NaNoWriMo 2017

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. 

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo? | Writing Between Pauses

Oh, you thought I'd take a break after Blogtober? Well, that would probably be a good idea. Instead, I'm taking on NaNoWriMo and I plan to blog through the entire month. Wow! Also, I'm pre-writing December content for Blogmas. Uh oh, I've overbooked myself! 

It was 2010 when I decided to take the plunge and do NaNoWriMo for the first time. I’d heard of it through a few friends throughout college—I distinctly remember one of my good friends making an attempt in 2009—but I’d never committed to it myself. I knew I was better at writing short form than long form and I felt pigeon holed into that. 

However my senior year, I was living alone in a little apartment off campus without heating; I had a lot of spare time despite having a full schedule. I spent a lot of time with friends, or studying in the library, or working out in my apartment just to stay warm. I figured I might as well fill the time and take on something big, right? 

2010 was the first year I won. I won in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 as well. I don’t think I attempted in 2011; I can’t totally remember and I can’t find any evidence of a story, that’s for sure! It should go without saying: that first novel in 2010 was bad. I distinctly remember halfway through the month losing my notes I’d written—so I suddenly couldn’t recall how old characters were, their full names, how they were related. Halfway through, it just turned into a brain dump mess. 

My novels have steadily gotten better since then. 2010 was tragic, and so was 2012; 2013 has a good idea and I remember really liking what I wrote, but reading through it recently, it is also tragic. 2014 is quite good; with a little hard work, I think it could be really good. And 2016 is my best novel yet and, funny enough, was the easiest year I can remember winning. I was always ahead on my daily work count. 

As I go into my 6th time doing NaNoWriMo, I wanted to talk about what NaNoWriMo is and why I do it. 

What is NaNoWriMo? 

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, aka November. It’s a month where writers attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You write round 1,670 words a day. You can sign up on to officially commit (it’s free, don’t worry) and be verified through their word counting system. (Although, as a warning, their word counting system is always at least 4,000 words off my word documents counter! So write more than 50,000 before you verify or you’ll be mad.) 

For lots of writers, NaNoWriMo gives them a community to work on their writing skills, get inspiration and feedback, and find kinship with other people. 

Why I Do NaNoWriMo

I recently posted a thread on Twitter about how I don’t do NaNoWriMo, and I don’t write in general, with any thought of publishing. The truth is, I don’t want to be published. I used to think that was my dream, but I realize now that it’s just not something I want to pursue; I am happy to write my passion projects, the books I want to read, and leave them at the end. I love the novel I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo and even my husband says I should attempt to get it published; but I just don’t want to! It’s too personal. I write because it’s my hobby, because it’s how I motivate myself, because I need to create to feel happy. But for me, publishing isn’t the end goal. 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? 

Is it your first year taking on NaNoWriMo? Or are you an old timer like me? I’d love to connect with you on Twitter so we can motivate each other, talk about our books, and grouse about the NaNoWriMo word counter! Follow me here and send me a note! 

5 Tropes Romance Novels Need to Drop

I love romance novels. I never thought I would write that phrase, because I used to hate them--but I don't anymore. Romance novels can be fun, little escapes that are nothing more than pure fun. Nothing serious happens. The heroine always gets the guy. It's all great. 

But the more romance novels I read, the more I realize: some of these tropes are just plain bad... but also so sickeningly common. It feels so easy for romance novels to keep writing the same formulaic story over and over and over... and over... and over... again, for years! It's easy to forget that times outside of the story have changed. 

So here are 5 tropes that romance novels seriously need to drop. If you're a romance writer, avoid these things like the plague. 

1. The controlling, alpha male lead with a tragic past. 

This tragic past conveniently always allows the heroine to forgive him for his downright shitty, abusive behavior. I recently read a romance novel (that I reviewed, rather unkindly, on Goodreads) that featured a romantic lead that was just plain abusive. He was mean; he refused to let the heroine eat if she showed up to dinner late (!!); and he treated her like trash. But when she found out his tragic story, she instantly forgave him. Oh no, no. That's not how life works. Let's drop these male lead characters, shall we? I'm only here for romances that feature diverse, compassionate, kind romantic leads from now on. 

2. The delicate, tiny, virginal heroine, also with a tragic past. 

The heroine in romance novels is always described a very specific way: she is slim, she is tiny, she is long-legged, she is either blonde or has "honey-colored" brown hair (she's never dark-haired, or dark-skinned, or short, or on the plump side). She is also a doormat, universally, with a tragic past that she hasn't received therapy for, but has moved on from pretty quickly. She's also always, always virginal. I'm over it. I'm done. Give me diverse, dynamic, powerful lead, please. 

3. The appropriation of other cultures. 

If I had a nickel for every time a female lead in a romance novel donned the traditional dress of another culture and "pulled it off," I'd have more nickels that I knew what to do with. Can we just drop this trope immediately? If you're lead is a white woman, please don't let her put on a headdress for Coachella, a Cheongsam for a fancy party, or anything else. She can wear a gown or some denim shorts like everyone else. 

4. The insta-love storylines. 

"He touched my hand and it burned through my body." I'm sorry, I know this is fantasy, but no. That's not how it happens. I want storylines where they are "meh" about each other for a while, or where they become friends first and then fall in love. I want storylines that are more about building something, rather than finding something already built and just stepping into it. Less insta-love, more actual romance. 

5. Everyone is rich (everyone).

50 Shades of Grey did the world many disservices, but the number one disservice is introducing the world to the idea that, oh yeah, everyone in a novel can be billionaires! A novel I read recently featured a rich ranch owner who took in a... secretly rich girl who was also a ranch owner. It removes any requirements of plot from the author; when your characters don't have to worry about money, they can spend all their time focusing on the romantic lead. That's boring. I need drama! Less billionaires, please.