Writerly Round Up: November 2015

Writerly Round Up monthly template (1)Happy November 30th! For many, today is a bittersweet day: the end of NaNoWriMo. Throughout the month, you’ve likely fallen in and out of love with your story a million times, and it’s both relieving and saddening to close the cover on a beloved (though exhausting) 30-day challenge.

We’re here with our monthly round up to help you both celebrate and mourn the end of November with some great articles we spotted across the web this month. So take a breather, do some reading, and set your sights on the road ahead!

Outlining… Or Not: Some Tips For Discovery Writers

Posted by J Young-Ju Harris

With NaNoWriMo officially coming to a close, there are plenty of writers out there who have learned something new about themselves and/or their craft this past month.  For many, that thing is a love for discovery writing. If you’ve found yourself loving the less structured approach these past 30 days, check out J Young-Ju Harris’s tips on discovery writing like a pro!

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals for Writers (and Those Who Love Them)

Posted by Joe Bunting @ The Write Practice

The title says it all! Though Black Friday has passed, there are tons of great writerly deals out there today for Cyber Monday, from cheap e-books and e-readers to discounted writing courses.

The Character Evolution Files, No. 4: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 2 – The Comfort Zone (Act I)

Posted by Sara Letourneau

This month, Sara Letourneau posted part 4 to her wonderful “The Character Evolution Files” series, which explains the various stages of the Character Arc in great detail. Take a look at the series from the first post on—there’s lots to learn, especially if you plan on revamping some of your characters when editing your new novel!


Have you read any great articles this month? Feel free to share them with us!

6 Secrets To Winning NaNoWriMo Early

For most people, dedicating a whole month to writing 50,000 words can sound a bit shocking, and that number alone can scare a lot of newcomers out of even trying NaNoWriMo. But for the insane percentage of people who do participate in it every year, we know that 50,000 words is not that daunting once you break it down into daily goals of 1667. I know that I personally have a few people on my buddy list who stretch for 200,000 words in the month of November, which is way too intense for me, but all the power to them. It’s all just a matter of setting your daily goals a little higher than the suggested word count.

But sometimes the word count isn’t the scary part. Sometimes, it’s the time that people have to set aside to work on NaNoWriMo on a daily basis. It’s not always possible for people to work on their project for 30 days straight, and this is where finishing your 50k early comes to be most handy.

Today we are going to be talking about how I beat the clock and win NaNoWriMo early every year. Here are some of my secrets to getting ahead and staying above the suggested daily goals:

  1. I personally write an average of 2200-3000 words a day on days that I am working, and 5000 words on days that I am not working. I tend to split up my writing sessions into 3 separate times (early morning before work, before dinner, and before bed). This helps me split up the times and helps me gather my thoughts before binge writing.
  2. I try to do at least one write-a-thon a week. Sometimes I don’t even set big goals for them, but I don’t separate the sessions. If you want to learn more about my tips for write-a-thons, check out my post about them!
  3. Sprints are my absolute best friend during writing sessions. I am generally a focused writer and don’t have a procrastination issue, but I do get easily distracted by the Internet, by my kitten and by all kinds of chores and things I could be doing instead of writing. So I set up a schedule for my sprints. I will write down what sprint times I want to do, and then I will also schedule my break times and what tasks I want to do during the break times. Whether those tasks are switching my laundry over, or sweeping the apartment, or anything that helps me feel more productive, they really help me justify sitting down to write for longer periods of time.
  4. I scout out fast writers in the forums and add them as buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. I often find myself racing a lot of them or trying to keep up with them. I am very competitive by nature, so it’s really easy for me to get motivated when I see people 4000 words ahead of me. I keep a tab of my writing buddies page open at all times.
  5. If you don’t think setting a word count goal for yourself will motivate you, try using the daily-suggested word counts on the NaNo Stats page. Usually, if I can’t get motivated to write a bunch of words, I tell myself that I am going to write ahead two days and set my goal for the one on the website accordingly. For example, if it’s Day 5, I will tell myself to write ahead to get to Day 7 on that day instead. Even if you only write ahead one day, you are still a step ahead.
  6. When you get ahead, don’t stop writing. Even when I am 10,000 words ahead of the suggested goal I make sure I am writing at least the recommended number of words per day, because as soon as you stop writing you will start losing momentum and you will start losing progress. One day will turn into 2 days and that could and has easily turned into a week of no writing. The goal is to win early to give yourself free time at the end of the month. Obviously if you have plans on a day that you would normally be writing, don’t hesitate to take a day off if you have to, but do make sure that your reason is never lack of motivation.

I really hope that all these tips have given you some ideas on amping up your writing sessions and have given you some insight into the processes of those people who have already won. The biggest thing to remember is that while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a challenge, it’s also supposed to be a fun experience full of writing habit-building as well as a way to meet other writers locally and around the world. Don’t rush through NaNo just to “get it over with.” With all that extra time, you could set a higher goal, you could start editing and take up some of the sponsors on their winner offers, or you could just spend the rest of the month cheering on your fellow Wrimos!

If you have any tips or tricks for getting ahead and winning NaNoWriMo early, please feel free to leave those in the comments below. I would love to hear them and maybe try a few out!


Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 yeaMazie-Bishopr-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. 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.

The Power of Write-A-Thons

For NaNoWriMo participants, the word “write-a-thon” tends to mean a few different things. It can either mean that you plan to plot out a bunch of chapters, set a daily goal and write your heart out until you hit that goal, or join an insane write-in event where you are surrounded by people who all plan to write a certain amount of words in a set period of time and will stop at nothing to get there. These options can all come with varying stress levels, but the common denominator is that you are setting a goal and not stopping until you write your way there.

Write-a-thons can be an amazing tool for people who find themselves procrastinating or falling behind in word count or who are just more goal driven. I personally do write-a-thons on a weekly basis during NaNo, and this year I plan on doing at least two 10,000 word days.

There are a few important things to plan before you sit yourself down for a day of intense writing, so here are my fool-proof tips to surviving a write-a-thon:

  1. Schedule your sprints and breaks. Do the math ahead of time and calculate your average word count within a set time. Then figure out how many sprints of that length you will need to do to get to your goal.
  2. With that information, you are going to want to set aside some time just for your write-a-thon and make sure that you won’t have any long-term interruptions. It is really easy to lose momentum when you are writing for a long period of time.
  3. If you need to be held accountable for your word count, pick a writing buddy or tweet your goal. I find that as soon as I put my goal on my social media or tell someone about it, it helps me hold myself accountable and push myself there.
  4. Race a friend! This will be a great motivation if you are a competitive person. (Co-founder note: Check out our past posts on NaNoWagers for inspiration!)
  5. Take 5 to 10 minute breaks in between each sprint. Make sure you are staying hydrated and snacking frequently. Stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing!
  6. Reward yourself at the end or per sprint. If you are sitting down to write 5000 or 10,000 words you are more than deserving of a reward or two! I find guilt-free video game time or Netflix time to be a great reward so far this year.

I really hope that these tips help you a bit when getting ready for a write-a-thon and I hope that you consider trying it out. If you are used to writing the suggested daily goal of 1667 words, I would really recommend you try a 3k day or a 5k day—they are so rewarding and really can boost your NaNoWriMo spirit!

If you have any other tips for having a successful write-a-thon, please leave your tips in the comment below, and feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website (username is DaisyforMazie)!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from
Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. 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.

Finding Balance: Why I Shouldn’t Have Done NaNoWriMo This Year

With 5 days left in the month, I crossed the 50k finish line and nabbed my NaNoWriMo 2014 “win”.

I use the term “win” loosely, because – and this is a horrible confession for me to make – I truly feel like I shouldn’t have participated in NaNoWriMo this year.

In the past, NaNoWriMo has done wonderful things for me. It’s bolstered my confidence in my ability to write every day and it’s produced interesting and impressive pieces of writing. And above all, it has connected me with other writers who are just as enthusiastic about writing as I am.

However, this year NaNo went a bit south for me. While I pounded out those 50k words, dutifully writing nearly every day this month, I did so for no other reason than to get the 50,000 words done with.

I’ve hated everything I’ve written this November – and sure, that may just be my inner-critic talking, but going off past experiences, this manuscript is so far from saving (even with some heavy editing), that I feel I truly wasted my time writing what turned out to be a mere shadow of what someone might call a “novel”. It wasn’t at all what I had envisioned for the story or the characters. After all is said and done, I feel like I took a promising idea and mutilated it.

But here’s the thing: it’s my fault that I feel this way about this year’s NaNoWriMo experience. I knew, going into November, that I had next to no free time. That doing NaNo would mean less sleep – which leads to less energy and creativity – which leads to less fruitful writing. And instead of saying to myself: “Maybe I should sit this one out and focus on creating a smaller amount of high-quality writing”, I raced head-long into the gauntlet that is NaNo.

The result has been a month filled with stress, frustration, and negative self-talk.

As a disclaimer, I want to say that this post is in no way meant to discourage people from taking on the NaNo challenge. It’s only to make the point that sometimes you need to be honest with yourself about your limitations. By all means, take risks and push yourself with your writing. But don’t lose sight of your own mental, emotional, and physical health. Make sure you have the time – or can feasibly MAKE the time – to take on a month-long novel-writing marathon, before you sign up.

So I learned something valuable this November: If you know with certainty that you are too busy to churn out a sloppy, yet satisfying 50,000 words, take a break from the writing craziness and focus your efforts on creating what you can.

I’ll be wearing my NaNo winner’s shirt come December 1st, but I’ll be feeling like I did anything but win.

~

How did your NaNoWriMo experience measure up this year? Hopefully better than mine! What did you learn about yourself and your writing? Tell me in the comments below!

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 Faye.

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 Faye.

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 Faye.

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!

Faye Kirwin

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 Faye 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!

~

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.

~

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.

~

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