Is NaNoWriMo Worth it?

There are naysayers, who claim that writing a novel in just 30 days is a cheap tactic – that the writing that results from National Novel Writing Month is terrible and that it doesn’t encourage good writing.NaNoWriMo

I disagree. Yes, the writing that results from frantically writing 50,000 words in just 30 days can be awful but that is why the next 30 or 60 days that follow NaNoWriMo should be for rewriting, and revising. Once those 50,000 words are finished, the work is not done! That may put you on the right track toward a complete novel, 50,000 words does not a novel make.

For those who don’t agree with NaNo, and for those who have thought about participating but might be on the fence, here’s what makes NaNoWriMo great:

  • It encourages daily writing habits. The naysayers say that REAL writers should be writing every single day no matter what, not just during the month of November, and to a point,
    I agree. I do try to write every day and I believe that A Writer Writes. But many writers know what a difficult goal this can be to attain. NaNoWriMo gives me a goal and a deadline. Does it make me less of a writer to get excited about Nano when I should be writing everyday anyhow? Absolutely not. The excitement of NaNoWriMo reminds me not only why I write but why I need to do it every day.
  • It encourages setting word count goals. 1,677 words a day is not a daily word count goal that typically works for me and my writing routine. In November, I set everything else aside to write as much as possible in order to make that 50,000 word goal. It helps me set my sights higher and learn that I can write 1,700 or even 3,000 words in one day if I really focus and make the time for it.
  • It’s a great method for us writers to get out of our own way and get words onto the page. Writing a novel is an overwhelming, time consuming and – at times – daunting task. With a word count goal and limited time in which to reach it, there isn’t much time to stress over details. Instead, we must plough through and worry about the details later.
  • It allows us to explore an idea or a set of character without taking up too much time. With only 30 days to write a novel, NaNoWriMo is a great time to flesh out that character that has been in the back of your mind for a while or try out that plot you’ve been thinking about but weren’t sure where it would go. Writing quickly allows to explore ideas and see where they take us. When an idea doesn’t work out, I don’t feel too bad at the end of the month for only have spent a few weeks working on it. It feels good to know I tried without wasting months and months of my time. And on the flip side, if you like where the story is going, you have a draft of a novel in the works!
  • It helps us connect with other writers – During November, I know there are a whole lot of other writers out there who are going through the same thing I am and trying to reach the same goals. I love the sense of community NaNo offers, whether it is a virtual community through the NaNo site and social media, or a local community through write-ins.
  • It encourages writing for all one-day novelists NaNoWriMo reinvigorates us writers who are supposedly at this everyday while also invigorating young writers who could be playing video games or perusing Facebook but are instead trying to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Nano encourages people, young and old, to attempt their first novel, regardless of whether it ever gets published. For those who decide to try their hand at writing during National Novel Writing Month, even if they fail or they write 39,543 words of garbage they did something probably few of their friends would even attempt.

What are your thoughts about writing a novel in 30 days? Is it worth it or is it just a cheap tactic for wannabe writers?

If you will be participating in NaNoWriMo, please comment below! I’d love to hear from you and keep up with how you are doing in November!

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This Week: What I’m Reading, What I’m Writing/Editing

Inspired by the New Hampshire Writer’s Network Live to Write – Write to Live blog, I’ve decided to start my own regular posts about what I’m currently reading in books, audiobooks and blogs, and what I’m working on in my writing. I hope to make this a regular (weekly or biweekly) feature on the blog.

I hope you’ll share what interesting things you’re reading and writing in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

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What I’m Reading

TORCH_Front_Cover-330I’m reading Cheryl Strayed’s novel, Torch. I read her memoir Wild last year, about her solo 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail with no training or hiking experience, and I loved it. I was inspired to read more of her work after  listening to her speak at a ceremony for the Art of Fact Award from my alma mater, The College at Brockport, State University of New York this Spring.

Torch is about Teresa Rae Wood who is dying of cancer at the age of 38. Her family is left reeling and must deal with the loss and their grief.

So far, it is heartbreaking.


What I’m Writing

The short story I have been working on was recently read and critiqued by a writer friend of mine, so I am in the process of editing and revising that. Once it is ready, I will be researching literary magazine and possibly some short story contests to submit it to. More on that to come!

I’ve also been doing Morning Pages. Although I have to admit I haven’t been writing consistently every day, I am enjoying getting into the habit of writing (almost) every morning as soon as I wake up.

 

My Favorite Quote of the Week

“A writer, like an athlete, must ‘train’ every day. What did I do today to keep in ‘form’?”
Susan Sontag

 

Blogs and findings around the Interwebs

What Editors Want: A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines
This is an article that came at the perfect time – I will be referring to it in the very near future! It is thorough and very helpful.

Two Pages a Day
From the Writer Unboxed blog, this post has some great insights on how to take small steps to reach big writing goals.

21 Little Lifestyle Changes That Will Help you be Healthier
I enjoyed this article and its useful tips – thought I would share!

Just for fun, here are 28 Signs you were an English Major
I know the majority of these apply to me!

 

What about you? Did you read anything interesting this week? What are you working on in your writing? I hope you’ll share in the comments, and please feel free to link back to your own blog!

How to make Writing in the Evening Work for You

I posted about the advantages of writing in the morning, now I thought I should give the flip side of the coin equal share.

Writing in the evening can be a challenge, because I find I’m too tired and too distracted by the end of the day. After work there are sometimes errands to run, then there is dinner to prepare, and of course dishes to clean up and after all that, I haven’t got much creative energy left.

But after talking about the advantages of writing at the beginning of the day, I started thinking about the up-side to writing at the end of the day.IMG_0451

Here are some ways to make writing at night work to your advantage:

Use your Commute to Unwind and Brainstorm
I’ve got a thirty minute commute – often longer depending on weather or traffic. This is a great time for me to put on some soft music and unwind from my day. It’s also a great time to mentally visit my current work-in-progress. This way, when I arrive home, I can get started on the ideas I was considering on the ride home.

Note-taking and Planning
At the end of the day, I’m not always my sharpest. Evening writing might be a better time for me to brainstorming ideas, outline and plan. Even if I feel too drained to string sentences together into beautiful prose, I can make notes and get a jump-start on what I will be working on the next day.

Edit
If you can’t stare at a computer screen a moment longer, print a few pages you wrote most recently and edit the good old fashioned way. Your eyes will not only appreciate the break, but you may see things differently than when you’re editing on a computer screen.

Journaling
Writing at night is a great time to reflect on the day. For many people, journaling is a way to get centered- what a better way to end the day? It may even help you fall asleep faster to get the worries and stresses of the day off your mind and onto the page.

Do you write at the end of the day? What do find works best for you when writing at night?

Writing in the Morning

I have found that mornings are the best time for me to write. I discovered that, while I’m not exactly a morning person, I am capable of getting out of bed an hour early every day to write. When I began participating in National Novel Writing Month, I had some of my most productive writing sessions before the sun came up. Evenings, for me, are full of distractions and temptations I can’t resist (read: prime time television) I learned that, if I want to make writing part of my day, mornings may be my answer. And coffee of course.

IMG_0900Though I have not yet read The Artist’s Way, I recently learned about Julia Cameron’s concept of morning pages. Morning pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing done first thing upon waking. I love the idea of making writing the first thing I do in my day and have begun to do my own morning pages.

The writing that comes from these morning pages is more about getting my thoughts onto the page than about producing quality writing. I can record my dreams or my observations about what’s happening outside my window. My hope is that Morning Pages will help me continue to work toward the habit of daily writing.

To learn more about morning pages, visit Julia Cameron Live

Here are some advantages I have found to writing in the morning:

Do it First Thing and it is Done
When you make writing the first thing you do in the morning, you have not yet been bombarded with the distractions the day will bring. Write before you turn on the news, before you check your email, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed. Once you have done some writing done, you can move on with your day knowing you have made this small (or not so small) achievement.

Capitalize on your Dreams
In her book “Writer with a Day Job” Aine Greaney says that creative writing draws on the same subconscious side of our brains as our night dreams – writing in the morning is a smart way to capitalize on these just-awake, or almost-asleep versions of yourself. That bit of advice has stayed with me and is what helped me to get up early to write every morning during NaNoWriMo.

Morning Solitude
Sometimes, it is best to get the writing done before the rest of the household is awake. When I set my alarm an hour early and sit down at my laptop, even the cats are too tired to disturb me. This can be a great solution for busy families who typically have chaotic morning schedules. Early in the morning is a peaceful time when the house is quiet.

What do you like or dislike about writing in the morning? If you do Morning Pages, I would love to hear from you – please tell me about your experiences in the comments below!

Is Listening to Music while you Write a Distraction or an Inspiration?

When I sit down to write, one of the first things I do is open up Pandora before I start writing.

Some writers find background music a distraction, but I love to have music on while I write.

When it comes to music, I listen to aIMG_0345 little bit of everything. My taste in music include all realms of country music, from artists like Toby Keith and Jason Aldean, to the Dixie Chicks to Johnny Cash.  I listen to pop music like Maroon 5 and Justin Timberlake, and classic rock bands from the 60’s and 70’s. I have Pandora stations for Jimmy Buffet, Bob Seger and the Eagles.

But when I’m writing, I like to listen to mellow background music: Dave Matthews, John Mayer, or if I’m feeling especially emo, Death Cab for Cutie. There’s nothing like an emotionally charged song about unrequited love or a broken heart to get me into a pensive mood: Coldplay’s “Sparks,” or my favorite DMB song, “Stay or Leave.” I love anything with an acoustic guitar, or a long jam like Weezer’s “Only in Dreams.”

Music has become part of my writing process. I set Pandora to Dave Matthews Band radio and type away.

Music can set the tone or help to channel a character. When I’m writing a scene set during the Holidays, I listen to Christmas music – no matter the time of year. When I’m working on a longer project, listening to the type of music that I imagine my character would listen to, helps me get into their mindset. For my current novel-in-progress, I listen to jazz when I’m writing from the perspective of my main characters, Miranda, who is a jazz singer and pianist. Now it seems I can’t hear Frank Sinatra without thinking of Miranda. Her musical career is modeled after that of Canadian jazz artist, Diana Krall and I listen to her music for inspiration.

Do you listen to music while you write or do you find it too distracting? What songs are on your writing playlist?

If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway

As a writer, sometimes ideas come easy. Inspiration can strike while I’m in the shower, on the drive home from work, or while I’m reading. Ideas can take form from something someone says in passing conversation, the lyrics in a song, the words printed on a sign. But sometimes, our creative outlets are tapped. When you’re in a writing rut, nothing seems worth writing about.

It’s times like those, I find that I must write anyway.

William Campbell Gault says, “If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you’ll only have to throw away the first three pages.”

writingSometimes the best thing I can do is write just to see where it takes me. I have to write outside my comfort zone, both literally and figuratively. Sometimes all it takes is changing my physical writing spot, like moving out to the patio to take in the sights, sounds and smells. Or ditching my laptop and taking a notebook to write from a coffee shop or a park bench – these are great places to eavesdrop on conversations and take notes!  A change of scenery and a change in the regular writing routine can be a simple trick to inspire something new.

But what happens when you get to the fourth page, or the tenth, and you still don’t have any ideas? We all have days when it seems no matter how much we write, or how hard we try, the writing just isn’t there.

And that’s okay. Not everything we write is publishable, sometimes it’s just practice.

Looking back in old backup documents, I recently found dozens of short pieces I had written over the years. I couldn’t  believe how many of them there were and it was fun looking back on them. And it was then, I realized, even if I never get to quit my day job to write full time, I can still call myself a writer because, after all, a writer writes. And I will always write.

What do you do when you’re stuck for ideas?

New Year, New Beginnings

January is often the month of resolutions. A new year presents us with the opportunity for a fresh start. I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions just for the sake of making one. Creating change in your own life takes more than just a wishful goal made because of the drop of a ball and the changing of a calendar.

But this year is a little different for me. It started in December, a month that, with the joy and cheer of being surrounded with loved ones for the holidays, didn’t feel so joyous or cheerful at all.

First, the unimaginable tragedy at Sandy Hook where so many children and teachers lost their lives. Then, right here in the city I call home, four firefighters were gunned down responding to a fire on Christmas Eve, two of whom were killed. Events like these leave me with two burning questions, “How could anyone do something so despicable, so awful, so horrific?!” and second, “What is this world coming to?”

I was left wondering, (and am still wondering) how do we come back from a tragedy like this? How do we move on, how do we carry on with our lives and have faith in the world in which we live, faith in humanity, faith in life itself?

I don’t know the answer to that question, and certainly the answer is different for everyone. But I’ve come to one conclusion, and that is the belief that we must be the change we want to see in the world. The change must come from ourselves, we must create change in our own lives, our homes, our workplaces, our neighborhoods and communities.

For me, that means being a better person, being more grateful, more passionate, more positive, doing the things I love and having faith that life IS all it’s cracked up to be.

It starts with filling my life with positive and inspiring things. It continues with sharing positive and inspiring things with others.

So while I don’t have a specific New Year’s resolution, the start of this year marks the beginning of committing to living the life I want to live and being the person I want to be.

I’m starting small: I’m filling my Twitter feed with uplifting messages by following spiritual thinkers, inspiring leaders and sharers of Good news. I’ve subscribed to newsletters that deliver inspiration to my email inbox amidst the junk and clutter. I am actively seeking out positive, feel-good stories that typically don’t get covered by mainstream media, to remind myself there is still Good in the world. Most importantly, I love to read, so I’ve committed to make more time in my day to not only read more, but to read things that are inspiring and thought-provoking.

I hope to make these small changes and more, permanent changes in my life and my daily routine. And it is my goal to share them here, and on social media, for whoever wants to listen.

Happy New Year.