Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

Up until a few days ago, I hadn’t planned on participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I had planned on spending the month revising the latest draft of my current WIP. Unfortunately, my current WIP came to a grinding halt last week when I realized I’d made a fatal error:

I’d chosen the wrong narrator.

So, guess what? I have to rip up the majority of my first draft and start over.

*cue tears*

Okay, okay. Things aren’t that bad. Thanks to my methods of madness, I’ve already written a significant chunk of my new narrator’s backstory. Still, it’s going to be a lot of work. I need something–anything–to motivate me and push me to finish this new draft as quickly as possible.

After some hemming and hawing, I realized there’s no better motivator than NaNo. So, I’m signing up!

To prepare myself, and to help the rest of you who’ve accepted the daunting task of writing 50K words in one month, I’d like to share my top ten tips for surviving (er, “winning?”) NaNoWriMo.

Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

1. Decide Why You’re Participating

“I dunno, I signed up just because.”

No, no, no! Don’t say this when people ask you why you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Give a valid, reliable, motivating reason to participate:

“I’ve been slacking lately and need a kick in the butt.”

“I have a great idea for a novel.”

“People say NaNo’s impossible. I’m gonna prove them wrong!”

Whatever your personal motive, make sure you have one. Don’t sign up for NaNoWriMo “just because.” If you do, you’ll likely fail. You’ll inevitably hit a rough patch and think, “Ugh, why am I even doing this? Forget it. I’m done.”

2. Just Write! 

NaNoWriMo is a great way to start or finish the first draft of a novel, or to completely rewrite an old one. It’s not a great way to revise or edit a novel. And it’s definitely not a great way to write a masterpiece that’s ready to be published on December 1st. Nope, sorry!

So, stop stressing about making things perfect, resist the temptation to edit or revise along the way, and don’t get upset about a watered down plot or 2D characters.

Just write.

Close your eyes, open your mind, and tap, tap, tap your fingers against your keyboard. And, remember, this is a rough draft. You won’t be showing it off to many (if any) people. So, let the words flow and don’t stop to question them. If you do, you’ll never make it to 50K by November 30th.

3. Don’t Skip Days

The first time I participated in NaNo, I missed the first three days because I was in a writing contest. And after that, I missed a few more days because, well, I missed them. Life happened. I didn’t feel like writing. I was tired. I had better things to do. Etc., etc.

Bad idea.

Missing one day is okay. Not good, but not horrible. But after one day, the word count deficit starts to pile up–fast! Within one week of my first NaNo, I was behind schedule by 10,000 words, and the only way I was going to catch back up was to increase my daily word count–ack!

Do yourself a favor and spit out those words every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

4. Be Proactive

Don’t live on the edge if you don’t have to. Give yourself a word count cushion.

After I climbed out of the deep, dark word count hole I’d fallen into, I decided to take the bull by the horns and get ahead of schedule. On days I had extra time, energy, and motivation, I blasted past my daily goal and kept writing. Why not? Who knew how I’d feel the next day, or if my life would blow up and I wouldn’t be able to sit down and write?

Because of this “get ahead” strategy, I was able to finish almost a week early.

5. Find an Idea You Love

When you hit those “ugh” moments, or you’re just flat out tired, it’ll be your passion and excitement for a story that gets you through. So, make sure choose one you love. Find a plot you want to explore and a cast of characters you want to know better. They should have the power to enthrall and entice you, and keep you motivated on a daily basis.

I promise, if you feel “meh” about your story before you start it, you’ll feel “meh” about it the whole time. And, sooner or later, you’ll throw in the towel.

6. Evolve With Your Idea

There is a very good chance the story you set out to write won’t be the story you end up writing. This is especially true for those of us who are “pantsters” rather than “plotters.” We assume we’re going to take a left at the fork, but end up taking a right instead. That’s okay.

Remember: Just write!

Don’t add constraints or limit yourself because the story “was supposed to go this way.” Go with the flow and see where things take you. After all, this isn’t a final draft. It’s an exploration of the story you will–hopefully–continue pursuing long after the November 30th deadline.

7. Embrace a Love-Hate Relationship

Even if you’re infatuated with your story, you’ll probably become infuriated with it at some point. You’ll have moments when you question your concept, or realize you despise a certain character, or fear you chose the wrong path back in chapter five.

It’s okay! First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect or 100% lovable. They’re ugly, troublesome, and, more often than not, a total nightmare.

So, accept the inevitable love-hate relationship you’ll have with your story, remind yourself you’ll be able to revise those despicable spots in the future, and keep chugging along.

8. Lean On Other Writers for Support

I often tell people, “Writers have their own language.” And, it’s true. We do. We naturally understand each other and are able to relate to each other’s woes. So, why not befriend a few? Trust me, you’ll need their cheers, pep talks, and internet hugs to survive the NaNoWriMo roller coaster.

If you aren’t sure where to find potential writing pals, here are a few suggestions:

  1. NaNoWriMo’s website. It allows you to network and make solid connections. If you’d like to add me as a buddy, my username is jenspenden.
  2. Twitter. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve met there and have created genuine, supportive friendships with. Be sure to check out hashtags like #NaNoWriMo, #NaNoWriMo2015, #NaNoPrep. And, of course, feel free to follow me (@jenspenden). I’ll happily follow you in return!
  3. Writing Blogs. Follow them, read them, and leave genuine comments on posts. If you do, you’ll naturally connect with other writers.
  4. Writing Contests. This one might sound strange, but some of my best writing friends have come from participating in writing contests, especially those that allow you to interact with other competitors (namely, NYC Midnight).

Whatever your method, I highly recommend you befriend other writers. Life becomes so much better once you do.

9. Have Fun! 

I mean it. Enjoy the experience. Yes, NaNo is stressful, insane, and a lot–a lot–of work. But nobody is forcing you to do it (well, I hope not). So, why not have fun with it?

Whenever I hit a low point during NaNo, I like to sit back in my chair and laugh at the absurdity of writing 50K words in one month. Who does that? Seriously? Or, I like to take a deep breath and embrace my accomplishments. I figure every word I write deserves a round of applause, even if it wasn’t the best word in the world.

10. Worst Case Scenario

The worst thing that can happen? You don’t reach the 50K goal by November 30th.

Big deal.

Okay, maybe it is a big deal and you want to focus on that goal to keep you motivated. Great! However, in my opinion, the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to barf out 50,000 words for the sake of barfing out 50,000 words. It’s to help writers focus and kick start a steady writing routine that carries them past the November 30th deadline.

So, if you’re approaching the deadline, and you’re nowhere near the 50K word finish line, who cares? Keep going. Keep writing! The only true failure in NaNoWriMo is giving up completely.

Well, there you go! I hope you found at least one of my tips for NaNoWriMo useful. I’ll definitely be repeating them to myself when November 1st hits.

Good luck, everyone!

And remember: Just write!

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Top 2014 Posts – #2 – How Do You Share Backstory Information

To end the year, I’ve decided to spotlight my top 10 blog posts from 2014. I went into my stats page and looked up those articles, stories, and other published pieces that had the most number of views. Some surprised me, others did not.

We’re almost there! Here’s #2: How Do You Share Backstory Information

IMG_4116This is a post that blew up a couple of weeks after I posted it. I still remember opening up my blog to write an article and gasping in surprise when I saw my stats. They were booming out of control! I laughed when I saw the article drawing so much attention. It wasn’t one I’d published recently–at all. But, I guess that’s what’s so cool about social media, huh? One person can get a hold of an article on your blog and boom! It takes off.

So if you missed this popular Twitter Treasure Thursday, here you go!


Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, as I’ve been revising my manuscript, I’ve been trying to figure out how to slip in background details about my characters and the world they live in–you know, tell the reader about the main events and conflicts that have led them to where they are now. Of course, there is the wicked temptation to dump all the information on the reader in one foul swoop, or even squeeze it all into a prologue. But many consider those big no-no’s.

So then how should writers present the backstory? How do we slip those necessary details in without committing a writing sin or boring the reader?

tumblr_mg4zjrIVjL1qhd2y8o1_500 Well, today’s gem addresses this issue. Autumn M. Bart (@Weifarer) tweeted an article from the blog Guild of Dreams: Backstory.

How much backstory should I spoon feed my readers?

I belong to a large online writers’ critique group, and I see this question posted almost weekly. Every fantasy and sci-fi writer in the group hops on the thread and gives advice; time and again, the consensus can be summed up as follows:

  • Weave background information and world building into the narrative
  • Avoid data dumps of historical details
  • Under no circumstances put the backstory into a prologue

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Autumn M. Birt on Twitter!

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Previous Top 10 2014 Posts:

#3 – Chasing Monsters

#4 – Inevitable

#5 – Stop the presses. Literacy isn’t important. Technology is.

#6 – How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

#7: Into Paradise

#8: Music Monday – Love The Way You Lie

#9: Operation Disney

#10: Over The Edge

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Friday Funny with Books, Stories, and Surprises

Congrats, everyone. We made it to Friday! Let’s take a moment to do a happy dance, shall we?

Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle. Shake, shake, shake. Boop, bop, bee-boop!

…Okay, okay. I’ll stop torturing you with my “dancing”, lol.

Because I know so many of you are super busy and hard at work with NaNoWriMo, I’m going to keep today’s Friday Funny post on the shorter side…er, hopefully.

My week went well. Just busy-busy, as usual, and filled with lots and lots of writing. I suppose I had two big highlights:

First, I got to spend some quality time with one of my besties. We rarely get to do this since we both have such hectic lives, but we finally planned ahead of schedule and met up. And it was awesome! Sometimes, you just need to push pause on the chaos, stress, and go-go-go of life and hang out with one of your best friends.

What made it all the better was my friend surprised me with a thank you gift in the best form possible: BOOKS!

unnamedYes, my friend knows me all too well. And she knows one of my favorite YA series is Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And she knows I’ve been dying to own all three books. Now I do. Thank you, Kelsey!

The second big highlight of the week was finding out the results of the second round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. Don’t ask me how, but my political satire, Operation Disney, placed 8th out of 40+ writers.

Yeah, when I saw my respectable score, I laughed out loud. I was so shocked! I’d expected to see a big fat zero next to my name. To see anything more than that was…well, laughable. However, as my shock has worn off, I have felt more and more proud by the results. I guess this proves you should never give up and you should always try. Even if you think, “Political satire? What the heck is political satire? How do I–What do I–What?” Don’t throw in the towel. Just go for it!

Unfortunately, I didn’t collect enough points from round one and two to advance in the competition, but that’s okay. To be honest, I said a prayer the night round 2 scores were released: “Dear God, please give me enough points to salvage my pride, but not enough to advance.”

Yes, I know, pride is a sin and I shouldn’t ask God for it. And asking for failure is kinda lame, but I did and He listened, so there! 😉 But, seriously. As competitive as I am, and as cool as it would’ve been to move on in the competition, I just couldn’t. I don’t have time! I’m mere chapters away from finishing the second draft of my novel, and once it’s finished (hopefully today or tomorrow), it’s onto editing a third draft. My goal remains to have that draft done and ready for initial presentation by January 1st.

Me too, Tim. Me. Too.

Fingers crossed I’m able to buckle down and “make it work”. 😉

Okay, okay. I promised I’d keep this short today, so time to wrap this bad boy up! In honor of my not so horrible Disney inspired political satire, as well as finishing up the second draft of my manuscript, here are today’s Friday Funnies. Enjoy!

401d48768df82ba2607895f0492bd33c IMG_20141104_205640 73babec84847242f0322cf202a13c565How was your week? How’s NaNoWriMo going for those of you participating? Are you staying on track? Getting ahead?…Falling behind (ahh!)? Just remember: it’s still early in the month. Even if you’ve fallen behind, you have plenty of time to catch up. I was behind by 10K around this time last year, and I managed to get my stuff together and knock it out. And you can too!

I’m cheering for all of you!

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – Strip Me – Natasha Bedingfield

NaNoWriMo Tips – How To Deal With Deadlines

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Photo credits:

https://twitter.com/LianaBrooks/status/528379985955127296/photo/1

https://www.pinterest.com/madijeank/frozen/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/326370304220185943/

http://s304.photobucket.com/user/Carrack01/media/gifs/tumblr_lcww3fRFp01qzblb4o1_500.gif.html

http://warpoets.tumblr.com/

https://www.tumblr.com/search/laugh+gif

http://www.hercampus.com/school/saint-marys/29-thoughts-every-nd-band-member-has-tunnel

NaNoWriMo Tips – How To Deal With Deadlines

I know I have shared this post before, but I wanted to share it again now that everyone is in the thick of NaNoWriMo: How To Deal with Deadlines. We all have our different methods of madness. These are some of mine when it comes to managing time and reaching goals. Hopefully one or two of them will help you achieve your own goals.

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover


Besides NaNoWriMo, I have dealt with a variety of writing challenges, all with tough deadlines. Some of those deadlines were enforced by other people (agents, producers, PR reps, competition organizations, etc.), while others have been self-enforced–or rather, self-inflicted. Case and point:

Last spring an agent requested my full manuscript. She ended up passing, but she liked it enough to recommended it to two other agents. So, I eagerly sent them my query letter. Less than ten minutes after I pushed the send button I realized I’d made a fatal mistake. It suddenly struck me that I didn’t like the first half of my book. In fact, I hated it. And I was petrified the two agents I’d just sent my query letters to would hate it as well. So–in a hyperventilating panic–I began chopping and revising my manuscript, all the while watching my inbox, certain one of those agents was going to ruin everything by requesting my now torn up material (such a major faux pas, I know, I know). Even so, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Faster and faster and faster…

Two months later, I had a completely updated book (100,000 words worth).

And zero requests. Zero!

Neither of those two agents ever contacted me. Go figure.

These disappointing and exhausting experiences have taught me some important lessons about writing projects that are herded by deadlines. And I’d like to share some of those lessons with you. Hopefully they can help you during your tumultuous NaNoWriMo journey. (Or whatever deadline-driven trek you might be on.)

Chop out all distractions

imagesI know this sounds obvious, but it’s the most important part of the process. And it’s the hardest. Distractions are addicting, fun, and bring us joy, so why would we want to chop them out of our lives? I don’t know how many times I’ve had to turn down going to the movies with a friend, or shopping with my sister, or visiting the Colorado Railroad Museum with my beloved nephews (trust me, if you saw their “WHOA!” expressions, you’d understand). And all because I needed to stay home and work on my manuscript instead.

And on that note…

Accept your loner status

alone-in-a-crowd.jpg.scaled.1000We’ve all heard writing is a lonely job. And it is. Even if you’re writing in a coffee shop, a library, or a park, you’re separated from the rest of the world. It’s like an invisible barrier is erected between you and those around you, including your friends and family. The only people to keep you company are the characters in your head (and, let’s face it, those guys can get a little crazy sometimes ;-)). Personally, I think this is why a lot of writers get distracted so easily. We have an innate need to return to planet earth–to reconnect with our fellow humans–to remind ourselves we live here, and not in the fictitious other world we’ve created.

Unfortunately, when writing on a deadline, you don’t have the luxury of time to constantly re-root yourself in reality. If you want to make it to the finish line on time, then you gotta stick it out in that lonely other world with those real-but-not-real characters. And you must be able to cope with feeling disconnected, because you will.

My advice? During your darkest, loneliest moments, firmly remind yourself you’re not alone. Remind yourself that there are thousands of other writers cut off from the rest of humanity with you. Maybe even find a few writing buddies who understand your situation and are there to support and encourage you to keep chugging along. I promise you won’t feel so alone anymore.

Commit at least ONE FULL day/week to writing

1197089396151240572hawk88_Calendar.svg.medNearly everyone in my life knows Saturday is “Don’t Talk to Jenna Day”. Saturdays are my think tank’s refueling station–the precious oil to my creative cogs. Saturday is THE day I write. From sun up to sun down I sit in front of my computer, writing and writing, until my eyes can’t stay open and my fingers start to cramp.

It’s intense, and it’s not always fun, but it’s vital to my production output. And not just because I get a ton done in one day, but because I get pumped up to do even more the following days. By dedicating a full day to writing, I find it a lot harder to turn off my imagination the rest of the week. No matter how tired I am, or how busy I get, I will find the energy and time to sit down and pour my thoughts onto paper. They’re just too warm and alive to coldly bury in my subconscious until the next weekend.

There’s no crying in writing

Okay, okay. There’s lots of crying in writing. And trust me, when you’re writing with a deadline in mind, you’ll probably cry even more. Mostly from exhaustion. And also the occasional–or not so occasional–bout of angry frustration. But you know what? You gotta suck it up and push through the emotional breakdowns. Just go grab a piece of chocolate, watch an episode of 30 Rock, and maybe listen to Journey’s, “Don’t Stop Believin'” a few times. Then get back to work. Go. Do. It. Now!

…Okay, that was my version of a tough love pep talk. Did it help? No? Whatever, go eat some more chocolate. GO!

Don’t be Miss Congeniality

misscongeniality-still8I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time saying no to people. Need a babysitter tonight? Sure, I’m there. Need a hundred cupcakes for that party next week? Of course, I’ll make them. Need someone to proof that business proposal? No problem, I’m happy to help. However, when it comes to writing on a deadline, I must stifle the urge to be Miss Congeniality and focus on doing what’s best for ME. I know, it sounds horrible. But when you’re on a deadline, you have to lace up the ol’ selfish boots and keep them on until the job is done. You have to constantly repeat to yourself, “Me. Me. Me…”, while telling others, “No, no, no…”.

Again, horrible, I know. But, unfortunately, necessary.

To lessen my guilt about this, I always give my acquaintances, friends and family a heads up: “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be crazy busy with writing the next month (or two), so I won’t be as accessible as usual. Sorry, sorry, sorry. See you on the flip side!”

Get it? Got it? Good!

Even when you’re not chugging, keep chugging

Concrete_sleeper_1638Okay, so maybe you can’t be a complete self-serving hermit during NaNoWriMo. There’s work, the gym, the kids, hundreds of errands, special events…No matter how hard you try to avoid or hide from life’s daily necessities, you can’t. The refrigerator isn’t going to restock itself. The bills aren’t going to be paid by the mythical money tree. The wedding of your best friend isn’t going to happen again (well, hopefully). But, don’t panic. It’s okay! You can keep chugging along on your project even when you’re not sitting at a computer or hovering over a notebook.

Example: Every day during my hour plus commute to and from work, I listen to a playlist I made for my book. As I listen to the inspiring songs I’ve collected, I strategize my next scene, or create a new character, or discover a plot hole. This way when I finally do get to a computer, I’m already primed and ready to translate everything I’ve “written” in the car.

Even so, I highly recommend keeping a small notepad on you at all times. That way if you come up with an idea and you’re terrified you’re going to forget it, you can quickly jot it down (because, as fun as scribbling on your hand or a paper napkin can be, chances are those won’t make it home–you know, because you accidentally wash your hands, or someone uses your inscribed napkin to wipe the pizza grease off their face!).

Just keep swimming…

This is the most important lesson of all: Just keep swimming. Just keep trying. Just keep writing! Swim, swim, swim. Try, try, try. Write, write, write!

Writing a book on a deadline is like running a marathon–exhausting, difficult and seemingly endless. But it will come to an end. Trust me. Just remember to keep your eye on the finish line and you’ll get there. Breathe. Focus. And push through the pain! You can do it!

Good luck everyone!

Related Articles: 

LIVING NANOWRIMO AND THE WRITER’S LIFE

LWI #TIPS FOR #NANOWRIMO AND AUTHORS AND #AMWRITING PEOPLE EVERYWHERE

NaNo Prep #5- Your Characters Need Flaws

A Writer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo- Part 2!

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The Last, Definitive Word On Word Count

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! For some reason, I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of talk lately about word counts. Perhaps it’s to do with NaNoWriMo approaching and everyone focusing on that crazy 50K-words-in-one-month goal? I’m not sure. Whatever the reason for the sudden hype, I think discussing the subject of word count is important.

word-countNow, do I think watching your word count every second of every draft is necessary? No. In fact, I strongly urge you against it. The more you focus on your word count, the less you focus on your story. However, watching your word count at certain points during the writing process–particularly editing–is important. Why? Because you don’t want to try and pitch your 140K YA novel to an agent. That’s just begging for rejection.

So what should a YA novel’s word count be? Or a thriller’s? Or another genre’s? Find out in today’s gem, courtesy of literary agent, Janet Reid. She gives us a quick, general breakdown of word count expectations, and what you should aim for when finalizing your manuscript.

The Last, Definitive Word On Word Count

Here’s the rundown:
Sweeping, epic fantasy: 150K at a minimum. You can’t do it right in less.
Sweeping, epic, historical fiction: 120 at a minimum. More is better.

Science fiction novels: 75-125K

Romance novels:65-100K
Womens’ fiction: 100K and up

To read the entire article and see all the genres, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Janet Reid on Twitter!

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Photo credits: 

http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2013/10/organization-why-word-count-matters/ 

Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me if I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Since I’m in the middle of editing my current WIP, I don’t have the time to join in. However, I wanted to offer up some advice to those of you who have accepted the daunting task of writing 50K words in one month.

Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

1. Decide why you are participating

“I signed up just because.”

No, no, no! Don’t say this when people ask you why you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Give a valid, reliable, motivating reason to participate:

“I’ve been slacking lately and need a kick in the butt.”

“I have a great idea for a novel.”

“People say NaNo’s impossible. I’m gonna prove them wrong!”

Whatever your personal motive, make sure you have one. Don’t sign up for NaNoWriMo just to sign up. If you do, I can almost guarantee failure. You’ll inevitably hit a rough patch and and think, “Ugh, why am I even doing this? Forget it. I’m done.”

2. Just write! 

NaNoWriMo is a great way to start or finish the first draft of a novel, or to completely rewrite an old one. It’s not a great way to revise or edit a novel. And it’s definitely not a way to write a masterpiece that’s ready to be published on December 1st. Nope, sorry.

So stop stressing about making things perfect. Resist the temptation to edit or revise, and don’t get upset about your watered down plot or 2D characters. Just write. Close your eyes, and tap, tap, tap away at that keyboard. And remember this is a rough draft. You won’t be showing it off to many (if any) people. So let the words flow and don’t stop to question them too much. If you do, you’ll never make it to 50K words by November 30th.

3. Don’t skip days and fall behind schedule

Last November, I missed the first three days of NaNoWriMo because I was in a writing contest. And after that, I missed a few more days because, well, I missed them. Life happened. I didn’t feel like writing. I was tired. I had better things to do. Etc., etc.

Bad idea.

Missing one day is okay. Not good, but not horrible. But after one day, the word count deficit starts to pile up fast. Within the first week of NaNo last year, I was behind schedule by 10,000 words. And the only way I was going to catch back up was to increase my daily word count–blerg! So, do yourself a favor and spit out those words every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

4. Be proactive. Get ahead!

Don’t live on the edge if you don’t have to. Give yourself a word count cushion.

After I climbed out of the deep dark word count hole last year, I decided to take the bull by the horns and get ahead of schedule. On days I had extra time, energy, and motivation, I blasted past my daily goal and kept writing. Why not? Who knew how I’d feel the next day, or if my life would blow up and I wouldn’t be able to sit down a write?

Because of this “get ahead” strategy, I was able to finish almost a week early last year.

5. Find an idea you love

When you hit those “ugh” moments, or you’re just flat out tired, it’ll be your passion and excitement for a story that gets you through. So make sure choose one you love. Find a plot you want to explore and a cast of characters you want to know better. They should have the power to enthrall and entice you, and keep you motivated on a daily basis.

I promise, if you feel “meh” about your story before you start it, you’ll feel “meh” about it the whole time. And sooner or later, you’ll throw in the towel.

6. Evolve with your idea

There is a very good chance the story you set out to write won’t be the story you end up writing. This is especially true for those of us who are “pantsters” rather than “plotters”. We assume we’re going to take a left turn at the fork in the road, but then we take a right instead.

That’s okay.

Remember: Just write!

Don’t add constraints or limit yourself just because the story “was supposed to go this way”. Go with the flow and see where things take you, even if they aren’t where you planned to go. After all, this isn’t a final draft. It’s an exploration of the story you will–hopefully–continue pursuing long on after the November 30th deadline.

7. Embrace a love-hate relationship

Even if you’re infatuated with your story, you’ll probably become infuriated with it at some point. You’ll have moments when you question your concept, or realize you despise a certain character, or fear you chose the wrong path back in chapter 5. It’s okay! First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect or 100% lovable. They’re ugly, troublesome, and, more often than not, a total nightmare.

So accept the inevitable love-hate relationship you’ll have with your story, remind yourself you’ll be able to revise those despicable spots in the future, and keep chugging along.

8. Lean on other writers for support

I often tell people, “Writers have their own language.” We naturally understand each other and can relate to each other’s writing woes. So why not invite some into your life, especially during the stress of NaNoWriMo?

The support you’ll get from other writers isn’t the same as the support you’ll get from the people in your everyday life. God bless them, but your friends and family just can’t relate to your roller coaster emotions, endless anxiety, and, well, general craziness. But other writers can.

Where do I find these so-called writing buddies, you ask? Well, obviously NaNoWriMo’s site allows you to network and make solid connections. Another place is Twitter. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve met on there and have created genuine, supportive friendships with.

9. Have fun! 

I mean it. Enjoy the experience. That’s what NaNoWriMo is all about: the experience. Yes, it’s stressful, insane, and a lot–a lot–of work. But nobody is forcing you to do it (well, I hope not). So why not have fun with it?

Last year, whenever I’d hit a low point, I’d sit back in my chair and laugh at the absurdity of writing 50K words in one month. Who does that? Seriously? Or I’d take a deep breath and embrace my accomplishments. I figured every word I wrote deserved a round of applause, even if it wasn’t the best word in the world.

10. Worst Case Scenario

The worst thing that can happen? You don’t reach the 50K goal by November 30th.

Big deal.

Okay, maybe it is a big deal and you want to focus on that goal to keep you motivated. But, in my opinion, the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to barf out 50,000 words for the sake of barfing out 50,000 words. It’s to help writers focus and to kickstart a steady writing routine that carries them past the November 30th deadline…And to hopefully collect the ingredients for a novel they will want to fully develop.

So, even if you’re approaching the deadline, and you’re nowhere near the 50K word finish line, who cares? Keep. Going. Keep. Writing! The only true failure in NaNoWriMo is giving up completely.

Well, there you go. I hope you found at least one of my tips for NaNoWriMo useful. I have a few more (okay, many more), but I’ll save those for next time.

Good luck, everyone!

And remember: Just write!

Related articles:

NaNoWriMo Tips – How To Deal With Deadlines

My NaNoWriMo 2014 Survival Kit

A Writer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo Part 1

A GREAT QUOTE FOR NANOWRIMO

Photo Credits: giphy

 

Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me if I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Since I’m in the middle of editing my current WIP, I don’t have the time to join in. However, I wanted to offer up some advice to those of you who have accepted the daunting task of writing 50K words in one month.

Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

1. Decide Why You’re Participating

“I dunno, I signed up just because.”

No, no, no! Don’t say this when people ask you why you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Give a valid, reliable, motivating reason to participate:

“I’ve been slacking lately and need a kick in the butt.”

“I have a great idea for a novel.”

“People say NaNo’s impossible. I’m gonna prove them wrong!”

Whatever your personal motive, make sure you have one. Don’t sign up for NaNoWriMo “just because.” If you do, you’ll likely fail. You’ll inevitably hit a rough patch and think, “Ugh, why am I even doing this? Forget it. I’m done.”

2. Just Write! 

 NaNoWriMo is a great way to start or finish the first draft of a novel, or to completely rewrite an old one. It’s not a great way to revise or edit a novel. And it’s definitely not a great way to write a masterpiece that’s ready to be published on December 1st. Nope, sorry!

So, stop stressing about making things perfect, resist the temptation to edit or revise along the way, and don’t get upset about a watered down plot or 2D characters.

JUST WRITE!

Close your eyes, open your mind, and tap, tap, tap your fingers against your keyboard. And, remember, this is a rough draft. You won’t be showing it off to many (if any) people. So, let the words flow and don’t stop to question them. If you do, you’ll never make it to 50K by November 30th.

3. Don’t Skip Days

The first time I participated in NaNo, I missed the first three days because I was in a writing contest. And after that, I missed a few more days because, well, I missed them. Life happened. I didn’t feel like writing. I was tired. I had better things to do. Etc., etc.

Bad idea.

Missing one day is okay. Not good, but not horrible. But after one day, the word count deficit starts to pile up–fast! Within one week of my first NaNo, I was behind schedule by 10,000 words, and the only way I was going to catch back up was to increase my daily word count–ack!

Do yourself a favor and spit out those words every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

4. Be Proactive

Don’t live on the edge if you don’t have to. Give yourself a word count cushion.

After I climbed out of the deep, dark word count abyss I’d fallen into, I decided to take the bull by the horns and get ahead of schedule. On days I had extra time, energy, and motivation, I blasted past my daily goal and kept writing. Why not? Who knew how I’d feel the next day, or if my life would blow up and I wouldn’t be able to sit down and write?

Because of this “get ahead” strategy, I was able to finish almost a week early.

5. Find an Idea You Love

When you hit those “ugh” moments, or you’re just flat out tired, it’ll be your passion and excitement for a story that gets you through. So, make sure choose one you love. Find a plot you want to explore and a cast of characters you want to know better. They should have the power to enthrall and entice you, and keep you motivated on a daily basis.

I promise, if you feel “meh” about your story before you start it, you’ll feel “meh” about it the whole time. And, sooner or later, you’ll throw in the towel.

6. Evolve With Your Idea

There is a very good chance the story you set out to write won’t be the story you end up writing. This is especially true for those of us who are “pantsters” rather than “plotters.” We assume we’re going to take a left at the fork, but end up taking a right instead. That’s okay.

Remember: JUST WRITE!

Don’t add constraints or limit yourself because the story “was supposed to go this way.” Go with the flow and see where things take you. After all, this isn’t a final draft. It’s an exploration of the story you will–hopefully–continue pursuing long after the November 30th deadline.

7. Embrace a Love-Hate Relationship

 Even if you’re infatuated with your story, you’ll probably become infuriated with it at some point. You’ll have moments when you question your concept, or realize you despise a certain character, or fear you chose the wrong path back in chapter five.

It’s okay! First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect or 100% lovable. They’re ugly, troublesome, and, more often than not, a total nightmare.

So, accept the inevitable love-hate relationship you’ll have with your story, remind yourself you’ll be able to revise those despicable spots in the future, and keep chugging along.

8. Lean On Other Writers for Support

I often tell people, “Writers have their own language.” And, it’s true. We do. We naturally understand each other and are able to relate to each other’s woes. So, why not befriend a few? Trust me, you’ll need their cheers, pep talks, and internet hugs to survive the NaNoWriMo roller coaster.

If you aren’t sure where to find potential writing pals, here are a few suggestions:

  1. NaNoWriMo’s website. It allows you to network and make solid connections. If you’d like to add me as a buddy, my username is jenspenden.
  2. Twitter. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve met there and have created genuine, supportive friendships with. Be sure to check out hashtags like #NaNoWriMo, #NaNoWriMo2016, #NaNoPrep. And, of course, feel free to follow me (@jenspenden). I’ll happily follow you in return!
  3. Writing Blogs. Follow them, read them, and leave genuine comments on posts. If you do, you’ll naturally connect with other writers.
  4. Writing Contests. This one might sound strange, but some of my best writing friends have come from participating in writing contests, especially those that allow you to interact with other competitors (ex: NYC Midnight).

Whatever your method, I highly recommend you befriend other writers. Life becomes so much better once you do.

9. Have Fun! 


I mean it. Enjoy the experience. Yes, NaNo is stressful, insane, and a lot–a lot–of work. But nobody is forcing you to do it (well, I hope not). So, why not have fun with it?

Whenever I hit a low point during NaNo, I like to sit back in my chair and laugh at the absurdity of writing 50K words in one month. Who does that? Seriously? Or I like to take a deep breath and embrace my accomplishments. I figure every word I write deserves a round of applause, even if it wasn’t the best word in the world.

10. Worst Case Scenario

The worst thing that can happen? You don’t reach the 50K goal by November 30th.

Big. Deal.

Okay, maybe it is a big deal and you want to focus on that goal to keep you motivated. Great! However, in my opinion, the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to barf out 50,000 words for the sake of barfing out 50,000 words. It’s to help writers focus and kick-start a steady writing routine that carries them past the November 30th deadline.

So, if you’re approaching the deadline, and you’re nowhere near the 50K word finish line, who cares? Keep going. Keep writing! The only true failure in NaNoWriMo is giving up completely.

Well, there you go! I hope you found at least one of my tips for NaNoWriMo useful. Good luck, everyone! And remember:

JUST WRITE!

Related articles:

NaNoWriMo Tips – How To Deal With Deadlines

My NaNoWriMo 2014 Survival Kit

A Writer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo Part 1

A GREAT QUOTE FOR NANOWRIMO

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Photo Credits: giphy

 

Friday Funny with Writing and a Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

It’s Fridayyyyyyyy!

So, is it just me, or did every day this week feel like Friday? Seriously, each morning my alarm clock went off, I thought, “Yippee! It’s Friday–No, wait. It’s not. Not even close. Beepity-beep!”

I was very happy when I woke up this morning and realized it was Friday–for real. Woo-hoo!

Anyway, it was a busy week for me, but a productive one. I’m proud of myself for not getting too caught up in the mad dash of life and focusing hard on my manuscript. Since last weekend, I’ve knocked out four new chapters, each one approved by my beta reader.

If I keep up this pace, I might finish my second draft by November 1st. Which means I’ll have two months to edit a third draft. Which means I just might have a presentable draft done by my deadline of January 1st.

*fingers crossed*

Besides writing my booty off this week, I had some fun too. I celebrated my dad and sister’s birthdays (back-to-back days), and then put together my costume for my family’s Disney-themed Halloween party this weekend. I had wanted to go as Ursula from The Little Mermaid (you know, do my hair all crazy like octopus tentacles), but my nephews demanded I go as Elsa from Frozen.

Okay, my costume won’t be nearly as glamorous as Elsa’s, but people will get the general gist–er, hopefully.

I also spent some time this week shooting photos and video clips for my friend’s latest film for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. These films are silly, but I love contributing to them. They’re a great way to bring the NYC Midnight writing community together, build friendships, and have fun. Oh, and laugh at myself.

A lot.

JennaDisney1Like the last round, I needed to use the story I wrote for round 2 as my inspiration. Since Operation Disney revolved around the recent debacles of the Secret Service Agency and Julia Pierson’s absurd Disney quote (“We need to be more like Disney World. We need to be more friendly, inviting…”), I decided to dress up like Mickie Mouse and wave around a toy gun while singing/dancing to “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”.

Here are just a couple of the clips I took:

(And, yes, feel free to laugh/shake your head/mock me. I don’t care–ha!)

I know I look ridiculous, but I actually had a blast while filming. Sometimes it’s therapeutic to let go, act like an idiot, and laugh at yourself, you know? And I laughed at myself a lot. There were many blooper moments, one of which included me accidentally hitting the trigger on the toy gun and dropping it in surprise when it made that motor-like sound. I wasn’t ready for it!

Anyway, here is today’s Friday Funny. I thought it was fitting after taking those pictures and video clips for my political satire piece. The day I wrote Operation Disney, I did quite a bit of research and Googled a variety of things, including Secret Service Agency, Air Force One, Obama, attack, guns, Russia…By the end of the day, I said, “Well, that probably put me on the NSA’s watch list.” 😉

Enjoy!

10671284_10152514271928432_1697126134585438931_nHow was your week? Busy? Calm? Do anything goofy and silly? I know many of you are preparing for NaNoWriMo. How’s it going? Are you ready for it?

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – Explosions – Ellie Goulding

You Know You’re a Writer When…Awkward Introductions

Yes, Agents Google Writers

Photo credits: 

http://giphy.com/gifs/DImeco37S0Fl6

http://ynaija.com/teen/these-are-the-problems-of-todays-social-media-girl-her-facial-expressions-are-just-too-funny-look/

https://www.tumblr.com/search/self+five

http://tatara94.deviantart.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ericjodomfb/photos/pb.195590938431.-2207520000.1414167501./10152514271928432/?type=3&theater

Friday Funny with Goals, NaNoEdMo, and Spiders

When I got out of bed this morning, I felt like doing this:

Yay for Friday! I say we all take a moment to celebrate and dance it up…Come on, dance! Shake that booty, wriggle those hips, and stomp those feet!

…Are you doing it?

Are you?

Well, hopefully you’re at least tapping your feet or bobbing your head.

Okay, okay. Enough dancing…for now. 😉

Overall, my week was calm and productive. On Monday, I received an email that lit a fire under my dragging feet and prompted me to promise someone I’d have a final draft of my manuscript done by January 1st.

Yeah, trying not to panic too much.

It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of focus, and A LOT of hermit days to meet my self-imposed deadline for a final draft by January 1st. I’ve already started telling people in my life, “I’m sorry, but I need to be selfish the next couple of months to finish my book, so if you don’t hear from me or I have to bail on you, that’s why. Again, sorry.”

I feel horrible, but chopping out all distractions is going to be a necessity if I’m going to do this.

Hey, a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, right?

Strangely, right after I made the decision to finish my manuscript by January 1st, one of my best friends text me and said she wants to do NaNoEdMo in November to edit the story she wrote during Camp NaNoWriMo in July. After I finished chuckling, I told her I’d join her. I’m still chewing over what my exact goal for the month will be. I can’t really base edits off a word count, so I’m thinking a certain number of chapters.

Whatever I decide, I need to buckle down and get to work!

I did take a break last night to decorate my house for Halloween–finally. I’ve been putting it off because 1) I’ve been so busy, and 2) I really, really, really did not want to go into my crawl space to get my bins of decorations. You guys, it’s ca-reepy down there! Dark, dirty, spidery.

*shudder*

I despise spiders. Give me snakes or mice any day of the week. Just not spiders. Anything but those vindictive eight-legged monsters!

But, alas, I had to face my fears. So last night I put on my big girl pants, sucked it up, and journeyed into the dreaded crawl space. I saw one spider dangling from a web, but it was dead, so I didn’t panic too much. But then I backed up and got jabbed in the butt by my Christmas tree and freaked out, lol. I swore Shelob had crawled out of the darkness to gobble me up. I know, I know. I’m ridiculous. No need to tell me. I’m fully aware of it, haha.

Anyway, in honor of my focused week and my goal of finishing my manuscript by January 1st, here is today’s Friday funny. Enjoy!

1798100_875822442428382_3463484613586654032_nHow was your week? Have you set any goals for your own work? How many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo?

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – Mornay’s Dream – Braveheart

You Know You’re A Writer When…Favorite Mug

How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

Photo credits: 

http://www.nolanfans.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=17&p=547915

http://getoffmyinternets.net/thats-quirky-is-a-steaming-pile-of-no/comment-page-3/

http://orbitags.com/the-53-thoughts-every-college-grad-has-immediately-after-moving-home/

http://forums.superherohype.com/showthread.php?t=481237

http://www.tumblr.com/search/disney%20grumpy

http://www.nolanfans.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=17&p=547915

My Writing: The What, How, and Why

I know I’ve already participated in the popular writer’s blog hop going around–twice–but when Amanda from Amanda’s Nose in a Book invited me to join in again, I decided, why not? So here we go!

1) What am I working on? 

As most of you know, I’ve been elbow deep in revisions for my YA manuscript the past three or so months. This is an old project I optioned in 2010 to a production studio on the Paramount Studio lot. It’d been sitting on my shelf for over a year untouched until last fall, during NaNoWriMo, I realized it was time revamp it. COMPLETELY! I kept the basic concept and incinerated the rest.

My original goal was to have a polished manuscript ready to send off to agents this fall. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening. I’ve been working hard, but meticulous, so things are coming together a lot slower than I planned. But, it’s okay. I’d rather take my time and make sure things are solid, than rush  for the sake of finishing. That’s just silly.

At this point, my new goal is to have everything completed by January 1st–query letter, synopses, and all…We’ll see if that pans out.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, that pretty much sums it up!

When I write, I have one main goal: to think way outside the box…which can be tough in the category I like to write for: Young Adult. However, no matter how tempting it might be, I refuse to hop on trends (vampires, dystopia, angels, etc.). When a genre/topic becomes hot, I avoid it like the plague. Why? Because by the time I write a book about it, it’ll be old news. Agents won’t want it, publishers won’t want it, and a lot of readers won’t want it. And that equals wasted time and–basically–a worthless manuscript.

So, if an idea isn’t fresh, different, and “Oooh, that’s cool!”, then I won’t pursue it.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Easy. A story demands me to tell it.

Okay, I’ll explain. My main focus is young adult (suspense, horror, drama). However, I don’t let that focus constrict me. If a story wants me to tell it, I will. In fact, I rarely sit around and brainstorm ideas. They come to me at the most random of times (on a jog, in the shower, at the grocery store, while working on a different project). Some ideas I explore immediately; others I write down for a later time. All of them, however, haunt me. They’re like little whispers begging me to pay attention to them and translate them onto paper. Unfortunately, I’m not a machine, so I’m only able to address one at a time.

So, why do I choose the one I do? Well, let’s just say that story’s “whisper” becomes a “SCREAM!”.

No matter what project I take on, I have to love it. If I don’t have the passion and drive to tell it, then I won’t. I can’t! Books take a ton of time, a ridiculous amount of effort, and a wide range of emotions. If I don’t have the heart for it, then I’ll pass and find one I do.

4) How does my writing process work?

Recently, I’ve figured out an easy way to explain my writing process. In a nutshell, writing a story is like baking a cake:

  • Draft 1: Throwing all the ingredients into a bowl. AKA, just write! There’s no real plotting or outlining or planning. I sit down at my computer, press play on the “movie” inside my head, and write. As I work, I take notes in an “Edit” document. This is where I scribble down plot holes as I discover them, mark down major character flaws, and ask myself “Why is this happening?” types of questions.
  • Draft 2: Bake the cake. AKA, build the story’s foundation. I use all those ingredients from my sloppy first draft and start baking them into a solid story. I analyze the plot, I mold my characters, and I constantly ask, “Why is this happening?” and “What is the purpose of this?” and “Is this important?” If there’s no answer, then I chop it out. Why do I need a line/scene/character if it doesn’t move the story forward?
  • Draft 3 (and so on): Frost the cake: This is when I go back and start making things “pretty”. I juice up my descriptives, deepen my characters, add an extra punch to my action scenes, zero in on repetitive words/phrases, etc. Basically, I search and search for every and any flaw, and then I find ways to add in a bunch of “WTH just happened?” moments for the reader. I like to make them think they’re out of the woods and then–bam! I twist the story one last time to knock them off their feet…Well, I try, lol!

Here are a few other do’s and don’ts about my writing process:

Do’s:

  • Pitch my concept/idea before I begin: Why work on a project if people aren’t fans of the idea from the get-go? So, before I type one sentence, I ask a handful of trusted individuals (writers, family, friends) what they think of it. If too many of them lack an “Oooh!” response, then I’ll toss it out and try another.
  • Listen to music for inspiration: I spend quite a bit of time commuting each day, and almost every minute of that commute is spent listening to music compilations I’ve created for whatever project I’m currently working on. They help me think/rethink scenes, come up with new ideas, or simply add fuel to my writing fire.
  • Find photos of my characters: Similar to music, I thrive off imagery, especially when it comes to my characters. As I write, I always have photos of my main leads nearby (aka, famous actors, models, or just random photos via Pinterest). These visuals help me imagine what my characters’ expressions might look like, or what they might say or do in a certain situation.
  • Use beta readers: Showing off your hard work is both exhilarating and terrifying. However, it’s an absolute necessity if you wish to query or publish it. Just because you think your book is shiny and pretty and perfect, doesn’t mean it is. So, I always send my rough drafts to a few people I know and trust, and who I know will be brutally honest with me. They won’t say, “Oh, it was so good! I loved everything about it!” They’ll say, “I liked these parts, but this scene didn’t make sense, this character was annoying, this relationship was shallow, this chapter was useless…etc.”

Don’ts:

  • Outline/pre-plot: I’ve attempted to sit down and outline a story before I start writing it, but it doesn’t work. When I write, I like to sit down and go! When people ask me how I can do this, I tell them it’s like a movie playing inside my head. I hit the “play button” and “watch” the events unfold. As a story progresses, I may pre-plot the next chapter in my head while listening to music, but, overall, a story evolves as I type it out.
  • Write with music/noise: Turn it off! Turn it off! Silence is golden when I write. I wish I could listen to the music that inspires me while I work, but it’s too distracting. In fact, I’ve been wanting to invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones.
  • Show first drafts: First drafts suck. They do! And mine are horrible because I don’t outline/pre-plot, so they’re crammed with loopholes, discrepancies, 2-D characters, repetitive words, stilted dialogue, needless scenes, lukewarm action, cheesy romance, confusing twists…I’ll just stop there 😉

So there you go! Hope you enjoyed some insight into my writing. If you’re interested in reading any of my work, click on Jen’s Pen up above!

Up next on this round of the writing blog hop are some of my favorite bloggers/writers! Be sure to check them out. 

Paul Draper 

PD Booth

Blog: The Bitumen Carnival

Twitter: @TheBlackGate

Darla G. Denton

img_14571

Blog: Darla G. Denton: Musings From a Curvy Romance Writer

Twitter: @DarlaGDenton

Facebook: Darla G. Denton

Jonathan 

Blog: 40 Stories for my 40th Year