NaNoWriMo: “I did it!” Post

28 11 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner Badge


I just verified my status as a NaNoWriMo winner, and I feel like running around the house, my arms waving madly around my head while my heels kick together in mid-air.  My family would just shake their heads and say, “Oh, she’s lost it again.”


Apparently, I’m not a great mathematician, as my final word count is significantly higher than what I had thought it was (as in, I was about 8,000 words off from the actual total, but at least that 8,000 made it a higher number than what I had calculated…).  Oops.  Ah, well.  I take it as a good sign that I was so into writing that I forgot to update my word counts when I should have.


My inability to count is not the purpose of this post.  I wanted to take a moment to celebrate authors everywhere, whether they are participating in NaNoWriMo or not.  For all you writers out there who take the plunge and put pieces of yourself on a page for others to read, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and realize just how brave and amazing you are.


The adrenaline rush is only going up from here, and I can’t stay seated much longer, so this post will be cut short.  I literally need to run around to burn some of this energy.  I wish all you who are working on your NaNoWriMo novels the best and hope that either you are already celebrating with me or you will be celebrating with me within the next couple days.  You can do it!


NaNoWriMo Update: Day 20

20 11 2009

I am exactly 2/3 of the way through NaNoWriMo, and I’ve managed to stay on target to finish the 50,000 words by the end of the month.  I want to do a happy dance for myself, but I’m disappointed that my progress has stalled lately.  The only reason I’m still on target is that I had worked ahead earlier on in the month.  I haven’t made my daily writing goals for the past few days, and I’m in need of a pick-me-up.  I am at that point that is supposed to be “magical” where you are so close to being finished that making 50k-goal should feel so much easier.  Yet, it doesn’t.


Parts of writing have become easier–I’m more familiar with my story and my characters, so when I sit to write, the words tend to come a bit more easily.  And since I had outlined so much in advance, writing the scenes goes smoothly.  My problem is getting the motivation to sit and write when I’m sick, when the semester is getting more hectic the closer it gets to the end, when there are so many good shows on TV, when there are so many blogs to read…  Okay, so once I start making excuses, they tend to get lame pretty quickly, which means I need to stop making excuses and start writing again.


My goal is to make it to 36,000 words by the end of the day tomorrow; as a different way of looking at it, my goal is to make it through the next chapter of my novel by the end of tomorrow.  If anyone has any encouraging words for writing to send my way, I sure wouldn’t mind hearing them. 🙂

NaNoWriMo Update, Day 8

8 11 2009

I thought the weekends would prove to be the most difficult time for me to find time for my writing because my entire family is at home.  Granted, my “entire” family is a small one, but I find it more difficult to carve time out for myself when my son and husband are running around me, asking for my attention.  So part of my motivation for having a higher word count going into the weekend was that if I didn’t get any writing done over the weekend, it wouldn’t matter as much.  I thought Monday could be my catch-up day.


I was wrong.  My problem (at least right now) is that all I want to do is work on my novel.  In fact, the only times I’m not working on my novel are the times I’m cruising Twitter, blogs, or the NaNoWriMo website.  Sometimes working on my novel is not working toward increasing my word count–I’m planning, working on the full list of names I’ll need for characters so I’m prepared, and getting together any research I’ll need while writing.


Why is that problematic?  After all, my goal is to finish the novel, and I am getting a lot of valuable work done toward that goal.  The problem is that I still have a full-time job to think about; I’ve got papers to grade and lectures to prepare, but I can’t seem to focus on them.  I’m sure that by the end of the month I’ll be feeling worn down from all the novel writing and will welcome distractions in any forms, including grading.  For the time being, though, I’m struggling to juggle some vital aspects of work with writing.  Here’s my current to-do list:


To-Do List

What I have on my list to do today

Yesterday I had a productive writing day, but I didn’t get around to grading 10 compositions, which means I have more of those to grade today.  Oops.


My question to all you readers out there who have a lot to juggle is, “What works for you?”  I’ve tried to-do lists (and still try them, convinced that someday they’ll work out for me), but I tend to brush them off.  Is there a reward system that works?  Is there some program that prods you into action when need be?  I tell my students that time management skills are the key to success–and they are–but that doesn’t mean I’ve figured out how to best implement them.


As an update on my word count, I surpassed my 12,700-word goal yesterday (woo-hoo!) and have set a 15,000-word goal for today.  My other goal for the day is to get off the computer and not touch it again until I’ve crossed at least one of those other items off my to-do list.

NaNoWriMo Update, Day 6

6 11 2009

This morning I had to drag myself out of bed after staying up too late last night working on my outline for my NaNoWriMo novel, and I’m starting to feel the physical side effects of writing–a leg went numb last night because I was sitting in a weird position on my bed while I was typing, my lower back aches from not sitting up straight enough, my hands hate me for making them type so much, and my eyes are pretty much giving up on being able see after having so much eye strain.  Today I will be implementing some of the strategies I found online for staying healthy while writing like a madwoman: use lots of eye drops, do eye exercises, flex my hands frequently, and stretch at regular intervals.  I’ve decided today that if I’ve been sitting at my computer for an hour, it’s time for 10 minutes of yoga.  I think that’s fair.  What will be interesting is what happens when I’m doing yoga in my office and a student walks in…  Professors need exercise, too.


I realized that I needed to update my NaNoWriMo meme after only two days of writing.  I still don’t have a rewards system per se, but I have adopted a routine that feels rather rewarding for me: Every time I finish typing a scene, I go to the NaNoWriMo website and add in my new word count and then change my status label on that scene from “To Do” to “First Draft.”  Changing the word count more frequently is helping me stay motivated because I’m one of those people who benefit from seeing progress in action.  To further motivate myself, I’m installing a word counter from the NaNoWriMo website on my blog (sharing it with readers means I have to carry through with it).


Also, I had said in my meme that I needed to learn to write during any situation; I set my goal for the day to write during any free time I found.  And I did.  I stole time throughout the day to write, and I didn’t even mind if I had to stop after a couple hundred words because my office phone rang or a student knocked on my door.  I hope this is a change in my writing behavior that I needed.


My question for all my writing friends is whether you have a regularly scheduled writing time.  I’ve read so many writing guides that say it works best if you write at the same time every day, but I have yet to find my magical writing time that will provide productivity.  Right now, the write-when-I-have-time method is working for me, but will it be able to sustain me for an entire month of writing?  I love that the more I write, the more I grow and change in my writing habits.


Trans-Siberian Orchestra Night Castle

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's newest CD: Night Castle


As a last update, Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s new CD arrived in the mail yesterday, and it’s been the perfect writing companion.  I am proud to say that after two productive days, I am now ahead of schedule (by 500 words) for my expected word count.  Well, that was as of yesterday.  My goal for today is to make it to 11,000 words–I need to save up extra words so that if I have another unproductive day, I won’t get behind.


As a last bit of inspiration, I found this poster with the 12 rules of writing on


12 Rules of Writing poster


Now off to get ready for the day so I can get started on reaching my 11,000-word goal (which means I have to write 2149 words today).

NaNoWriMo Meme

4 11 2009

This year I am participating (for better or worse…) in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which means that I am expecting myself to write at least 50,000 words this month.

NaNoWriMo Badge

One of the many badges available for NaNoWriMo participants

So far, I’m a bit behind, but I’ve got some great planning work done (more on that in another post).  In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I have decided to do the NaNoWriMo Meme, which I first saw in Nicole’s It’s All About Writing blog.  To be quite honest, I had never heard of a “meme” before reading her post, so I had to do a little searching to find out what exactly a meme was.  Apparently, it is a well-known trend among bloggers that involves a set of questions that floats around the blog world (sometimes the questions change a bit as they float through cyber space).  Bloggers pick up on these sets of questions, answer them, and then post them in their blogs.  It is a meme.  If you already knew that, you can smile and shake your head at my newbie status to blogging.  For this particular meme, I’ve had to modify some questions because this is my first year of participating in NaNoWriMo.  With no further ado, on with the meme-ing!


When and how did you find out about NaNoWriMo?

I actually just found out about it in October when I became a more serious Twitter-er.  While I was making more and more writer friends on Twitter, I noticed that quite a few of them kept talking about some thing called the NaNoWriMo.  So I jaunted over to Google, filled in the blank field with “NaNoWriMo,” and up popped the organization’s web site, where I saw that it stood for National Novel Writing Month and was a way for writers to support each other as a community as they each attempted to write a 50,000-word novel in one month.  I thought it sounded like a pretty cool idea, so without giving it more than 30 seconds of thought as to what being a participant might mean, I joined in on the “literary abandon.”  I’m just now realizing the implications of writing that much while carrying on a full-time job…


Want to join up on the site (i.e., Want to be my writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo site)?

Add me here.


Where do you write and with what do you write?

I tend to write best at home when my husband and son are asleep (either early in the morning before it occurs to them to wake up or late at night after they have already gone to bed).  I am still working on being able to write creatively through distractions, and I’m hoping I can learn the art of taking every spare moment and writing a little bit to fill the time.  I’ve decided today is going to be the start of that for me–I’m deciding in advance that I’m going to write during my office hours (I’m a college professor), regardless of whether I expect a knock on the door from a student.  If I have ten minutes of downtime, I’m going to spend that ten minutes writing.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…  I’ll let you know whether or not that worked out for me.

I write with either my laptop (I have a love affair with my Mac and take it everywhere with me) or good ol’ fashioned pen and paper.  I used to use pen and paper more often, but I recently discovered Scrivener, which has completely changed my view of writing on computers.  Okay, so I didn’t really “discover” it–I just finally listened to my sister after she had been raving about it for years.  Thanks, Ang!  I fully intend to devote an entire post to Scrivener in the near future, as I really am that in love with it.


How do you find time to write?

I’m still working on this one.  Like I said in the previous question, I’m still figuring out how I can learn to steal any free minutes I have and use them for writing.  I love to doodle and scribble and write little notes, which is why I think I’m getting into this blogging thing so quickly (since I joined the blogging world in September, I’ve started three blogs and love every one of them).  I used to keep a journal but would go in and out of writing in it, as I only had so much interesting to say about my daily life.  I like that blogs (or at least the blogs I write and read) are dedicated to topics–I can write about topics!  In the case of that kind of writing, I really can do it anytime.  It’s the creative writing (i.e., my novel for NaNoWriMo) that takes more time and more mental energy.


Are your partners, friends, and family allies or enemies?

My husband is a silent ally–he supports my decision to write even though he doesn’t quite get it when I say I need my own space to write without distractions.  My son is a friendly enemy–he is too young to understand why Mommy spends so much time tapping away on her computer.  My sister and close friends are super allies, offering to read over rough drafts and more.


What are your strengths, and what do you use to help you get to the end?

I am really good at the planning stages–I get creative, energetic bursts where I can get tons of outlining, note-taking, and short scenes written for the book. I am bad at sustaining said energetic bursts.  When I’m out, I’m really out.  My super allies (mentioned above) provide the encouragement I need to get through to the end.  Also, since I know other people know I’m writing, I feel more pressure to actually produce something… anything!


What are your weaknesses, obstacles, and challenges that hinder you from finishing?

Again, sustaining the energy is my biggest weakness.  My own insecurities as a writer also hinder me.  When I’ve got my bursts, all is happy, and I’m a writing fool.  When my bursts are finished, I swing the opposite direction and think, “Why would anyone want to read this, anyway?” or some similarly degrading thought.  Perhaps I’m a bipolar writer (or perhaps I’m just a typical writer).


Do you plot/outline/plan, or do you write by the seat of your pants?  How much do you plot or how unprepared are you?

I’m a planner.  I’ve got pages and pages of ideas for what direction I think the book should take.  But I’m not such a planner that I force myself to stick with what I originally intended–I like to let the story organically grow while the characters reveal themselves to me.  I had my first novel entirely laid out before I started writing it when halfway through the writing of the novel, the main character changed.  I had completely finished it before I realized I had gotten her age all wrong.  So I’m open to changes, but I still spend the prep time to write out a complete outline with notes from each scene.


Do you participate in the real-life community, to to write-ins and meet-ups in your area?

I have not yet participated in the real-life community–only the web-based one.  I’ve made some great writing buddies through Twitter and the NaNoWriMo site, and their encouragement is really helping me to keep going.  The only real-life activities in my area area a little over an hour away from where I live, and I haven’t been able to go yet to any of the activities.  There is a write-in coming up, though, that I’m seriously considering attending.


What are your writing aids?  Special snacks, music, totems, rewards, or punishments?

I’ve got to have music–I especially love Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Enya in the background while I write.  Their music helps my mind move and focus all at once.  It’s the same music that got me through 19 hours of labor medication-free, so I trust it to get me through a month of labor on my novel.  I don’t do the reward/punishment system–my reward is getting the book finished, and my punishment is not finishing the book.  What more do I need to add?  I have a hand-drawn page of what I want the front cover of my novel to look like hanging up on the wall for inspiration as I write and as I am contacting agents/entering writing contests for my first novel.

That is the end of this NaNoWriMo meme and also the end of my free time for this morning.  In fact, I think I’m going to be late to class (I’ll conveniently not tell my students I was late because I was blogging…).