How to Utilize NaNoWriMo When You Aren’t Participating

UntitledEvery November, we flood The Sprint Shack’s blog and Twitter with NaNoWriMo advice. And while that advice is helpful for the many writers who do partake in the annual challenge, what about those of us who don’t? Thankfully, the lessons learned during NaNoWriMo apply to writing throughout the year—first draft writing, at least. And the tenacity, dedication, and supportive camaraderie displayed throughout the month is always a source of inspiration.

I, personally, decided not to do NaNoWriMo this November. When Faye, Taylor, and I posted our kickoff post, I had every intention of participating. I sat down, started writing, almost hit my word count goal for the first day… and immediately stopped. I had no love for the story I was attempting to write and very little time to spend working on one that I did enjoy. I knew starting out that this would not be an optimal time for me to attempt such a large goal, but I wanted to at least try. And while I don’t consider giving up after the first day a real concerted effort, I knew that I was making the right decision for myself this year.

That, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to write at all this month. I still plan on being productive, only on a much smaller scale. So what if you’re like me and aren’t participating in NaNoWriMo, for whatever reasons you may have? What if you’re in the middle of editing rather than penning a new draft? Try using these tips to feed off the NaNoWriMo vibe to still stay productive, even if you aren’t aiming for that 50,000 by November 30th:

1. Read the pep talk emails. One of my favorite things about NaNoWriMo is the regular pep talk emails they send from various NaNoWriMo staff and acclaimed authors. Having your own personal cheering squad can be incredibly exciting, not to mention those who are writing the pep talk emails often have great advice that applies to all stages of writing.

2. Scroll through the forums. Don’t do this while you’re writing, of course, but take a few minutes in your spare time to peruse the NaNoWriMo forums. This can be especially helpful if you have writer’s block since many generous wrimos will often drop unneeded characters, settings, prompts, and entire plots into the Adoption Society for anyone who needs some fresh ideas.

3. Watch your friends closely. If you don’t have any “writing buddies” on the site, now’s the time to get some (the forums mentioned above are a great place to start). Watching everyone else’s word counts climb steadily throughout the month can be incredibly inspiring and can often kick your muse into action.

Of course, these are also great tips for those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo and are struggling with those second week blues. For more on that, check out Taylor’s last post on getting back on track!


Are you choosing to participate in NaNoWriMo this year? If not, what are you working on instead and how are you staying focused? Let us know!


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Fallen Behind During NaNoWriMo? 5 Tips to Get Back on Track!

Behind During NaNo(1)How has the first week of NaNoWriMo been treating all of you? Are your novels coming to life as you zip through your words? I sure hope so!

But, realistically, a fair amount of us have already fallen behind.

*gasp*

It happens to the best of us. We all start out each November with a few thousand words and the undeniably optimism that this will be the year that we write AT LEAST those 1,667 words (the bare daily minimum to write 50,000 words in 30 days) each day during NaNoWriMo. But, while our muses and creativity are in a frenzied excitement, real life doesn’t slow down.

Maybe you had to work some unexpected extra hours, or maybe you caught a nasty cold. Or maybe you just couldn’t bring yourself to face another bout of writer’s block the other night. Whatever the reason, many of us have already fallen behind where we should be for the NaNo word count and are now playing the desperate game of catch up.

We’re all human and it happens to most WriMo’s. But you can’t beat yourself up about it if you still have your eye on that 50,000 target.

To aid you in your quest to claiming that NaNoWriMo victory this month, here are 5 tips to help you get back on track!

1. Do the Math

Go into your NaNoWriMo dashboard and see how many words you should have, then look at how many words you actually have. What’s the difference? If you’re behind by 1,000 words, just write 500 extra words (on top of the typical 1,667 per day) for two days. Or distribute the difference in smaller amounts over larger days. Whatever seems doable to you. In fact, NaNoWriMo’s site has a section that tells you how many words per day you need to average in order to finish on time. To find this, navigate to the stats page of your current novel and look on the sidebar for “Words Per Day To Finish On Time”. Use this is a guide for how much you need to write in order to catch up.

2. Take advantage of small pockets of time

If you find yourself at a loss for extra writing time, start using those little lulls throughout your day to get those words in. Use part of your lunch hour to write. Or if you find yourself in a waiting room, whip out your notebook or laptop and start writing. Even if you just get 50 words written, those little spurts of writing will add up and boost your word count.

3. Make time

If you can’t seem to find enough time to get your writing done, it may be necessary to go on the offensive and create the time you need. Get up 30 minutes earlier (or whatever is plausible for you) than usual, and use that time to write the extra words you need. Or maybe order in some food one night to save on cooking/clean up time. Start carving out time so you can get back to writing.

4. Set aside a whole day

Let’s say that you’re REALLY far behind. Or maybe you just can’t seem to work productively in short 30 minute spurts. If that’s the case, it may just be time to go all out. That’s right, pick a day in the next week or so and block out a huge chunk of time – if not the whole day. Don’t make any other plans for that time. This is your writing time and you’re going to use it to get back on track with your NaNo word count. It may be a bit drastic, but sometimes you need a whole day to do nothing but write in order to refocus on the goal at hand.

5. Keep writing

No matter what happens, don’t get discouraged! Keep writing and hitting your goals each day. But Don’t get down if you fall behind. You can only catch up and stay on track if you’re both optimistic and defensive of your writing time. So keep at it, hold that 50,000 word goal in your mind, and go for it! You can do this!

Writerly Round Up: October 2015 (Plus, NaNoWriMo Kickoff Sprints!)

Writerly Round Up monthly templateHey there everyone, and happy Halloween!

It’s the last day of the month, and that means it’s time for our monthly writerly round up! In case you missed our first post, our writerly round ups are monthly posts with links to helpful blog posts and articles we’ve collected throughout the month. This month, we’re dedicated to bringing you articles that will hopefully help you through the trying month of NaNoWriMo ahead!

But before we delve into that, we just wanted to announce our kickoff sprints for NaNoWriMo! To celebrate the very first day of our adventures, we’ll be hosting some sprints throughout the day tomorrow to help you get a head-start on your word counts! We’ll be hosting sprints during the following times:

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

05:00-7:00 PDT / 08:00-10:00 EDT / 13:00-15:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Cristina  

12:00-15:00 PDT / 15:00-18:00 EDT / 20:00-23:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Faye

We hope to see you there! And now, without further ado, some reading material for you last-minute NaNoWriMo planners.


5 Creative Ways To Take Writing Project Notes

Posted by: Alyssa Hollingsworth @ The Great Noveling Adventure

Just because you’re busy working on one project during NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean your muse brain will take it easy on you. Here are some ways to stay organized during the month so you can tuck away any new story ideas that come to you and keep focus strong on the task at hand until December.

Ten Questions To Ask When Beginning A Book

Posted by: Cheryl Reif

An oldie but goodie, this article helps writers start their novel on the right track. If you’re an outliner looking for a few pointers to square away the last of your details pre-NaNo, this article is for you; pantsers, you may still find this useful should you become stuck during the month.

10 Last-Minute NaNoWriMo Prep Tips

Posted by: Kristian Wilson @ Bustle

Bad case of procrastination? It happens to the best of us. This is a great go-to guide for those just beginning their first NaNoWriMo journey or procrastinating on their 10th.


There is only so much you can read about NaNoWriMo before biting the bullet, so we’ll leave you with these three this month. After all, there isn’t much time left for you to spend reading. Get to that last-minute outline or brainstorming session and we’ll see you on the other side!

Good luck, everyone!

Guest Post: Sara Letourneau – Seven Keys to Maintaining Your Writerly Well-Being

Our healGuest Post Template(1)th and wellness are two of the most important “possessions” we have. Yet as writers, sometimes we take them for granted. If we’re too engrossed in our work and lose track of time, or a crucial deadline on a blog post or a round of rewrites is looming, we might feel tempted to ignore sleep, hunger, and other needs.

Here’s what I can tell you from personal experience: It’s not worth it. In fact, it’s essential for us to step away from our craft now and then so we can take care of ourselves. And by remembering to balance creativity with self-care, we can be productive, happy, and healthy.

So, how can you maintain your well-being without sacrificing too much of your writing? Here are seven keys that focus on all-around areas of physical, emotional, and mental wellness.

Key #1: Hydration

Staying hydrated isn’t limited to physical exercise. Drinking enough beneficial liquids during the day can improve energy levels, mood, and concentration – all of which are crucial for writers. So, don’t wait until you’re thirsty. (It’s a sign that you’re already dehydrated.) Have a cup of water, coffee, tea, or other beverage of choice ready when you sit down to write and use your breaks to get refills.

Key #2: Nutrition

Do you find it impossible to write when you’re hungry? (I do!) Not only does hunger lead to a distracting sensation in one’s stomach, but it also throws the brain “off-balance” by forcing the hypothalamus (which regulates a body’s homeostasis) to work overtime. As a result, the body’s focus shifts to finding food. Malnutrition, or the state of not getting enough food or enough of the right foods, can also affect memory, sleep patterns, mood – even motor skills such as writing manually or typing.

Don’t let an empty stomach derail your ability to think or write. Instead, have a snack handy for when those familiar pangs pay a visit. Some healthy choices include fresh vegetables, dried fruit, cheese or peanut butter with crackers, or nuts and seeds. And when it comes to meals, take a break from writing to feed and refresh yourself, or set a deadline so you can wrap up your session at a reasonable time.

Key #3: Exercise

Not only is exercise good for your physical health, but it also has emotional and creative benefits. It can enhance your mood, improve energy levels, and boost self-esteem. It can also put your brain in a relaxed state that opens the spontaneous pathway, which happens during free association and idea-generation. (In other words, those “a-ha” moments that happen when you’re away from writing? Your spontaneous pathway is open then!)

Since every writer’s schedule differs, it’s important to fit in exercise when it works best for you. And whether you prefer cardio (aerobics, swimming), toning (yoga, pilates), or strength conditioning (weights, indoor rock climbing), there’s no shortage of activities to try. Also, have a journal or recording device ready for when your spontaneous pathway opens. If I’m outside walking, I take my cellphone with me for safety reasons – and for saving “text messages” when inspiration strikes.

Key #4: Rest

Some writers have no trouble sacrificing sleep for their craft’s sake. A few even advocate that insomnia boosts creativity. Not me. I’ve learned first-hand that sleep deprivation can hinder concentration, disrupt the ability to fight stress, and make you super-cranky. And when the cycle goes on for too long, it can force your body to shut down.

If this happens to you, listen to your body. Ensure you get enough sleep by going to bed and getting up at times that work for you. You’ll feel refreshed as well as mentally and emotionally prepared for your next writing session.

Key #5: Relaxation

One of the perks of being a writer is using our craft as a form of stress relief. When something troubles you, journaling can often help you find a solution. Not only does journaling allow you to acknowledge your current emotions, fears, or worries, but the act of writing by hand can also put you in a meditative state by slowing your breathing, relaxing your muscles, and clarifying your thoughts. I’ve kept a journal off and on for years, and it’s been a savior for problem-solving and for calming my (sometimes) anxious mind.

However, what about the times when a journal isn’t available? Try listening to new age music or guided meditations that can reduce stress and anxiety. Practice yoga, which promotes relaxation by combining stretching exercises with focused breathing. Other artsy hobbies such as knitting, painting, and adult coloring books can also help.

Key #6: Social Life

As much as we love writing, we shouldn’t let our passion turn us into hermits. ;) Take some time to meet up with friends, attend events that appeal to your interests, or volunteer for meaningful charities and causes. It nurtures your current relationships and helps you build new ones. And on a wellness level, it can buoy your energy and self-confidence.

Key #7: The Occasional Reward

Did you recently finish a draft? Or hit an important word count milestone? You should celebrate! A chocolate bar, a dinner at your favorite restaurant, a shopping trip, or a day at the beach – whatever brings you euphoria or peace, give yourself permission to indulge in it for the moment. Then, when you go back to writing, you’ll feel satisfied with your progress so far and even more motivated to reach for the next goal.

What are some of your tips for maintaining your “writerly well-being”? Is there one particular area you want or are trying to improve on?


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Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to revising a YA fantasy novel tentatively titled THE KEEPER’S CURSE, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and contributes to the writing resource site DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

A Tiny Guide: Prioritizing Your Writing Time

prioritizing your writing timeSomething’s been bothering me lately about my writing habits and, after a long week of solemn reflection, I came to a realization that I wanted to share with you: it is impossible to do it all.

That’s right. I’m talking to you over-achievers out there. And to those of you that are inundated with responsibilities outside of your writing life.

After switching into a new job a couple months ago, I’ve found that my time for writing has shrunk and my energy and motivation have been steadily declining.

After reaching a point last week where I felt that I could no longer keep up with all my writing commitments, I took a step back and evaluated the situation. What was really going on here? Why couldn’t I prioritize my time correctly and get into a good writing rhythm?

Then it hit me: I was overwhelmed. I’d taken on too much and assumed I could make it all work. And what was more, I had so many writing commitments on my plate that didn’t truly interest me, that I was avoiding them. So, to remedy this issue, I started breaking down my writing commitment and created a guide for myself that I’d like to share with you.

Below is a breakdown of the percent of my writing time that I spend on different kinds of writing (to make sure my time spent writing is manageable, productive, and enjoyable), as well as a list of questions to ask yourself when you need to figure out what you should cut from your writing workload.

Writing Time Spent on Different Projects

I’ve found that most of my writing projects fall into three different categories. I’ve broken down the percent of my writing time that I spend (or would like to spend) on each category every week.

Passion Projects (35%)

Blog Posts/Projects with Deadlines (25%)

Paid writing (40%)

Note: there might be some overlap between these categories – which sometimes makes things easier – or harder – to prioritize.

I’ve found that when I stick to this sort of writing schedule, I’m a happier, more motivated writer.

What Happens When Something Has to Give?

Sometimes there’s just too much. Sometimes, you have to make the tough call and resign from that editor position or give up trying to squeeze an extra blog post in each week. To help you make the decision on what to give up when you need to let something slide, use the below list of questions to determine what is really important to you and what you should let slide.

  • what makes you happy?
  • what allows your writing to grow?
  • what do you look forward to writing?
  • are you under a contract?
  • will you be letting anyone (including yourself) down if you don’t complete this?

The secret to being a great writer is loving your craft, devoting your time, and prioritizing your projects. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with uninspiring work or items that take up your time and leave no room for other projects.

Balance your writing life in order to let it grow.

~

Do you have any tips for prioritizing your writing time? Let us know in the comments below!

Finding Your Writing Niche (Plus, A Challenge!)

More often than not, when I am writing, I find myself questioning my choice in genre. It can be half way through a project or sometimes even in the middle of a novel, but when it hits, there is nothing more confusing. I haven’t managed to pinpoint the exact thing that triggers my indecision but I think it could be the fact that I, like many other writers, haven’t explored other genres.

I read a wide range of genres and have studied all of the different components that make a genre what it is, but I haven’t used that knowledge as a writer yet. Imagine an ice cream parlour, full of new flavours you could try: you can guess what they all taste like, but you have only tried butterscotch. So you play it safe, and just stick to what you know, but there are so many other possibilities for new favourites out there.

I mainly stick to contemporary fiction or fantasy/warfare but there are so many other genres I want to try my hand at. So that is why I have decided to dedicate this next couple of months to tasting some new genres. I will be exploring many genres as well as some sub-genres in the form of short stories.

I encourage all writers to join in on this challenge, no matter how many genres you have tried your hand at. Especially if you are feeling confused about where you stand as a writer.

Since I am familiar with poetry, contemporary and fantasy, I am not going to include those in my list of genres to conquer, but if you haven’t tried them yet, add those to your list for sure.

Here is my list of genres to try:

  • Sci-Fi
  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Adventure
  • YA
  • Paranormal
  • Slice of Life
  • Crime
  • Comedy
  • Satire

Everyone’s lists are going to vary, because all of our interests are different. For example, I didn’t choose Horror because I can barely watch or read anything in that genre. I have a pretty crazy imagination and it wouldn’t be good for anyone if I tried to write horror, but I’m going to push myself and try to write a thriller!

Challenge time! Let’s find our niches together.

Since this is going to vary so much from writer to writer, it would be difficult to formalize an actual schedule for everyone to stick to. There are 11 genres on my list, but someone else could only have a few, so I think that this would work better if everyone wrote at their own pace.

To stay connected throughout our journeys in genre, we will be using the hashtag #findyourniche. Whenever you write a post about your challenge or try a new genre, or even if you have some questions, please tweet using that hashtag and also mention @TheSprintShack to be sure we see it, since others use the hashtag for tweets not relating to our challenge.

I look forward to seeing how everyone decides to challenge themselves, and I can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures into the worlds of new genres! Let me know in the comments below what genres you are going to try out and if you have ever felt unsure about your genre choices. Time to go exploring!
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Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who 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, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Why Do I Write? – Mazie Bishop

Co-founder Note: We are very pleased to announce that Mazie Bishop will be joining us from here on out as a regular contributor to The Sprint Shack! Mazie originally wrote a guest post with us on Finding Inspiration In The Most Unlikely Of Places in June of 2014—shortly after, we reached out to her to join us for a temporary internship/contributor position to help us get through the busy time of NaNoWriMo and beyond. Mazie’s done a wonderful job and has contributed some great pieces, so we were happy to invite her to write regularly for us! Everyone give her a warm (re-)welcome as our first regular contributor!

 Now that Mazie’s a full-time member of The Sprint Shack team, let’s learn a little bit about why she writes:


Why Do I WriteA few months back, one of the wonderful co-founders, Faye Kirwin, asked a great question: Why do you write? So far we have heard the answers of Taylor Eaton, Cristina R. Guarino, and Faye herself. This time, it’s my turn!

Though this isn’t the first time I have been asked this question, I feel like this is the best possible time for me to think about the reasons I write. As mentioned before, I am graduating from college in a month, with a degree in Journalism, so right now is a great time for me to really get thinking about why I chose writing as a career; its kind of setting a tone for this new chapter in my life. But before we get all sappy and inspired we should probably talk about the reasons I started writing in the first place.

I think my love of and obsession with writing stems mainly from my fear of being forgotten. I know that it may sound morbid and ridiculous, but when I really started understanding all of the books I was reading (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, anything by Jane Austen or Mary Shelley) I realized that these people, these authors were being kept alive solely by the books they wrote. They were household names even decades after their existence, and they will hardly be forgotten. This thought, paired with my irrational fear, created my love for writing—no matter the form.

Another reason that I write is because I have a whole lot to say. Being a quiet person, I have some trouble blurting out my ideas to people, especially in person, but when I am writing, everything flows so smoothly and all the pieces fall together. The satisfaction alone is a huge reason why I write.

Though I have had many influences that kept my knowledge of English and writing growing, it all dates back to high school, where I met Ms. Kristl Acadia. She will forever be my favourite teacher because she took the time to teach us as much as she possibly could. She was the only English and creative writing teacher that actually treated us like we could be writers some day. She sparked my love of words and poetry, and then later on when she let me take “Writer’s Craft” for a second time (even though she had to change the curriculum for me) she sparked my passion for story writing. She taught me how to build from ideas and the rest was history. As mushy as it sounds, Ms. Acadia is why I write.

I write because maybe some day, someone will stumble upon my work, and become as inspired as I was, maybe even so much that they will start writing stories and creating worlds. I write so that maybe I will inspire someone, just as much as Ms. Acadia inspired me.

So aside from writing to be remembered, and writing to inspire, lastly I just write because I love to. I love the feeling of building something with words, bringing life to my ideas and putting it all down in tangible form. That’s why I write!
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Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who 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, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com. Follow her on Twitter at @maziebones.