Guest Post: Mazie Bishop – Being A NaNoWriMo ML

It was a rainy afternoon in August when I received the email from the lovely staff at NaNoWriMo. The email was regarding my application to be a Municipal Liaison for my region of Niagara, an application that I sent the day after NaNoWriMo 2013. I think it was more exciting to me because it had been so long since I applied that I completely forgot of the possibilities. But now that the possibility has become the reality, there are a lot of responsibilities.

Being an ML means my awesome partner Christine Banman and I get to plan the regional events and organize write-ins for our Niagara participants. It also means that we get to organize online word sprints, discussions on the forums and basically just make sure that everyone is having a pleasant November.

What surprised me most, when I first started everything was how much preparation really goes into planning the events, and how much the staff at NaNoWriMo are actually there to help you. We have our own helpful forums, with all kinds of resources and ideas. We have a great guide that covers everything from writing an email to handling stressed-out participants.

Am I nervous? Yes! Who wouldn’t be? This is the first time in a few years that Niagara has had an ML, never mind two of us! There is a lot of pressure on us to make sure that this month goes smoothly for everyone, but my excitement overrules my nerves almost completely. I am so excited that I get to meet all of these writers and that I get to contribute to their success, and give them more opportunities in our region than they have had in any other year.

I would honestly recommend applying to become a Municipal Liaison of your region to anyone who likes to meet new people and to anyone who has passion for writing and community. It gets a little stressful sometimes, but it’s all worth it when you see how many people you are helping out.

As it stands right now, we are hosting 3 large events throughout the month, as well as hosting 5+ write-ins a week! In my region there is a University and a College and my goal is to host write-ins on campus and to spread awareness for this amazing organization and community.

NaNoWriMo warms my cold autumn hands and gives me an excuse to make time to write and honestly it has bettered my life, so I think that’s why I love being an ML so much. It means that I can help more people better their lives through writing too.

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Mazie Bishop shares her NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison story at www.sprintshack.wordpress.com.ABOUT MAZIE

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. Self-published as well as has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer that hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently she is in the process of writing her second novel and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures and read her work or gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Break Through the NaNoWriMo Brick Wall with this Super Simple Technique

Break Through the NaNoWriMo Brick Wall with this Super Simple Technique | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comEvery NaNoWriMo journey has its ups and downs, and one of the hardest downs to overcome is the Brick Wall, also known as Writer’s Block or, to anyone experiencing it, Despair.

It’s a common problem around this point every NaNoWriMo. You’ve been going full steam ahead with your work-in-progress all month and now you’re beginning to run out of said steam. You don’t know where to go from here. Maybe your story’s turned stagnant, your characters aren’t cooperating, or your interest in your project is idling. Whatever your problem, you’ve hit a mental brick wall and you need to get past it fast if you want to win NaNoWriMo.

I had this exact problem during Camp NaNoWriMo in 2012. I’d lost interest in my novel, I had zero motivation to write, and midnight was fast approaching. What did I do? I opened up a blank document, set a timer for 10 minutes, and started to free write.

What is the magical technique that is free writing?

Much like word sprinting, free writing involves writing without stopping for a period of time. How free writing differs from word sprinting comes down to what you write. Whereas sprinting usually involves working on your current project, free writing involves splurging your thoughts onto the page without censoring anything.

What you write doesn’t have to be about your work-in-progress. It doesn’t have to be fiction. It doesn’t even have to be coherent. When free writing, you simply talk about whatever is on your mind at the time—maybe a problem you’re having with your plot, the backstory of a character, how you feel about your project and what you wish for it in the future. Nothing is out of bounds.

The important thing about free writing is that you keep going until your timer goes off. Don’t stop, don’t hesitate, don’t edit, don’t correct spelling or punctuation. What you write may sound awful (no, scratch that—it will sound awful), but it doesn’t matter. Just write, and if you can’t think of what to say, write about why you think that might be.

Why is it so crucial that you keep writing, no matter what? It helps you to shut out that critical inner voice and let the muse run free. Fantastic, creative, brilliant ideas that your inner editor might otherwise have dismissed can come to the surface. Your muse can show you what you want to write rather than what you think you should write (and that’s an important distinction—writing the former is much more fulfilling, fun and motivating than the latter). You can find the enthusiasm to keep writing and break through that brick wall.

This was the case for me during Camp ’12. During my 10 minute free write session, I wrote whatever scene came to mind and ended up with two characters I knew next to nothing about, a plot that was a mystery to even me, and a genre I’d never written in before. But that scene connected with something in my soul. Suddenly, I wanted to learn more about these characters, keep writing to discover what would happen in the story, and indulge in a genre that pushed my imagination to its limits. And before I knew it, I’d reached my NaNoWriMo goal.

Besides giving you a plethora of new ideas, free writing is also great practice for when you work on your NaNoWriMo project. You become skilled at silencing your inner editor while writing that first draft, which allows you to churn out more words (no hesitating over phrasing allowed), get further in your story (which gets you to the good stuff quicker), and stumble upon more creative gems (your unleashed muse has some truly amazing ideas). That’s something very advantageous for a WriMo.

So, if you ever find yourself staring at the Brick Wall of Writer’s Block, set a timer for 10 minutes and give free writing a go. It’s a super simple technique that could very well salvage your NaNoWriMo.

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Have you ever done a free write session before? What did you find most interesting about it?

#SundayScribes – Sunday Word Sprints

SundayScribesHey there word sprinters! We’ve made it half way through #NaNoWriMo. Congrats! But in order to keep our writing strong, we’ve added a new weekly sprinting event to our roster: #SundayScribes! Every Sunday, Sprint Shack co-founder Taylor will be hosting an hour of word sprints on our Twitter account. Join us at @TheSprintShack every Sunday for some weekend writing.

GMT: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
EST:
1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
PST: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Wrap up the weekend with an hour of creativity-boosting word sprints!

For more information on word sprinting and how to join in, check out our FAQ page.

Guest Post: Meredith Foster – How to Write in a Less-Than-Ideal Environment

All of us have our own rituals and specifications to help us tap into our creative selves and maximize our productivity. Type in “how to make a writing space” into Google and you’ll get almost three hundred million results on creating your dream environment, and that’s great. An ideal writing space is a wonderful, precious thing. But, what about writing under less-than-idyllic conditions?

Let me offer an example. I work in a warehouse during the day, and our break room is tiny, cramped, and very noisy. People enter and exit, microwaves go off, phones ring, and conversations transpire in a variety of languages. Seating is limited, so having a table to myself is a rare occurrence, and my co-workers like to ask about what I’m writing. Some occasionally try to sneak a peak.

It’s far from my ideal writing environment, yet I take a notebook to work and write in there every day during my lunch break. It’s a balancing act between chatting with my co-workers, preparing my food, and putting pen to paper, but over the course of this year I’ve gotten better and better at making those precious minutes count.

Sound impossible? Not at all! Here are some tips and tricks for writing in difficult spaces:

  • Be prepared for a transitional period.

Adjusting to a new environment takes time. False starts will happen, and that’s okay. The key is to dust yourself off, trust in your skill, and keep trying.

  • Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Courtesy is important in any workplace, particularly when space is limited. If someone is being too loud, politely ask them to moderate their volume, or to listen to their music with headphones instead of playing it out in the open. Likewise, if anyone gets pushy about trying to see your work, stand your ground. Just because you’re writing in a public space doesn’t make your work public domain. Of course, if you’re comfortable sharing with the person inquiring, go ahead!

  • Create your own space.

If you like listening to music when you write, bring headphones to work. It’s a great way to bring a little bit of your writing environment with you.

  • Don’t think you have to choose between writing and camaraderie.

In most workplaces, lunchtime is social time. It’s a time to recharge your batteries, get the latest gossip, and indulge in a good old-fashioned rant about management’s latest antics. Afraid of missing out or appearing aloof? Fear not! It is possible to be sociable and get some writing done at the same time. Again, this will take some getting used to if you’re used to writing in an isolated environment. Balance and practice will help you make the adjustment.

  • Remember, every word matters.

Some days you might write a sentence, while other days you might whip up a soliloquy. Either way, give yourself a pat on the back! You wrote something, and that’s what counts.

What do you do to make the most out of difficult writing conditions? Share your stories and suggestions in the comments below!

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Guest Post: Meredith Foster – How to Write in a Less-Than-Ideal Environment | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comABOUT MEREDITH

Meredith Foster currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her flash fiction and short stories have been published in numerous literary magazines. She shares her home with a vampire-fanged rescue cat and a plush dragon collection, and can be found at @fosterwrites on Twitter.

Time Change – One More Hour of Writing

Hello all you lovely writers. Fall is crisp in the air and the days are getting shorter. Autumn is here…and so is the time change (at least in North America).

In case you haven’t done so, we’re serving up a reminder to set your clocks back one hour today! And what better way to take advantage of that extra hour than by using it to write! Get your word counts up for NaNoWriMo (join us for #SundayScribes word sprints on Twitter – 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern) or finally edit that one tricky chapter you’ve been putting off.

However you use your extra hour today, make sure it’s well-spent.

Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Kick-Off!

It’s here! NaNoWriMo 2014 has arrived!

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

We know you’re busy plunging into your novels and building the foundation for your word counts, so we’ll keep this short. Here are a few things we’ll be doing here around The Sprint Shack (in addition to writing our own NaNo novels), to help you hit that 50,000th word by the end of the month!

Word Sprints

We’re hosting our normal schedule of word sprints each week in November. You can join in any of these sprints that we host on our Twitter account:

Mondays: Competitive #wordscrim at 14:00 PDT / 17:00 EDT / 22:00 GMT, hosted by Skye.

Tuesdays: #TNightSprints at 18:00 PDT / 21:00 EDT / 02:00 GMT, hosted by Cristina.

Wednesdays: Competitive #wordscrim at 14:00 PDT / 17:00 EDT / 22:00 GMT, hosted by Skye.

Thursdays: #TNightSprints at 18:00 PDT / 21:00 EDT / 02:00 GMT, hosted by Cristina.

Saturdays: #TalesAndTea Party from 08:00-10:00 PDT / 11:00-13:00 EDT / 16:00-18:00 GMT, hosted by Skye.

Sundays: #SundayScribes from 10:00-11:00 PDT / 13:00-14:00 EDT / 18:00-19:00 GMT, hosted by Taylor.

Don’t forget about #WriteClub (hosted by @FriNightWrites) every Friday and #Wordscrim Wednesday (hosted by all of these wordy folk) every–you guessed it–Wednesday! We’ll also keep you updated on other special NaNo sprints going on throughout the month.

Posts

As usual, we’ll be posting here with tips on how to make the most out of this year’s NaNoWriMo and motivation to keep those words flowing! We’d also like to take this time to announce that the wonderful Mazie Bishop will also be contributing to The Sprint Shack this November in order to help us help you on your NaNoWriMo adventure! Say hello in the comments and make her feel welcome!

Mazie-Bishop

Fun

We’ll make sure to provide a bit of entertainment to you all (via #NaNoWagers and other shenanigans)!

Our Novels

Lastly, we want to give you a look at what we’re all working on for NaNo this year!

Taylor Eaton

I’m working on a fantasy novel. That’s right. A FULL LENGTH NOVEL. This is a huge leap from the flash fiction that I typically write. I completed a full novel last NaNo, but couldn’t bring myself to ever re-visit it. And this year I’m trying something different: I’m pantsing it. All the way. No outlines. No plotlines. Nothing has been prepared. I’m excited and extremely apprehensive to get started. 50k, here I come!

Skye Fairwin

This year I’m rebelling and working on two projects over the next 30 days: one is a novel idea I’ve had for a few years now and finally hammered out a plot for, and one is editing (shock, horror!) a past NaNoWriMo novel. As a result, I don’t know if I’ll reach 50k, but I intend to use all the sprints and writathons of NaNoWriMo to help me make headway on two WIPs that should have been finished a loooong time ago. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Cristina Guarino

I guess I’m a combination of Skye and Taylor: I’m being a bit of a rebel by working on my old fantasy novel, rather than a brand new novel. There are still a few ten thousands of words left to FINALLY complete the first draft, and then I can loop back around and do some VERY much-needed rewrites of the first third or so. I don’t know if I’ll get to 50k either, as the rewriting process might take me longer than my typical NaNoWriMo writing, but the fresh writing I’ll be starting with should take up a good deal of my word count goal… especially since I, too, am pantsing the rest!

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What are you working on this NaNo? What would you like to see from us to help make sure your NaNo is the best one yet? Let us know in the comments below. Happy NaNo-ing!

The Most Overlooked Part of NaNoPrep (Which Could Actually Save Your NaNoWriMo)

What’s the most overlooked and under-appreciated part of preparing for NaNoWriMo? Straightening out your plot? Interviewing your characters? Stocking the cupboards with biscuits and several tonnes of tea?

Nope. It’s preparing your writing time for the long 50k slog.

It’s easy to get caught up in novel prep and that’s completely understandable–you’ll be spending 30 days living and breathing your story, after all–but don’t let it eclipse other important aspects of NaNoPrep, like planning out exactly when you’ll be writing this November.

Here are five easy steps to figuring out the ‘when’, the ‘where’ and the ‘how much’ of NaNoWriMo writing time.

How Much Time Do You Need?

How long does it take you, on average, to write 1667 words? Two hours? Three? More? Try a few practice runs in these last few days before November starts to get a feel for how much time you’ll need to dedicate to writing each day next month.

NaNo pro tip: word sprints will get you to your target word count a gazillion times quicker than writing at a normal pace. Check out our Upcoming Sprints page for the regular word sprints going on through the month and keep an eye out for a Mass Sprint Watch post highlighting all the sprinting events going down this November.

Now that you have an idea of how much time you’ll need to write each day, it’s time to start planning when you’ll write.

Schedule Writing Time and Guard It Fiercely

Visualise your weekly schedule or actually look at it, if you’re organised enough to have it written down. Do you have any long stretches of time that you could dedicate to writing each day next month? Identify time blocks for writing, mark them down in your schedule, and guard them fiercely. Let friends and family know that these times are for writing and that you won’t be available during them. If you can help it, don’t arrange anything else during those times too.

Be Prepared to Grab Time Whenever and Wherever You Can

Don’t get so caught up in planning out big blocks of noveling time that you forget about the short writing opportunities that litter the day. Carry a notebook around with you wherever you go in November and get into the habit of scribbling in it whenever you have free time.

In the waiting room at the doctors? Write. On the train or bus? Write. Grabbing a bite to eat during your lunch break? Write.

Time is limited and your word count is vast. Take advantage of every spare moment and get those words down.

If You Can’t Find Time, Make Time to Write

If there isn’t enough already available time in your day for writing, then try making some. Look at activities you do each day that aren’t necessary. Maybe you could cut back on watching TV or browsing the Internet or reading (just for November, I promise!) and dedicate some of that time to writing instead?

Alternatively, you could organise your day to make it more efficient, therefore freeing up more time. For example, rather than checking your email at several points throughout the day, getting side-tracked on Pinterest, reading your feed on Twitter and lurking on Facebook each time, you could limit yourself to only doing this once or twice a day, and only then for 30 minutes maximum. Suddenly you have so much more time to spare for writing.

Take Advantage of the Weekends

If you’re busy on weekdays, take full advantage of the weekends to catch up on your word count. Dedicate as much time as you can do to writing and crank out those words. Sprinting helps.

NaNo pro tip: Find large sprinting events and use them to boost your word count. Weekends, in particular, will be overflowing with word sprinting events this year. #WriteClub hosts hour upon hour of sprints every Friday, through into Saturday in many time zones. The Sprint Shack hosts the #TalesAndTea Party every Saturday and #SundayScribes every (you guessed it) Sunday. There are several writing marathons scheduled for the weekends in November too, which we’ll let you know more about in the upcoming Mass Sprint Watch post.

In short, there will be opportunities aplenty over the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of November for you to propel your word count up, up and away. Take advantage of that and plan your writing time so that it coincides with them, if you can.

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Remember to factor in time for writing when finishing off your NaNoWriMo preparations this week. It really could save you (and your word count) in November. Identify your sacred writing time, schedule it, guard it, and then sprint it out. Oh, and have fun too. Let’s not forget that.

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Do you write at a specific time or grab time whenever you can?