Day 30: Celebrating Victory

Today is the last day of the 2011 NaNoWriMo. A mere 50,000 words and you are a NaNoWriMo winner!!!!

My hope if you're reading this is that you are a NaNoVicTo.
I finished my word count goal last night and when you cross that finish line it is time to celebrate.

Do something tomorrow that has nothing to do with writing, no matter if it's a walk, a few hours with a good book, a long bath, attend a sporting event, do a major workout to get your blood pumping again, or chase stray children down the street.

Whatever it is, do it. Celebrate your success to lead you onward to more writing and editing in the future.

How will you celebrate?

Day 29: The Post-NaNo Ritual You Need to Know About

It's winner's eve today. Tomorrow is the day you've won or not, and like your mother always told you, if you tried your best then that was good enough. Today's goal is 48,333 and then you're almost finished.
If you haven't hit today's goal, then you'll want to push today so you're not toeing the line at ten minutes to midnight on the 30th. If you're like most everyone else I know that's still writing, seeing this goal met somehow fuels you through the last 1,667 words. You will become like some crazy motivated train that would be going 100 miles an hour if it wasn't for this steep hill of words and plot.

I say, climb it. What's on the other side is totally worth it.

Since I know you'll be too busy celebrating tomorrow to think of things like this, I wanted to share my post-nano rituals with you to guard yourself against yourself. (I can tell by the way you're sitting that you've lost a document or two in your day.)

1) Save a copy of your novel to a disk, USB flash drive, or cloud (frankly I don't know what these clouds are, but hey, if you do, save it there.)

2) Email a copy of the document to yourself at an Internet held account. For example, I use MS Outlook for the majority of my mail, but I don't know how to check that mail when I don't have my laptop with me, so I email my document to my less used gmail account for safe keeping. Google offers gmail for free, so there's no reason not to do something like this.

3) Print. The nerdy nerd in me who might own a Staples customer rewards card (discount card, NOT credit card) might go onto the Staples website, upload her document to be printed, and she may go to the store, pay the $15, and pick up a physical printed copy. This is a cheaper ink option for me and I don't have to babysit my printer and hand feed it paper every five to ten pages. This copy, of course, is the rough draft which needs major work, not a manuscript to be shared. This gives me a hard copy to stash, edit, and make plot notes on when I don't want to be in front of the computer, but do want to work.

4) Wine or margaritas. Self-explanatory.

There you have it. Have a great winner's eve day!

Day 25: The Beginning of the End

Well, here we are. We're doing it. We're shifting from the Middle of the story and into the End. With a word count goal of 41,666 today, you are officially in the last 10,000 words of this year's novel.

By the End of your story you should be thinking of all those loose ties you've put out there and considering the best possible climax to the story that lets your character be challenged and either succeed for fail as the story deems fit.

Writing the End is a really motivating portion of novel writing because the action and events that have taken place have all built to this point. You can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel and it only gets brighter the more words you put down on the page.

While it is invigorating, it's also bittersweet. There are only five days left of NaNoWriMo, the crazy, ridiculous adventure that comes just once a year. Savor the feelings you have about your story in these last days and give your readers the best possible climax and ending you can to leave them wanting more and loving the time they spent with you.

How do you plan to celebrate on December 1st?

Day 24: Happy Thanksgiving! Get Back to Work

It's turkey day!!! I'm traveling all over creation for the next three days, literally eating a Thanksgiving meal three days in a row including the day I'm the host and chef. Not only will I be stuffed, but also, I'll be behind in my writing if I don't get a jump on it.

The T-day word count goal is 40,000. Sadly, the goal will not wait for you, so while it's nice to relax and digest, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to practice asserting your writing self and stepping away (before, after, or during the day) to work.

While it seems cruel for NaNo to sit on top of Thanksgiving, it actually helps you. The more you see yourself as a writer that NEEDS to write, no matter the day, the more others will too. Your adoring family will kiss you on the cheeks, say, "We'll see you in an hour, dear," and then they will go on doing what they do while you do what you do.

What's your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

Day 28: Are We There Yet?

Here we are, Day 28, and the word count goal is 46,666. If you're close, but not there yet, then this is the time for final pushes. Reach down deep, grab the beating heart of the writer inside you, spike it down onto the floor, and go for the finish line.
As for me, I'm sitting at 48,119 words and I couldn't be happier. This progress leaves me especially happy considering that my first NaNo year left me writing over 10,000 words on November 30th, but by God I was finishing that sucker.

Learning from that old frustration, I'll actually hit 50K either tonight or tomorrow and that is just as great a feeling as powering through up until midnight on the 30th.

As you work, make sure you backup your story, turn on some motivational music, and get the words down on the page. This isn't the time for taking a few hours to think about the plot, this is the time to push and push hard.

Also, don't forget to validate your word count when you reach the finish line (find this under "edit your novel"), and pat yourself on the back.

Are you sailing on through or busting your butt?

Day 27: The Sprint to the Finish

Today's word goal is 45,000. Yes. When you hit this day's goal, you have only 5,000 words left to write this month.

While I know by now the pure exhaustion of NaNo is wearing you away (it sure is for me), consider the fact that you have written 45,000 words already. Forty-five thousand! Five is practically a piece of cake. You can do it. Take this last day of this last weekend of this month and rock the hell out of it.

Don't give up. Write.

This is the sprint to the finish and I challenge you to do it, no matter if you're ahead in your words or behind. This is the time for making the choice to see your story through to the end and beyond. Whether you have more plot than 50,000 words can handle or you're coming up short, hitting the 50K, validating your word count on the NaNo site, and seeing your little bar light up purple is a great feeling.

Take this day. Write. Fulfill the goal you set before November 1st.

What's keeping you going? (Coffee is an understood answer.)

Day 26: Always Choose Your Story

Day 26 brings with it a word count of 43,333 words. I ended the night just over 44K.

For the second time in NaNo this year, I ran out of time for writing and I had to choose between writing a blog post or writing on my story, and for the second time, I chose my story.

Always choose your story!

This is how you take the push of writing (working through plot problems, unruly characters, dragging scenes, forgotten items, etc.) and turn it into an outright shove.

This shove will take you from the person that types along, but stalls when things get difficult and uncertain, to the person that writes and does because it is who you are. Your novel will thank you.

So, as we head into the final stretch, are you prepared to shove?

Day 23: Writing Experience and the Only Way to Get It

I'm sitting pretty going into NaNo Day 23 with a word count goal of 38,333. I had a break through in plot which I shared yesterday and I a great writing session followed. I wrote a new scene and really felt everything working and coming together. How did I know? Experience. I've written (and read) enough bad stories and lacking scenes to know when they are bad and lacking.

For me, writing is a lot like hockey. You think it's going to be hard to skate on a thin metal blade on slippery ice, but if you understand the blade and gain experience with it, then it isn't anything more than practice and time before you're taking off on the ice. Just like there are misconceptions about writing, a skate blade is also misunderstood. The blade isn't a single, knife-like point touching the ice, but more of an upright rectangle with the middle curved upward. Because of this shape, a blade actually has two sides: the inner edge and the outer edge.

The inner edge (basic storytelling) is relatively easy. It's there, right under you, you lean in either direction, the edge gains pressure, and you spin in that direction. The only real difficulty of the inner edge is having the inner thigh strength (determination to write) to control it.

The outer edge (word choice, pacing, characters, etc.) is much more difficult. Lean too far on that outer edge without enough momentum and you're on your ass on the ice. Don't lean enough and you have no grip whatsoever. Mastering the outer edge takes practice and time, just like mastering these more difficult aspects of writing. Through these things, you start to trust yourself to move.

It's that simple: Practice + Time = Experience

Once you've gained experience, you're ready to carry the puck, check people into the boards, and throw snow in a goalie's face without even thinking about your blades because your body and mind instinctively know how to skate. You can feel it. The same happens when you write. There's a sense you have when a scene is working or not working. Experience not only gives you this sense, but also tells you why something works or doesn't.

Even if you're struggling right now, I hope you remember that anytime you are writing you're working on your experience.

Day 22: Talk it Out

Today's goal is 36,666 words and I'm going strong now that I'm over a complete plot block on my story.

When I finished writing last night, I knew exactly what scene was next, but when I looked things over this morning I thought, that's all well and good for today's writing, but I don't know what's going to happen after that. My main character, Elsbeth is somewhere around L, M, N, then there's a huge gap of ignorance and unknown, and I know what is going to happen around Y, and Z.

So I did what any respectable author who is sure of themselves 100% of the time would do. I did something else. I stepped away from the story and cleaned house to prepare for the holidays. I moved away, got distance, cleansed, etc.

This didn't exactly help. Sure, it made me less tied to the story, less invested for an hour, but I came back, sat down, and still didn't have any ideas. And then I talked it out. I told my husband everything I knew and then said, "but here's this huge gap, what do I do?" He, being a helpful and honest soul said, "I have no idea, can I get back to work now."

So I talked it out with myself, and continued to flip the situation over, look at the underside, discuss the antagonist's view point, the secondary character's views, Elsbeth's goals, and then, I knew what needed to be done: Elsbeth needed to go somewhere.

Then I talked to myself about where, what, why, how, who (that journalism class really pays for itself sometimes) and the more I processed the information aloud, the more the blanks started to fill themselves in. Now I have a sense of direction again and I know what Elsbeth will be told in the scene I write today that will push her to go to this new place.

If you're finding yourself stuck thinking about your story, then I hope you'll try just saying it out in the open and see what muses you bring to your door.

Have a tip about solving plot blocks? I'd love to hear them.

Day 21: Blah

So I started this post on Day 21, but life got away from me and seeing how this week is Thanksgiving in the US, I needed a turkey in my fridge and a few other things. The word count for this day is 35,000.
For the record, I did hit the daily goal and chose working on my novel over my blog. Sad, I know, but in the end, it really is a better choice.

Also, the fact that I wanted to label this post Day 25 speaks for itself in the exhaustion department. This is the stuff NaNo is about; if you aren't writing until you're exhausted, then you aren't really tired.

For me, seeing that we're only 15,000 words away from the end of this crazy month is also thrilling. My plan is for this novel, currently called Smoke (but that will change), is to reach around 80,000 words by the time I'm done, so NaNo is not the end of the road, but knowing I'm 50K in is a huge boost compared to the zero words I had on October 31. (Yep, that was one sentence.)

So, while I'm exhausted and excited and tired and brain dead, I'm still loving the process of NaNo and the determination and willingness that is required to get from here to there. This is why we do this, and when we're done we have something to show for our hard work.

What's been the hardest part of NaNo for you?

Day 20: The Downside of Cast Lists

Good evening, writing buddies. Today's Nano goal is 33,333 words. I love this word count for both it's simplicity and how much closer we're getting to 50K.
Over the course of this month, I've had to come to terms with a problem regarding my writing that affects all months of the year. This problem is the downside of cast lists. If you don't know what a cast list is, I'll tell you. When you have an idea in your mind of a character, you make the next leap and think of a celebrity or other famous person who would "be" this character.

For example, your main character is a young guy who jokes around all the time, dark hair, but has a serious side. I'd go Jimmy Fallon, Paul Rudd, or Donald Glover. Then you decide he's a little chubby -- switch it over to Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill. Find that part in your mind that knows their face as your character and go with it.

Once you have the entire character list picked, then, when you're writing your story you can refer back to your perception of these people for your characters and even flip through pictures of them online when you need inspiration.

The downside of this is that my celebrity cast "bad guy," who needs to be rough and gruff, also does voice work in television commercials. When I hear his commercials come on TV while writing, suddenly my vicious and torturous bad guy turns to the softy who really wants you to enjoy batteries or cars or soup.

I don't really know where I'm going with this I suppose other than to tell you to watch out for running into your cast in ways you don't want to see them. If you want the psycho crazy Angelina Jolie from Girl, Interrupted, then don't watch The Tourist where she'll be more sophisticated and glamorous.

How's that novel of yours coming? I think I'm getting slap happy from blogging every day.

Day 19: You Look Like Shit, Get Some Rest

My dear, dear, beautiful/handsome writers of the Nano Kingdom. If you're still with me (which, I'll be honest, I'm seeing less and less people writing by now) then your word count goal today is 31,666.

On days one through seven, I am the most enthusiastic writer you've ever seen. I'm giddy and excited, thrilled be working on the story I've been researching and plotting all summer and fall.

Days eight through fourteen become the meat of the meal. We separate the men from the boys, so to speak, and the strong, committed, determined ones continue onward while others perish in our dust.

By days fifteen through now, I'm honestly starting to realize the late nights writing to hit my goal are catching up with me. Day 19 has been my toughest day yet this month. I always find this kind of day somewhere in week three, maybe a little ahead, maybe a little after actual Day 19, but it's always hiding there for me.

I've come to call this day the you-look-like-shit,-get-some-rest day. We've been writing and writing, and, like hour eight into a twelve hour road trip, there's no turning back. I don't get discouraged by these days when they come, but I do think it's important to note when the word count slows to a drip. Even though I'm still enthused about my story this year, the pacing, lackluster and stagnant word choices, and stale air are quickly surrounding my motivation. Shoot, whole sentences sometimes get really, really long. I'm not coming at the story "fresh" anymore, but I have enough experience to know this is part of it, so here's what I do:

I sit down. I write.

Everything will be cleaned and polished later. Whether I'm on my third cup of coffee at nine o'clock at night doesn't really matter. As long as I'm giving my best effort and at the minimum getting the heart of the story out there, I can go back later and change the "started to run" to "ran" and the "is changing" to "changes."

Best case scenario, you aren't feeling this at all. Second best, you are and are getting over it and continuing. Worst case? You quit writing and reading anything about NaNo in week one when  you realized it was hard, in which case, you aren't reading this either.

How doin's?

Day 18: Flying High at 30,000 Words

Today's goal in NaNoLand is 30,000 words. 30,000!!!! This is an amazing feat for starting at zero only 18 days ago.

Hitting 30,000 words is a confirmation that your hard work, day after day, is not only piling up, but also turning into a massive collection. This isn't some little story idea that maybe you will write some day. This is the commitment you've made to yourself and kept.

Take a minute to acknowledge how awesome that aspect of you is and just soak up the satisfaction.

By 30,000 words, your story should be coming right along. Sometimes the pace of the story alone and the action involved and the characters' wants start to drive you to your computer or notebook each day to write more and more.

30K is also 3/5ths of the way done with this crazy whirlwind of a writing adventure you either started planning months ago, or decided to do somewhere near the end of October. These wacko commitments we make to ourselves to write novels in months and tell our friends about (or keep a secret for fear of ridicule), these are the commitments character is built on.

When you "win" with 50K, you can look back and be proud of who you chose to be in November.

What inspires you in your own writing? Leave comments below.

Day 17: Giving Your Characters a Hard Time

Day 17 and the goal for word count is 28,333. I hope you're keeping up. I slipped back by 667 words yesterday, but I'll make it up today.

By now you may be feeling like your story is getting out of hand, is playing everything just right, or you're falling in the middle. Sometimes your characters comply and sometimes they show you sides you didn't know they even had. No matter what they're doing, if you want to make your novel interesting, I hope you're giving your characters a hard time.

My daughter is doing the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program this year. She's eight and had a story she wanted to tell of a girl in the woods with her siblings. Other than that basic information, she didn't know what to do with the story. Here's what I told her:

Think about what you want your character to do. What is their goal? Know that about your main character, get familiar with them.Think of how they will acheive their goal and what they want to do about it. Then, you as the author, make it difficult for the main character to do this. This may mean the character needs to change their goals, or do something else before they can acheive their primary goal. Whatever it is, make it hard for them, but not impossible.

For example, last night my main character, Elsbeth, needed to escape from having been kidnapped. I wanted her to slip out the window. Done. There's her goal.

Instead of letting it be that easy, however, I wrote her peeking to see if the coast was clear one last time, and this time the antagonist, Hopkins, is standing in the doorway and lunges after her. She still makes her escape (that is the plot afterall), but this way there was a lot more tension, action, and drama than originally planned.

If you're thinking your plot is going blah-ville or your characters are just milling about, then it might be time to shake things up for them and make getting from A to B a rougher road.

What's the worst you've done to your characters to give them a hard time?

Day 16: Ten Ways to Avoid Writing Fatigue

Hello Naners, today's word count goal is 26,667 and we're halfway through this crazy month. This is also about the time I start to feel writing fatigue kicking in. I'm loving my story, my plot, my characters, and yet, I'm exhausted trying to keep up with it all.

Fatigue, I assure you, is normal. These are those "pushing through" times I often talk about.

So, I thought I'd give you a treat and provide ten ways to avoid writing fatigue. You can do one or all of these and then come back to your story feeling renewed and refreshed for that heavy word count.

  1. Stretch. Do yoga. Dance around your living room making a stupid sound.
  2. Read a few pages of your favorite fiction book, even if you've read it before.
  3. Play a board game with anyone.
  4. Take a long walk and rather than thinking about the story, think about what's around you or what's for dinner.
  5. Watch a sitcom or drama on TV.
  6. Take a hot shower or bath.
  7. Doodle on a sheet of paper for ten minutes.
  8. Close your eyes and just breathe deeply and slowly, adverbly. Meditation can be powerful even if for just five minutes.
  9. Snack on a fruit to take advantage of the natural sugars.
  10. Draw a picture of a pirate farting on salad. (That's an inside joke and family favorite in my house, but a challenge nonetheless.)

I hope any of these help you limber up and refocus yourself so you can crank out scene after scene without letting you or your story go stale.

Which one did you like the most? Leave comments below.

Day 15: Halfway Party

This is it folks, day 15, the official halfway mark. 25,000 words is a lot for anyone.

If you're at this milestone, you should feel fantastic to be on target for finishing NaNoWriteMo by the end of the month.

You've put aside less urgent tasks to focus on yourself and your goals and your story. You've done the thing others haven't or are struggling to prioritize. I have hopes that each of you have also felt this pulsating drive to sit down and do the work during NaNo because it needed to be done for you.

Think of Michelangelo waking up in the morning thinking,"Man, I don't want to climb that scaffolding and lie on my back with my arms in the air, but damn, this ceiling isn't going to paint itself." And so he went...and he laid on his back and he painted.

If we could all at least tap into this ideal that we do what needs to be done even when it's not easy because it is what we do, what we want, and what we're made of, then the world would be an amazing place. If you aren't up for a challenge, then what you doing trying to write anything?

As I've always said, writers aren't storytellers, we're word laborers. The beauty of NaNo is that we labor together. I think just knowing that a bazillion other people around the globe are typing in their new word counts right along with you should count for something. There's creativity zipping through the air each night and I like to think if I reached up I could touch the sparkling underbelly as it floats by.

How did you decide to do NaNo? Leave comments below (after you celebrate 25K words).

Day 14: Halfway Eve and Routines

So here we are, sitting at Halfway Eve. (I like eves a lot if you haven't noticed already.) Today's word goal is 23,333, which means tomorrow we'll be pushing past the big 25K.

Halfway through NaNoWhaMo and we're still alive.

I will state for the record that the last few weeks have been relative hell for me, so much so that I've nicknamed a new sixty-one day month in my mind called Octember where just horrible, horrible shit goes down. During times like Octember, the writing of a novel is kind of like icing on cupcakes at this point, but I'm actually finding relief in the practice and routine of it.

Normally, in ante-NaNo and post-NaNo times, I'm writing my words and working on stories and novel outlines, but the pace is my own. I come and go with fiction work like it's Momma's house and I'm home for the summer to visit friends.

NaNoWriMo tosses me, mentally, into another realm of work and drive that I don't experience during the other eleven months of the year, (I swear it's the stats meter that does it), and drops me off in this place where holding a solid routine and pushing through when I'm exhausted isn't just a smart practice, but a necessity.

I hope that by now you have found a routine that works for you which you are able to execute each day, whether it's for 1,000 words here and 1,000 there, or the whole chunk in one sitting. Whatever it is, go with it, complete your novel, and imagine how good it could feel to carry this creative routine into December and beyond.

What's your routine look like? Leave comments below.

Day 13: Pushing Beyond Problems of Your Novel Writing Experience

NaNo day 13 brings us to a goal of 21,666 words. This is nearly halfway to the finish line. If you're there with me, then take a small moment to be proud of yourself. If you're with me in spirit, then keep pushing.

I have a lot of friends in the middle of NaNoCraZo that are falling short of the word count by thousands as this point, but where they lack words, they make up for it in spirit. None of these lovely ladies are giving up. They share their deficit with the group, and then they push on. One woman in particular had zero words on Day 8, but she's writing in the morning before her children wake up and again in the evening, and is now around 14,000 words. I believe she'll make it because she's willing to do the work.

Whether your limitation is not having the stamina to hit the goal each day, or not finding enough plot elements, or unsupportive family members, or dealing with computer problems, the only option you have (if you truly want this) is to push onward and write.

Here's an example:

Mylaptopkeyboard has decided that it will onlygive me thespacebar whenitdecides Ishould have thespace bar. This notonly makes readinganythingI'm typing difficult, butalso really screws witha wordcountgoal becuase what my writingprogramis sayingI've writtenis actuallymuchlarger once I go back inand add thespaces,which takesup a lot oftime.

That is really frustrating! But, I push forward. I whine to my husband about how old my computer is and then I, to quote my sister, put my big girl panties on and deal with it. I write anyway, and then I backtrack to the beginning of that day's work and I add spaces, one at a time.

If you want to have a finished first draft (aka: rough draft) by the end of this month, then you will muster the strength and desire to push through anything.

What have you pushed through to keep your novel going? Leave comments below.

Day 12: How to Prioritize Your Writing and Writing Time

Hey, guys. Sorry I can't do a new blog post tonight. I need to write.

Today's goal is 20,000 and I'd want to get there.

See how I did that?

Day 11: Sometimes Life Happens

Today is Day 11. We should be sitting pretty at 18,333 words, and happens...even in the middle of novel writing.

I'll summarize my day: Wake up, cold house, broken furnace, furnace repairmen, talk about cats, giant furnace bill, charge it, child comes home, "Let's go to my school tonight and watch a movie," no school -- pizza delivery and stay home, deal?, deal, pizza, yeah, phone call, your child won a contest but you forgot a form, no problem -- email or mail?, bring it to your house?, in car multiplication tables times 4, find a dark house in the dark, old man falls over backward in street, eeeeeeerrrttttt!, form to lady, yeah, congrats, thanks, Barnes and Noble, the books are gone and there are toys everywhere, WTF, mommy my throat hurts, sa-what?, home, heat = good, ugh, still need to write.

This, the above and aforementioned BS, is the shit that happens when you're trying to write a novel.

These are not roadblocks.

These are obstacles.

Go around them.

Sit down.



The world doesn't care if you're writing a novel or not. That's not the world's job. It's your job. Like the classic parenting advice: If you wait for the right time to write a novel, then you'll never do it.

How's your BS going and how are you keeping it from interrupting your writing?

Day 10: The End of the Story's Beginning

All right, NaNers, today's word count goal is 16,666 words. That's a big chunk of change. That also means we're a third of the way into our novel projects.

The first third, for those who are into basic storytelling diagrams equals The Beginning of your story. By now a reader should be able to identify the main character(s), know what it is they are trying to achieve, know where they are, and be rooting for them to succeed in their goal.

This also means by today (or yesterday, or tomorrow, roughly), your story should be taking a turn into the realm of The Middle. You should be starting to see some heavy action or plot twists going on, some momentum should be building toward something, and your main character(s) should be starting to see either flaws in their plan or be hitting road blocks which are preventing them from reaching their goals.

The Middle is the sweet spot of a lot of novels. If the world you've created and the characters you're writing are interesting and intriguing, then a reader can truly fall in love with your work in this area of Middle. A reader will go along for the ride, take the twists and turns, and be excited when they have time to stay up at night turning the pages, hitting the end of a chapter, and continuing to read even though they're exhausted and have to work in the morning. The Middle is purely captivating.

So, if you're finding yourself still in Introductionland, then I'm telling you now to turn the corner and start letting heavier action take place. If you think the reader still needs to know X, Y, Z before you move forward, then you'd better learn to sprinkle that information in with the action or your reader is going to get bored from exposition without tension, or drama, or shifts in the story.

The good news: you're the author of this story. If there aren't twists or tension in the near future for your story by now, then it's your job to create them.

What's been the biggest surprise in  your story so far?

Day 9: Turn Your Writing Struggle into Your Strength

It's Day 9 in NaNoVille and today's goal is 15,000 words. This is a great milestone and I hope you eat a big bowl of ice cream and do a little hip shaking kind of dance in the shower if you've made it this far. 15,000 words is awesome!
This can also be a little scary as plots start to crumble and you start to feel a little less than sure about what it is you're tyring to do in November. I urge you to keep going. NaNo is more than just word count. Sure, word count is the core goal of the month, but there's more to this whirlwind than just the words.

This month NaNo is also teaching you about motivation, perseverance, digging deep, and finishing what you start. You're learning to value your writing time, to carve out space for it, and you're gaining the experience of seeing what writing a full first draft is like (whether you've done it before or not, each novel is different).

Turn your struggle into your strength.

Write with abandon.

Don't judge your story. Don't judge your work. Don't focus on any other version of your story (the plot in your head or in the imaginary future finished bestseller) other than the one you are creating right now.

If your story's not working, then make something happen. No rule says you're stuck sitting in a dirty apartment eating old pizza with your main character listening to their thoughts. This is fiction. Make something happen. Challenge your characters, your setting, the tension between characters. As my sister says, "It's your baby, you rock it."

What was your 15K celebration?

Day 8: Your Novel is Dough

Day 8 brings with it a word count goal of 13,333. I haven't touched my novel yet today, but if this counts (and I think it does), I did think about my novel at three in the morning last night when I couldn't sleep for about an hour. I was trying to dig deeper into my antagonist's motivations to get a better sense of his goals. You have to dig deep like this during the first draft as well as during revisions. It's how you cook the story into something great.

Then, I was talking with my mother earlier today about this whole NaNoWhyMe and had an epiphany about first drafts. Because I'm not stingy with epiphanies, I thought I would share it with you as well.

If you're getting frustrated with the fluffiness or blandness of your first draft novel right about now, then there's something you need to remember: your first draft is dough and that's what it is supposed to be.

You're in the process of adding ingredients (flour, milk, sugar, salt, eggs)[characters, plot, action, pacing] and mixing them together. The only possible thing you're going to get when you do this is dough. It's mushy, sticky, doesn't have any set shape, and doesn't taste very good. Expect this. Embrace it.

A finished novel, one you have spent time revising (not just line editing) and reworking into a good story, now that is bread. Bread is the deliciousness others can sink their teeth into and really chew. If you make good enough bread, it will also nourish and fill your readers, and leave them wanting more.

In short, don't get discouraged if your first draft is doughy. There is a lot going on there. The ingredients are blending, liquid and dried parts are becoming a homogeneous mixture, and the dough is rising. These are all things you want to have happen in November. That is the point of NaNoWriMo or any other first draft process. Go with it. Later on you can punch the dough down, knead it, and bake it into an edible loaf.

What's the hardest part of writing  your NaNo first draft for you so far?

Day 7: Week 2 Eve (and I'm a little crazy)

By midnight tonight your word count should be soaring at or above 11667. I'm running out of steam around 11, freaking sad is that. It's not the story, it's me. Let this be a lesson to all NaNonians out there, don't get a cold and change the clocks back at the same time, it will really mess with you.

But, aha, this is about you. You are 1) fantastic, 2) clearly a selective reader to choose such a blog as this, and 3) hopefully not sick and changing your clock.

Wait, this is about NaNoWhoZat. This is about Day 7 and what all that means for writers like us when we're on Day 7. It's kind of like this, "oh my gosh, I've written so much. Can't I have a break? Please? But, I'm sick and I had to change the clock. Please. How can it only be 9:30 at night? It clearly feels like 10:30. Wait. What day is it? Etc., etc., etc."

The important, inspirational thing is down here (I wrote this part earlier thinking I would write the intro after a refreshing I'm-too-tired-to-write nap):

At this point in NaNo you are on the verge. You are getting ready to fall off the edge of "Maybe-someday" and into "Now." Now is the time and place where you are actually writing a novel.

This isn't a pipe dream. This isn't the thing you say to co-workers that you want to achieve in the future. This is you, here and now, in the thick moment of writing a novel.

Week 2 is a special time in NaNo whether this is your first year or not. This is when the meat of the story starts to really stew and fall off the bone. You are seeing your characters and commitment through and should be proud of that.

While I'm not making any promises it will be easy, because it certainly won't, I do promise that you will feel something unlatch inside of you this week that makes you sit up a little straighter and appreciate yourself as a real writer. I hope you feel this moment, but if you don't, trust me, it happened.

What's your problem? Leave comments, sick remedies, and funny words below.

Day 6: Milestone Celebrations

Hello, little Wrimos, this is a day to make a small celebration in honor of yourself. By midnight tonight, provided you're writing 1667 words every day, you should see your odometer of words roll over 10,000.

I am siting at 9325 after having written 700some words this morning and cannot wait. I've already bought a celebratory bottle of Dr. Pepper (one of my few vices and cheaper than my favorite wine) and plan to chill tonight before the rush of a new work week hits me in the morning.

While this small, meager amount of 10,000 words is only a fifth of the way to finished, if you don't celebrate the milestones as you pass them, you might not appreciate the journey you're on with your novel and your writing. If you overlook 10K, shrug your shoulders, and move on, then what's the point? Each 10,000 should give you pause and encourage you to continue forward, whether it's the first 10,000 or 110,000.

Sure, you might just want to tell your story, or have hopes to publish your novel and have it become a bestseller, but the road to a finished novel is paved in actual words, not wants.

So, throw yourself a tiny party today (after you hit the big 10K, of course), take a long bath, drink some wine or soda you normally deprive yourself of, eat the rest of the Halloween candy, or dance a gig in the middle of your house while yodeling. I might even hula hoop today! Whatever it is, have fun with it, enjoy the moment, and then get back to work on that story tomorrow.

How will you celebrate the milestone?

Day 5: Weekend Frenzy

Today's NaNo word count goal is 8333. I'm up to 7104 so far, but I haven't written yet today, so expect that number to come up as I take Elsbeth, my main character, to jail and torture her. Seriously.

If you're an experienced WriMo, you'll be Writing More than the minimum 1667 words per day this weekend. The weekend, for most of us, is prime time to take advantage of "non-work" days and crank out your story in large quantities.

If you can manage it, adding excess words now will do a few things for you.
  1. You'll be that much further ahead in your plot outline (if you made one) than anticipated for Days 5 and 6.
  2. You'll have wiggle room for days where you just come up short in the motivation or words department. This may or may not be a day you're stuffed with turkey, for those in the US.
  3. You can sleep sounder at nigh during the week.
  4. Bragging rights, duh.
  5. You'll not only amaze yourself that you beat the word count goal, but also you can use the sense of accomplishment to fuel your writing over the next few days.
Now, on the off chance that you don't live in a cave by yourself with a pile of dried bear meat, a coffee maker, and an internet connection and actually have to have a real life, then don't (DON'T) beat yourself up if you don't get ahead of the game over the weekend. The daily recommended minimum is 1667 to hit your 50K in one month. Going beyond that is strickly for your own sense of pride and the unleashing of in-your-face-isms.

Truth or dare: How many times have you thought about hanging it up and writing something else in November?

Day 4: The Devil is Shaking Up Your Story

Today's NaNo word count goal is 6666. {The Omen anyone?}

It's 9pm (Eastern time) and I have written nothing yet.

Zero. Words. Period.

I don't have to tell you that feels awful. Fear not! I'm going to get my word count in as soon as my child is lying in her bed.

By around Day 4 any weaknesses in the foundation of your story might start shaking things up. This is normal and to be expected. Demonic possession is the name of the NaNo game. Seriously, this shaky ground can actually be because of many things up to and including: low self-confidence, a weak story, boring characters, a lack of tension, excess description, too little action, etc.

The good news is that ALL of this is fixable with time and perseverance. (Two out of four written scenes for me are less than stellar. I make a note, something like, "where's the f-ing action?" and move on. I'll amp things up during the second draft.)

I urge you to also keep going. This first week is the introduction to the school of hard knocks. This is the week when all of the drop-outs drop out. Keep going. If you don't push through to the other side now, then you'll never know if you are capable of pushing through Week 2 or the horrors that make up Week 3. Seriously. Horrors. Not kidding here. Horrors.

What ways are you finding make writing through NaNo easier? [Coffee/wine/water and music are helping me out.]

Day 3: NaNo Brings It

By day 3 your word count should be rocking at 5000+ words. I hit my target around 5200something. How are you holding up?
I'll be honest, NaNo tried to throw me a curve ball in Day 3, but I still met the word goal. The curve ball involved my being exhausted and the time already being late at night. For the record, my brain fries easily at night, but rather than being a well rested NaNoLoSer in the morning, I stayed up to get my story on the page. By "get" I mean "extract." It was downright painful to work. Even though I knew exactly where the story was headed and I was enthused about writing this scene, my mind and my fingers were having none of it.

Sentences started to look at lot like this: Elsbethw aited in hte roomunti lthe moon slide out from behind the cloudes,

Me writing late at night is the equivalent of driving drunk through a crowded mall. Bad shit is just going to happen. The beauty of NaNoWriMo, however, is that these horribly typed words, tense slips of verbs, and bad punctuation don't matter. I'll edit the sucker later. What matters is that we know Elsbeth is waiting for the moon in her room. Done. I can fix my dead-brain-typing issues in December.

If you've having trouble with things like this, I urge you to keep going and worry about editing later. So long as the story is flowing/extracted, you're still going to get a first draft of a novel written.

Is your story still headed where you thought it would be going? I'd love to hear about it.

Day 2: Great, Gross Things That Need Names

It's NaNo day 2 and your word count goal by today is 3,333. Are you there yet? I hit 3726 and my brain has shut down.

For me, the best part/surprise of the day was a scene I wrote about a crazy, old woman hysterically chanting and doing freaky witchy things. When I wrote about her, I actually sat there cringing and pulling my face away from the computer, and yet, I couldn't stop typing this scene.

It was truly fantastic. I was so fully engaged in the process that this nasty, leaf spitting woman was actually getting to me.

I don't know if you've had these experiences in your writing before, but I hope you have. If you haven't, I hope you have one this year, this month. They don't come around often, but when they are there, they are bitter and delicious at the same time.

We need a name for moments like these. Thoughts?

Day 1: A NaNoWriMo Cautionary Tale

Today is day one of NaNoWriMo and I have a bit of advice for those just starting their novels (newbies and experienced WriMos).

First, your word count for today should hit at least 1666 if you're planning on writing every day. At the moment of writing this, I'm hitting 1255 words right now with my first plotted "day 1" scene complete. (Once my child goes to bed, the remaining words will take care of themselves.)

Second, don't pad your novel with unnecessary words just for the sake of jacking up your word count. To my mind, this word inflation is a rookie mistake. If you pad your words now with fillers (over the top descriptions, excess dialogue, adverbs) just to watch the NaNo meter grow and to flex in front of your writer friends and scream, "Yeah, baby," then after November you'll be crying as you painstakingly go back into the word-bloated, thin-storied novel and try to trim the fat.

While I know you want to see productivity this month, I caution you that productivity in the form of hard editing later on isn't actually a climb upward, but more of a sideways trail. You'll do much better for yourself and your novel to take your time, choose the correct words for the job, and create a better story the first time around. This will also prove a valuable skill when you write the first drafts of other projects which don't take place during NaNoWriMo when word count isn't the goal.

I'd love to hear how your NaNo experience is going. Leave comments below.