Monday, October 31, 2022

Updates for NaNoWriMo

To reflect that I'm getting back to work on Ruby Ransome for NaNoWriMo 2022, I've made a few updates to my blog template.  You'll see I removed all the icons from past NaNoWriMo years.  I'm cleaning up the clutter and starting fresh with just this year's icon.  I also took down the old progress bars and replaced them with a new one, which I'll try to keep updated (although I have to do it manually, as NaNoWriMo apparently no longer has an API for word count widgets).

I also plan on blogging regularly about my month of getting back together with Ruby, so stay tuned for future updates!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Last-Minute NaNoWriMo Prep

I can't believe our region's kickoff party - and the start of NaNoWriMo 2022 - is tomorrow night!  I am SO NOT READY.  I have not even started reading my novel yet, so I guess that's probably going to be my job for tomorrow.  Doing it all at once will mean better continuity, and it'll all be fresh in my mind, right?

I always feel like I have too much to do, but right now the feeling is rather intensified.  I have to get ready for the kickoff party tomorrow night, which means printing bingo cards, finding my stash of NaNoWriMo stickers and favors, and making sure I have everything all together.  We also probably should grab something at Costco for the potluck tomorrow evening.

In addition to prepping for the kickoff party, I also have a variety of other things to do: website maintenance, photo shoots, and other business-type things.  I still have a cleaning and organization project I've been working on, and need to make some progress on.  And of course, I need to take care of my horse and do barn chores before the kickoff.

So much to do, so little time.

Wish me luck getting it all done in the next 22 hours!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Now Can We Panic???

I came to the realization today that we're only five days out from NaNoWriMo.  Five days, people!  THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

I've been less productive than I would have liked the last few days, so I'm sorry to say that I'm not ready at all.  I should have started reading through my novel a couple days ago, but instead I'm rereading a nonfiction book about the 20s called Flapper.  (I'll post about it later.)  It's a good way to get me into the mood to write about the 1920s, but it also means I have only five days left to get ready to start rewriting my first Ruby novel.

I also have a full library cart of books about the 20s - some fiction, some nonfiction - that I wanted to get to as well.  I really don't know what I was thinking.  Forget "bit off more than I could chew" - "checked out more than I could read" should be a saying, although in this case it's literal.

I know I'm not the only one who isn't ready for NaNoWriMo.  My husband only has an idea for what to write about - no story or characters - and one of my co-MLs said in our chat tonight that she doesn't know what she's going to write about at all!

The closer we get to NaNo, the more tempting it is to say never mind, I'll just work on my blogs, or a project that I'm more ready for... but I'm going to try to stick to the original plan, and work on Ruby!

Monday, October 17, 2022

Exciting New Come Write In Partner!

I'm super excited that Barnes & Noble is partnering with NaNoWriMo this year.  I've been writing in Barnes & Noble cafes for years.  Starting in about 2005, when I was both a full-time technical writer and a freelance writer, I used to go to my local B&N to get some work done when I was tired of working at home.

I love writing in cafes, and a cafe in a bookstore seems like the absolute perfect place to write.  We've held NaNoWriMo write-ins at Starbucks as well as Tattered Cover, a small local chain of bookstores, but an early attempt to hold one at Barnes & Noble didn't go so well (although to be fair I don't know the full situation or whether that write-in had been approved by B&N).

This year it should go much better, since we'll be there as part of a collaboration between NaNoWriMo and Barnes & Noble.  When a business or organization signs up as a Come Write In partner, the region's municipal liaisons coordinate with them to get their events scheduled and on the local calendar.  So Barnes & Noble should be well aware of how write-ins work this time around, since they're dealing with the organizers directly.

I have two Barnes & Noble stores near me, one to the north and one to the south, so I've taken on coordinating directly with both of them to set up write-ins.  One has already gotten back to me and it's looking like we'll be having write-ins there Wednesday evenings in November.  Hopefully the other Barnes & Noble will pick a day other than Wednesday because I'd like to attend both of those write-ins, since I'm coordinating with both stores.

I'm also planning write-ins at a local board game cafe that is incredibly supportive of NaNoWriMo, as they have been hosting these write-ins as well as our kickoff party for years.  Those write-ins will be on Sundays throughout November.  So as you can imagine, between the two B&N write-ins and the board game cafe one every week, my social calendar in November is already pretty full.

Hard to believe November is only two weeks away now!

Thursday, October 13, 2022

To Read or Not to Read

With only two and a half weeks until NaNoWriMo is upon us (!!!), I'm starting to think about my reading materials in the next few weeks and during November.  My plan was to reread some of my 1920s research materials leading up to NaNo - in addition to reading my own novel, of course.  But now I'm a little afraid I won't have enough time before November to read everything I wanted to.

I also have to decide what to read during the writing process.  I remember reading some author's thoughts on the matter once, saying that they read voraciously while they were planning the novel - research materials, other similar books, etc. - right up until they started writing it.  And then, at that point, they read only other stuff, books that wouldn't be similar enough to what they were writing that it would unintentionally influence them.

I wish I could remember who that was.

Anyway, I know a lot of people don't read at all during NaNo.  They think they can't or shouldn't spare the time away from their novel.  But I'm a voracious reader - I'm always reading something, no matter how busy I get.  Even if it's only for five or ten minutes, I have to read at least a little bit every night.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've gone straight to bed without reading, and they've always been because of something extremely out of the ordinary, such as when my horse almost died in the spring.

So my plan is to read a bunch of 20s stuff - both research and fiction, probably - to get me in the mood before November, and then during November I'll try to stick to completely unrelated fiction.

What about you?  Do you read while you're writing a novel, and do you have any rules for yourself about what you read?

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Where Do You Write?

I've been trying to tidy up my house lately, and it occurred to me that if I were to actually clean my desk (ahem), I could try writing there.

It's been so long since I've written at my desk, though.  I used to write primarily at my desk, although sometimes I would work on the couch in the living room.  Since I moved into my condo in 2016, though, I've primarily worked in the kitchen, instead of my office in the second bedroom upstairs.

It's not that I dislike my office.  It's often a mess, although that will hopefully be fixed soon.  But I don't care as much for working upstairs.  I like being in my sunny kitchen, where I can get a drink or a snack at any time.

In my kitchen, I used to sit at the table to work, but for the past few years I've preferred to sit at the counter.  My kitchen has a galley kitchen with a counter that sticks out beyond the cabinets, dividing the kitchen from the eating area like a peninsula and creating a little bar.  My husband and I sit on either side of that counter to eat and work, for the most part.

I would love to get the office and doll room (a shared room) organized again so that we can both use our desks upstairs, but I don't know how much I'll actually work up there.  Thankfully, one of my favorite things about my laptop is that I can work wherever I please, even when this changes from time to time.  Sometimes I write from bed before going to sleep, sometimes I write on the couch, and often I write on the go, schlepping my laptop with me places and writing wherever I happen to be at the time.  Sometimes I even write while my electric car charges at a public charger.

I think being flexible about where you write is a good skill, but also, there are studies that show that the ambient noise of a coffee shop can actually help you focus, oddly enough.  Maybe that's why write-ins are so popular during NaNoWriMo.

What about you?  Where do you prefer to do your writing?

Monday, October 10, 2022

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

I've decided I need to start my read-through of Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box soon.  As I mentioned quite a few blog posts back, I realized I had some substantial flaws with character motivation and the plot, so I'm having to rewrite much of it.  Many of the main scenes will stay, as they do make sense with the new plot and motivation (more sense, in fact - I was trying to force something that wasn't working).  But much of the small stuff needs to go, so rather than going in and tweaking every single scene and deciding what would stay and what would go, I am going to rewrite instead.

But first, I need to get my head back into Ruby's world of the vampire-ridden 1920s.  I have been out of it for a long time.  I have some reference books about the 1920s that I might reread in preparation for writing during NaNoWriMo, but more importantly, I need to go through the novel itself and mark what's staying and what needs to change.

You may remember me debating how I was going to revise.  Of course, this isn't a standard revision, since it'll be primarily rewriting - I'm just trying to refresh my memory and get back into the atmosphere of the novel.  But it's been the same debate for me anyway.  Do I find my marked-up manuscript and read through it and all the handwritten revisions?  Or do I read through the novel on a screen?

Ultimately, I decided that the best way for me to get it done was by reading on a very specific screen: my Kindle screen.  After all, I want to read through it fairly quickly, hopefully in just a couple of days, and having it on my Kindle is probably the best way to make that happen.  So I used Scrivener to compile it into an ebook, and emailed it to my Kindle.  Now I'll be able to read through it there, and I can actually highlight and take notes about anything I want to remember when I'm rewriting.

Another option is of course to keep a note pad with me and use that to take notes.  It might be a little faster when I want to make note of something, but of course it'll mean I'll have to find that part in the novel later, and then there's the matter of whether I have my notepad with me when I need it...  So I think, even with the fact that typing notes on the e-reader will be slightly cumbersome, I will plan on using the highlight and note-taking features on Kindle.

Now the only question is when I'm going to do this.  I have the ebook loaded on my Kindle now, but I've been working on some other things at the moment, more pressing things from my to-do list.  I do think it'll make the most sense for me to read the novel in the last week or so before NaNoWriMo, so I'm in the mood and ready to write on November 1st.  I also want to skim through some of my old research books that I have about the 1920s, books I pulled a lot of information out of for Ruby's story.

How about you?  How is your NaNoWriMo prep going?  Will you be ready to write in only three weeks?

Friday, October 7, 2022

Finding Time to Write

NaNo Prep Week has me thinking about when I will find time to write during NaNoWriMo, especially since I feel so helplessly busy these days.

Of course, one of the major drains on my time - feeding my horse while he's been sick - will hopefully be out of the picture by November, as he's almost ready to go back into his corral where the barn will feed him for me.  So hopefully I'll be at least a little less busy in November.

But still, the big question is when I'll have the time to squeeze in some writing.

In past years where I've successfully finished NaNoWriMo, I would do all my regular work during the day, and then work on my novel for an hour or two right before bed.  That worked out well for my schedule back then.

For the last few years, I didn't have a set time to work on it, though.  I did a lot of my writing during write-ins, but didn't have a solid plan for when I was going to write during the other days.  Looking back on it, this may be why I wasn't very successful at getting my 50,000 words, especially during the last couple years when we had virtual (and fewer) write-ins.

So this year, I think I need to have a plan for when I am going to carve out this time to write.

I'm not a "get up early and write before everyone else is up" kind of person.  I'm a terrible morning person and since I'm a freelance writer, I let myself do what comes naturally to me.  Therefore, I tend to sleep until later morning and start my day more slowly.  Due to my schedule, and honestly also due to my round-the-clock feeding schedule with my horse, lately I have been working later into the evening and night.

So personally, I'm not sure writing late at night is the way to go this year.  Instead, I'm thinking of using that time early in my day to write.

I tend to like to do something that requires low brain power in order to wake up and "warm up" to working.  Often over the years, that has meant checking email, reading blogs, marketing/searching for writing gigs, and more recently, checking Facebook.  Writing a novel isn't necessarily a low brain power activity, but it's a very different type of brain power than writing for clients, so I'm hoping it'll fit the bill as a first-thing-in-the-morning task.  Then my writing will all be done for the day, too - and anything I write during write-ins will just be bonus words - which is an appealing idea.

Of course, this is getting the cart ahead of the horse, a little bit.  I still need to go through the original novel and see what I'd like to keep or change about the story, and if there are any bits of writing that are worth keeping.  I've been thinking more about how I'm going to do that, so I'll blog more about that later.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Messages from an ML: How to Get Involved with Your Local NaNoWriMo Region

My last post talked quite a bit about NaNoWriMo regions and local events.  I can't tell you how many times I've talked to a newcomer to my events, though, and discovered that they've known about the local events for some time, just never had worked up the courage to come.

I always encourage wrimos to come to the local write-ins if they can.  Staying motivated all by yourself for an entire month can be difficult, but you don't have to do it all alone.  Write-ins help you get your word counts, maintain the daily habit, and maintain your forward momentum.

Writers can be an awkward bunch, though; a single write-in will tell you that much.  When you're an introvert, going to a write-in to write with strangers can be intimidating.

If you feel hesitant to join your local NaNoWriMo community, here are a few tips for breaking the ice and putting yourself out there.

  • Check out the region online first.  Even though you're looking for a local community, that local community has an online presence, too.  Every region at minimum has a regional forum, typically with information from MLs about local events, and threads from other local wrimos about everything from setting up write-ins to various aspects of writing.  Your region may also have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Discord.
  • Say hi!  Lurking is great for getting comfortable, but at some point, you just gotta say hi.  Introduce yourself, post any questions you have about how the local stuff works, or reach out and make some new writing buddies.
  • Find a write-in where you can get your feet wet.  Check out the write-ins in your area.  In addition to the forum, which is often used for arranging write-ins, there's a region calendar.  Our write-in likes to specify what kind of event each write-in is: Is it social?  Is it quiet and focused?  Will there be word sprints?  You can also ask any friends you've made in the forum what write-ins they'll be going to, so you can meet them in person (and have the security of knowing someone there).
  • Go to the write-in.  Once you find a write-in you think would be a good fit for your first time, take the leap and go!  It may seem intimidating your first time, but I promise, we're all just like you (awkward writer types) and you'll fit in nicely.
  • Repeat as necessary.  If you have a good experience at your first write-in, why not try another?  Many repeat weekly, so you can go to the same one again next week, or try a different one.  I do find that the atmosphere can vary quite a bit between write-ins, so don't worry if you find that some aren't to your liking.  Hopefully you will have an active region with many to choose from!
  • Create your own!  You knew I was coming to this, right?  If you don't find a write-in that works for you, or you go to a few and don't love them, don't be afraid to start your own!  Check the regional forum for your ML's guidelines on creating a write-in, but for the most part, you just have to specify day, time, place, how long you'll be there, and what kind of a write-in it is (quiet, focused, social, etc.).  It's also a good idea to talk to the business where you want to hold it first to make sure they're okay with it, especially if you anticipate more than a handful of people to show up.
I genuinely hope you'll try it, but at the very least, check your region's local forum and see if there's anything (or anyone) to interest you.  The community part of NaNoWriMo is half the fun of participating!

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Messages from an ML: What's All This Local Region Stuff, Anyway?

I've mentioned before that I'm a municipal liaison, an ML, for NaNoWriMo's Denver region.

Since I haven't explained it recently (even though I've been talking about it a lot), NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's a self-challenge to write a 50,000-word novel (or 50,000 words of a novel) in the month of November.  There are rules, but that's the basics of it, and some of us (ahem) break some of those rules anyway.

NaNoWriMo is primarily an online thing.  There's a huge website, and discussion forums, and social media presence, especially on Twitter and Discord.  And it's actually international, not just national, so once November starts, there will be writers participating right alongside you (virtually) all over the world.

While the online and international parts of NaNoWriMo are phenomenal, participants are also divided up into regions.  You can join your local region or not; it's up to you.  But if you decide to participate in your region, I highly recommend checking out the local events calendar.  Local events are one of the best things about NaNoWriMo for me.

For instance, I live in the Denver Metro area, and I've been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2006.  Denver is a very active region, so your region may or may not look like this, but in a normal year we have events scheduled for almost every day of November.  Most of the events are what we call "write-ins," which is where wrimos (what we call participants) get together someplace and just write together.  Sometimes it's quiet writing, sometimes social writing, and sometimes it's a mix with timed (and often gently competitive) word sprints.  They're held in coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, libraries, and bookstores all over town, wherever the person setting up the event decides to have it - usually a favorite local haunt.

We also always have a kickoff party.  Other regions may differ, but we hold our kickoff parties on Halloween night, so that everyone can start writing at midnight.  It means that people who have to work the next day tend not to come, but even so, we typically get 60 to 70 people at the kickoff party.  Fortunately we have the generous support of a local coffee shop, Enchanted Grounds, and for the last handful of years or so they have hosted both our kickoff parties and a weekly write-in.

NaNoWriMo also has local Come Write In partners, usually libraries or bookstores that decide they want to host events in November, and they reach out to NaNoWriMo directly about scheduling write-ins (rather than a wrimo setting up the write-ins there).  Some Come Write In partners host other events than write-ins, too, such as workshops, lectures, and author events.

NaNoWriMo has been a little different the last couple years, of course, as the pandemic forced NaNoWriMo to go virtual along with everything else in the world.  But we're looking forward to getting back to in-person events this year, even though we'll likely still be offering a variety of virtual events for those who aren't yet comfortable with the in-person stuff again.

Next time you're on the NaNoWriMo site, check out your local region's page.  There's a lot going on in each region, perhaps more than you realize!  Next I'll talk about how to break the ice and get involved in your region's local events.

Monday, October 3, 2022

The Burning Question: Planner or Pantser?

As NaNoWriMo approaches, there's one question that is important above all:

Are you a planner, or a pantser?  Or maybe a little of both (a plantser)?

Right now you have nearly a month before NaNoWriMo starts, so now is a good time to decide which style you prefer.  If you're a planner, you'll probably want to get start on planning pretty soon so that you're ready to write on November 1st.

Planner: The kind of writer who goes in with everything already figured out.  Worldbuilding, character development, story plot, everything is already done, sometimes in great detail.  If you're the kind of person who plans out each chapter and what's going to happen in it before you ever start writing, you are a hardcore planner.

Pantser: This is a NaNoWriMo term for someone who just totally wings it.  You might go into the month of November with a story idea, but it's admittedly fairly general and you have no idea what's going to happen next 99.99% of the time.  Maybe you know how you want to end it, maybe you don't, but chances are you don't know yet how you'll get there. You let the characters and the story tell you where they're going as you write.

Plantser: No, this is not a plant.  This is a perfect (in my opinion) mix of the two options above.  You plan, but not so much that you lose the creativity that tends to show up out of the blue while you write.  Maybe you have a loose sketch of the events that take place in the novel, but you haven't planned each chapter down to every scene break.  You're not so wedded to your idea that you can't drop it all and follow a side character across Europe for no reason at all except that she stood up and told you that this was actually her story, thank you very much.

As you might have guessed, I usually fall in the general realm of plantser.  I tried pantsing once, and it didn't go terribly well: I petered out way earlier than usual.  I also tried planning everything up the wazoo once, and I didn't get very far out of the gates before all the wind went out of me.  So plantser is definitely where I live.

What about you?  Are you hard at work at planning for NaNoWriMo, or are you just planning to start typing at midnight on November 1st and see what happens?

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Places to Write This November for NaNoWriMo

One of my favorite things about NaNoWriMo is getting out and writing places where I wouldn't usually, with people who are also focused on finishing NaNoWriMo.

I am a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo in my region, the Denver region.  That just means that I help organize the local region's calendar, events, social media, motivational emails, and Come Write In partners.  As such, I've gotten pretty familiar with what places are good (or not so good) for writing.  Here is a quick list of my favorite chains where we often go to write during NaNoWriMo.  You may have indie coffee shops, stores, and cafes in your area that make good places to write, as well.

  • Starbucks - I would remiss if I didn't mention everyone's favorite coffee shop.  Most Starbucks stores have a pretty decent lobby, although some are a little small.  My biggest complaint is that many Starbucks aren't open very late, which makes it difficult for someone with a later schedule, like me.
  • Barnes & Noble - Any B&N store with a cafe is excellent for hanging out and writing.  I like that they have Starbucks drinks but a little more variety of food, and I especially like writing while surrounded by books.  It helps me get into the writing zone sometimes when I'm struggling.
  • Panera - Panera is a surprisingly perfect place for getting some writing done.  They have decent hours, large dining rooms, and ample seating.  Plus, I really like their food and the fireplaces that some Paneras have.
  • IHOP - There's something to be said for these diner-type chains (Denny's and Perkins are often the same way).  They're open late, and often don't care if you come in, order coffee, and sit and write for a while.  Just leave a good tip even if you don't order very much.  The food may be cheap but don't forget, that means the wait staff's wages are rock bottom.
  • Whole Foods - I'm actually sitting at a Whole Foods right now, while I write this.  Because Whole Foods has a food bar where people can get lunch, they often have a nice seating area where you can sit and write, and they usually have free wifi too.  Just be warned, the food is not cheap!
  • Your local library -  Honestly, the library is nearly always a good choice for a place to write.  I find they usually have comfy seating options and quiet areas where you can focus.  Many libraries also have individual study rooms you can reserve.  Libraries are also now typically much less strict about food and drink, so if sipping coffee while you write is your thing, you'll probably be able to (although you should probably check your library's policies before trying it).
There are other places where I enjoy going to write from time to time, namely a couple of indie coffee shops and cafes, but these are my favorites, and where you'll likely find me many an evening in November!

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Let's Get Ready to Write with NaNo Prep

NaNoWriMo has always been a stellar organization, but in the last few years they've really stepped up their game.  During the pandemic they developed StayHomeWriMo to help their participants cope with lockdown, even though it wasn't even November at the time.  And in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Headquarters has started requiring that Municipal Liaisons (who see local participants in person) undergo virtual training to improve inclusion.

I didn't realize they had also started offering novel prep help in September and October, but I took the time to read one of their emails the other day, and realized there's an entire program now to help you prepare to write in November.  There are sections on fleshing out a story idea, developing characters and plot, worldbuilding, and of course, scheduling your writing time to give yourself a fighting chance of finishing your novel and "winning" in November.

There's an entire NaNo prep course you can do, and you can even receive a certificate for completing it:

  1. Develop a Story Idea (September 19-25)
  2. Create Complex Characters (September 26-October 2)
  3. Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline (October 3-9)
  4. Build a Strong World (October 10-16)
  5. Organize Your Life for Writing! (October 17-23)
  6. Find and Manage Your Time (October 24-30)

Right now we're right at the end of week two, creating complex characters, if you want to catch up.  An email goes out from HQ every week with different exercises and activities to help you with the week's goal.  You can find the schedule and links to each part of the curriculum at NaNo Prep 101.

I have to admit, I will be most interested to see what they have to say about scheduling writing time, since that's the part I struggle with the most!


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