NaNoWriMo

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. 

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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? 

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

I wrote last week about what NaNoWriMo is and why I personally choose to participate. 

This week, I wanted to talk about my NaNoWriMo process. I’ve touched on this a few times here and here, but I’ve never gone in depth. 

I have a really specific process for outlining for NaNoWriMo. You read that correctly: I’m a planner, not a pantser. (Confused by those terms? Click here.) 

The very first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was a pantser—and it is crystal clear in the novel I produced! It is easily my weakest year. However, since then, I’ve written outlines and followed a detailed plan. I’ve worked out a system that absolutely works for me and if you’re already struggling to stay afloat this month, I think it can work for you too. 

1. Write a Synopsis

First things first, I write a brief synopsis. This is just my idea. Usually, it’s something very simple like: a marathon runner witnesses a gruesome murder. As she tries to put the pieces back together, the victim’s identical twin destroys evidence of her sister’s secret life. This is the basis of my idea: no more, no less. (This synopsis is verbatim from my 2013 novel.) 

2. Write 3 plot crucial points. 

The first point is usually the beginning piece of information in the synopsis; in my example, it’s the murder that the runner witnesses. The second point is usually the climax of the story, when the tension is highest; in my example, the climax was the arrest of the killer. The third point in the conclusion; in this case, it’s the murderers trial. 

3. Start Your Outline

From there, you have all the information you need: beginning, middle, and end. Now, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. When it comes to writing a detailed outline, I have a very specific process. Here it is. 

A NaNoWriMo novel is 50,000 words; so, I plan 10 chapters that are 5,000 words, at least, each. Each chapter has 5 scenes of at least 1,000 words. If I can plan more words or more scenes, that’s great, but that is the bare minimum. 

On my outline, I name each chapter, identify each scene, and briefly describe each scene. It might be something as simple as, Rory, the runner, returns home to find her boyfriend, James, has left her a letter. Or, it might be something as complicated as: Molly returns home to search her sister’s bedroom, where she finds a black notebook that her sister used to journal and a stash of cash, as well as other assorted possessions that seem out-of-character. 

I also usually place my big three plot points: the beginning plot point usually goes in chapter 1 or 2; the climax usually occurs somewhere between chapter 6 and chapter 8, and then chapters 9-10 deal with the conclusion. 

Outlining in this way always gives me a scene to work towards and a goal to hit. I know when I start a new scene, I need to write a bare minimum of 1,000 words. And as I’m writing through the month, I may add additional scenes or break scenes up into small, vignette-style scenes… but I always have something to move on to, even if I’m experiencing writer’s block. 

4. Edit your outline. 

I usually write my outline in September. Yep, September! Then, in late October, I read over the entire thing and make any changes: I add details, write character descriptions, move scenes around, add scenes, change plot points… Basically, I fine tune everything so that when November starts, it’s as easy as pie. 

How to Pitch a Story

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I was recently published on IFB. I made it one of my goals in February to start pitching stories to larger publications and getting published more and more. They published my article on writing a content marketing plan for your blog. I have a few pieces at a few other websites that will go live in March. 

If you've ever had a genius idea for a post that just didn't really, well, fit with your blog, you might have thought that meant that the idea should just... go away. Wrong! Pitch that story to a larger website, like IFB or HelloGiggles. Not sure how to go about it? Here are some steps. 

1. Review the websites contributor policy. 

Most larger blogs that accept submissions have a policy for contributors. It's usually in the footer links of the website. This is HelloGiggles, as an example. This policy gives you instructions of how to submit a pitch, what they need, and what they want from any submissions. 

2. Have an idea. 

It's easy to just send out a bunch of emails saying, "Hey, I want to write something!" But before you hit send, make sure you're sending an actual, concrete idea. Even better, have part of an article written before you do anything. 

3. Write the email. 

Make sure that the subject line meets standards. (As an example, Rookie accepts submissions, but you have to use the correct subject line. Again, read those policies!) Introduce yourself and then write a brief paragraph outlining your idea. Why do you think it would be good for that website? How would it help readers? Be sure to include a link to your blog and any writing samples you have available. Double (and maybe triple) check your email for mistakes before you hit send. 

4. Play the waiting game. 

Waiting to hear back is the hardest part. I had the quickest turn around from IFB, but for others, it can take weeks. 

5. Get published... or not. 

Boom! Your pitch gets accepted. What now? Time to write! Sit down and write the post you promised. Send it in the format they asked for (most publications are OK with Word doc format). Make sure to include a brief bio at the end! And again, play the waiting game. They'll usually let you know of an approximate publish date. 

But wait, what if they pass on the pitch? Well, that sucks. But don't take it too hard. Move on and send the pitch somewhere else. So it wasn't right for one website... maybe there is another one it would be perfect for. Do some research and find it a home. A professor in college always said that if she ever got a rejection letter, she immediately submitted either the same piece or another piece to a different magazine because it kept the momentum going. No matter what: keep the momentum going! 

How to Get Started On Wattpad

What is Wattpad? 

Wattpad is a website where you can post short stories and novels, as well as read and review stories of all kinds. 

Initially, I was very hesitant to get started on Wattpad. I'm naturally suspicious of posting my creative writing anywhere online--ever since my Livejournal days when people would steal my fan fiction and repost it as theirs, I have a major paranoia about having my hard work stolen! 

However, once I started posting on Wattpad, I really started to enjoy it. Plus, it's always fun to have new outlets for reading. I've read so many great stories on Wattpad--some short and some long--and it's so much fun. 

Why Wattpad? 

If you're a new writer (my most recent newsletter was about getting started writing if you've never done it before), it can be overwhelming to think of having someone else read what you've written. 

Socially, we tend to have this notion that if someone shows us their art, we know they can get better. We really love to watch artists grow as they paint or sculpt or whatever. Conversely, when it comes to writing, it's very difficult to be a starting writer. People have very strict ideas of what is good and bad. I have seen some halfway decent fan fiction get absolutely torn apart due to things that can be easily fixed with grammatical knowledge and formatting. But because we have this idea that you're either a great writer from the start or a bad one, people tend to give up--or, they tend to react badly to any criticism whatsoever, and so they never improve. 

Wattpad is a great way to get around that fear. When it comes to feedback, sometimes it's best to start about amateurs and then, slowly, through writing communities, work on getting better. 

Getting Start on Wattpad

I wanted to post a few tips for getting started on Wattpad. It's very easy to get overwhelmed when you first register--there are so many stories, so many tags, so many new things to learn. Here are some tips: 

1. Use Canva to make your covers. 

Canva actually has pre-made templates for Wattpad covers. How convenient! One of the most daunting things of uploading your first story is that cover, right? It's the first thing people will judge. I also use Unsplash for stock photos for covers. 

2. Learn how the tags work. 

The tag system on Wattpad uses hashtags--much like Twitter or Tumblr--but in a completely different way. Some tags are very general (like #boy) and some tags are very specific (like #high-school). Search through the stories and learn how tags work, so you can better tag your stories & find readers! 

3. Join challenges.

Both of my stories currently on Wattpad were written as part of challenges! Challenges are a great way to just get writing, regardless of what ends up happening. (Full disclosure, I don't love either of the stories I have on Wattpad, but I'm working on them!) The challenges on Wattpad can give you great ideas of what to read and what to write. 

Want to read my Wattpad stories? Click here.