Mental Health Monday–NaNo Prep Tips; It All Starts with a Goal

I’m kicking off my new blog series where I focus on a different writerly topic every month with NaNoWriMo Prep!

How does this connect to Mental Health Monday?

Well, whenever a challenge presents itself, it is often helpful to tackle it strategically in order to keep stress and mental anguish as low as possible. 😉

Those of you who are familiar with NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) know that it’s a marathon for writers. Instead of pounding out miles with our sneakers, we pound out words with our fingers.

It’s important to remember that you’ve got to exercise your writing muscle before November 1. Here are some helpful tips that’ll get you warmed up and ready for the race.

1. Identify a goal.

The goal for NaNo is pretty simple, right? Write 50,000 words in 30 days. But how are you going to break down that hefty wordage into manageable chunks? If you divide 50,000 by 30, you get: 1667. That means you’ve got to write 1667 words a day to stay on track. Or 3333 every other day. Or 12,500 a weekend.

  • Take a look at your schedule. Do you have time to write every day, every other day, or weekends only?
  • Take a look at your writing preferences. Do you like to write here and there or in large chunks of time?
  • If you’re worried about letting time slide by, literally schedule writing time in your day planner.

2. Prepare a space. 

Do you have an office, a library, or a corner of your apartment that’s designated for writing? Or do you sit on the couch with your laptop and pound out words with your feet up and your back melded to a cushion?

  • Consider clearing off your writing space. Get rid of clutter. It’ll fill your mind and block your creativity–things you don’t want to happen while plopping out massive word counts on a daily basis.
  • Consider developing an inspiration wall. Collect things that spark your creativity or make you feel all energized and warm and fuzzy. Put it up on a cork board or poster board. If you’ve got a story idea in mind, print pictures of characters, settings, or clip magazine photos of the same. It’ll help you visualize the world you’re creating.
  • Consider adding a pleasant scent, either with fresh flowers, a scented candle, or sachet. Just like our writing, we need to engage all the senses, not just our eyes.
  • Don’t forget the tunes! Do you like Metallica or Vivaldi? Make sure your ipod, CD player, or Pandora station is ready for you.

3. Gather supplies.

  • Do you write in notebooks? Use post-its? What kind of pens, pencils, markers do you use?
  • Keep bottled water nearby. Set your favorite mug by the computer. Collect your favorite teas or coffees. Have them handy so you don’t have to waste time “getting ready.”
  • Writers need snacks. Salty, sweet, healthy, whatever floats your boat, get yourself a cute basket and fill it up so you’re ready to go the moment you sit down.

4. What’s your story going to be about? 

Here may be the trickiest part. Are you a panster, thriving off the thrill of not knowing what’ll happen next? (Psst, that may be tricky during NaNo if you get stuck…just saying.) Maybe you’ve got an idea or an “old” manuscript you haven’t been able to develop.

  • Consider mapping out a loose plan. Draft an outline so you have something to follow while you’re whipping out the words.

5. Schedule time to relax.

NaNo can be a pretty nerve-wracking and brain-numbing month. Be sure to allow yourself time to chill out or you’ll get so stressed writer’s block just might get you.

  • Keep a novel near by to read a chapter here and there, the break will allow your brain to recharge so you can be fresh and alert to reach your goal.
  • Keep a sketch pad next to you if you draw.
  • Keep your walking shoes nearby. Exercise will help you stretch our your muscles and your mind. You just may figure out that sticky plot point while the wind whips through your hair.

All right, well that’s a good start, I think. Don’t want to overload y’all with too much information. We’ve got the whole month to prep, after all.

How about you? What tips do you use to prepare for NaNo?

Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah Fine’s blog for more writerly information!

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog AND Who’s Doing NaNoWriMo???

So, writerly peeps, who’s gonna do NaNoWriMo? Show of hands please.

I signed up and “won” last year by completing over 50,000 words of a manuscript within the month of November. What an exciting–and exhausting–endeavor.

This year? My goal is to PACE myself and take time with refining my craft. If that means spending six hours on one paragraph or thirty minutes writing ten pages, then so be it. Since my focus has shifted more to quality rather than quantity, I’m gonna sit out of NaNo. That doesn’t stop me from feeling the collective momentum of other writers gearing up for the great race of words.

So, good luck, dear friends! November 1st is only days away!!!

Please share whether or not you’re doing NaNo and what your focus for this next month is.

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Every Wednesday The sisterhood is on hiatus this week. We’ll return in November for another tour. Stay tuned!

Blog Chain! The Revision Mill–Yes, It’s Grinding and Slow, Just As the Name Implies

Go to fullsize image The talented Sarah Bromley started this round of the blog chain. Be sure to check out her blog and congratulate her on her recent success of signing with an agent–so exciting! CONGRATS, Sarah! Woot!!!!

Her question:

How do you handle revisions? Do you revise as you’re writing, or do you wait until you’ve gone through beta readers and crit partners to revise? How soon after you finish do you begin your revisions?

You can read Sarah’s response here. And check out Michelle’s blog tomorrow for another writer’s take on the subject.

For me, this question is quite timely. I spent the past seven months revising a manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2009. Because of numerous revisions, that thing doesn’t look ANYTHING like it used to. For realz. And I owe a HUGE thanks to all the betas who offered EXCELLENT advice! I humbly bow down to you ladies.

So what have I learned from the process? I’ve completely overhauled my approach to writing. Instead of gushing a story as fast as I can (I’ve written a novel in two weeks time x2), I am more mindful of what I write, where the plot goes, and how the characters respond to each other and their surroundings. I pay more attention to logistical details, motion, senses, and emotions. I TAKE THE TIME to enjoy the PROCESS of refining my ART.

Honestly, I did none of those things before. * blushes *

How did the revision process lead to such changes? Well, it was INCREDIBLY PAINFUL starting over every couple of months, breaking down my novel chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word. (Yes, people, it was that intense.) I NEVER want to stumble and plod around like that again.

Don’t get me wrong. I am prepared to revise and hack my writing to bits if need be, but I figure if I try to take care of some things (like lost story arcs, plot holes, and wonky dialogue) as I go along, it’ll make later pass throughs smoother. (I hope!)

The creative bug bit me a few weeks ago and I am well into a new novel (more than 50%, I’d say). This time, I’m focusing on AUTHENTICITY, TENSION, CLEAN WRITING, and making my protagonist AND antagonist WELL-ROUNDED and THREE-DIMENSIONAL.

As far as the logistics go, I do revise what I’ve written the day before, smoothing tics here and there before I move on to the next chapter. If there’s a snag, I want it fixed before it turns into a tear. When I’m done with the draft, I’ll read it again, fix the things I can, and then send it to betas. While it’s out and away, I will do my best to leave it alone, give it some space, and then tackle it again, incorporating the feedback I’ve gotten.

There ya have it, folks. My work at the revision mill. How’s your experience with revising? Is it your friend or foe?

Bring it, NaNoWriMo!

OK, so I told myself that I would sit out of the NaNoWriMo game this year. 50,000 words in a month? No way! November equals “time to hibernate” for me. Besides, I just finished a WIP that was kicking my butt for the past several months and, with the help of some fabulous people (Go QT Kick in the Pants!), I was able to pound out over 25,000 words to finish the darn thing. My plan for November was to edit, edit, edit. There were a couple of plot threads that I knew needed smoothing out and I just wanted to make sure the characters were “consistent” because–in the midst of transitioning to a new role at my job–my progress on the thing was stop and go.

Then the buzz and excitement of NaNoWriMo got me. On All Hallow’s Eve, “write” on the edge of the wire, I decided to join. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh? Don’t worry. I’m not TOTALLY unprepared. In mid-September an idea struck me–I was quite unawares, but thoroughly pleased–and I’ve been biting my nails impatiently ever since to get it down on paper. My logical mind said, finish your WIP first. Well, I did. Now I’m gonna have some fun!

Who’s with me?

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