The November Chronicles: How Do You NaNo?

Since putting up my last blog post, I’ve gotten a handful of messages asking how to participate  in National Novel Writing Month.

Here’s the basics:

  • Write 50,000 words (or more)
  • Start any time after 12:00 a.m. on November 1st.
  • Finish any time before 11:59 p.m. on November 30th.
  • Work on entirely new material: a novel which has no previous drafts and no word count before November 1st (outlining is fine).
  • Follow all the rules above, or join the gloried ranks of the NaNoWriMo cheaters, who dare to… do whatever they feel like.

It’s not that complicated. It’s just difficult. And exciting. And sleep-depriving in a way that even caffeine can’t fix by the end of the month. At the finish, you have the rawest first draft you’ve probably ever written, with a handful of golden pages you wouldn’t trade away for love.

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The November Chronicles: Episode 1

Summer is over.

It might seem like I’m running late, making announcements like that at the end of October, but my slice of California does a poor job showing the changing seasons. The desert is the same half-rusted brown all year round, and I’ll sweat in the afternoon’s heat whether it’s January or July. Last week, though, I decided it was time to start keeping a coat in the back seat of my car for when I leave work after dark and step outside into the sudden, sweet cold.

I am thrilled.

It’s Fall now. Halloween is a week away. Thanksgiving is coming. Christmas feels less and less distant as the decorations sparkle in stores. And National Novel Writing Month starts in nine days.

I love it.

This will be my ninth year competing: attempting to write 50,000 words at a breakneck pace inside thirty days. My first year, I won spectacularly with more than a week to spare. I loved the novel I wrote, and I hit 70,000 words smoothly and gleefully. But I was seventeen years old. I was homeschooled. I had already been accepted at my first choice college. I think I talked my mother into letting me start the holiday break a couple weeks early. And I just wrote.

This year looks so different: In a lot of ways, it will be my first adult NaNoWriMo. It’s definitely the first time I need to make rent and car payments while writing my butt off. First time with a full time job. First time with a significant other. He’ll probably want proof of life from time to time.

I’m more excited than I have been since that very first year. I want to win more than I have in ages. And I’m probably going to sleep less than a giraffe on espresso (look it up).

I’m trying to drag as many of my friends as possible into this mud-happy mess with me. Might as well drag you in too.

This Is The Kind of Thing I Might Delete In Daylight

My Sophomore year of college, I took a creative writing class which required me to write poetry. As much time as I have spent laying words on paper, I’ve never figured out how to configure meter, how to play with sound, how to build a rhyme that does anything more than follow the letter of a law. Instead, I spent half that semester simply trying to bottle feelings, because that seemed like something a poem might be.

It didn’t take long for my professor to look across the critique table and kindly, quietly wonder if I was really writing those poems for an audience. “Maybe,” she said, “This is still just for you.”

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Gwendoogle – Ask Me About Transylvania

GwendoogleAnswers served with a clock I didn’t realize was ticking

Annie C. searched: Where did you go?
I was prepared to answer this question much more blithely before I realized that I last posted more than a month ago. For instance:

Most recently I went to Laguna Beach. It was wonderful, as well as a little surreal as an East Coast transplant. It seems more like a location on television than anything in reality. I got very sunburnt, because I am a walking piece of white bread. Thanks for asking!

But after forty-seven days of unexplained absence, I owe you more than that. As much fun as it would be to tell you all about my undercover mission to Transylvania privately funded by a paranoid, philanthropic billionaire…

Honestly, Annie, I didn’t go anywhere. I sort of went everywhere. Five days a week, I now hold down a job which I love. Slightly less often than that, I go out with friends to see a movie or knock down as many bowling pins as possible in two hours. A lot of nights, I’ve been getting my new boyfriend caught up on Game of Thrones and Firefly, while he thinks up what he’s going to ask me to watch in return. I’ve gone to the beach, San Diego, and Disney Land. I’ve had faraway friends drop by for drinks and nostalgia and inspiration. I’ve made plans to see family in the very near future.

All in all, with a shiny new car and a fully functioning driver’s license, I have rediscovered my old College Days problem of being an extroverted writer: I crave company, and need to protect my writing time from my own tendency to burst out of the house at every opportunity.

I am starting to develop rules for myself:

  1. Don’t go more than three days without three good hours of writing time. You won’t be happy.
  2. Don’t sacrifice good sleep to see friends. You need to be well-rested to sit still and write. Caffeine is only halfway effective.
  3. Reading time is essential. But is not writing time.
  4. You can leave the house to write. There is no reason to feel like a shut-in when Starbucks has delightful outside tables in the shade and your new home in Southern California is always breezy.
  5. Don’t get sunburnt. It’s not like it inhibits writing, but it is strangely distracting.
  6. Remember that while you love writing, and it makes you happy, yes, sometimes you run away from it, because it’s hard and seeing the new Captain America movie with good friends is easy.
  7. Remember how much you hate running away. And how good it feels to kick butt.
  8. Kick butt. Kick all the butts. (Apply this rule sparingly in other areas of life, please.)
  9. Make your own rules, and don’t feel weird that you have to drag yourself into alone time when so many other writers are dragging themselves out to be social. All writers are weird.
  10. Get carried away. But maybe not with this list, which has gone on too long, and is not actually productive writing, you guppy.

TL;DR – I’m doing that adult thing where I learn to budget time, take care of myself, be productive, and stay rested. As much as I say I love learning, I’m being pretty slow about this lesson. But I haven’t forgotten you. Don’t forget about me.

Any other extroverted writers out there?

The Scheherazade Achievement


Let me tell you a true story.

Once upon a time, in a land twenty-five hundred miles away, I chased a whim. Well, more than one – many more than one, because that’s a good hobby – but I’m thinking of one in particular. I decided to post on this blog every day. I missed some days, but kept track of my consecutive successes, and worked hard not to have to start the count over.

I posted for three hundred days in a row, aiming for a whole year, before I purposefully got lost in Wyoming. There is internet somewhere in Wyoming, but not in the mountains, in bear country, where I had to lock my shampoo in an air-tight container to keep from getting large, furry visitors in my tent. I started over.

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Gwendoogle – I Can Count to Five

GwendoogleAnswers served like we’re on Sesame Street

Kate Kearney searched: Favorite prompts and tactics for writing inspiration?
I have two, and they cannot be employed at the same time:

  1. Sit your butt down and write. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Turn off the internet and do not leave you writing spot until you have reached a specific goal, be it word count, page count, or specific thing you wanted down on paper.
  2. Do literally anything BUT write. Watch a movie. Read a book. Go bowling. See friends. Collect ideas and throw them away and collect some more. Recharge and restock.

At this point in my writing life, those two things comprise ninety-percent of my productivity.

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