Tag Archives: nanowrimo

Congratulations 2015 NaNo Participants!

The Month of Pain is over! As the dust settles from another National Novel Writing Month you’re either celebrating a successful 50,000-word slog or nursing your pride from yet another reminder that writing a novel is not easy–or that life gets in the way of the best of intentions.

Either way, my hat is off to you. I salute you, NaNo Participants of 2015!

I’ve only done NaNo once. I won, but at a cost I’m not sure I’m willing to pay ever again (at least while I hold a full-time job and still have young kids at home). So I have a great deal of respect for those who keep going back year after year. It’s no easy feat, and even if you don’t hit the 50K, there’s no shame in not getting there. It’s really more about the journey.

That said, NaNo brings out the hero in all of us. Many of you go to great lengths to hit that word count, including late-night writing sessions, lots of caffeine, write-ins, sprints, competitions–whatever it takes! I know of one participant who, as of Thanksgiving Day had only written 3000 words, but–through an effort I can only describe as Herculean–still hit 50,000 words by the end of the 29th. I’m still in awe!

For me NaNo was a spring-board. It proved that I had the discipline to keep writing every day. And with occasional exceptions I have been writing every day ever since. It takes me six months or more to complete a novel at my own pace, but I complete them.

And it was NaNoWriMo that showed me I could. It was the confidence-builder I needed to convince myself I could be a writer, that I enjoy writing enough to make myself do it, and that I still enjoyed writing even after making myself do it.

I don’t know if I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo in the future. But it will always hold a fond place in my heart as one of the primary catalysts that got me back into writing.

To all of you who put yourself through the month-long boot camp of NaNo, both the winners and the try-ers, congratulations! Well done! And best of luck with next year, should you decide to go it again!

And welcome back to life! The one bummer about NaNo is that you come out of your month-long, self-imposed hermitage to face The Holiday Season. Talk about your rude awakenings! Good luck with that, as well!

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom Stratton was born and raised in Idaho, and now lives in Utah with his Finnish wife, three amazing kids, three distinct cats, and a big, goofy dog. He works for a regional bank, and is part owner of a video game store. He enjoys writing, photography, war gaming, music, theater, building things, and reading. Though active in writing as a teen, he convinced himself it could never be a career. Decades later upon moving to Utah, where there’s something odd in the water, he has decided to get serious about writing. To date he has written five novels to be published posthumously by his greedy estate and is polishing a set of short stories to start submitting. Any day now…

An Hour at a Time is MY Time

When I’m really on a roll, I can get a lot of writing done in an hour. But where do I find the hour in the first place? They’re all over the place, like a kid’s lost marbles.

I saw a fun article about writing for an hour a day in this December’s issue of The Writer (and it’s only November!). While touting the rewards of a STEADY one‑hour per day, the author, Libby Cudmore, suggested 4 simple rules:

  1. “Guard your writing time like a dragon’s gold.” I suppose that makes ME the “dragon.” OK. I can breathe fire at anyone who tries to interrupt. Or, better still, put up a sign like “Writer at Work” or wear a special hat (your “thinking cap”) that warns family/friends off.
  2. “Develop a ritual” ‑‑‑ anything that says to your head “NOW is my writing time.” A specific piece of music, a relaxing beverage of choice, a zen moment’s time to adjust your brain to what you’re about to do: WRITE!
  3. NO EXTRANEOUS ELECTRONICS! ! ! “Seriously,” Libby says, “no Internet. Turn off your cell phone, too.”
  4. “Figure out your best time to write.” I’m a morning person. Someone who works full time, may write on his/her lunch “break.” Busy moms often find kids’ bed time is their writing time.

Whenever it is, ensure that you WRITE during that one hour. I am on a wonderful computer site called 750words.com. But, of course, you may write as long, or as many words as you want. I’ve mentioned it before: it’s free for a month. After that, $5 per month gets you onto the site which sends a daily (EARLY) reminder to write AT LEAST 750 words. You can set your own goal, both in word count and time. It saves your work ‑‑‑ no one else can access it ‑‑‑ pretty much in perpetuity. You can earn little on‑line “badges” for various achievements like starting, continuing for X‑number of days in a row, doing a NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) of 50 K in ANY month of the year, etc. It keeps your total, monthly and daily word counts and even analyzes what mood you were in as you wrote, which words you used most, etc., and you can see a timeline of when you were typing, when you took breaks, etc. I can generally pound out 750 words or even more in 20 minutes of concentrated writing ‑‑‑ often more. That could easily translate to 2,250 an hour, which could add 67,500 words a month.

So, what are YOU doing with one stray hour a day?

 

Wasted Words

By Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

Writers are wordsmiths. Writing words is what they do.

But sometimes, writers write too many words!

During the initial drafting process, writers often shoot for a word count target. This is especially true if we are participating in a challenge such as NaNoWriMo or Word Wars with our Twitter friends. The higher the number of words we write in a given time frame, the better. We do everything we can to win the battle, collecting lots of wasted words along the way, all in the effort to have the largest word count when the match is done.   

But by the time we are ready to revise and edit, we realize that many of those precious words we wrote in the struggle to reach our goals need to go away if we want our manuscript to be worthy of publication.

I’m as guilty of wasting words as anyone. It’s easy to fall into the trap of a favorite phrase that clutters my writing. I lost track of how many times I had to remove the phrase “a bit” from one of my manuscripts, but that’s not the only phrase I’ve been guilty of using. I’ve learned to keep a “watch list” during my own editing process, and the search function has helped me get rid of the over-use of certain words.

But overuse is not the only way an author can waste words. Sometimes we use words to “warm up” to what we really want to say, as fillers when we aren’t sure what we want to say, or because of habits we have picked up as we speak, which we let stray into our writing. Here are a few examples:

“And with that” –Writers add this phrase while drafting when they want to move a character from place to place, instead of just moving them. Almost every time it draws the reader out of the point of view character and into the thoughts of a narrator using the author’s voice. Remove this phrase and show us the action to strengthen your scene.

“Up” –It’s amazing how many times this little word can be added when it’s not necessary. Rose up, sat up, and stood up are just a few examples. Search for “up” and read the sentence without it. If the sentence makes sense, omit the word, or better yet, find a way to strengthen the verb.

“Thought to himself” —Everyone is guilty of this one, but if you stop to think about it, the phrase is sort of silly. Who else would you think to? Unless you’re a backwards mind reader, there is no way you can think to anyone other than yourself. Delete “to himself.”

“Small / Large” —We often add these words, thinking they help a reader determine size, but unless you specifically give something to compare the item to these qualifiers don’t add anything to the description. “A small man” could describe any man without another man to compare him to. Is he under 5’ tall? Or is he simply a couple of inches shorter than Michael Jordan? If you want to see how meaningless these words become, pick up a copy of Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen and read, looking especially for the word “small.” I love the story, but it becomes laughable when you hit the section where he uses small something like ten times in a half a page.

“Well / Um” –These words are wasted in conversation, and they are even more wasted in written text. Find another, better way to show hesitancy in a character’s speech.

Look over your own work in progress this week and make note of wasted words. Do a search and see how many you can delete. Do you notice an improvement in the quality of your writing? Continue to build your list, make every word count, and you will see improvement as you write.

One word of warning—you’ll also start to see other people’s wasted words as you read. This can be good if you add their words to your editing list to avoid in your own writing, but it may also drive you crazy as you realize some of your favorite authors could have been so much better if they’d only learned not to waste words.

 ——–

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli is the award-winning author of Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, When Hearts Conjoin, and Psychic Madman. Men of Destiny: Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith will be available in March from Walnut Springs Press. Staheli can be found at www.LuAnnsLibrary.blogspot.com.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn’t stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, "Escaping Safety," and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, "The Legends of Elldamorae," whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

You can learn more about Bonnie, and read her inspirational blog posts, on Where Legends Begin at http://www.bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

Post-Nano Thoughts

Did you make it? Did you win Nanowrimo? If you set out to do it, I hope you hit your goal. If not, keep going, and get it done in the next couple weeks. This is my fifth year doing Nanowrimo, and my fourth win, though on the year I didn’t win I hit 50K by the 10th of December. So if you didn’t make it, keep going, and get it done, you have a year (or more) to rework it.

Every year is a unique experience, and the outcome is different every time. This time I had the unique experience of hitting a point where I realized the climax of my story (which I didn’t get to before hitting 50k) is all wrong. I stink at climaxes the first time around. I’ve never written a book I didn’t have to completely redo the climax. The difference is that this time around, I realized it. So what happened to my story? Well, it kind of plateaus around the 50k mark and then fizzles for a few thousand words after that.

Obviously, I’m going to have to find out what the real climax needs to be. Everyone tells me I need to come up the resolution (including the climax) before starting the story–to know ahead of time what you’re headed toward, so the whole story can work toward that point. I’ve always done that, but for me, it’s never panned out correctly. So what am I going to do? Simple. Rethink the direction of the story, assign a new better climax/resolution, and revise the entire work with the new focus in mind.

Yeah, it’s a lot of work. But I’ve had to put a lot of work into every book, and they usually get rewritten so many times that it almost doesn’t matter what I write the first time around. I haven’t found a way to get my climax right the first draft. Maybe I’ll try writing the climax first next time… we’ll see.

Either way, I’m excited to have another book to shape. I’m sloooowwwwllly learning to love revision. Very slowly.

I’m also excited to have some writing momentum back. I always have to keep writing the first half of December (though at a much tamer daily word count), and even if the momentum doesn’t stick, I’m going to enjoy the next couple weeks of writing anyway.

So what was this year’s unique experience for you? Get any insight you could share with the rest of us?

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Nanowrimo: November 5

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

― Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Episode #37 – NaNoWriMo 2013 Week 1 with Chas Hathaway

ChasNaNoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is here, and The Authors’ Think Tank is here with weekly episodes to keep you inspired and motivated. This week we have advice and insight from four-time NaNo winner Chas Hathaway!

 

About James Duckett

James is a geeky, nerdy dude. He writes, sometimes. He blogs, sometimes. He's helpful to people, sometimes. He doesn't like to repeat himself, sometimes. He's funny... looking... always.

His hopes and aspirations of the future is to one day find a way that people will pay him while he sleeps. It is his dream job.

Nanowrimo Month: Day 1

 

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This year we’ll highlight a quote daily during the month of November to keep you focused on your goals and time spent online. Remember to keep track of your word counts with friends through the Nanowrimo site and chat with our group on our Facebook page. Mondays we will still post podcasts to inspire you to reach your Nanowrimo goals with focused tips so drop by and check it out!

If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.

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– Somerset Maugham

 

 

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Camp Nanowrimo

If you’ve never tried Nanowrimo, I highly recommend it. It’s basically a month when writers all over the world each write a 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s a great exercise in self discipline, plotting, discovery writing, and most of all, it’s a way to try out a story you’ve been thinking about to see if it has real potential.

I’ve done Nanowrimo four years in a row now, and only once did I not win (you win by reaching 50,000 words before the new month starts), and I blame the fact that my baby came in the middle of the month. But I still finished my novel the next month, so the exercise was worthwhile.

If you’re a crazy plotter, you’re allowed to totally plot out your story before the month starts, but the actual text used in the novel has to be written within the month time.

Nanowrimo is in November.

But lest that seem far away, I just learned about Camp NanowrimoIt’s Nanowrimo in July. Brilliant! Another opportunity to write a novel in a month. If you’re tempted to say, “But my story’s not ready yet, I haven’t worked out the details or story yet,” let me tell you my story about first discovering Nanowrimo.

On November 1, 2009, Jenni I were about to get ready for bed when she mentioned to me that she had a friend who was going to write a novel in a month. When I asked why he was doing it, she told me about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and how it was a group that challenged people to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I laughed, wondering what kind of goof would make such a ridiculous commitment. I love writing, but that would be way too much.

Still…

Then gears started turning in my head. “No,” I told myself, “I’m a nonfiction writer.”

Of course, I knew that wasn’t completely true. Though I’d never published any fiction, I’d started a few things.

Then my fingers started to itch.

“Argh…” I told myself, “but I’ve got a Christmas CD to be working on. I’ve got two other books in the works right now. Taking on another project would just back up their publication.”

But they wouldn’t be ready for publishing until next year anyway.

Then the laptop started calling my name. It was kind of creepy, actually.

So then I took a deep breath and realized that I would just have to look at the logistics of it all to convince myself that a commitment like that was impractical for my situation. First off, to get 50,000 words in a month, I’d have to write about 1,500 words a day – your average high-school essay. That’s not a big deal for a couple days, but every day for a whole month? But I knew I’d need weekends off. So at five days a week, I’d have to do 2000 words a day. Then I figured I’d need Thanksgiving weekend off. Let’s just round it up to 2,500 words a day.

No way. That’s like a five page essay a DAY! Six, if it includes dialogue. On a good writing day, I could get about 1,000 words an hour – if there was no research necessary.

Then I did a Google search to see what size novel 50,000 words was. According to my research,
The Giver is about 43,000 words, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is about 77,000, and Holes is about 47,000 or so. Even Charlottes Web is only about 32,000.

It was almost time for bed – and it was a weekend. If I were to do it, I’d have to start the next day anyway. I’d sleep on it. It’s always a bad idea to make a decision after 10pm.

As I showered and got ready for bed, a plot started floating around in my head. It was one I’d come up with years ago, but had finally rejected because it had too little message to it – a plot with no other purpose than entertainment. I’ve always had a hard time justifying working on a major project that didn’t have some kind of benefit to mankind. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, I don’t know.

But if I only had a month to write a book, it would be hard to write it with a grand moral message anyway. To do so would be to risk bombing the novel and the message. So if I was going to bomb a story by taking only a month to write the first draft, it may as well be on a meaningless story.

I didn’t dare decide that night whether or not to participate, but if I did decide to do it, I’d use that story.

With that thought on my mind, I went to bed.

Then the tossing, turning, sleepless night started. All I could think about was the stupid challenge. It was a horrid night, but for some reason, when I woke in the morning, I felt strangely fabulous. I suppose it was because I decided to do it. I determined that after the kids went to bed that night, I would get started.

What on earth was I thinking?!

But I was going to do it.

So how was it?

It was A BLAST!!!

I truly loved it. I had no idea writing a novel could be so fun. I’ve decided that with fiction, marathoning is the way to go. My first night I got 3,000 words just to give myself a jump-start. Every night after that I did 3,000 words again. I took weekends and Thanksgiving weekend off, and by the end of November, I had 64,000 words. Three days later (Dec 3), I had my last chapter finished, a bunch of plot-holes filled up, and 70,000 words written.

Hard work? You better believe it. The biggest challenge for me was staying awake. I usually go to bed around 10:30pm, but for Nano month I was getting ready for bed at midnight, and still having to get up at 6:30am for work. While writing, I made sure to keep snacks and a couple arcade games on hand for five-minute wake-up breaks. Remarkably, I never got bored of the work, and though I did occasionally find myself getting occasionally distracted with research for the novel, it turned out to be very helpful.

If you love writing, you’ll love doing Nanowrimo. If you are thinking about it, just do it. You don’t even have to wait till next November when they run the challenge again. Camp Nanowrimo starts in four days. Just suck it up and do it.

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.