Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoRebellion: Guest post by Sara McClung

(Here is a guest post from Sara McClung, a full-time writer that might just be the most bubbly person on the Internet. She took a different approach to National Novel Writing Month. Enjoy.)

I was a NaNo insurgent.
I registered as a NaNo participant. But on November 1st, I continued writing an already started novel. I wrote just over 30,000 new words in the first 2 ½ weeks. And then I stopped. I never aimed for 50,000 - I knew there weren’t that many words left before the novel would be finished. And after 30,000 words - that’s exactly what it was!

Am I technically a NaNo winner? No.

Do I feel like a winner anyway? Heck yes I do! I finished my novel!

NaNo rebels follow two of the most important NaNo principles (in my opinion):

1. We use the month of November to push forward with devotion and persistence in our writing.
2. We force ourselves to write with complete intensity without getting stuck on minor details along the way.

My goal is to continue following these principles beyond the month of November. In fact, I may just hold my own little SaRaNoWriMos from time to time throughout the year...

Unfortunately, one part of NaNo that won’t carry over into other months is the motivation inspired by the other participants! Knowing that there were thousands and thousands of other writers out there typing away furiously at the same time as I was helped to keep me going. The forums, the twitter hashtags, the blogs... Talk about motivation by the bucket loads! I’ll definitely miss the community energy.
(Thankfully, when I need motivation now - I can visit the #amwritingparty crew every night on twitter! )

Though NaNoWriMo intends for writers to start fresh, fictional pieces, the staff understands that not everyone will be at the right place to start something new - nor will everyone want to write fiction. And guess what? They still encourage us to enter! So if you missed out this year because you couldn’t follow their posted rules - I suggest you check out the NaNoRebel forum for next year!

PS. As I’m sure you read in his posts, Kerry participated in NaNoWriMo. He was a legit, law abiding, new novel starting participant. He began a new novel on November 1st and wrote toward the 50,000 word count goal that would make him a winner. And guess what? HE WON! He wrote over 60,000 words before November ended. So I’ll end this guest post by tipping my hat to you, Mr. K. C. Collins! You rocked it... the REAL way :-)

Sara McClung is a full-time writer that you can follow on Twitter @saramcclung. She also has a great blog that you can find at

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanks, Thanksgiving

I haven't been around much lately, and I apologize for that. With Thanksgiving and all that jazz, I was out of town with the in-laws, spending much needed quality fun time with that side of the family.

However, there was one negative to the whole thing. While I managed more than 2,000 words on my first day away from home, I managed roughly 1,000 over the next two days - combined.

I know what you regular readers of my blog are going to say, but let me stop you before the words leave your mouth or you scurry down to the comments section.

YES, I'm the guy that constantly harps about hitting 1,000-2,000 words EVERY DAY REGARDLESS OF WHAT'S GOING ON. And YES, I'm the guy that also blathers on and on about setting aside time to write and NOT LETTING LIFE GET IN THE WAY.

So I dropped my own ball. And it was Thanksgiving. If you're going to call me out onto the carpet for that, you're a rough crowd, to be sure.

But I picked up that ball, and kicked the crap out of it after I got home so *flllbbbbbbt* (that's my sound for sticking my tongue out and spitting at you). I hammered out more than 6,000 words today, and put a decent cap on my National Novel Writing Month work in progress. Marking my biggest day ever.

If you count those words today, and the roughly 1,000 I did over the two days I was AWOL, that leaves me with well over the 2k goal I usually set for myself. So there.

Granted, my draft from NaNo is ultra-rough, and I still think there are things that need to be added to it (and taken out, oh momma are there things to be taken out). But I'll go through all of that stuff on Dec. 1, and then look out.

As far as lessons learned from those three days: 1) I can really put together a huge day if I really want to and, more importantly, need to. 2) I tried to write, I really did, and the few hundred words each session wasn't much, but it was something. You take what you can get sometimes. 3) I really, really love green bean casserole.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Crash! Boom! Pow!

I'm no pro on the novel circuit, but I can see why people want to be - and why I'm aspiring to be.

I'm closing in on my 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month, and that's all well and good, but that's not the big deal. What gets me going is making things explode. No, I'm not some pyromaniac. I'm talking about getting to the juicy part of the book where worlds collide.

I'm probably 20,000 words or so away from wrapping this sucker up, and all of that stuff I've been building toward is finally starting to boil over the top. It's crazy and fun figuring out where to put these characters, and how to get them in there place. But the most fun is tossing in the twists and turns that they have to take to scramble back to (some sort of) normal.

Of course, I knew these things were going to happen to them, but the characters didn't expect it. What fun would there be in that?

Coming up with some ideas for a book - or for your plot - is always great. It's those single, solitary moments of realization that are very rewarding. But doing the work to build up to the fireworks is the tough part.

This is one of the most rewarding parts of writing for me: Writing your characters into impossible situations and then wiggling them out of it - for better or for worse. The climax and all that good stuff surrounding it are the meat and potatoes, they're what people are going to remember.

The least I can do is have a blast writing that stuff.

Friday, November 20, 2009

They're not all home runs

There is nobody that takes advantage of a hot streak more than I do.

When I get on a roll with my writing, I hammer away and pound out chapters like my fingers are my very own printing press. My waves of confidence are high, and I ride them as long as I possibly can. Sometimes, those waves can even carry on into what would be a slump, and I plow right through those, too.

But just like any high, there has to be some coming down from it. I have been cruising, writing roughly 20,000 words in the last week, and I actually feel pretty good about it. There are times I can bash out a chapter or two and feel like "Well, all of that's getting cut later." But this wasn't one of those times. I've really felt good about what I had been doing.

Until this afternoon. Ugh. I got around 1,500 words out, and some of it wasn't that bad, but I wasn't really feeling it like I had been. And that sucks, but that's part of the deal.

Not every day is going to be "Oh wow! I just wrote 7,800 words and they're all made of GOLD." I've come to grips with that in working at a newspaper since I was 17. Not every story I write is going to win an award. But the key is to keep the slumps tiny, and the fireworks displays going as long as possible.

The only way (for me anyway) to trudge through that muck is to step away and come back when my muse has his/her guns fully loaded. So I'm giving that muse some time to get organized.

I'll be back at the laptop later tonight. I hope this slump won't know what hit it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obsessed with Numbers

For a bunch of people that claim to be addicted to words, the bulk of us are bunch of unwitting slaves to math geeks. We're all a bunch of numbers freaks.

Whether I'm hammering out words for the latest #wordathon on Twitter, or just trying to meet my daily goal of 1,000 or 2,000 or whatever number I've set for myself, or plowing my way toward 50,000 words in November for National Novel Writing Month, numbers dominate my writing experience.

Some days, I'm even counting how many words I'm writing per hour - which means I'm counting minutes, too! I need to stop.

That got me to thinking. I grew up in love with English class, and I hated math class. I took one math class in college - a wisely chosen course, where the bulk of the grade depended on three papers you wrote during the quarter. So why on earth am I so wrapped up in numbers?

The short answer is this: Well, what the hell. Everybody else I know worries about it, and it's gotten me some good buddies on Twitter. Besides, that's what agents and publishers want to know right off the bat. And it's easier to get locked into a routine if you get that "I'm shooting for 1,500 words every day" routine.

But it still seems bizarre to me. I hate numbers. I hate paying my mortgage (I still do, though), because of what it does to my bank account. And I need to get back to my former math-hating self, even if it's for just a short while.

So tonight I'll be naughty. For my nightly session, I'm just going to write. That's it. I'm not going to check my word count. I'm just going to go until I feel I should stop. And then I'm going to stop, shut the computer and go somewhere and read.

But it will probably be for one night only. I'll probably wake up in the morning and run to the laptop like it's my Christmas stocking to find out what my word count was from the night before, but still.

It's the principle of the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In the zone

This is the part of writing that I love the most.

I'm smack dab in the middle of all kinds of crap going on with my characters. I don't know if potential readers will be as enthusiastic about this part of my work in progress when (or if) anybody ever sees it, but I know that I'm having a blast writing it.

I don't want to stop working. Even when it's 2 a.m. and I know I'm supposed to be up and trying to move toward my real job in six hours. Even when it's 2 p.m., and I know I'm not leaving my real job for the next three hours.

This is why I write, for these times like this. I like putting characters in all kinds of tough situations, and then trying to see if I can work them out of it -- all in 80,000 words or less.

It's what I like to call the Writing Rubik's Cube. Mess it all up, and see if you can get things right in the world. Sometimes, you can't but that's fine, too. Even getting one of those sides done correctly can be a victory of sorts, and not everything is always going to be perfect.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Please forgive me

I know what I said earlier, but I'm sorry. I broke one of my own rules earlier today, and I feel horrible about it.

OK, so I don't feel horrible, but I figured I'd better come clean in my blog, since you know how a little white lie can fester into a gaping wound. Besides, I love the readers of my blog, and I want complete honesty with you wonderful folks.

Whew. Here goes:
While writing in my National Novel Writing Month work in progress today, I ran into a road block. I didn't know how to get around a particular part without scrapping some stuff. So I caved. I don't like to admit it, and I feel dirty, but I did some editing on the fly.

I know what I said earlier. Just hammer out the words as they come and worry about editing after the draft is done. But I couldn't avoid it. I won't blame you for thinking that I'm a horrible person, but it was just one lapse in judgement, I swear. The edits opened the floodgates to about 1,500 words in roughly 45 minutes, but that's no excuse.

All this proves is that there are moments of weakness in all of us, and sometimes the rules get bent slightly or broken. I'm only human, it's going to happen once in awhile. So I'm sorry.

I promise, it will never happen again. Unless it's absolutely necessary for the creative process.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stay busy = Stay hungry

I learned a lesson tonight that I know has made my writing better. Since starting this daily writing thing, I know my writing has gotten better - I can tell when I read the stuff I have written that day, and I can feel it in my confidence.

Case in point:
Earlier tonight, I was asked how the book was going. I said I was over 25,000 words, which is right on pace with my 2,000 word-per-day goal for National Novel Writing Month that started on Nov. 1. The person I was talking to was confused. They wondered what I was talking about.

Sure enough, we were talking about different things. While I was talking about my NaNoWriMo project, they were talking about the first draft I finished in early October. We laughed, and then I explained that I was letting that one sit until December to look at it with a pair of fresh eyes, and then both of us went on our merry ways.

And here's the lesson (sorry for the long explanation): I've gained confidence, and I feel my writing is better by sticking to it. I know I love doing it, but doing it has to be a labor of love.

When I finished one project, I kept right on writing on the next one because I wanted to keep the writing flow going. This message isn't anything new, but I think it bears repeating: Immerse yourself in it, and you will get better, and who doesn't want to keep getting better?

My level of busy is directly proportional to my level of desire to make my projects great. That may take awhile, but it won't happen at all if I'm not dedicated to what I'm doing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Still finding the right road

I am no expert, and I have never been published. To be honest, I don't know what advice I can possibly give you about writing (unless it's newspaper writing, and you want to know how to irk your boss). I just know what I'm going through at any given time a new blog post is published.

I'm flailing my way through this process, too, and this blog is here to hopefully show people that they aren't the only ones pulling their hair out and getting frustrated at that damn blinking cursor in their Microsoft Word document.

I ran into one of those roadblocks last night. Sure, I'm still well on pace to hit my 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month, but that's no big deal. I knew I was going to hit it, anyway.

There are notes and a rough outline for me to follow, but even still, I hit a snag where I had no idea which direction to go to get from Point A to Point B. I know, I know, a straight line. I got it. But the straight line sucked, and so did subsequent curvy lines.

I'm not going to chalk this up to writer's block just yet, more that I haven't found the right path to take yet. (Wait. What's the difference?) In any event, I think this was good for me because it made me type a bunch of stuff I didn't like.

Last night's lesson was this: Just like you have to be able to hack your story to bits when the unncessary words are there, you have to be able to hammer out a bunch of words when the necessary words aren't there.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another link

Here's a great blog that you should be reading, if you aren't already.

This is one I can't believe I haven't stumbled upon already, but it's It's written by Larry Brooks, who has a number of published resources on getting other authors, well, published.

Check it out. It even has a post (from Oct. 26, I believe) that is a decent read on making the National Novel Writing Month a more rewarding process. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Catch up!

I'm rocking and rolling during National Novel Writing Month, averaging more than 2,000 words per day.

However, there are a few of my buddies that I chat with on Twitter that are either just getting started or haven't been able to write every single day, so they're behind the pace. For them, I thought I'd throw a few tips out there that have worked for me so far.

1. WRITE EVERY DAY: Taking a day off is unacceptable! Get in a routine where you spend at least an hour a day working on it, and you'll get to the point where you feel guilty if you skip a day. You'll be happier for it, I promise.

2. LAW OF AVERAGES: Figure out how many words you need to average per day to hit the 50,000. And then write 500 more per day. By doing that, you'll be covering your rump if you have a day where things aren't clicking and you fall behind.

3. EDITING, SCHMEDITING: Don't worry about that stuff right now. That's why the gods gave us December - so we had something to do while all that snow is on the ground. Just write and write and write some more. Get the words down now. Organize them later.

4. DON'T STOP: One day off easily turns into two, so do whatever you can to find your groove and stay in it. Keep on going, and you'll be surprised how quickly those first 200 words turn into 12,000. Your confidence will go up as that word count rises, and that will make it easier.

5. BELIEVE IN IT: Trust in what you're doing and be passionate about it. If you don't like your story, why the heck do you think anyone else will? You know how it's hard to stop reading a book you really get into? Well, plunge into your own book the same way. Make it something you don't want to stop working on, even when you have to.

Those are a few things that have helped me with my writing, and have helped me with NaNoWriMo. I hope that it helps a few others, too. If I figure out a few more tips, I'll post them along the way.

Good luck, and feel free to drop any other tips in the comments section. And then get back to your novel.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spread your wings

The National Novel Writing Month is going great. Much better than I would've thought at this point, actually. Four days in, and I have more than 8,500 words. And with a day off from my day job tomorrow, I'm going to be shooting to hit the 11k (or maybe even 12k) milestone.

We'll see how rambunctious I'm feeling.

And that's what this whole NaNoWriMo business is all about, methinks. That's why I'm happy I chose the idea I did for this project. I had a few ideas bouncing around in my head for this thing, but I picked the one that would pose a little bit of a challenge -- one that would force me to ask questions about myself, and one that would force me into a few challenging situations as a writer.

I like finding out what I can and can't do as a writer. Then I try and do as much of the stuff that falls into the "can't" category as I can. That's how you become a better writer. If you keep doing the stuff you know you can do and know you're comfortable with, where are you going to grow?

My advice today for everybody that writes, whether you're working on NaNoWriMo or not, is to keep trying new things. It's all about finding your own voice, so keep pushing that envelope to see how far you can go.

After you've found your limit? Well, then keep going a little bit past that. That's the fun part.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More help always welcome

As I plow forward with National Novel Writing Month, I have uncovered a few more helpful resources for those participating in the November event.

I uncovered this great blog called The Blood-Red Pencil that is absolutely great. More importantly, there are a couple of posts from that blog that have popped up over the last week or so that will be particularly helpful for those participating in NaNoWriMo.

The first post you should check out from the BRP is the Oct. 27 entry on a novel checklist. After you're done reading that and have finished your applause, click on this link to the Oct. 24 entry on creating villains. I found both incredibly insightful.

Also, NaNoWriMo is all about hammering out words and throwing caution to the wind, only to worry about editing later. If you're a nut for edits on the fly like me, but also like the encouraged reckless abandon that goes along with NaNoWriMo, this helpful resource is definitely for you.

By the way, I came across all of these goodies on Twitter. So if you're not following @BubbleCow or @KatMeyer, you should get right on that.

OK, read the links, and then follow those two. You'll thank me for it. Really.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Off and running

My second plunge into the deep end of novel writing started up today as National Novel Writing Month got underway, and it got off to a rip-roaring start with more than 2,000 words under my belt.

As usual, I'll be shooting for 2k per day, and that should get me more than enough words to hit the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo.

I think I have a pretty good idea this time around, but I wasn't sure I'd have the same gusto I had for my first novel. That was an exercise in "Can I do this?" so I was constantly busting my butt to prove that I could. Now I know I can do it, but I was worried that I wouldn't be able to really crank on this project like I could on the last one.

Boy, did I prove myself wrong. My 2,000 words today came in about an hour and a half, and I was able to stop at a comfy spot that will allow me to jump right into things tomorrow.

I probably could have gotten another session in today, but I'm a sucker. Unfortunately, starting on a Sunday produced a lot of distractions. Equally unfortunate, I am very easily distracted.

At least I got off to a good, confident start, and that's always a very important thing.