The Top 5 Things I Learned From Winning NaNoWriMo 2016

So, I did it, I survived November. I’m not talking about the holidays, I’m talking about my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Wow, what a month it was. For those who don’t know much, if anything about NaNo, it’s a fun way to challenge yourself with other authors to write a book (the default amount is 50,000 words) in a month. It’s National Novel Writing Month = NaNoWriMo. I had no idea what to expect, just that for the last few years, I have thought everyone was out of their damn minds when November came around.

“Write a NOVEL in one MONTH? Pfft, y’all crazy.” – Pre-NaNo Me

But then October came around and I had such a small amount of words on the fourth title in my Find Me series, that I knew for a fact it wasn’t going to get done by the end of the year if I didn’t up my writing game. So, I enlisted in NaNo two days before the month started. I took it seriously, mentally dabbing on my warrior face paint every morning, happily ignoring laundry piles for days at a time, forgetting almost completely that I had friends and that Vit D from the sun is a pretty amazing thing. I could rock out 1,667 words every day to hit my goal of 50,000 words in a month. That sounds completely attainable, doesn’t it? Well, you won’t believe what happened, and honestly, I kind of don’t really believe it yet either.

The Top 5 Things I Learned From Winning NaNoWriMo 2016:

#1 Procrastination is my enemy

This isn’t anything you haven’t heard a million times in your life since the first time you crash-studied the day before an exam in primary school. Writers know this intimately. We even use our writing as a form of procrastination by excusing our behavior as part of the process. I mean, it is, I’m not knocking research time (a necessity), copious amounts of chocolate (also a necessity), or alcohol consumption (borderline addiction for most). But, for some of us, putting off the inevitable is completely standard, and acceptable. Unless you really want to release your book. When you set a goal, have a deadline in sight, and a way to stay accountable, then it’s much easier to turn your process into productive time, and not self-wallowing or Netflix-binging. NaNo did this for me. I took it seriously and did my 1,667 words a day, plus some.

#2 I’m too hard on myself

Every writer goes through similar, if not the same struggles during the creative process of researching, writing, editing, formatting, publishing, marketing, etc… This is not a job for the lazy (even though I sit on my ass most the day, sometimes not writing anything for my WIP), nor is writing a job for those looking to make a quick dollar. Writing is very intimate, very personal and soul-fleshing. We authors put our minds on the page and invite strangers to devour them. This is scary shit for some of us, I won’t lie. Since I’m being honest, 2016 was a tough year – financially, and in general. Selling books didn’t come easy this year, nor did setting aside time for writing. I became to loath my job, and doubt myself as a writer. It got so dark in my head for a bit, that I considered throwing in the towel. But, then I realized a lot of my author friends were experiencing similar drops with some of their titles. It wasn’t them, it was the industry, the economy, the competition for sales. It’s just life. It goes up and down and we have to hold on so we don’t fall off. NaNo taught me this month, that if I get out of my own head long enough, I can also let the voices out onto the page. Rather than being hard on myself, I was hard on my computer. It worked.

#3 Accountability is key

Organization is not my thing. If your socks are all matching and neatly tucked into each other, next to your tri-folded color-coordinated underwear, then this point is simply about stuff you already know. Plus, I may envy you a tad, but let’s forget that for a sec and focus on the positive: This month I learned that my way of doing things, which is often by the seat of my pants on a schedule I create, doesn’t work to produce the amount of material I would like to see come out in a year. The simple yet helpful tools on the NaNo site MADE me accountable for daily check-ins and word count updates. I wanted to earn my badges and be a winner, whatever that meant. Checking in online once a week with my writer friends was not giving me an immediate sense of accomplishment, because like I said, I was entering a Dark Zone not long ago. NaNo helped pull me out of that and show me how easy it is to hit my goals with the right tools, including some I already have on hand. I did not become a planner overnight, but I did learn that adjusting my preferences might help me in the long run.

#4 Don’t compare, admire

NaNo was not about rushing to the finish line before my other writer friends, it was about racing against myself. Can I do this? Should I do this? Will I do this? Every time I saw a status update from a fellow NaNo participant, I cheered them on – because that’s what we should be doing. I did not return to my computer and curse myself for only getting in 500 words for my first sprint of the day. No one wins anything by comparing themselves to others. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope that us authors tend to fall on our asses while climbing, because guess what, we are all different and unique. Some of us have experienced luck, some have not. Some of us have tremendous talent, some are still learning. NaNo is not about beating everyone else. If you win, it’s because YOU made it to the 50,000 mark and YOU deserve a pat on the back for your hard work. When I hit the mark on my 17th day, I hadn’t thought it would be possible. And yes, I printed out the Winner certificate because I’m a nerd and for me, it was kind of a big deal.

#5 It’s totally possible

So. I won NaNoWriMo 2016. Thousands of other people did as well. Thousands more may not have hit the 50,000 mark, but life happens, and their goals may have been different, and they are just as amazing at the NaNo ‘winners’. In my mind, all those who participated and put in an effort are winners. Y’all rock. What I learned last night at 11:54 when I was rushing to get my final sprint of November in so I could tally up the 99,600+ words I’d written in 30 days, is that the word count itself was not the prize – the way I feel is. I have an almost complete book, IN ONE MONTH. I did it. Despite being married to a busy retail manager who just opened up a new store in town, two children who need to be ferried about throughout the week for school and SPED appts, three dogs and a cat who was an asshole two nights ago because he wanted to go outside in the middle of the night in the blustery air to stare at the stars, I was able to forgo some of my Netflix binge-watching and video game playing and chores, to reach my daily goal, which quadrupled on my good days. That’s how it happened, folks, there was no secret. I did what ‘they’ say, and I wrote. Editing through the first round might suck big time, but the first draft is only mere hours away from completion – thanks to NaNoWriMo. If I can do this, with my crazy and funky schedule and part sloth-like lifestyle, I know that so many others who doubt themselves can do it too. Bonus: I didn’t OD on chocolate or wine. The kids are both alive, as are all the animals. My laundry looks about the same today as it did one month ago, and six months before that. Writing is not about the numbers, but a number can be the goal. So, set your long term goal and your daily goal, set your mind right, and just do it. Nike has created an entire brand off this logo, and guess what, it gets shit done. 😉

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I cannot wait to finish this book and share it with my readers. It was a fun ride, and working on it in such a quick amount of time made me closer to my characters, if that’s even possible. If you want to know more about the world I’ve been lost in over the last month, check out my FIND ME SERIES – hey, the first book is free, so you lose nothing but the time it takes to read it. I hope you find it more entertaining than the back of a toilet paper package. 😀


Hot or Cold, There Is No In-Between

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The Tea Struggle. It’s a real thing in my life.

My morning tea was piping hot in my cup one minute – totally not sippable unless I’d like to burn off half my taste-buds – and then it was colder than the ceramic mug the next minute. How does this happen, Tea? Why is that perfect in-between temperature only around for about 20 seconds? Do you hate me? The plan was to consume quite a bit of your sustenance today, per the Muse’s request, so if this is a precursor for the next few hours, we may have a problem.

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October Gale and all the feels…

I know you’re mostly bookish people here, but for me, a story is a story, and I love watching them just as much as I do reading them. I stumbled upon October Gale via Netflix tonight and it ruined me for a few hours. Don’t worry – it was a good ruin – it hit me in all the right feels. Not at all what I was expecting, and wow, was it worth it. I found it such an unlikely pairing of characters with the widowed Helen (Patricia Clarkson) and the mysterious William (Scott Speedman), and a slow pace that, surprisingly, I quite enjoyed. I’ve loved stories long before becoming a writer, be them in books or on film. I love to be entertained. But, I’m noticing that the older I get, the more I find beauty in simplicity. Because sometimes ‘less is more’ is quite perfect. October Gale was a lovely ‘less is more’ moment.

The film, which is deliberately more character driven and full of raw emotion rather than empty dialogue and needless action, totally awed me. The last two minutes especially. I dare you to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy Patricia Clarkson on screen, but I’ve a new found respect for Scott Speedman and his expertly timed glances and his ability to speak to the camera without words. I’ve not seen this side of his acting. I’m completely hooked now, y’all. He could simply stare at a wall and I’d happily watch, but in this movie he made my eyes do that funny watering thing I don’t particularly enjoy just from the way he swallowed and tilted his head. Damn you, Scott. You should come with a warning label.

Anyway. I know I’m late on this movie, which came out in 2014, so once it was over and I was done rewinding the ending again and again, I went online and read the first few sentences from a handful of reviews, then I stopped. It didn’t appear to be highly favored by critics (which I hardly ever agree with anyway so that wasn’t a surprise), and I didn’t need to read on to find out why, because the movie did for me what movies are supposed to do…it made me feel. I chewed on the inside of my lip. I frowned. I smiled. I laughed. I held my breath a bit longer than my lungs appreciated. I cried. You know that feeling at the end of a story you love that feeds your soul something it needs, but still makes you hungry for more? I guess that’s what October Gale did for me. I found it beautiful.

The story line is simple, but also intricate, and that raw emotion I mentioned before seemed so real that the residual glow still has my nerves on end. I know I’ll go to bed and dream about it (which kinda sucks in reality, because before I pass out from exhaustion, I’ll lay in bed tossing and turning and thinking about Helen and Will…for hours…I just know it…and let’s pretend I didn’t just complain about Scott Speedman possibly entering my dreams because that would most definitely NOT suck). There’s such a vulnerability coming from the two main actors in these roles that I didn’t realize I missed so much in movies lately. And they did this without lengthy scripts. This feeling right here, that makes me want to rewind and watch the movie over and over another dozen times, is the feeling I love most about creating fictional worlds with fictional people that hopefully, one day, might touch someone real. I wish I could bottle it, and save it for a rainy day when the muse is quiet and I need a fix. These are the stories that inspire me; the ones that leave an impression, even if what I write is nothing similar and not nearly as good.

Thank you, Ruba Nadda (and those who brought the story to life), for this one. I really enjoyed it, and will enjoy it at least a thousand times more. Like I said…just lovely.

Wednesday Writing Tips – From the Pros

I love Pinterest. Not only can I find pretty much any vegetarian/vegan meal out there when I have extra squash I don’t know what to do with, or plenty of fodder to fill my Inspiration/Style/DIY/Christmas boards, but I also stumble upon some really great posts that have to do with writing itself. I’m sharing one such gem today.

Thanks must go to Tomi Adeyemi for her post: 7 Kick-Ass Writing Tips from 7 Best Selling YA Authors. Most authors have already heard some of these tips, but not necessarily all in one place. This list is, indeed, ‘Kick-Ass’, especially if you need a literal kick in the ass to get moving on your work.

Obviously, not all advice given works for each of us, but with the resumes the authors in this post have, you can’t really argue with the fact that they’ve done something right. *wink*

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Discovered on Pinterest. Read on tomiadeyemi.com.


So, which tip was your favorite? I definitely need to work on #5. Perhaps that will go at the top of my Writing Resolutions List for 2016. Have some awesome writing tips/advice? Feel free to share them below.

If you enjoyed Tomi Adeyemi’s post, follow her blog HERE. We can virtually stalk her website together. And don’t forget to check my boards out if you love Pinterest, too!

Happy Wednesday, y’all! May this week be kind and relaxing for you, unless you have to murder someone (you know, on paper).


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Thursday Think on the Romance Genre

Like what I assume are millions of other people over the last few months, I came across E! Online’s article this am about the lovely Goldie Hawn, pulled from her Porter Magazine article in June, and one of the things she talks about is her ongoing 32 year relationship with Kurt Russell. If you don’t know much about them, they still aren’t married, which is actually kind of awesome and impressive, considering this is a Hollywood couple, where dating/marriage status never seems to stay the same for long. Even us normal(ish) folks can look at a relationship such as Hawn’s and Russell’s and find it inspiring. In this interview, Goldie says about relationships:

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I’ve always loved Goldie Hawn, but as she ages (beyond gracefully and beautifully, may I point out) she continues to be not only a positive influence for other women in the acting industry, but all women in general. I love her take on relationships – on marriage. So simple, yet so difficult for some of us to master. Obviously, her and Kurt have found the sweet spot that works for them, kudos!

So, the writer brain immediately kicked in while thinking about this article and other relationships out there that work the same way; I imagined how awesome it would be if more Romance characters were written to find love through happiness, not happiness through love. What it the marriage vows were erased and the rings discarded, and human beings focused only on “compatibility and communication”, like Goldie Hawn suggests. I mean, I’d want to read more books like that. Where the ‘girl’ doesn’t grow up fantasizing about her fairy tale wedding, and the ‘young woman’ doesn’t spend her time pining over men not quite grown up enough to be ready for a solid relationship, and where mature women don’t feel the need to change who they are to attract a love interest. The purpose of life doesn’t need to include a marriage certificate complete with the white picket fence and 2.3 children. Love can work, and work well, around the expectations and traditions of our parents, outside the mold we’ve all (mostly) grown up in.

If you know of stories that work this way, I want to read them, so throw me some suggestions. I’m not the biggest Romance genre reader, but I do love me some strong fictional women. In the meantime, that endlessly spinning wheel in my brain where plot bunnies like to hide out, is thinking up all kinds of bookish scenarios to break the traditional Romance mold. It’s not like I particularly need more story ideas, but if I do tend toward the way of full-fledged Romance with my writing, with future projects, I’ll take a page out of the Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell playbook.

Thanks for posting a snippet of the Porter interview, E! Online…these are the stories about our celebrities that I want to read. *wink* You can read the full story HERE.

Happy Thursday, y’all!


 

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