marker (”insert scene where we figure out that big plot point I still haven’t figured out yet”) and move on.

This also works for names you’ve forgotten and facts you aren’t sure about. Example: my early drafts are often littered with things like “WHATEVERHERLASTNAMEIS” and “PICKANANIMALTHATWORKS”. Stuff like that. Don’t get caught up in the details.

 

10. Just keep going, no matter what.

There will be days when you want to quit. (And just feel normal for a bit. No wait, that’s a song…) You will want to heave your laptop out the window and forget all about this crazy novel writing thing. You’ll be tired and stressed and completely out of ideas.

JUST KEEP GOING. Write absolute nonsense. Do crazy things just to get your word count up. Use the replace-all feature to give all your characters names like Billy Joe and Becky Sue for a few extra words. My first year I got desperate and got rid of contractions.

Do whatever it takes to get those words down on the page. Remember, they don’t have to be great. They don’t even have to be good. But they do have to EXIST and I promise you there will be gems mixed into the mess that you couldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Bonus:
11. Ignore everything I’ve said.

Just like writing the rest of the year, take all my advice with a grain of salt. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. HAVE FUN! Consider it an adventure. I personally think every writer should try Nanowrimo at least once, but it’s okay if it isn’t for you. It’s okay if you can’t write 50k. Every word you wrote got you one word closer to your goal and that should be applauded.

Are you planning on participating in Nanowrimo this year? Did you find any of my tips helpful? Do you disagree with any of them? Please do share in the comments.

 

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