First off my apologies for missing the Monday Mental Muscles Challenge…I blame the madness and creative chaos that is NaNoWriMo falling on a Monday! Not to be concerned…the muscles will get a workout this week. So here is my plan for all you Fitness Fanatics of the creative variety:
This month I will be holding NaNoWriMo Boot Camp on Mondays, except for today of course that happens to be a Tuesday. In Blogging Boot Camp, I will be giving you weekly exercises to do all with NaNoWriMo in mind. However I realise that not all my followers are taking part in this global madness so for you, you can still do the exercises but slant it towards your own WIPs and writing projects that you may have on the go.
So in honour of “Boot Camp” Tradition, here is your first exercise for the week:
(You guessed it right if you thought it might be Push Ups. What is Boot Camp without Push Ups.)
Pull out a pen/pencil and paper. (You heard me. We are doing this the old-fashioned way. No laptop/pc allowed.)
Have you got it. Right. I want you to do exactly 10 minutes of free word association. This warm up exercise will be your stretching for the day.
Trying to use all the above words you used in the free word play association, write a 1 page short, tying back to your NaNoWriMo novel or your current WIP. It does not matter at this point if it ends up being a chaotic nonsense piece…that’s the fun of it.
You guessed it, I am going to make you do a sprint, a word sprint. Again, a traditional Boot Camp exercise…
You have exactly 30 minutes to write (long hand with writing implement and paper) a dramatic scene in your NaNoWriMo novel, or your current WIP. Throw something dramatic and life changing at your Main Character and see how they will handle it. Use your imagination and don’t be afraid to be mean to your character. Test their mettle and find out if they have what it takes to deal with a really hairy situation.
Day 1 has come and is almost done in New Zealand. We were the first, along with Fiji to see the start of November 2010 and NaNoWriMo 2010. Before midnight struck, I was at home in a chat room with my fellow NaNoWriMo Warriors. You may have heard of this group before or this may be the first mention you know of. NaNoWriMo Warriors was created this week by the developer of the Scribblerati ning that I am a member of. In 5 days it has grown to 217 members. At first the members were all fellow scribblers belonging to Scribblerati but before long tweets got tweeted, Facebook group shares were placed on individual walls and now we have 217 members as of 9:26pm, NZ time. There are more being added every hour.
This is the first NaNoWriMo is which I am participating. At first there was a small part of me that thought it was sheer madness to contemplate doing a novel in 30 days. But before long I was hooked on the idea and had found myself signed up and registered on 1st October.
People often think that writing is a particularly lonely pursuit. This year I have found my writing life filled with support, encouragement and cheers. It was not just my family and friends as you would expect but two spectacular writing communities that I belong to: Scribblerati (as mentioned before) and She Writes.
When I signed up for NaNoWriMo the support just about blew me away. There was a sense of camaraderie and solidarity from all of my online writing friends. As October progressed, I got more and more excited. I felt like a kid before Christmas except I knew that the perfect gift that I had wished for would be under the tree.
The last week before the today was a mixture of intense anticipation and a jingle jangle of bouncing nerves. I was also trying to get some sleep to prepare for the madness that is NaNoWriMo. It is very difficult trying to sleep when your characters do not have the same courtesy and are wide awake with verbal diarrhea. Trying to explain to my MC that she has to wait just a few more days was like trying to reason with a 4year old child who knows where the Christmas prezzies are hiding. In a word: Impossible. Even for a writerly type who is usually never short of words.
On Sunday afternoon I signed into the NaNoWriMo Warriors page and was immediately infected with the creative enthusiasm of writers all excited for this challenge. I was asked to be a moderator for my time zone when our tireless creator would have to sleep for a short time. I accepted immediately. There is something palpably electric about being a cheerleader for something like NaNoWriMo. On top of that I knew that I would be up for most of the night so being on hand to welcome NZ and OZ WriMos to the wonderful madness that is NaNoWriMo.
The clock ticked and the moon rose higher in the sky. The night air seemed suspended in waiting for something special. As it got closer and closer, I spent the time chatting to my online fellow WriMo Warriors. Simultaneously I started getting ready to type the first word into my full screen MS screen on Storyist. The clock ticked and it got nearer and nearer.
The clock struck midnight. I called the Battle Cry for the NZ WriMos and I was off into the start of my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote down my first word and then I gave control to my MC. I felt it only fair that she be given free rein this first night after being so patient all week long. Before long I had a 1000 words and the next time I looked up I was sitting at 4094 words on my NaNoWriMo Novel. Looking at the clock, I realised time literally opened up a secret time hole that I fell into well writing everything my MC was telling me: it was 3:30am. The first 3 1/2 hours of NaNoWriMo had begun and I had surpassed my own personal goal for the day. I felt a rush of adrenalin hit me and I knew that this story would flow for me this day, this week and this month. All I had to do was believe in the unwritten words that were in a treasure trove locked in my mind.
I stayed online for the sheer pleasure of that writerly solidarity. I kept on popping in and out of the tweetchat #NaNoWriMo and was excited to read the word count updates on there.
Yes NaNoWriMo is a challenge. It may even still sound crazy and impossible to some people. But to me NaNoWriMo is not just about the challenge of the novel or finding the mind-space to let the words flow. NaNoWriMo is also about thousands of writers joined together in a global pursuit. NaNoWriMo is about making friends with true artists all across the 4 corners of the globe. NaNoWriMo is about being a NaNoWriMo Warrior and knowing that I have an army of support, understanding, encouragement and cheerleading to lean on. NaNoWriMo is a creative boost to what is usually a lonely pursuit.
NaNoWriMo Warriors are anyone who has signed up for NaNoWriMo. You are already a Warrior and a Conqueror. It takes real “Chutzpah” to sign up for this challenge.
It is just under 12 hours until the Mad,Wonderful Craziness of NaNoWriMo 2010. Based in NZ has its advantages and disadvantages. We are the first to open Christmas prezzies. We are the first to celebrate New Year. But we are also the first to start NaNoWriMo. I will be starting at midnight in under 12 hours time. Does this fill me with trepidation, excitement, terror, anticipation, jingling-jangling nerves, raw adrenalin? Yes to all of those. NaNoWriMo is almost like a relay race on an athletics field. Although it started as an US competition/challenge, it is now a global phenomenon with well over 100 000 writers taking part. With its nature of being global and the world being broken up into time zones, this makes NaNoWriMo a relay race. People in NZ and Fiji start the race first, then we hand the batons to our fellow scribblers in Australia, then Asia, then Europe, then Africa, then US & Canada and South America and finally Hawaii. Like every successful relay race, the runners (us WriMo scribblers) are partners and team mates in a race to the finish posts: minimum 50 000 words of a Novel. But every runner and athlete knows that there are certain elements we need to make our race more successful. This is what this post is about. My athlete’s uniform or My NaNoWriMo Pencil-Case.
From the beginning of the month I blogged about trialing out certain software in an effort to find the perfect software for NaNoWriMo. I have been using different trials for a month now and some a little longer. Here is what I have found works for me:
I started using Scrivener about 3/4 months ago. I had been searching for just the right software for my writing needs and requirements. I happened across Scrivener. At first I was incredibly confused and overwhelmed. I had never come across anything like this type of software before. I thought I had just wanted a good word processor. (Aside: I have only been a MAC user for 2 years. Before I was a prolific Word user/fan.)
Instead I found myself in the world of Digital Cork-Boards and Index Cards. I tinkered away until I had it relatively figured out. Slowly I started falling in love with this new software. I realised that for the first time I did not need a separate program for research materials. I could do everything in preparation for a Novel within one program.
My favourite tool of Scrivener is the amazing Cork-board with mobile index cards. On this cork board you can place index cards that you can move around and rearrange to your heart’s content. On these index cards you can write scenes from your novel or plot points. You can even break up each paragraph/section of your novel into individual index cards. If you need to rearrange the sequence of events or timelines, you just need to move the index cards around and it automatically translates to moving your text in your novel around without copying, pasting and cutting.
My other favourite tool in this clever software is: the research possibilities. You can directly paste all your research into a file within Scrivener. You can also directly access Wikipaedia articles from Scrivener’s platform without first having to open your browser.
So out of a score of 10, I am marking Scrivener as 9/10. There were some elements that were missing when I first trialled Scrivener which did affect my rating of it. Some of these elements have now been added in the 2.0 version. As a former Window user, I am also pleased to let all Windows users know that Literature & Latte have now released a Windows version of Scrivener. Both the Windows version and the new 2.0 Mac release have been put up for a free trial period on the Literature & Latte site. Literature & Latte are one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo. Looking for a software program aimed at writers of all types with a little extra yumminess and spice? Try Literature & Latte’s Scrivener. It might just be the software for you.
When I signed up and registered for NaNoWriMo on the NaNoWriMo site, I noticed that there was another software developer who is sponsoring NaNoWriMo this year. This software is called Storyist. Being a software junkie, you know that I had to investigate further. I linked through to the main website of Storyist and saw that they were also offering a free NaNoWriMo trial version of this software. I immediately downloaded the trial version to my Macbook. It would have been rude not to try since it was a free trial and they are sponsors of NaNoWriMo.
When I opened it up for the first time, I was slightly confused. This looked very similar to Scrivener. There must be some differences. So I investigated further. Now a month from first downloading the trial version of Storyist and I am HOOKED. Of course as any writer knows, there has to be a HOOK for a story to be a success. I tend to view Writing Software the same way. I always look for an enticing HOOK to bite onto. So what are the HOOKS of Storyist?
For me the hook was that it has Character formats/Plot formats and Setting formats. On top of that even though it has the Cork-Board like Scrivener, it also has a fully formatted Manuscript view in which you can type in your entire novel and not have to worry about formatting. Another handy tool is that you can export it into epub form and/or print a WYSIWYG hard copy of your novel. It has a word count and spellcheck that I have found more than meets my requirements.
I LOVE Storyist and am sold on this software. My rating for it is also: 9/10.
Scrivener vs Storyist
I am an avid fan of both software programs. Reading through the forums I have found that people are in a sharp divide of opinion when it comes to sizing up and comparing these two programs. However, in my humble and personal opinion, I give both software programs a HUGE DOUBLE THUMBS-UP.
Though it could be argued that the two programs are very similar, there are subtle differences. Scrivener allows you a more open hand way of formatting. It has the better Cork Board and Index Card system. Scrivener is fantastic for any writing that is intensive in research. It is also a software that has all the bells and whistles that any writer; novelists, scriptwriters, journalists, academics, may need.
Storyist however is the Be All-End All software for Novelists & Scriptwriters. Storyist understands the importance of character arcs, plot arcs and settings to the story. As a writer who starts from a Character to get a story, Storyist just WORKS for me. The already formatted Manuscript view is perfect for a Writer who really does not want to have to figure out industry standard formatting. Basically with Storyist, I can do all my prepping and outlining beforehand and then split my screen into a double view screen, with my corkboard / outline on one screen and my manuscript ready to be typed and entered into the other screen. Then I switch to full-screen view and all distractions are shut off and I can just write.
So my diagnosis on both is that try them both out for yourself. I guarantee that you will find what you need in at least one of them. You might even be like me and find you are in love with both of them. I now use both of these programs. Scrivener is fantastic for my research heavy WIPs but Storyist is fantastic for those WIPs that just need me to shut off from the world and from the voice of my characters build my story.
So those, in my personal opinion, are the two top software programs designed for writers. But sometimes you don’t want a program with all the bells & whistles. You might even be intimidated by a program with “so much”. Do not despair. There are fantastic and simple “purist” word processor programs out there. The best thing about these following programmes is that they are free to use and download.
Now this is my FAVOURITE word processor tool for Mac users. I use this program all the time. I do any and all writing on here. I find this is especially useful for my writing that does not need formatting or bells & whistles. Bean is also a fantastic software for those of you with sensitive eyes and looking for an easier and more comfortable writing environment. The view of the screen is white text on a deep blue background. Bean has all the simple word processor tools you would find in a program. It has spellcheck, full-screen, formatting for fonts and margins, word count and it has a brilliant Text-to-Speech tool built into it as well.
My rating for Bean as a simple word processor is: 10/10.
I have used Focus Writer. Again it was purely my penchant for being a software junkie that inspired this. I found Focus Writer adequate and easy to use. A couple of things it has that bean does not is: themes and timers. In light of this, this may be the perfect tool for NaNoWriMo. It also has not just a Word count but a Paragraph count, a Character count and a Page count. So far I have only been using it for about 2 weeks so I am still learning the various tools and tricks in this program.
So far though, I am impressed. I score it a rating of: 9/10.
Another tool that I absolutely love and advocate is: mind mapping. I confess to being a perfectionist and a grammar-nit-picker. I am a planner. I love planning things but I do not like lists. Then how do I plan if I don’t out line, you may ask? I work best on a visual basis. I used to do all my studying using mind mapping. For me the mind map is something visually appealing and it suits my perfectionist nature. Although I have always done mind mapping by hand and been quite happy with that, I needed to see if there was an online software program that allowed me to mind map. Much to my delight and surprise I found quite the plethora of software that do digital mind mapping.I am going to tell you about my favourite one. (It is also free to use).
(Storyist and Bean are Mac OS X Software Platforms)
(Scrivener and Focus Writer are multiple platforms – both for Windows and Mac)
Now this is software that just gets the creative, organised part of me EXCITED. FreeMind is everything and more that you can want out of a visual and creative outlining/planning/plotting tool. It is exceptionally easy to use. It is visually appealing as you can colour code different roots/nodes in your particular mind map. I use FreeMind with all my writing projects. I have even used it for non-writerly pursuits, like planning staff meetings or preparing marketing plans.
If you are a visual person who is inspired by freeform colour and construction of ideas in a mapped format then FreeMind is simply the perfect software program for you.
My rating is a resounding 10/10.
Another tool that I have used for NaNoWriMo is a graphics manipulation/photo editing software called Compositor. Many of my fellow scribblers and WriMo buddies have asked me how I “made” my cover for my NaNoWriMo novel. Compositor is the answer to this question.
Freemind can be used on the Windows platform and the Mac platform. It can also be used on the linus platform.
Compositor is a very simple to use WYSIWYG software photo editing and graphics manipulation tool. I have been using it for about 2 weeks and love it. It is geared towards people who want to make up posters or covers or even videographers and scriptwriters for movies. There are many “video” view tools as well as “Photograph” tools. Being an avid photographer, I just “get” this software. In this software you can alter the “filters” on a photograph just as if you were using a manual SLR with all its bell and whistles. You can completely transform a photograph with a few clicks. It s however not a storage facility. You would have to use it along side a storage facility like iPhoto.
My rating is a definitive 10/10.
Download the trial and see what you think of it. I do warn you to put aside a few hours though as you get lost in the wonderful world of graphic design and photo manipulation that Compositor gives you a passport into.
Compositor is a MAC only platform software.
Another great and popular NaNoWriMo tool is the NaNoWriMo calendar with attached word count. Through the links of fellow scribblers and friends I have fund my perfect online calendar and the one I am going to use for NaNoWriMo.
This is the only tracker that I am aware of that calculates your word count goals and accumulations accurately. In this program you can format your own word count calendar/tracker. You can then put in percent (%) form how much of the word count you will do. It allows you to write fewer words on weekends for instance and automatically adjusts all the other days of November.
My rating and recommendation for this tool is: 100% or 10/10.
Use it. You will love it. It will be invaluable to your success in NaNoWriMo. It is also perfect for those writers who are over achievers and want to write more than just 50 000 words for NaNoWriMo. Try it out. It is free and it is online. You won’t regret it.
So those are the “pencils” in my Pencil Case or the “tools” in my digital Tool-Case. All of these ratings and reviews are from my personal opinion. These are my favourite software programs on the digital page. Try some or all of them out, you may just find a new favourite amongst them.
Preparing for any race is all about the reliable tools and equipment that allow you to run effectively, competitively and successfully. I hope that you are getting ready to crouch down at the NaNoWriMo starting block for the global and creative relay race of November.
So pull on your running shoes, fill up your water bottle, amp up your carbs with Pasta and get ready to run the race of the year.
Good Luck to all the WriMos out there . Good Luck for your race.
NaNoWriMo is just a day and a few hours away or two days away, depending where on the globe you happen to be.
So tell me, how are you feeling? Are you panicking with nerves? Are you wondering if your plot idea stacks up? Do you know enough about your MCs (main characters)? Have you set up a writing schedule? You only have a couple of days to sort out any plot holes you may have. Hopefully you have been using the month of October to prepare to succeed in NaNoWriMo.
This weekend is not the time to panic! If you start a race thinking you are going to fail or that you are unfit, you will not succeed. You will instead be setting yourself up to fail.
Instead, take a step back from all your preparation. Give yourself a breather. This is the weekend that you need to relax and get yourself in the right frame of mind. You want to enter Monday filled with enthusiasm and the power of positive thinking. Take a book and a pen and do this for yourself. Turn to a blank page in your book and in the boldest letters you can form, write:
Now tear that page out of your book, place it in a frame or a mount and put it in a place where you will see it every time you sit down in November to write your story. You ARE a Writer. You ARE a Storyteller. You already have the story you want to write within you, whether you have prepared for it or not. It is time to face this fact. You are going to start writing on the 1st of November and the writing will just flow. You will tap into your most creative part of your soul and mind and the story will take you on a magic carpet ride. Feel the story. These last few days before Monday, don’t do any more preparation. Instead immerse yourself into your story. Look out at the world through the eyes of your protagonist. For the next couple of days immigrate to the world of your story. Talk to your characters. Tell your characters you believe in their story and more importantly you will tell their story to the best of your ability.
Spend the next couple of days spending time with your family and your friends. Make it quality time. Tell them your story. Make them believe in your story. Introduce them to your characters. Let them fall in love with your characters just like you have. Do something you truly love to do that fills you with joy. Have a picnic. Treat yourself to a movie. Buy something luxurious for yourself. Buy something totally frivolous and beautiful. Have a wonderful meal. Have ice-cream for breakfast. Laugh. Play with your animals. Play with your children. Do only positive and happy things this weekend! Believe me, it will pay off for you. Give yourself the weekend off plotting. Don’t put your story aside. Live it, breathe it, play in your world. You will be surprised how valuable this sort of world-immersion into your story will be.
It is time to pack your suitcases. Pack in your positive thoughts. Pack in your inspirations. Pack in your “Writer”. Pack in your “Muse”. Pack in your passport of creativity. Pack in your visas of Character and Plot arcs. Pack in your ideas. You are now ready. Your flight leaves in a couple of days. You are booked into a window seat. Your window looks out onto your imagined world. Your muse is your pilot. Your characters are your flight attendants. They will look after every one of your needs for this month-long journey. They will also be your tour-guides. Listen to them. You will be travelling first class with the exclusive opportunity to go into the flight deck and to see where your Muse, the pilot, is flying you.
Now sit back. Say goodbye to your loved ones. Tell them you will see them again in a month’s time. Promise them you will take pictures of your journey. You are set to fly Midnight, 1st November, 2010. You have been waiting for this journey for a long time. At the end of this journey you will have a novel that you have written in your hands. That is the prize. That is the golden egg. Now fly and go get it Writer!
“Never ask whether you can do something. Say instead that you are going to do it, then fasten your
seat belt.” – Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way)
I am centering today’s mental muscles in honour of this being the last week before the gun goes off and the writers are sprinting away in the mad creative marathon of NaNoWriMo.
So is your story clear in your head? Is your story as tangible as a photograph or is it a scarf, flung carelessly, constantly been blown out of your reach? Could you describe it in a page, in a paragraph or in a sentence? Are character/s knocking on your mental doors or have they been breaking & entering in through the windows? Are the character/s nagging you yet? Have they been revealing themselves to you or are they a little reticent?
Well for today’s muscle flexing, I am going to give you some tools that may help you catch that scarf of a plot or maybe your niggling runner’s cramp is a reticent character. Either way, you have one week left to flesh out your character/s and colour your story. Maybe nerves are striking and you keep on wondering why you have signed yourself up for NaNoWriMo in the first place. I mean it’s crazy to think that you can fit more time into your day solely devoted to writing. What about the animals, or the kids or the spouse – who is going to feed them? What about that pesky Day Job that steals at least 8 hours of your time every day? Before you resign from the Day Job and move into a secluded, but handy hermit’s cottage, just like the spooky one you used to skirt past as a kid….Stop….Breathe…that was 3 deep breaths please…Now refocus…Feeling better? If you are still in the freak-out, hair turning white from stress, stage….maybe it’s time to test yourself a little without breaking the NaNoWriMo rules either. I can help you with that. Of course if you are cool, calm and collected and as ready as you ever will be, well you can do these for fun then.
As this may be the first time you are entering this creative gym, I will go over the etiquette. You need to do at least 1 of the exercises listed here. If you do, let us all know which one you chose and how it went. You can do this by commenting on this post. If you put it up on your blog, please link back through to my blog. As with everything else, feel free to pay it forward and give these exercises to anyone you may feel needs to do them. Now onto the workout floor…Hope you brought your stretching mats, work out towels and water…Ready? Let’s begin.
Plotting ~ Write up your novel’s plot into a 1 sentence synopsis. Now flesh that out into a paragraph length synopsis. Next flesh that out into a single page length synopsis.
Plotting ~ Music is a vital tool to anyone. Firstly our sense of hearing is the first sense we develop and the last we lose. So with this is mind…Close your eyes and think of the story you have so far. Now listen carefully. In the background you will start hearing a melody that will turn into a song, maybe even a compilation. This is your story’s theme song. Everything needs a theme song. Now you have your NaNoWriMo theme song. Use it for inspiration or even to vaccinate yourself against procrastinitis.
Plotting ~ Without telling them it is your story, get a trusted friend (non-writer) to read the synopsis from exercise (1) and tell them to give you an honest opinion on whether they would want to read this story. Also ask them what the plot’s strengths and weaknesses may be. Does the story hook them? If it does not, what is missing? (Aside: Remember every story needs to be read as well as told. Readers give invaluable insight.)
Character ~ (This first exercise is for the writer with the reticent and secretive character/s.) Find a spot where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Grab a few snacks and treats. Then make a date to rendezvous with your writing muses. Ask your character/s to introduce themselves to you. You may be surprised. Maybe your character/s are polite and were just waiting for you to make some time for them to introduce themselves to you. (This exercise needs a minimum of at least 2 hours. Make sure you have no interruptions in this time.)
Character ~ Close your eyes and picture your character/s in your mental vision. Once you have them in your mind, start a sketch of your character. (You don’t have to be an artist to do this exercise. Remember this is just for you.) You can keep this sketch in your NaNoWriMo notebook or pin it up on your corkboard / wall to keep you focused throughout November. Sometimes you have to see to believe it.
Character ~ Close your eyes again. Now ask your character/s what their 6 favourite meals are. Now for the next 6 days make these meals for yourself and for your loved ones. Taste is a vital key to personality. Is your character a gourmet or fussy eater? Is your character a simple home-cooked pasta type of person? Use these meal times to further get to know your character and to flesh out their personality/s.
Now choose at least 1 each of the above exercises, 1 for plotting and 1 for character, and let yourself have fun with it. Now how are you feeling about NaNoWriMo? Remember this should be a FUN Adventure and not a chore. You have a story locked inside of you. Use NaNoWriMo to unlock this. Use these exercise to help draw your map for your NaNoWriMo story.
Good luck and happy stretching!
(For any of you NaNoWriMo participants: if you would like to add me as a NaNo buddy, my user name is last_lines)
noun ~ an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity : her recent adventures in Italy.• daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm : she traveled the world in search of adventure | a sense of adventure.• archaic a commercial speculation.
verb [ intrans. ] dated ~ engage in hazardous and exciting activity, esp. the exploration of unknown territory : they had adventured into the forest.• [ trans. ] dated put (something, esp. money or one’s life) at risk : he adventured $3,000 in the purchase of land.
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French aventure (noun), aventurer (verb),
based on Latin adventurus ‘about to happen,’ from advenire ‘arrive.’
There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges. Ernest Hemingway
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”
1. Are you ready? Are you nervous? Are you cool, calm and collected? Are you filled with trepidation? Are you waiting with anticipation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, that is normal. If you answered yes to all of these questions, that is also normal.
2. Are you writing something completely new? Are you trying out a new genre? Are you changing from plotting to pantsing? Are you changing from pantsing to plotting?
NaNoWriMo is about ADVENTURE. It is about a jump off a mountain top, not quite knowing what might lie at the bottom. It is about learning to fly when you have always been told humans should not fly. NaNoWriMo is about being unsure, uncertain, bold, adventurous. NaNoWriMo should be seen as an adventure not a chore or a task.
Mundane events fill our lives enough that we should not make NaNoWriMo just another chore. How do you feel about boring chores like getting the ironing done or (my secret horror) grocery shopping? These are all things that are done regularly and are therefore normal. Have you jumped out of a plane? Have you explored in a jungle? Have you sailed around the world on a yacht? These are events that are EXTRAORDINARY. These are events that fall in the category of ADVENTURE. So instead of wondering where you are going to find the time in your day for a whole 30 days to write a minimum of 1667 words…wonder instead what will happen if you don’t make the time. Life can be normal and mundane or life can be what we choose it to be.
You might never jump out of a plane with a parachute. You might never explore in a jungle. You might never sail around the world in a yacht.
If you make time in your day, every day for the 30 days of November, to write 1667 words – you might just write a book. Now surely that was on the ADVENTURE list of your Bucket List? I am sure writing a book does not come under the mundane. If it is not mundane then it cannot be a chore.
This is a reminder for those first time NaNo writers that it is better to seek after adventure and fail then to not. Make this your challenge. Make NaNoWriMo your adventure in 2010. Attempt something new, risky and unchartered.
If you are an experienced NaNo writer, you may have many past NaNo successes or you may have tried and failed to write the minimum due to a common case of life-interruptus or even the infallible procrastinitis. Either way, don’t let NaNoWriM0 2010 be just another NaNoWriMo. Make it the ADVENTURE of 2010. Make this NaNoWriMo different. Pretend it is your first. Look at it with fresh eyes.
Sometimes when traveling, you don’t always have to travel to new places. you just go down different roads and make new adventures. One way to make NaNoWriMo a New ADVENTURE is to write in a style you are not used to write in or write in a different genre. There are a hundred different ways that you could make the 2010 NaNoWriMo novel different from anything else you have written. NaNoWriMo is all about sailing in unchartered waters. You might surprise yourself what island paradises you come across in your adventure.
So how are you going to make NaNoWriMo the ADVENTURE of your 2010? For myself I am trying my hand at a new genre. I plan on Making time every day in November to write at least 1667 words. I want to explore new places. I want to be able to hold a finished book in my hands at the end of it…a book not destined for file 13 but a book destined for publication. That is going to be my adventure for 2010.
One week left to pack the supplies in your writing backpacks. One week left to check your compass is holding to True Creative North. One week left to check you have adequate food and drink ready for your adventure. One week left to get your shots against procrastinitis and that pesky life-interruptus. Are you ready yet?
NaNoWriMo 2010 is 2 weeks away: which means you have 2 weeks of sanity left. On Monday, 1st November 2010 you are going to become temporarily schizophrenic. I choose this prognosis deliberately. Read the dictionary meaning of Schizophrenia and decide for yourself if you fit the bill in November…
schizophrenia |ˌskitsəˈfrēnēə; -ˈfrenēə|nouna long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings,withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.• (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.DERIVATIVESschizophrenic |-ˈfrenik| |ˈˈskɪtsəˈfrɛnɪk| |ˈˈskɪtsəˈfrinɪk| |-ˈfrɛnɪk| adjective & noun ORIGIN early 20th cent.: modern Latin, from Greek skhizein ‘to split’ + phrēn ‘mind.’
“Writing is the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
So in hindsight, do you believe you qualify as retreating from the world into an imagined earth with imagined people who seem to be more real than the ink that created them?
To be a writer is a solitary pursuit…or is it? For the everyman, writing is a solitary pursuit. After all there does not seem any need for anyone else to be present for the writer to write. If you ask a writer though, the answer may be quite contradictory. When you write, you have a blank page in front of you, a clean slate to begin with. There is something very liberating about being faced with a blank page and then putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, and creating a brand new world. As a writer, you have total control…or do you?
The only control a writer has on the story is the first word, the first line and the first chapter. After that, the page becomes a living entity. It starts breathing under your fingertips. Slowly the flesh builds upon the bone and your skeleton is formed. The brain is formed in the first chapter. Then the heart is formed. Slowly blood starts pumping through the arteries, read chapters, and your story gains a personality. At that moment, a face has not formed yet, you have a creation. As the heart starts beating with a stronger beat, emotion starts colouring the pages. Suddenly you are not faced with black words on a white page but you are surrounded by people who are formed by ink and emotion. Slowly you start seeing a face in the story. Your story has a name and a purpose. It is as if you are peering through a misted mirror in a bathroom and slowly the mist dissipates leaving a face staring back at you. Who is the face that stares back at you? Why it’s you! The writer, the creator, the father, the mother, the child, the good, the bad, the comedy, the tragedy….all the simple complexities that make up your imagination and fuel your dreaming. That is who has come out and joined you on this journey of ink and pages.
After that first chapter is written, the story takes control of your imagination. Call it your Muse, call it your inspiration, call it Magic but something inexplicably beautiful happens from the second chapter onwards….Story is created. Story is the thread that weaves all of our histories, our presents and our futures together. Story is the magic carpet ride that allows us to travel though time and space just by opening a book or closing your eyes and listening to the tales of The Story.
So the question again is: Is Writing a solitary pursuit? No writing is a community activity. As writers, we often hear “write what you know”. Our stories are rooted in our memories and our experiences. Our stories are tangible evidence of six senses. Our stories come alive and breathe with what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, what we touch and lastly all that we feel. Stories do not come from the mind. Stories come from the heart of our emotions. Stories come from the resting place of the bird that sings within our soul. Stories come from the truest innocence of the inner child we all are in our dreams.
In just a short while, a mere two weeks, thousands of people will be sitting at their desks to start a story of a 30 days. Some of us are starting off for the first time. Some of us are experienced at this story-marathon. But all of us have a story to tell. Maybe we needed a vehicle like NaNoWriMo to get it out there but to tell a story is the goal and the purpose. The only rules of NaNoWriMo are that you not write your story before the 1st of November nor are you allowed to edit the story while writing. The whole point of this challenge is that you are to switch off from distraction and for at least an hour a day tap into that incredible stream of Story within your soul. Non-writers may insist that you are tapping into a stream of consciousness but I beg to differ: The Story hidden within your soul is one that is unconscious and instinctive. Indeed it is a Stream of Imagining and a Stream of creation.
I have been thinking about first chapters this week. I have realised how important first chapters are. They are the scroll of hieroglyphics found within the walls of the Sphinx. First chapters give your Story and your creations a voice. Suddenly the Story that was hidden with the depths of your soul and glimpsed through the vision of your dreaming is released and a fountain of knowledge is poured out for the reader. Your first chapter has the power to give your reader time travelling abilities. You can take them into different countries, even different universes but all the time you are the navigator.
On the 1st of November you, along with thousands of other writers around this milky way, will write the first word of your first line of your first paragraph of your first chapter…focus on that. Do not focus on 50 000 words or more. Do not focus on plot holes, story arcs or conflicts and resolutions. On the 1st of November 2010, you only need to focus on getting down that first chapter. Then let the Power of The Story take control of your consciousness. Don’t think. Feel. Let the beat of your heart set the rhythm of the words you write. We each have this power to tap into our Dreaming and our Emotions to flesh out The Story.
The true secret of NaNoWriMo is that you already have The Story within you. Just write the first chapter. November will take care of 30 days and The Story will take care of 50 000 words but you must focus on taking care of the first chapter. That is all you need to commit to.
The First Word
The First Line
The First Paragraph
The First Chapter
Every journey of 1000 steps may begin with the first step but every Story of 50 000 words begins with one word forming one line forming one paragraph forming one chapter.
So with 2 weeks to go until the Kickoff of NaNoWriMO 2010, make this simple commitment with yourself and thousands of other NaNo participants. Put away the Angst, the frustration, the anxiety, the trepidation. Be still and rest your heart for just a moment. Now commit to writing in the voice of The Story: the first chapter.
NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. This week has flown by and time is tick-ticking me forward to NaNoWriMo time. This week I have spent a lot of time perusing the World Wide Web for tips on preparation and inspiration for NaNoWriMo. In reflection of these sites, there seems to be a 50-50 sway on Plotting for NaNoWriMo, Some NaNo writers believe that plotting kills the whole concept of NaNoWriMo. They argue that NaNoWriMo should be an organic writing experience. Still others argue that it does not matter what you write as long as you reach the amount of minimum words.
As for myself, in everything I believe in Quality first. Yes I could make life easier for myself and just write whatever happens to enter my mind irregardless of the quality of the thoughts. On top of this, I also add that I take my writing very seriously. Even if NaNoWriMo is a competition to challenge yourself, never-the-less it is still a competition and in the end are we not trained to Go for Gold. Then surely this means that Quality and Quantity need to have equal parts in your NaNoWriMo.
What are your thoughts?
For me writing is reflective of who I am. Writing, whether it be in a blog post, for NaNo or a WIP; is about myself putting my best mental foot forward. When I get up in the morning and get ready for the day job I have a routine:
I have a mug of coffee and eat a healthy breakfast. Then I shower and get dressed. Finally I do my hair and makeup. This all takes about an hour of the day. When I get to work, I prepare the tasks that need to be accomplished for that day. Then finally I am ready for the work day to begin.
If I put so much time and thought into preparing for my day job, why would I put little to no thought in preparing for NaNoWriMo. The answer is I wouldn’t. If I put so much effort into my day job preparation then I must put the same if not more effort into any and all my writing pursuits.
This is why I rest on the side of the plotting and the Quality argument for NaNoWriMO. If I do all my plotting and preparation for NaNoWriMo now then I will be better prepared to write a quality submission. There is also another winning argument for plotting: If you have an outline of firstly what you want to write about and secondly where you want to go with your story, then you have a greater chance of succeeding at winning NaNoWriMo by writing at least 50 000 words of Quality writing.
Preparation is a key to self-discipline. A runner completes time-laps and has training runs to prepare both his body and his mind for a race. A student revises and studies course material to prepare for an examination. So what is the preparation for a writing challenge where you are to write a new piece of prose in a limited time span with a word count tacked on?
On the Twitter #group for NaNoWriMo, they have been doing NaNo Sprints. This is very good training for this challenge. It keeps your thoughts focused on the clock and on your word count. You also get into a rhythm that focuses your writing into a short time period. It also gets you to flex your writing muscles.
Another great way to prepare for this challenge is to Freemind. Freemind or Mind-maps are a visual way to plan your outline. I am a plotter in that I like to be prepared. This does not mean that I always stay in the lines but it does mean that instead of just one puzzle piece, I have a picture to reference that allows me to complete my jigsaw puzzle. Freemind is a tool I use to build the frame of my “puzzle”. Mind Mapping is a fantastic tool to prepare for any given challenge. It especially lends itself to something like NaNoWriMo. It is a very organic way to plot and outline without narrowing your thoughts. Instead it focuses your thoughts in a very visual way. Freemind is such a “free-flow” form of mind mapping that even pantsters can appreciate it. It works better for me than a bullet form or longhand written outline. I can combine short ideas with a visual graph that helps me brainstorm my ideas.
Another great way to prepare those mental muscles are writing exercises. These can vary from interviewing your characters to blogging or journalling in the voice of one of your characters. You could also picture yourself in the setting of your story and write a travel article for that setting. You could write a review of your unwritten novel focusing on the salient points. The ideas for the exercises are endless and are only bounded by your imagination.
One way I am also using to prepare for Quality writing is reading exercises. Reading is one of the best methods to stretch those mental writing muscles and the imagination arteries that fuel those muscles. The plotting, the word sprints, the main mapping and the writing exercises are all work for your mental muscles. They will strengthen and bulk up your mental muscles. However, you don’t just want bulk in muscle, you also want definition and tone. Muscles – mental and physical – are defined by stretching and toning. Reading therefore is the Pilates to your NaNoWriMo. So take the phone off the hook, take your wristwatch off, open a book and start “stretching”. I recommend at least 2 hours a day to these “Pilates” sessions.
Lastly, continue with your other writing pursuits prior to November. The more writing you do the more habitual it becomes. Writing everyday should be as routine as brushing your teeth every day. The more often you write and the more substance you write on a daily basis improves your writing. It becomes simpler to write Quality + Quantity.
There are 21 days left until the flag is waved and the race starts. Use these 21 days wisely. Remember the preparation you put into the simplest daily tasks and use that same self-discipline in preparing your mind for this challenge. Do research on how successful past NaNo winners have succeeded and listen to their hindsight when they failed. Don’t keep this challenge a secret but tell everyone you can about this challenge you are setting yourself. The more people who know you are doing NaNoWriMO, the greater are your chances that you will feel an accountability to both yourself and these people to put your best mental foot forward.
It is October. In exactly 4 weeks time NaNoWriMo 2010 officially begins. If you have not yet heard of NaNoWriMo, then let me tell you all about it. It is a challenge set up for writers to become novelists. The goal is to write a minimum of 50 000 words in a month. Writers, both published novelists and wanna-be novelists, from all around the world count down the weeks and months until NaNoWriMo. The event has become so popular that there are all sorts of spin-offs from it. Now not only do novelists have an event but young writers and scriptwriters too.
Writing 50 000 words in a month may seem like a crazy idea or an impossible dream to some of you reading this. But if you have a dream, you have to do crazy things to fulfil it. Dreams do not just come true without some effort of reaching for them by the dreamer.
Many would say that the two go hand in hand. Writing is seen by many as a dream or a way to pass the time. But I am a writer. This is my identity. Yes, I have a job that pays the bills. At the end of the day though my daily job does not define me. My writing however does define me. It is the truest form of me. So for those left-brain type nay-sayers out there I beg to differ with you. Writing is not a hobby nor a way to pass my time.
This year I am participating in NaNoWriMo. I attempted my own version of NaNo in June this year which actually seeded the idea for my WIP Trilogy. However, I had no support, no buddies, no forums, no hash-tag twitter groups…I had myself, my trusty Macbook, an idea and a self-challenge. Did I succeed? Yes, I think I did succeed. I got a lot of writing done and had the foundation of a trilogy.
But participating in NaNoWriMo 2010 is going to be even better than my own June attempt. This event has a website, it has support, it has writing buddies, it has forums and it has hash-tag twitter group.
Are you a writer?
Do you thrive on challenges?
Do you have a dream?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then by now you will already have signed up and registered for NaNoWriMo 2010.
If you are a blogger, you can also join and link up to the NaNoWriMo Blog Chain. Through here you can link all your Blog Posts about NaNo and the days and weeks leading up to it.
If you do register, look me up @ last_lines.
I am going to use a story-arc that has been tickling my imagination for some time. There are two methods of thought to tackle NaNoWriMo. There are the pantser variety of NaNo writers and then there are the plotters. Which do you fall into? I am somewhere in between the two. I do love letting the flow of a story carry me along to strange and distant lands. But I find that the ocean of imagination can be a vast and stormy zone if I don’t have some form of compass. So for the next 4 weeks I will be plotting a way through the seas by constellations of character and story arcing.
I am also going to use the next month to test out a new software program developed by one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo. The software is called Storyist. I have been using Scrivener since May this year and love it. I have heard some amazing things about Storyist so this year I am going to use this software for my NaNo novel.
October Sundays will be about blogging about all things NaNoWriMo related as well as journaling my points of inspiration / frustration in preparing and plotting for NaNo kick-off.
My creative juices are bubbling away. Now the only difficult thing is the patient waiting for November to begin and NaNoWriMo to kick-off. It is a good thing that I have other writing to focus on for my WIP or else I might find myself cheating and wanting to start on the NaNo novel. Don’t worry: I am not going to cheat. 4 weeks and counting…..