NaNoWriMo 2015

NaNoWriMo, Week 1

Why did I ever decide to do this? 

Forrest was sleep on my chest; I had bottles to wash, milk to pump, and a dog that desperately wanted to be fed, but instead, I was frantically typing on my computer. Forrest had been asleep for approximately 40 minutes, which meant he would either sleep for another twenty or another hour. That meant I had  either twenty minutes or an hour to write about 1,000 words, but it was impossible to tell which it was. So I typed as fast as I could to account for this variable.

I'm proud to say, however, despite these obstacles that I've written my required number of words everyday. I haven't written ahead at all, but I haven't fallen behind--and that's definitely an achievement. 

As I started November, I thought I was truly insane for attempting NaNoWriMo with a newborn (#nanowrimowithanewborn on Instagram). However, I've managed to stay on task every single day, which is genuinely surprising. It helped, really, that Forrest was born a little bit early and we'd established some semblance of a routine together. It also really helped that I'd ordered a Boba wrap to help me throughout the day: I can walk, wash dishes, take out the trash, and, most importantly, write--all with Forrest strapped to my chest. 

This didn't, however, change me from often wondering why, exactly, I wanted to take on this challenge this year, of all years. Then I remember: I wanted to do this to prove that I can, that I can be a mom and creative at the same time. 

This is just a short post that I feel like, so far, I've been able to prove that to myself. I can be a mom, I can nurture my baby, I can keep the house somewhat decent, and I can still be creative. And I'm pretty proud of that. 

On Overcoming Writer's Block

It happens all the time: you're ready to write, you have an idea in mind, and you have the time to dedicate to getting it on the page. But the longer you stare at your computer screen, the stronger the desire to check Twitter, to rewrite your notes, to get a snack. Each sentence feels like you're pulling out your own teeth. It becomes physically painful to write. You have writer's block. 

During NaNoWriMo, writer's block can be a buzzkill. The more you try to write, the worse it gets. The more you ignore it, the further behind you get in the challenge. It's a catch-22. 

I have found writer's block to be heavily tied to procrastination: it's less that I can't think of what to write and more that I want to avoid the actual process of doing it. I might have hit a plateau in the story or I might suddenly hate the plot I picked up, but I know I have things to write about... I'm just bored with it. Writer's block is a convenient way for me to avoid doing the real, difficult work of writing through a crappy situation. 

But in the midst of NaNoWriMo, how can you work through the pain and get your word count in? Here are a few ideas. 

1. Rewrite your outline. 

Did you write an outline for your NaNoWriMo novel? If you didn't, consider creating a rough one now. As I've written before, an outline is one of the best ways to ensure success during NaNoWriMo

If you do have an outline, congrats! You have a few options. You can jump ahead to a future chapter that gets you excited again and at least get a word count in for the day. Or you can focus on reworking your outline to change the story enough to get excited again. Only spend about a half an hour doing this or else you'll spend a day tweaking your outline and avoiding writing, which is no bueno. Once you've got your outline set, get back on the horse. 

2. Do some writing exercises. 

I'm a big fan of doing short writing exercises to get myself excited again. There are tons to choose from and a quick Google search can give you a ton of ideas. Here are my favorites: 

  • Write a list of 10 things you'd find in your main character's trash can. 
  • Free write for 5 minutes. 
  • Write a list of your main character's favorite things. 

Any writing exercise should only take you about 5-10 minutes tops. Once you're done, think of how that information will help you write your story--and maybe you've written something you can incorporate into your word count for the day. 

3. Let yourself move on. 

Really hating your plot? Really not wanting to continue? Guess what? You don't have to! 

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you don't have to write the perfect novel. You have every right to start a new novel in the middle of this one or to change everything after two chapters. It's your novel and you can always fix it later. For now, you're just getting words onto the page. Don't want to continue with your main character or your setting? Don't. Start fresh. I promise, it will be ok (and it's what revision is for)! 

Share your #NaNoWriMo tips with me on Twitter!

Preparing for NaNoWriMo in 3 Easy Steps

Are you a NaNoWriMo newbie? 

Take it from someone who has won three (four? I can't even remember) times: preparing for NaNoWriMo is a way of life. I mean, if you want it to be. 

The truth is that you're just as likely to "win" NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month) whether you dive in without a minute of planning or spend a month outlining, scene building, and character mapping. But that doesn't mean you should jump in willy-nilly. If you're really dedicated to writing a 50,000 word novel in November, planning should be part of your process. 

Here are my tips for a successful NaNoWriMo November. 

1. Plan your time.

What's your November look like, time wise, really?

For those in the U.S., November is a holiday month. I've always struggled with NaNoWriMo during the week of Thanksgiving. Be honest with yourself: how much time can you see yourself dedicating to writing (and I mean, really writing) every single day? 30 minutes? An hour?

My goal has always been to spend 30 minutes to an hour every weekday after dinner writing, hopefully to my daily goal (1,700 words). On weekends, I try to dedicate two hours to writing--with the intention to get as many words on the page as possible. This has always worked well for me: on weekends, I can often write 5,000-7,000 words ahead of my goal, which means when Thanksgiving rolls around, I don't wake up at 1am in a cold sweat realizing that I'm now 4,000 words behind my goal. 

2. Write an outline. 

Depending on how you like to write, this might not be an option you love. But hear me out! I'm not typically an outline writer either. I usually like to have a rough idea of what I want to say, what my characters are like, and that's about it. But when it comes to NaNoWriMo, that just won't do

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, you have to think of it like this: it's more of a brain dump than a novel. I know, I know, unpopular opinion. But it's true! When trying to get 50,000 words on the page, you eventually have to settle for any words on the page. And that's much easier to reign in when you have an outline. 

I recommend dividing your rough idea into 10 chapters. Each chapter needs to be at least 5,000 words to hit your goal. Now, write down 5 scenes (1,000 words each) that you want to take place in each chapter. 

Why does this work? Eventually in November, you're going to forget a day, get sick, get tired, or just plain hit a wall. You can always glance at your outline, pick a scene, and write... and at least hit your goal for the day. 

Then you can worry about editing later... like in December. 

3. Get support.

Talk to your friends, your family, your cat or dog. Tell them about your novel; get them pumped about it. Describe the plot, the characters, the setting. Tell them you how much time you want to dedicate to writing everyday. 

Why? you ask. So they can hold you accountable. When you decide to ditch writing for after dinner drinks, you might notice your literature-loving coworker giving you side-eye. "How's the novel?" She'll ask and you'll remember: you're writing a book that she's excited about too. 

The more support you have, the more your friends and family know about your goal, the more they can help you to reach it. That might mean watching your little ones (if you've got 'em) for an hour while you write, or taking your dog for a walk, or promising to bring you a bottle of wine and a pizza after you finish your writing. Start talking about it now and you'll breeze through that novel this November. 

Do  you have your own tips for preparing for NaNoWriMo? Share with me on Twitter or in the comments below!

Am I Crazy to Attempt NaNoWriMo with a Newborn Baby?

A few weeks ago, I decided to take on a small research project. By that I mean, I decided to Google something. This is actually something I do several times a day. Usually, I search for something that, without context, seems bizarre, such as “28 weeks baby kicks seem fainter?” And then, of course, I read one link, begin to panic, and retreat into the cocoon of my bed until Forrest, undoubtedly, begins to assault my insides as retribution for worrying about him. 

However, this Google search was different. I searched, in this exact wording, “NaNoWriMo with newborn baby.” 

If I expected to get an in-depth blog post about taking on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, a project that I’ve taken on every November for 5 years), I was mistaken. Three pages of results gave articles about “nurturing your newborn, baby novel” and lots of stuff that anthropomorphized novels into newborn babies. Basically, weird stuff and nothing related to actually trying to write a novel, in a month, about 1-2 weeks after giving birth. 

I was disappointed, so I gave up, got in bed, and took a nap. AKA the usual. 

I decided not to think about NaNoWriMo for a while. After all, November is a long ways away! Seriously, a long time! I laughed to myself as I thought about it. November is, basically, like 6 months away. Lightyears. It is lightyears away at this point. 

Then, I realized, with a shocking revelation, that my due date is in 12 weeks. Less than 12 weeks now. 11 weeks. 11 weeks. I remember being 11 weeks pregnant. How did I get to 28, 29 weeks?? How did this happen?? 

So, I hit Google again. This time, I thought of ways I could augment my search to cut out the weird, treat-your-writing-like-a-baby articles. (This, to be honest, is a pet peeve of mine. A novel is not a baby; it is a lump of words that you put on the page. It’s not living and breathing. If it’s driving you nuts, you need to take a few deep breaths and chill. Also, the use of “baby” alongside “novel” without actually talking about a baby makes it hard for people who are carrying around babies inside of them to find actual information for their actual situations.)

Anyway, I searched for: “NaNoWriMo with a baby”, “NaNoWriMo with kids”, and “NaNoWriMo post-baby.” I got, across the board, almost the exact same results as before (“Why your NaNoWriMo novel is like your least favorite kid” and “Getting your NaNoWriMo baby to behave” are two truly bizarre 5th+ page Google results). However, I did find a few baby-related (real baby, I mean) NaNoWriMo articles and one interesting blog post

But absolutely none of them talked about attempting NaNoWriMo with a newborn. With a 6-month-old, with a 1-year-old, with two toddlers, with twin toddlers, etc., yes. But newborns? No. 

This, of course, leads me to believe that most people think I’m absolutely nuts for even attempting NaNoWriMo with a newborn baby. 

If Forrest is born exactly on his due date (which is unlikely, although possible), he will be 8 days old on November 1, aka the start date of NaNoWriMo. If he is born early, he might be 2 weeks old by then. If he is born late, he might only be 4 days old or less or more. Or he could not even be born yet, if he really decides to make my life hard. There are a multitudes of possibilities when it comes to "what my life will be like in November" and I can't predict any of them. 

With all that being said though... I find myself still wanting to try NaNoWriMo. My mom keeps reassuring me that, despite what everyone says, I will have spare time once the baby comes. I will have time to eat and take a quick shower, get work done and cook. Not as much time as right now, mind you, but I won't be losing it immediately. That means in November, I will probably have at least some downtime to dedicate to myself, to staying creative. And who knows, maybe having a baby will inspire me in ways I never expected! 

I'm someone who, very often, relies on the experiences of others to calm my fears. In many ways, this is one of the benefits of the internet. Whenever I'm experiencing a particularly bizarre pregnancy symptoms (strange taste in mouth, pain in my right side, spotting, whatever), I can Google it and find 100 different accounts of what it could be, or how normal it its, or whatever. It's comforting, really. 

So, to have no accounts of a new mom taking on NaNoWriMo is terrifying because it means I'll be embarking on my journey with no past experiences to calm me down or tell me how it will go. It could go fine, like any other year that I've completed a novel. Or it could be awful, a stressful waste of time that makes me feel cranky and silly and dumb, a 1/4-finished novel on my computer and no pretty certificate to print.

I'm willing to take one for the team though. I'm willing to be the first... if only so I can write about it and tell the world, one way or another, if it really is crazy.