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!

Easy ways to Backup your Work

Last week, I talked about the agonizing feeling of losing your writing. I was kicking myself for losing a notebook I had written something potentially brilliant in. I am still upset that I lost my first “real” novel that I wrote over ten years ago because of a bad floppy disk.

Now floppy disks are a thing of the past, replaced by CDs and USB drives. Today, there are plenty of options for backing up your work. Never lose your writing again!

Dropbox – If you’re not using Dropbox, it’s a great way to access your files from multiple computers and it serves as a sort of backup system for your writing! Dropbox is a web-based hosting service where you can save and share up to 2GB of documents, photos and videos for free (for up to 2GB of file storage). The files sync so that your updated files are available on any machine on which you’ve downloaded Dropbox. So I can work on my novel on my laptop, and have the updated version already on my desktop and pick up right where I left off.  You can also access your files on your web account, in case you’re on a computer that doesn’t have Dropbox installed.

It’s easy to use and its Free.  No more emailing files back and forth to yourself or carrying around your USB drive (though backing up on your USB can’t hurt!) Watch the video or download it at Dropbox.com

External Hard drive – an external hard drive is an expense, but a worthwhile one. I use an external hard drive to back up all my computer files at least once a year – although I should be doing it much more often! They are portable, easy to use and widely available online and in any computer store near you. You can one with a capacity and a price tag that works for you.

Evernote – is the electronic version of carrying a notepad with you. If you’re struck with sudden inspiration, use this app to save and capture your ideas, then access them anywhere with your computer, phone or other mobile device. I use it to jot down story ideas and potential character names as an alternative to jotting notes on scraps of paper which I inevitably lose.

What methods do you use to backup your work?

What are you waiting for? Go backup your writing! Happy saving!

Losing your Writing

There’s nothing worse than losing a good idea because you forgot to write it down – except maybe writing it down then losing the notebook you wrote it in…

IMG_0492I keep notebooks. I make notes, write down observations, record snippets of conversations, jot ideas and make lists. I have spiral bounds notebooks, composition books with marble covers, legal pads, and notebooks small enough to fit in my purse.  Once I fill a notebook or finish with it I keep it. But I have a terrible habit of writing things down and then forgetting which notebook I wrote them in.

I can’t be the only one who has done this.

I am now kicking myself because I have written something (potentially) brilliant and can’t find the notebook it is written in.

I came across this particular piece earlier this summer while I was cleaning out my filing cabinet, penned in an old notebook. I remember writing it, sitting in class and ignoring the lesson entirely, instead filling eight or ten pages reflecting on the most awkward and hellish years of my life – middle school. While the writing itself isn’t my greatest, it was written with such honesty and clarity I could remember the night before that first day of school like it was yesterday.

I thought I’d like to reread it, perhaps rework it into some sort of personal essay, not necessarily for public consumption, but for my own enjoyment.

And now that I can’t find that notebook anywhere, I’m afraid I have lost it, that I perhaps threw it away in my cleaning frenzy.

But how could I have done such a thing? As a rule, I never throw my writing away, no matter how terrible it may seem. Anything we’ve written represents what we were feeling at that moment. I still have stories I write longhand in elementary school, but lost an entire novel-length story I wrote in high school that I had saved on a 3.5 inch floppy disk (yeah, remember those?)

What is a writer to do when she has lost a piece of writing?

The obvious advice here is to BACKUP YOUR WORK. With great tools like Dropbox I can save my work to the Cloud and access it just about anywhere. But that doesn’t help me keep track of my random scribbles on scraps of paper.

Have you ever lost your writing?

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!

Books for Writers: Writer with a Day Job

As writers, many of us dream of the day we’ll be able to give up our day jobs to write full time. We struggle to find time to write between, work and/or school, family, and the other obligations that fill our time. We often find (or make) excuses. How do we find the time to write when writing isn’t our full-time job?

I first read Writer with a Day Job by Aine Greaney in preparation for NaNoWriMo. I was grabbed by the title and subtitle: “Inspiration & Exercises to Help You Craft a Writing Life Alongside Your Career.”

This book lists challenges (read: excuses) writers with day jobs face and ways to overcome them. It offers suggestions to find time to write during your day. For some writers, that might mean waking an up an hour early to write before the workday starts, during your lunch hour, or at the end of the day.

Aine believes the two attributes which distinguish real writers from the wannabe are desire and discipline. It’s not enough to want to write, we must have the discipline to sit down and write day after day. That means we must find the time in our daily lives to grab that writing time whenever we can. Write something, anything in the time you have. Jot notes about your characters, map our your next scene. Make observations about the people/places/things around you.

I love her suggestion to “visit your writing.” On the days we can’t write, she suggests mentally logging out of other tasks to simply think about our writing. The best time for me to do this is on my drive home from my day job. I can think about my next scene, about my characters or work out  a plot problem in those few moments of solitude.

The greatest takeaway from this book for me is that having the discipline to write regularly, doesn’t mean writing dozens of pages every day. It means making the most of our day to find time for creative expression, and to have a productive writing life no matter how busy we may be.

Many of us will never be able to quit our jobs and write full time. Let’s face it, with exception of a very luck few, publishing a book will not allow you to quit your day job. But changing your attitude and the way you approach those extra few minutes of your day can make all the difference to finding balance between work and writing.

Are you a writer with a day job? How do you make the time in your day to write?

Check out my For Writers page to find other great books for writers and resources I have found helpful .

What to do When you’re “In-Between” Writing Projects

We’ve all heard the phrase, someone who says they are “in-between” jobs. But what about writers who are “in-between” writing projects?

I just finished a short story I’ve been working on for a few months. For the new couple of weeks, I’ll be taking a break from that story, while my long-time friend reads it for me. Once she gives me her feedback, I’ll be able to rewrite/revise the story with fresh eyes.

That means, for now, I’m not writing anything.

It’s good to step back from a piece after you’ve been working on it for a while. But without a current work-in-progress, I’m a little unsure of the next step.

I certainly have a few options:

A Writing Hiatus
The first option is to take a break from writing altogether and maintain my current status of “Not Writing Anything.”  I could make more time in my day for reading. Breaking Bad is on TV again, I can certainly fill some time with that. While a short break from writing might be nice, I know that not writing usually does more harm than good. It’s better to keep writing, than to stop and try to get back into the routine.

Something Old
We all have unfinished writing projects – some of us have many stories waiting to be revisited. I’ve been toying with the idea of blowing the dust off the old novel. I’ve grown so much as a writer since I first began writing it, I know that a rewrite will make it even better, but the idea of reworking my novel is so daunting I’ve been putting it off!

In the few months my novel has been sitting dormant, I’ve penned a few short stories – some that were just for fun (or, as I like to think of it, practice) that I won’t necessarily continue to work on, and others that I will. Should I put these shorter works on the back burner and bring my novel back to the forefront, or focus on the shorter pieces?

Something New
Another option is to start a brand new project. I could start off fresh, open a brand new word document and start typing. This might be a good time to pursue those ideas that have been lurking in the back of my mind for a while that I haven’t yet tried to put onto paper.

Free Write
Natalie Goldberg says, “You have to give yourself the space to write a lot without a destination.” Maybe the best idea is to simply write without any end result in mind. I could simply find a clean page in my notebook and see where it takes me.

I have options, I’m not sure which one to take!

What do you do when you don’t have a work-in-progress? Do you take time off from writing or start a new project?