NaNoWriMo

3 Things to Know About NaNoWriMo

3 Things to Know About NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

Are you tired of NaNoWriMo blog posts?! I hope not! Because I definitely have more of them.

I feel like NaNoWriMo is one of those topics that once I get started on it, I actually can’t stop. I just keep talking about it. I have so much to say and for a long time, I kept myself from talking about it. I didn’t want anyone to think I was weird or… worse, ask to read my writing. (No, you can’t! I love you! But you can’t! I’ll die of embarrassment!)

Anyway, all I’m saying is: I have a lot to say. If you’re new to NaNoWriMo, I want to help you get acquainted. I find a lot of joy from NaNoWriMo: it’s really fun to take on a project every year. And every year that I succeed, I remind myself that I can do it. I can complete big projects and hit my goals, even if sometimes I worry that I can’t. And in the process, I write a story that I want to read and I’m all the better for it.

So, what’s this blog post about, you ask? 3 things you need to know for NaNoWriMo. Whether you’re a NaNo newbie or an old hat (I’m so sorry you’re an old hat) (that’s a very good joke, I hope you laughed), here are 3 NaNoFacts that you NaNoNeed.

1. The official word counter on NaNoWriMo has the last word.

And if it’s off, well, you’re out of luck.

Two years ago, I finished my story (51,000 words according to Google Docs!), copied-and-pasted it into the NaNo word counter, and… it was 49,000 words.

That’s right: somehow, my counter in Google Docs was off by 2,000 WORDS. I almost screamed. I threw a tantrum on Twitter. Emailed NaNoWriMo support. Then, I looked at my Google Doc, scrolled up and added onto scenes as needed. Copy and paste again? Still 200 words short. I was nearly in tears. It took me an extra TWO HOURS (I still nearly sob thinking of it!) to wrote those 2,000 missing words. But I did and I did it.

This leads me to this: you can use the NaNoWriMo word counter throughout the month to validate your word count as you go. This helps you know if you’re word processor’s counter is off (and nearly all my processors have been off at some point) and can help you readjust your expectations beforehand. So word to the wise: beware the counters.

2. It’s ok to modify to your specifications.

But Michelle, 1700ish words PER DAY? And then you start crying. (It is Libra season, feel free.)

Here’s what I’m saying: to win NaNoWriMo, you need to write about 1666 words per day for the 30 days of November. However, you can bump that to 2000 words per day and finish faster. Or, if you feel totally overwhelmed by that number, think of it THIS way! 1666 words per day is about 11,667 per week, or 12,000 words per week if you round up slightly.

So, you could think of each week as a big number (12,000 words) that you’re trying to wittle down as fast as possible. Or you could think of each day as a small number.

No matter how you think of it, there are ways to hit that number. (Trust me.)

However, if you really, really hate the idea of trying to write that many words per day and you want to fight it, here’s all I’m going to say: you really don’t have to.

Let’s say you want to do a poetry NaNoWriMo and write 30 poems in 30 days. Great! They don’t need to be 1667 words! You won’t be able to validate them officially, but if you want to write NaNoWriMo your own way, then godspeed, you crazy writer, you.

3. It is possible for anyone to finish.

Sometimes, I find people get caught up in the “can’t” of it all: they can’t because it won’t be good, it won’t get published, they won’t have time, they will get behind, and on and on. Bless them, but here’s the thing: what you write for NaNoWriMo does not have to be good. Isn’t that freeing!? You don’t have to write the next Great American Novel! You don’t even have to write a GOOD novel! But you’re much closer to writing a good novel, a great novel, if you write a novel. So whether you want to write for the fun of it (me) or you’ve always dreamed of publishing (maybe you!), starting now and making yourself finish 50,000 words in 1 month is a bigger step than saying you want to write a novel for 10 years and never getting to it.

Whenever I think about this, I like to this of this quote from Ira Glass:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Even the best writers and best artists have first drafts that are not very good. Good photographers have to take bad photos to start. All I’m saying is this: the sooner you get past writing all the bad stuff that you’ll hate, the sooner you can get to writing stuff that is good, that makes you feel good.

And, it’s time to talk about the time thing. I don’t have a lot of spare time either. I’m a freelance copywriter with a 3 (almost 4!)-year-old, a husband, a dog, and a house. I have friends & family and social events. I have finished NaNoWriMo at least 6 times (it’s kind of hard to remember as I get older, but since 2010!); the only time I didn’t finish was in 2015, when Forrest was a newborn—and even then, I wrote 30,000 words. So yes, if you want to complete NaNoWriMo, you can make the time. You can get ahead and schedule your time well and really go for it—and prove to yourself that you can write. So what are you waiting for? (And you should totally download my free NaNoWriMo planning guide here.)

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November | Writing Between Pauses

I love a good list, as you all probably are aware by now. On Wednesday, I hit publish on my NaNoWriMo guide which I’m so excited about. (If you haven’t already, you can download a copy here. It has a few basic worksheets to help you get ready for NaNoWriMo!)

Today, I want to switch gears, but keep it on NaNoWriMo: let’s talk what you need when November comes around. I’m talking the tools I use, the programs that help me function, my favorite coffee cups… you name it, it’s probably an essential. (Ok, I won’t include “my favorite coffee cup”, but you get the drift!)

One thing I want to talk about first though is why NaNoWriMo is so important to me—and why I think you’ll love it too. Whether you’re a young professional or a new mom (or a mom who has been momming for a while now), it’s easy to take on too much and get burnt out. So isn’t NaNoWriMo in that same universe?

I suppose for some, it might. But I know so many women my age, or just a bit younger or a bit older, are looking for something to pour their energy into. They are frustrated at work for whatever reason (even if they love it!) and/or they feel like everything revolves around their kids. It’s nice to do something that is just for you. As well, so many women who read this blog (yes, you!) are creative, inspiring, and have stories to tell. I’ve spoken with so many of you; I’ve seen your Instagram posts and your jokes on Twitter; you are as good a writer as any published author, I promise you. So if you’ve always wanted to write, but are intimidated by the big writing community (I have a lot to say there), NaNoWriMo is a great way to get some words on the paper and find a community where you are nurtured without anyone making you feel less than.

Now, without further ado: let’s talk essentials.

1. Google Docs

I know some people don’t like putting intellectual property on Google, but… there really is no better way to write online than Google Docs. With Google Drive, you can write on your laptop, your work computer (shhhh!), your phone, your tablet, whatever. You don’t have to always be in the same spot with one singular device. I also personally love the Google Doc tools: simple word counts, good grammar and spelling checks as you type (still in Beta, but honestly, very good), and a basic interface.

The only downside is that you require an internet connection to use Google Docs (unless you turn on offline editing, which is kind of a pain to use)—and an internet connection, as we all know, has a high potential to be abused.

Some people love Scrivener or Novlr to write online. However, I’m not in the habit of buy subscriptions to products that literally already exist for free. (No shade.)

2. A Good Playlist

Writing requires background noise. Just enough background noise so you don’t get bored, but not too much background noise that you get distracted by it.

I have a few playlists on Spotify that I swear by. Everyone’s preferences for background music vary, but my one big piece of advice is that if you’re at home writing, don’t use headphones. Play music on your computer, your phone, or via a Bluetooth speaker. If I use headphones while I’m writing, I’m categorically not going to pay attention, plain and simple.

Another good option is to pick a few movies that are just boring enough to listen to in the background. My go to movies at the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I’ve seen them enough that I’m not distracted, but they are pleasant enough to hear in the background. Plus, if I need a moment, I can step away and basically go into the movie without feeling like I’ve lost anything.

3. A Supportive Team

If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, one of the best things you can do is find a few friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo so you can support each other. There is nothing like being up early or up late writing and having someone to text, to bounce ideas off of, or to simply commiserate with.

4. A Few Good Distractions

“But Michelle, November is only about writing!”

Oof, yes. But if you spend all your time writing and thinking about your story, you’re going to get so burnt out.

So:

  • Download that show you want to watch

  • Buy the movie you have been looking forward to

  • Make plans with friends

  • Take out a few books from the library

  • Write down a few good recipes to try

Whatever floats your boat, make sure to indulge in other fun activities during November so you don’t suck all the joy out of writing. This is really essential.

5. A Place for Notes

Aren’t you glad I didn’t put something hokey like “lots of coffee hyuck”? The writers and coffee trope exhausts me to a certain extent (and I do love coffee).

But also, so does the “get a notebook!” trope too.

When I say a place for notes, it can be whatever you want: treat yourself to a new notebook. Or start a word document just for NaNoWriMo notes. Or use the notebook your carry around either way. Often when I’m writing I will think of something I want to include in a future scene. During NaNoWriMo, I try to stick to my outline and not write scenes out of order; it’s just easier for me. So, I will often take notes on anything I think of as I’m writing—such as a line of dialogue I want to come up again in the future. Sometimes I use in-app notes for this (like comments in Google Docs), but usually I just jot it down in my planner or notebook.

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work (+ Free Printable)

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work Full-Time | Writing Between Pauses

For those who are new to NaNoWriMo, it can feel huge. Almost impossible.

50,000 words!? In a month?!

Even if you love writing, even if you’ve dreamed of writing a book (you know, you have 400 notebooks full of ideas, or the notes app on your phone with random mishmashed ideas written down), 50,000 words can feel like a lot if you’ve never actually finished a plot.

But I promise you: it’s actually not that huge.

In fact… it’s not even the length of the average novel.

Sorry! I know!

The truth is, 50,000 is usually a starting point for a novel. And it’s a good starting point! If you just want to get words onto paper, 50,000 is nothing to sneeze at.

And NaNoWriMo is honestly the most motivating way to do it.

I do NaNoWriMo every year and have since 2010. Is this my 9th NaNoWriMo? Yes! Am I as excited as I was in 2010? Also yes! I have won some years and not others, but I’m so proud of the years I completed.

As I wrote last year, I don’t write creatively with the focus on publishing. I usually write stories that I can’t stop thinking about, that I want to read. These novels are for me and me only. Maybe in the future, I’ll sit down and cobble them all into something big and maybe with the intention of publishing. But for now, I just love putting words onto paper and getting 50,000 of them out in the semblance of a story.

If this is your first year doing NaNoWriMo, I have some advice to help you. If you work full time, planning and writing can seem like a big, huge task. I’ve broken it down here for you.

Before we jump into my tips though, I wanted to make sure to share my previous NaNoWriMo blog posts!

Now, without further ado, let’s talking: working, planning, & winning NaNoWriMo.

1. Schedule your time.

I’m a big fan of scheduling my time. Since I’ve gone freelance, I usually dedicate my mornings to freelance & client work. Then, in the afternoon, I work on my blog or any creative writing I’ve been planning. I usually mark this out in my Google Calendar, then in my daily planner, along with my to do list.

During NaNoWriMo, I will often add NaNoWriMo specific time periods. For example, if I plan to drop my son off at school in the morning, I’ll plan to go to the library and write for an hour before heading home to work. This gets me out of the house; encourages me to dedicate at least an hour to NaNoWriMo; and allows me to look forward to it, especially if I’ve been thinking of the story.

Think of the time you have during the day. Could you take your lunch break at a coffee shop and write while you eat? Could you spare an hour right after work to write? Do you write best in the morning or the evenings? Think of your typical day and schedule your time accordingly.

2. Write an outline, of course.

I’m a big fan of outlining. I know some people prefer a “pants” (that is “flying by the seat of your pants”) approach to NaNoWriMo, but I think most pantsers are the ones nervous about finishing or failing. (Although I would argue not finishing NaNoWriMo isn’t “failure.”)

If you have time to get ready for NaNoWriMo, then surely you have time to write an outline, even a rudimentary one.

I’ve written outlines for 8 out of 9 NaNos. Only the first year was I pantser, and while I finished, it’s one of the most disjointed things I’ve ever written. I haven’t won every NaNo; there have been 2 years when I outlined, when I didn’t finish. 2013: I cannot remember why. And 2015: when I had just had my son.

Outlining is a huge help. So, write an outline. At the end of this blog post, I have a handy-dandy guide which includes an outline exactly how I outline my NaNo novels.

3. Be realistic.

Plain and simple: if you work a high stress job, or you work and have kids, it’s important to be realistic. Every year, I approach NaNoWriMo with the idea that if I finish, I’ll be excited; but if I don’t, it’s ok. There is no reason to beat myself up for it. I’m busy and I have a lot going on! NaNoWriMo makes me happy, but if it starts to feel like a burden, I know I need to take a break or stop completely.

All I’m saying here is this: be realistic about your expectations of NaNoWriMo. If you already get up at 6am, you aren’t going to feel good waking up an hour early to write. If your job demands your full attention from the moment you get there to the moment you leave, you aren’t going to be able to break away for a few sneaky NaNo words.

4. Download my free planning guide.

It goes without saying that having a plan in place is so important to finishing NaNoWriMo, especially if you already have huge demands on your time, like work, kids, grad school… you name it. I put together a planning guide to help you get a few pieces in place.

My planning guide includes:

  • A schedule to help you plan your days, as well as write down some spots you like to write & your favorite writing tools, so you know what to grab everyday when you’re leaving your house.

  • An outline guide to help you plan your outline. This follows my guide that I write about in this blog post here.

  • A self-care worksheet to help you write down some ideas for taking a break and keeping your stress level down.

Do you have questions about NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing?

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing? | Writing Between Pauses

I write about NaNoWriMo a lot. It’s no secret that I really love doing NaNoWriMo every November, even though it often leaves me a bit burnt out. And also that I never plan to publish anything professionally, at least right now. For me, NaNoWriMo is more about having fun and really writing for 30 days—and less about producing something I think people want to read. (This might be the imposter syndrome talking!)

However, I’ve never really touched on what comes after NaNoWriMo. You know, the part where you let your novel sit for a little while then you go back to it. And edit it. And keep writing on it.

I’ve done that. (I promise! I probably reread all my NaNoWriMo novels at least twice a year.) But I never really talk about doing it or write about doing it. (Oof, writing about writing, am I right?) It’s just something I do, piece by piece, for several months, until it’s time for the next NaNoWriMo novel.

And just like NaNoWriMo, I have my own specific process for editing my NaNoWriMo novels. Obviously, I come from the unique place of not intending to publish anything, but just wanting to write something really good that I personally enjoy reading. I thought I would share my process in case it is helpful for others.

1. Find a beta

Betas are, in the writing world, people who edit your work for you. The term popularly comes from fanfiction—and I have a group of people I’ve known for years who beta stories for people nearly every single weekend. It’s just something they enjoy doing and they are very good at it. So if you are a writing hobbyist, and you really want to improve, and you don’t just want someone to read your work and tell you its awesome, look for a beta. There are so many great ones out there and you can get great plot and grammar feedback. Many betas have their areas of expertise, so even having 2 or 3 people read over your NaNoWriMo novel and make notes can make a huge difference.

2. Write a list of scenes

One thing I usually do a few months after November is going through what I’ve written and making a list of each scene. I can then use that list to guide me as I do my big reread and note where I want to rewrite a scene, move it around, or take it out completely. I can take notes on that list about what I want to change, and how, and why.

3. Reread, reorder, & rewrite

Once I have a lot of notes about what I want to do (as well as feedback from my betas of what worked and what didn’t), I start the often rather difficult process of doing those things. For me, this part is really tedious—it’s what I hate most about editing. But having a list of the original order of scenes allows me to know what I moved and where and why, so I can keep better track of what I’m doing without getting confused. Usually during the process, I start doing way more than I originally intended, then make myself tired. I tend to cap editing at about 2 hours a week, because otherwise I will absolutely get burnt out.

4. Print it out

If you read that last sentence, you’re probably like, “hold on… you only edit for 2 hours a week?” Yeah. Alongside all the writing I do, for this blog, for my freelance work, and for my job, doing too much makes me go bonkers pretty fast. And there is nothing worse than being absolutely frozen on a deadline for a job that pays, you know? Steps 2 and 3 usually take me a good 3-4 months (I haven’t even started them yet for my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, I’m not ready!). But, once I get that first round done, I will print out my NaNoWriMo novel and read through it with a pen. At this point, I will start noting what I want to add to it, if anything. Sometimes, I want to add in scenes I had originally removed, but have them rewritten and in a totally new place. Or written a totally new way. This step is one of the most fun parts for me, but can also be quite tedious—like when I randomly decide to change the voice about halfway through.

Once I finish this step, I start writing again—compiling my notes from my printed copy. Then, I start the editing process over again: betas, the list, and more writing. I recently thought about restarting this process for my NaNoWriMo novel from 2014—it’s one of my favorites, but needs the most work, as well as a load of research to fix some major errors.

What’s your NaNoWriMo editing process like?

4 Things To Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo

4 Things to Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

It’s NaNoWriMo prep season. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, I have a blog post for that. But long story short, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an event where everyone tries to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2010; I’ve won 5 times so far, which means I have 5 50,000 word novels floating around. For some, NaNoWriMo is a chance to binge write a novel they’ve been working on for years. For others, NaNoWriMo is just a fun month to write a novel.

For me, NaNoWriMo is all about having fun, writing a novel that I want to read, and feeling the joy of success afterwards. Usually, by November, I’m feeling a little “burnt out”—I spend most of my waking hours grappling with words in some form of another. I work as a digital marketing content strategist and copywriter; I maintain a blog; and my main hobby is creative writing.

However, oddly enough, November is often the thing that refreshes me for the next 12 months. It is sandwiched between my two big blogging challenges, Blogtober and Blogmas, so by January 1, I’m feeling decidedly ready for anything.

I’ve written a lot of posts about NaNoWriMo previously, especially about how I handle the task while also caring for a child. I’ve shared my planning strategy for NaNoWriMo, my typical prep, my tips for succeeding, and preparing for NaNoWriMo in 3 steps.

Every year, I feel like I tweak my NaNoWriMo process just a little bit in a way that makes a huge difference in my ability to succeed. This year, I want to share not just how I am preparing for NaNoWriMo, but also my schedule for doing so. So these 4 steps are all about setting deadlines for myself.

Ready to prep for NaNoWriMo? If you’re planning to go for your first NaNo this year, or you’re an old timer like me, I hope you find some value in this timeline. Let’s jump in!

1. By October 10: Pick a Topic & Sketch Your Plot

By October 10, you should know the basic form of your novel: the genre, what happens, and a few climactic points you want to hit in your writing. This is always my first step when beginning to prepare for NaNoWriMo (and I’ve outlined it in detail before in my posts). But my basic process is to have a notebook or Google doc dedicated to notes for my novel where I include all the basic information. This includes:

  • All my characters names, basic descriptions, and basic information that may come up (like birthdays, important events, and character traits)

  • A synopsis of the novel

  • and at least 3 important plot points, twists, or scenes I need to include for the plot

From here, I can begin working on the outline of my novel.

2. By mid-October: Write an Outline

Speaking of outlines, I always write from an outline for NaNoWriMo. That is: I’m a planner, not a pantser (aka flying by the seat of my pants). I divide the 50,000 word minimum into 10 chapters of 5,000 words and then divide each chapter into 5 1,000 word scenes. I then plan out each scene in basic detail: my point for a scene might be anything from “introduce [character]” to “[character 1] fights with [character 2]” to already fleshed out dialogue and scene details. They can be vague or descriptive. But the important thing is: I get the outline on paper so that I never find myself stuck on day 10 of November.

I try to have my outline completed and in a Google doc by October 15, or October 20 at the absolute latest. This makes the run up to November way less stressful.

3. By October 20: Sign Up on NaNoWriMo

This is a basic step, but every year, I find myself scrambling to remember my NaNoWriMo password. It was only last year that I reminded myself (by putting it on my calendar) to log in to NaNoWriMo.org before November 1 to set up my novel. Tracking my word count is a lot easier when I use the NaNoWriMo website because it gives me a daily word average, an average words per day I have to write to get to 50,000 words, and much more, as well as a graph of how I’m doing comparatively to everyone else. Plus, to officially win, you have to validate through the NaNoWriMo website. So, sign up at nanowrimo.org by October 20!

4. By October 30: Plan Your Writing Schedule

I’ve mentioned before that in November, I keep my schedule really strict when it comes to writing. I set aside two hours every night (or on the weekend, every morning) to really get writing done. And in that time, I have to meet my daily goal or exceed it. If I don’t, I’ll probably fall behind—and once I fall behind, it’s really difficult to catch up again! So, by the end of October (but before Halloween, because obviously, you need that night to celebrate!), have an idea of what your writing schedule will be. Maybe you’ll take your laptop to Starbucks every day during lunch to write. Or maybe, you’ll wake up an hour earlier to get writing done that way. No matter what, pick a schedule that works for you—you can even test it out a few days in October to see if it’s good for you—and stick to it.

Want to Write More? My 5 Tips to Get More Time

Want to Write More? My 5 Tips to Get More Time | Writing Between Pauses

There are lots of reasons we get too busy to write. Housework. Real jobs. Kids. Stress. The book that's calling your name that you need to finish. Social plans. If you love to write, writing is easy to push to the side.

Why? Because it's hard. Writing is hard! Let's just admit it!

Society tends to think of writing (in the broadest sense) to be absolutely easy. We all write every single day. Text messages, emails, tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram captions. We all write, so how hard is it, really, for someone to string enough sentences together for a book or a poem or a blog post? 

The truth is, writing is hard. Mentally, it's an exercise in patience to try to squeeze what you see in your brain out onto the page. And physically, it can be challenging; you're in one place for a very long time, with 100 distractions, having to concentrate very hard and type. 

Honestly, why do any of us do this? 

So, you've come to the conclusion: you want, no, you need, to write more. It's paramount. But you've got a toddler, or you've got a full time job, or you've got a million other things on your plate and that great idea you had for a short story or a poem has been languishing for so long that the spark of inspiration isn't just a dying ember, but a little piece of charcoal. 

Here are my five tips to sneak in writing. 

1. Say it out loud

Oh yeah, you heard me. Writing: it's about sitting with a notebook or a computer and getting it out on the page. Or is it? What's to stop you from recording voice memos on your phone of lines you think of while you're in the grocery store, or waiting in the pick up line at school? Record it, save it, and return to it later when you have more than 30 seconds. 

2. Carry the notebook

This is, truly, every writer's least favorite tip, but it's true: carry the notebook with you. Honestly, just carry it. It feels pretentious, to have that little notebook in your purse or in your back pocket, but when you're waiting for coffee and get an idea--you'll think me. You'll have somewhere to put it. 

(If you don't love tiny notebooks, you can also use the Notes app on your iPhone or equivalent smartphone.) 

3. Get up earlier

The birds are singing, the sun is starting to rise earlier than before. You have more daylight hours. So why sleep through them? Waking up at 5 or 5:30 isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you don't leave for work until 8:30, then why not spend an hour in the morning writing? Isn't that an extra hour in your day to achieve something you really, really want? 

4. Maximize the time you do have

You set aside an hour or two in the evening to write. But some nights, you spend it watching TV, browsing Twitter, or doing something else. You know you need to write, but the couch is so comfy. 

Listen, routine is everything when it comes to developing habits. If you actually want to spend the time your kids are in bed, or you don't have work responsibilities rearing their heads, then you actually have to make the habit. So, even though the couch is comfy, fix your favorite drink and head to the computer. (Just make sure your drink is on a coaster far away from your keyboard!) 

5. Ask for Time

You have a roommate who watches TV while you do the dishes, or a husband that starts working again right when he gets home. You want time to write, but you find yourself picking up the slack of others. Let me tell you: that's not going to work. Ask for the time. It's easy. "Honey, I would like an hour to go get some writing done. Can you watch the kids?" or "Hey, can you finish these dishes so I can go finish up something I'm working on?" takes 5 seconds. If asking doesn't work, demand it. "I need an hour!" you will say, going into your office and closing the door. 

If the toddler destroys the living room, you'll deal with it later. 

More Posts on Writing

What I Learned from 3 Months of Challenges: Blogmas, NaNoWriMo, & Blogtober

What I Learned from 3 Months of Challenges | Writing Between Pauses

Blogtober. NaNoWriMo. Blogmas. 

3 months, 3 writing challenges. 

I survived--and I completed each challenge. 

Sometimes, I feel like I can't finish anything. I start stories and never finish; I start projects and lose steam; I pick up hobbies and let them languish. It's embarrassing, especially when it feels like so many people I know are so capable of completely important, exciting passion projects. 

So when I decided to do Blogtober, in the lazy last days of September, I knew I was committing to a lot because I also knew that I would be doing NaNoWriMo, as I usually do. But then, midway through Blogtober, I hesitantly write "Blogmas" on the top of my December editorial calendar. But that simple writing was enough to make me feel committed. 

At the end, I was very, very tired--a little of blogging, but I also almost felt refreshed by it. It made me love blogging again. It made me love writing again! It gave me so many ideas for content that I have through April filled in my editorial calendar! 

I wanted to talk about everything I learned from 3 months of doing writing challenges, because I think it's important to always look back and reflect on what worked and what didn't. 

1. I know my limitations. 

I was about halfway through Blogtober when I realized that, no, I couldn't really keep up with other social media while I was doing so much writing and editing, as well as graphic design. I just wasn't capable of it! I wish I was. Knowing that I wasn't able to keep up, as well as I wanted to, in regards to Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest almost gave me freedom to keep going. It removed a lot of the pressure. Instead of trying to post every day, I focused on the weekends or doing what I was able to--which almost worked to my benefit because I had more time to dedicate to content and writing. 

2. Having a goal left me energized. 

I think most people feel this way when they have a goal and meet it. Getting to December 31 and realizing I had been writing, posting, editing, and more every single day for the past 3 months was monumental. I got so much done! I felt great! I had so many ideas! More than anything, I feel like both Blogtober and Blogmas gave me really good ideas of the kind of content that people want from this blog--what they connect with, what they don't, and how I can be better. 

3. I never really know what the best content will be. 

My most popular post of the last 3 months is about tea. I'm serious. I've gotten more traffic, and retweets, and mentions, about a post about tea than any other post I've ever written. Not my post about how we don't do Santa. Not my post about breastfeeding. Not any review I've ever written. Tea. Y'all love tea! I am still genuinely stunned when I see the analytics of that post! It shocks me! But I also love it because I feel like it gives me such insight into what people enjoy and the niche I can fill. 

Would I do it again? 

When I told my husband I was writing this post, he asked me, "Would you do it again?" 

That's a good question. 

The short answer is, yes, absolutely. I had my best months ever in December and October. I got emails about sponsorship and being added to PR lists. I made friends with bloggers. I got opportunities I never imagined! 

However, the longer answer is, perhaps, it really depends. In the next year, I plan to get pregnant again, maybe, definitely, no, actually... I'm very undecided and wishy-washy about the next year. Part of me wants to just have fun and see where the current success of Writing Between Pauses takes me! But another part of me likes having the structure of knowing what's coming. So hesitantly, I say, yes, absolutely. But another part of me wonders if I'll be pregnant then! 

Did you do any challenges in October, November or December? What did you learn? 

Check In: NaNoWriMo Week 3

Check In: NaNoWriMo Week 3 | Writing Between Pauses

Has November been a month or has November been a month? The longest month ever and yet, somehow it was just November 1 and now it's the 17th? And next week is Thanksgiving? And I'm really behind on my Blogmas posts? 

The plus side: I am actually not behind on NaNoWriMo. My outline process (that I wrote about last week) has been a huge help, especially as things happen and I have to get ahead while I can. On Tuesday, I hit over 35,000 words, meaning I'm at least a week ahead... which is good. 

There are always going to be days where I don't want to write or can't write. On Wednesday, I was dealt a pretty serious blow; I can't talk about it yet, just know that it has to do with work and it has surprisingly not sent me into an absolute anxiety spiral. However, Wednesday evening, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do less than write. After I went to the gym, I lied on the couch and ate Goldfish crackers, watching the Great British Bake Off on my phone. It's all I could bring myself to do; I'd expended all my nervous and creative energy on keeping myself together the entire day. 

Thankfully, I was several days ahead, so taking a day off felt ok. I am a little nervous about writing further than where I am in the story, because creativity wise, I do feel a little spent after this week (especially Wednesday). I'm hoping a little relaxing this weekend will help me get back on track creatively (and also start Blogmas posts, because I am so, so behind on Blogmas). 

How are you doing on NaNoWriMo? Any tips for getting back on track?