Within spitting distance of 20,000 words in my NaNoWriMo manuscript and I have given up on correcting my grammar because it takes too much time. đŸ˜±

Nearing 12,000 words and my shoulders are aching from typing so much each day. I might have to dictate some of my NaNoWriMo words this year!

My NaNoWriMo word count: 7,072. After the first 1,700 words, this story took a sharp left turn and I have no idea where it is going.

NaNoWriMo begins! For the past month and a half, I’ve been training for this by writing at least 750 words every day. I am feeling optimistic about finishing this year.

Tools and Tips for NaNoWriMo

We are mere days away from the start of National Novel Writing Month, so here are some helpful tools and tips for embarking on this bizarre journey:

  • Pacemaker allows you to set a word count goal for your manuscript and then a strategy like “Mountain Hike” in which your greatest effort is in the middle of the month. (That’s my preference, anyway.)
  • Workflowy is a supremely flexible and easy-to-use outlining tool. (Read my interview for more about how I use Workflowy to outline.)
  • These two Mythcreants posts by Chris Winkle have solid advice: “Outline a Short Story in Seven Steps” and “How to Turn Your Concept into a Story”. I also think that Christine Frazier’s day-by-day outline for NaNoWriMo could be useful if you’re starting from absolute scratch.
  • Scrivener is my software of choice. I used Ulysses for a while, but I missed features like the corkboard and the ability to snapshot a draft before revising. (NaNoWriMo participants get a 20% discount on the software, too.)
  • Don’t re-read what you’ve just written. That will engage your editor-brain, and there is no time for editing in November, only writing!

Share your favorite tools and tips in the comments. And good luck!

Today’s big task was to reboot my writing routine, so I downloaded Scrivener for iOS and synched some manuscript drafts to my iPad. I love using Scrivener on my Mac, and I’m so glad that the iOS app was worth the wait.

While learning how to use Scrivener for iOS, I re-read part of last year’s NaNoWriMo manuscript. I had become somewhat disheartened about it after telling a few people bits and pieces of the plot and worrying over their responses. Re-reading the draft today affirmed my belief that there is a story I want to tell in there, and it’s got solid bones that I can edit into something good.

I won’t make the same mistake again, though; from now on, I’ll keep the details of early drafts all to myself.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: soft autumn rain.

On making messes.

Today I thought I might talk to you about making messes. And just before sitting down to write, I peeked at Twitter, and saw this tweet:

I have never been terribly good at making messes. I cringe at my own floundering, especially when it comes to writing, because my taste is better than my current skill level. NaNoWriMo was a special kind of hell for me, which made it all the more important that I finish: I love surprises, but hate being surprised by myself. This is why I spend time every morning writing the mess out of my brain, what Julia Cameron termed “morning pages”. I grab my notebook and a fountain pen and I make a mess. I am okay with this mess.

But then NaNoWriMo happened, one 50,000-word mess. I’m glad I did it, and glad I finished, but it shook my confidence in my ability to tell a coherent story. My meticulous planning was abandoned within the first week because every time I sat down to write I had no interest in telling the story found in my outline. Knowing that it was more important to get words onto the page than to be strict about an outline, I opted for messy writing. New characters were invented, stuck around for a scene or two, and then disappeared. The protagonists went off on tangents that did not further the plot in any way. I barely adhered to basic rules of grammar.

I would love to tell you that it felt great to make this mess, but most days were slogs punctuated by brief moments of mediocrity. And I realise that all first drafts are crap, but a short story draft has the one shining benefit of being short. By the end of November I had the distinct feeling of being trapped at a party with people who kept cornering me in the kitchen with random anecdotes. “And another thing,” one would tell me as I looked longingly toward the door, stirring the ice in my empty drink. “Have I mentioned my long-lost cousin? Because I really think she would show up right about now and explain about the time I almost drowned as a kid.” What? Okay, no. Stop.

But now that I have a week of distance from NaNoWriMo, I see two bright spots to all this mess-making. One, by wildly bashing away at a keyboard for a month I refined an okay idea to a good one. Only a fraction of that good idea is in the first draft, so it will require a significant rewrite, but now I know the story I really want to tell. And the second bright spot was the camaraderie I felt by sharing this huge, ridiculous undertaking with other people. My mom and I texted our word-counts and encouragement to each other every day, which helped me stay focused despite being demoralised. And my friend sharks and I conducted several terrific writing-sprint sessions together, including our very last so we crossed the finish line at the same time.

I know my writing, and my life, would be better if I could learn to be okay with making a mess. How many things do I prevent myself from trying because I’m afraid to mess them up?

NaNoWriMo 2015

It’s almost here! National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, begins on Sunday. I will endeavour to write 50,000 words in the month of November. This undertaking is about quantity, not quality, so I cannot vouch for the words themselves, only the ridiculous number of them. This word count meter will update throughout the month so check back if you want to see how I’m faring.

But I’m a planner at heart, and so I’m using a fantastic tool called WorkFlowy to keep the chaos at bay. Frank Degenaar of Productivity Mashup has just published a thorough and engaging book called “Do Way, Way More in WorkFlowy”. In this interview for the WorkFlowy blog, Frank and I chatted about how I use WorkFlowy to create detailed outlines for my fiction. I also shared the WorkFlowy outlining template I created for use in NaNoWriMo and beyond.

If you do not want to participate in NaNoWriMo but would still like to support the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that makes it all possible, you can donate via my fundraising page.

Wish me luck!

brute force

If I disappear for a few weeks, don’t worry: I am participating in National Novel-Writing Month, a/k/a NaNoWriMo. Why am I torturing myself with this 50k-word exercise again this year? For the simple fact that I desperately need to get back into the habit of writing every single day, and this is the brute-force method I know that works best.

I admire my friend Adam‘s dedication to documenting his NaNoWriMo experience, and hope to do the same with mine this year.

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