Are You in for NaNoWriMo 2012?

NaNoWriMo 2012

I want to know!

I haven’t been planning on it — I really need to finish my current project before starting work on the next. Plus, my two and only attempts at Nation Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) have failed miserably.

But I’ve been thinking of doing a pseudo-NaNo to slather on the word count along with other somewhat insane writers.

Did you know —

there are some crazy people out there (you know who you are — glare) who consistently add anywhere from a 1,000-3,000 words to their WIP a day. A DAY. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I hate people who can finish a 60,000+ words manuscript in 4 months. But I also secretly love them because they are proof it is possible!

I recognize that this breakneck pace isn’t for everyone, but is definitely doable for me in my current situation. As a person currently between jobs (cough), I really have no excuse for not spending my plethora of extra time hunkering down and really fattening up my manuscript. Add to that the fact that I’ve set a soft deadline for completion at the end of November (a hard deadline for the end of the year), and I realize that I really could/should be doing more.

The minimum daily word count to stay on track for NaNoWriMo is somewhere around 1400 (probably, I’m too lazy to look it up right now), and that’s probably where I should be setting my minimum daily wordcount, anyway. That’s the kind of discipline and habit I want to develop.

So, I think I will join in, unofficially, and commit(ish) to writing 50,000 words in November.

Even though my last two attempts at NaNoWriMo fell ridiculously short of reaching 50K words. Even though I have a mountain of job applications I should probably fill out and send, instead. Even though my house is already messy and neglected as it is.

But even though I was far from succeeding, both times I participated in NaNoWriMo was a great experience, and taught me a lot about how I write. They were great, fun, and infuriating experiences. And, funnily enough, the current project I’m working on had grown from the seed of my first NaNoWriMo attempt in 2010.

So yep. Add 50K words. Write every day. This is happening. In a very unofficial, not-really-NaNoWriMo kind of way.

Who dares to try NaNoWriMo this year?

Are you outlining? Pantsing? Want to share your awesome premise? Comment and let me know! I’d love to be part of your NaNoWriMo support team :)

5 Ways to Make Your Writing & Screen Time More Productive

Typing is the fastest way to write. And computers are pretty obviously necessary for a whole slew of projects. But, it’s hard to keep the momentum going at your 9-5, then to expect to come home and continue slaving away in front of a laptop. But, as aspiring writers, this is often the only writing time we get.

A few months ago, I noticed that I was not using my screen time productively — at all. I’d sit down with every intention of working on my novel or replying to an email I’d been meaning to, only to later realize that an hour had passed and I hadn’t accomplished the task at hand. I decided to shake up my writing routine and try some new things. Here’s what worked for me!

1. Leave your digital workspace clear.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened my laptop with every intention of writing a new blog post or starting work on a new scene, only to be immediately sidetracked because the last thing I happened to be doing was derping around on 9GAG. It’s so much easier to resist the pull of distractions if they aren’t immediately staring you in the face.

So, take some time to save your work, bookmark whatever sites you need to, and then shut things down. It’ll give you a lovely, clean new workspace the next time you need to work — and you can choose to only open the programs or projects you really need to.

2. Know what you want to accomplish.

Whether the goal is to write a thousand words, log an hour on a freelance project, or write until the new scene is finished — having it in mind will help you get geared towards accomplishing it before you even start working. Don’t just have a vague idea; make a concrete goal that is specific and measurable. You need to set a task that is either done or not, so you have something to stick to.

It can be helpful (and rewarding!) to find a way to log the task and what you got accomplished. For freelancers, this is a no brainer (it’s a prerequisite for a paycheck), but for those working on projects for themselves, this can be harder to do.  It doesn’t have to be high-tech or crazy (currently I check off a square of grid paper for every 100 words, which is weirdly satisfying), but it can help you keep the big picture in mind and work towards your overall goal.

3. Batch your tasks (and distractions).

Batching is an idea that presented in a lot of productivity books, and it has some good merits. Sometimes when you’re stuck in a rut, it’s to think, well I’ll just check Twitter really quick, or, I wonder if I have a new email. But by going back and forth to check email or Twitter, to log your time, or so on, can waste crucial minutes — minutes that add up to hours. And when it comes to finding the time to write, that’s a big enough challenge as it is.

Not only do they suck minutes, these distractors also suck your focus. It can take you much longer to refocus and set your mind to the task at hand. By putting all these time vampires together, their effect is minimized. Set a time to do all these things — it could be 10 minutes every two hours, or half an hour at your lunch break — and resist the urge to check them the rest of the time. It’s hard at first, but it’s definitely a habit worth creating.

4. Track/manage your time with apps.

Our hardware and software enable us to do awesome things and to work more efficiently. Computers are made for multi-tasking, but our brains? Not so much — especially when it comes to very cerebral or abstract tasks like coding, writing or crunching numbers.

Here are some apps and web browser plugins that help keep track of time and turn your computer into a single-task machine.

  1. Rescue Time: This program tracks how you use your time on your computer, and analyzes it for you, helping you spot time-wasters and get an honest, real-world view of how you’re spending your time.

  2. Stay Focused: A Google Chrome plug-in, this extension limits the amount of time you can spend on distracting sites. My husband, for instance, uses this at work to limit the time he spends on favorite sites to 20 minutes throughout the day — making sure they don’t eat into his work time or focus.

  3. Think – This Mac OS app blacks out your screen, leaving only the task you are working on. You’ll be less likely to click away from your task if you can’t see icons or other windows in your screen’s background! Some word processors and other programs also include a feature like this — I’m currently using Scrivener, for example, and it has a “Compose” button that makes the document I’m working on full-screen, with the option to black out the background.

5. Step away from the screen.

Like I said, we can sometimes go looking for distractions when our brains are feeling tired because we’ve hit a wall or we are bored with the current task. Instead of getting pulled into something else, take a quick break from your screen. You might walk around and step outside for some fresh air. Plus, this can help lower your risk for health problems and get blood flowing where you need it most — your brain!

Sometimes it helps to just take the problem to pen and paper — something about working the problem out on a notepad makes your brain pay closer attention, and requires you to slow down as you think it through. Often this can help me find just the perfect turn of phrase I’ve been looking for, or help me see why what I’ve been trying isn’t working.

What are your biggest productivity-busters? Have anything you do that helps improve your on-screen focus?

Misplaced Writing

There is a scene that I know I wrote. Though I originally decided not to include it, I’ve been wanting to add it back in and see how it fits now that I’ve made a lot of plot changes.

The only problem? I can’t seem to find it, anywhere. I’ve checked every file on Scrivener. I’ve scoured my Google Drive. I’ve even thumbed through a dozen legal pads and notebooks — it simply isn’t anywhere to be found.

Now the debate is: do I rewrite the scene? Wait for it to show up later. Wait until revisions to see if it’s even needed? I’m leaning towards the last option, but I am sad that I can’t find it. Frustrating!

 

In other news, I did finish this: a long-form outline/synopsis of my work in progress. Yay!

Four pages, 4000 words, one whole story. So excited to finally feel good about the overall arc of the story.

How do you keep track of your ideas and writing odds-n-ends? Ever lose something you were sad to see go?

 

Writing Log: Synopsis & Plotting

I’m still working on the book I started working on in earnest back in, oh, January. I got stuck in the plot, bogged down in the mire of not knowing how to make all these loose ends work.

Recently I opened up the first chapter. I scrolled the end of a scene, hit return a few times and started rewriting the introduction to my character.

And it was like magic.

The scene was suddenly alive. It actually showed what the characters were about. It raised questions, created a setting. It got them going, got them doing something — which was really needed.

I went back and revised a lot of what I’ve written up to this point. It just felt like what needed to happen. Sadly, this dipped my wordcount below 20,000, which is depressing considering I’m expecting the completed first draft to be in the 80-100k range. An honestly,

I also took the time to write a more complete synopsis of the plot. Before, I’d written outlines, with each bullet point being a scene I was going to right. But a lot has changed in the plot, some of it has changed back — it’s all pretty different.

A lot of the 19,000 words I have will need to be edited down or taken out. A lot of it still needs to be parsed and updated to match the overall plot. But I do feel that I know better now what my plot is doing and where it’s going, and as I go along and edit or rewrite, a lot will need to be added, too.

My goal is to finish a first draft by the end of the year. I’d like to shoot for the end of November, so I can give the manuscript a rest and start on revision first thing in 2013.

With the new synopsis, I’ve actually been making pretty good progress. I’ve averaged between 1000 and 1500 words a day. If I’m going to be done by the end of November with an 80K word manuscript, that’s about right on target — though I’ll probably have to push it to the higher end of things.

How’s your writing project going? Have anything you’re trying to finish before the end of the year?

Slow Writer

Ugh.

That is all I have to say to the months of March and April.

They’ve been a bit of a whirlwind. Chris (my husband) has been in and out of town, to SXSW and a conference in Las Vegas. It’s tough to be home without him.

I haven’t written a lot these past couple of months. I’ve made some progress, but it’s been meager and sporadic. I write at work as an SEO copywriter, and though that is very different from creative writing and other stuff I do on my own, it still sucks the brain power. After having stared at a screen, coming up with new words and typing all day, I often just don’t want to do more of the same at home.

I’ve let my enthusiasm for my current project flicker a bit.

The same fire and excitement just isn’t there. I love starting projects — ho yes, I do. It’s easy and fun and full of possibility like maybe this is the one that comes easy, that just happens, that forms perfectly into a beautiful masterpiece.

But, alas, writing isn’t like that. At least, not for a whole novel.

I’ve committed to finishing the story/book I’m writing on now before moving on. Even though I keep having ideas pop up of stories that want to be told.

I read a piece by Karen River about how to finish a novel that she posted yesterday. It is pretty much spot on for how I am feeling right now.

But I will keep going, I have to do it. I have to finish this novel, and prove to myself, prove to others that I can do this. I’m an author. I’m a novelist.

Originally my goal was to have a first draft finished by my birthday.

Now — I don’t know. I’d still like to try for June 12th, but it doesnt quite seem doable. We’re going on a trip to Poland in three weeks, so there are plans to make for that. Chris is graduating and looking for a job. Soon there could be packing and moving and all kinds of wild fun. There’s no real stretches of quiet or solitude from here to my birthday.

I’m a bit burnt out with everything at the moment, but I’m not ready to give up hope yet that I can still pull it off.

It will take a lot of dedication, to do it. But the alternative? Putting it aside? It just isn’t a choice I’m going to make,