You got this, and I got you

We’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month. Have you reached the point of exhaustion yet?

I was powering through at approximately 2000 words per day until a few days ago when the exhaustion suddenly set it. Where words once came easily, now it felt like I had to reach into my brain and pull out the words with tweezers through my eye sockets.

Wow, that was graphic.

The point is, I’m exhausted, you’re exhausted, we’re all exhausted, but we’ll keep going. You know why? Because we have a goal.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eye off your goal.” Henry Ford

Whether its exhaustion, work, kids, or something else that’s getting in the way, instead of seeing the obstacles as a wall, think of them as hurdles. When you keep your eye on the goal, you can hop, climb, skip or jump over the barriers that come along the way.

You’re running a marathon, and you just have a few more hurdles before you reach the end. You can’t put all your training to waste and give up now.

If you feel like giving up, reach out to me. I’m here for you. That’s the point of having a Municipal Liaison — someone to help you get through the chaotic and stressful month that is NaNoWriMo. Hit me up on Facebook, or email jessicatrudel13@gmail.com.

You got this, and I got you.

Incentives, Rewards and Plain Old Pats on the Back

I’ve got to say, I’m very proud of myself this year.

Every time I participate in NaNoWriMo, I set a wordcount goal of 2000 words per day. I find this number sets me up for success because, if I can keep up that pace, I either finish NaNoWriMo early, or I can miss a day and not fall drastically behind.

Every year, however, I fail to reach this daily wordcount goal. And I don’t just fail a couple of weeks in. No, I fail on Day 2, and again on Day 3, and fail fairly consistently throughout the month, causing me to have to write 5000-6000 in single sittings just to catch up.

Hands typing on laptop

So far this year, for the first five days of NaNoWriMo, I’ve managed to keep up with my goal of 2000 every day. For those who are superstitious,  you’re probably thinking, “Don’t jinx it!” Well, I’m willing to take that risk because I think it’s important that we all remember to pat ourselves on the back once in a while.

And I’m not just talking about congratulating yourself for being ahead of the official NaNo schedule. I mean, you should congratulate yourself if you’ve accomplished any goal you’ve set for yourself. Maybe you just want to write 500 words today. Maybe you just want to come up with a book title. If you accomplish your goal, give yourself a pat on the back.

Remember to reward yourself in other ways, too. I have various incentives that help facilitate daily success. For example, if it’s a Thursday, I can’t watch the latest episode of Survivor until I’ve reached 2000 words. Other times, the incentive is a tasty treat, or a cup of coffee.

Yesterday, I rewarded myself for reaching 2000 words by spending an hour designing my book cover. That may seem like a weird goal to the rest of you, but for someone like me, whose heart skips a beat when she sees the Photoshop icon dance in her dock, it’s a fun way to kill an hour while enjoying a glass or wine or beer. Though I plan on getting my book traditionally published, and therefore this cover will likely never be used, I’d still like to share it. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up self-publishing instead.

Like Arnold, I want to pump YOU up

It’s the first day of National Novel Writing Month. Has the panic started to sink in yet? If the sheer volume of words — 1667 a day — isn’t enough to scare you, probably the self-doubt over the worth of your manuscript is. I’m here to set your mind at ease on both counts.

First of all, while 1667 words is a lot to take on every day, it is doable. Before you tell me all your excuses, about how busy you are at work, about your full home life, and your other responsibilities, let me tell you that I understand completely. I am a mom of four, I work full-time as a real estate agent and also work for clients as a freelance writer and editor. I volunteer in my community, I write blogs for my own websites, and I still manage to have time to watch my favourite TV shows, go to the gym and veg out on the weekends. It can be done — you just have to make time for the things that are important to you.

I usually shoot for 2000 words a day to give myself a buffer for those days when I simply don’t get a chance to sit down and write. I set aside an hour or two in the evening after the kids are in bed, and 45 minutes right after I get the kids off the bus and right before I need to start cooking supper. They’ve just gotten home from school, they are full of energy, and they just want to go play. So I let them, and I get down to the business of writing.

Then, once a week, I try to schedule time for a word sprint, pumping out 5000-6000 words in one afternoon or evening. This usually works best on the weekend after the kids are in bed and I can stay up a bit later since there’s no specific time I need to wake up tomorrow. Even if the kids wake me up early, I know I might be able to squeeze in a nap later if they let me, and if they don’t, well — that’s NaNoWriMo!

Remember to rely on your support system whenever possible. If you have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other people in your life who like to spend time with your kids, maybe they will give you an afternoon off on the weekend to write. Or if you have a significant other, perhaps they’ll help you sneak in an hour for a power nap after a late night writing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep your eye on the goal and use your “phone a friend” to overcome those obstacles along the way.

Secondly, let’s address that crippling self-doubt.

Let me just state the obvious: no one is going to see what you wrote during NaNoWriMo. When you upload your words at the end of the month to verify the wordcount, that doesn’t get posted or stored anywhere. It’s up to you if you want to share what you’ve written with anyone. Unless you’re extremely brave, and perhaps a little stupid, you’re not going to be sending this manuscript directly to an agent or a publisher.

You have time to edit this when the month is over. You can keep the momentum of NaNoWriMo going into December with reviewing your manuscript and making it better. If you totally pantsed November, then I encourage you to outline your novel before your second draft. Make a list of the scenes you wrote during NaNoWriMo in your first draft, put them in some logical order (not necessarily chronological), then make a list of the scenes you need to add to make it flow. Make sure to read your entire first draft from beginning to end, as terrible as it may be, before you start making crucial decisions about what to cut and what to add. You need to see the big picture before you start to micromanage.

Don’t worry. You got this.

If you’re feeling a little deflated, reach out to me and I’ll do my best to pump you up. You can friend me on Facebook or email me at jessicatrudel13@gmail.com. As a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month I’m committed to helping people in my region achieve their goals this month.

6 Things I Did to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is fast approaching. If you’re participating, chances are you’re either scrambling to prepare or you’re sitting back calmly wondering if there’s something you should be doing. If you’re a true pantser, you’ll be picking up your writing implement of choice on November 1st without a second thought to the consequences. Planners and plantsers, on the other hand, know there’s more that can be done to facilitate NaNo success.

As a NaNoWriMo veteran, I’ve tried every strategy, but this year, I went into full planner mode. Here are six things I did to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

1. Announced my novel on nanowrimo.org. I’ve had a profile on nanowrimo.org for many years, so it was easy to announce my novel. I didn’t share a lot of details about it, but I created the novel so that I can at least track my progress throughout the month. If you don’t yet have a profile on nanowrimo.org, now’s the time! NaNoWriMo is only a week away and there are a ton of great resources on the official website to get you through one of the toughest months of your writing life. Through the site, you can share an excerpt or synopsis of your novel, add a cover image, track your progress, participate in the forums, see what events are happening in your region, and much more! At the end of the month, if you’ve reached 50,000 words, you’ll also get a bunch of winner goodies.

2. Connected with writers in my region. As a Municipal Liaison, and a new one at that, it was especially important for me to connect with people in Timmins and the surrounding area. Even if you’re just writing, however, you can benefit from connecting with writers around you who understand the unique challenges of completing a manuscript, and who can provide you with encouragement, support, advice and accountability to get through the roadblocks on your way to 50,000 words.

3. Attended a NaNo Prep workshop. Ok, to be fair, I taught the workshop. I want to to help as many writers as possible kick off November feeling confident and prepared to tackle the NaNo beast. I taught a workshop called Preparing to Write which outlined the basic story elements, talked about brainstorming and outlining techniques, and even included a fun element where participants could choose a random topic out of a jar and do some on-the-spot idea generation. NaNo Prep courses have so much to teach you, and there are many available for free in your region or online.

4. Ensured I have a support system in place. As a mom of four, it’s important to know that while I’m in superpowered novelling mode, my kids are taken care of. I will be attending two write-ins a week to give me some time away from the kids to write, as well as provide support to other writers in my region, so I told my super understanding and supportive life partner to expect my absence during those times. I will, of course, be using plenty of at-home time to write, and am fully stocked up on tea, coffee and wine!

5.Outlined my NaNo novel. Not everyone likes to outline. When you’re writing a first draft of a manuscript, it’s ok to let the words flow and see where they go. I needed to outline this time around because this is my second draft of last year’s novel. I discovered over the course of this year as I reviewed last year’s manuscript that I had more than enough content left to write to write another 50,000 words. My novel is undergoing some serious revisions, with brand new characters and side stories being added to the overall plot which is remaining largely the same. To prepare to tackle the second draft, I wrote a very detailed synopsis of my novel, including scenes that already exist and scenes yet to be written. Then, I went through and highlighted the scenes that I need to write during November this year. I will not be touching the existing scenes for editing until after NaNoWriMo is over.

6. Optimized Scrivener for my NaNo novel. Last year, I got 50% off Scrivener as a goodie for winning NaNoWriMo. I’ve slowly been learning the software over the course of 2017, and now feel quite confident in my ability to use it effectively. Since my novel is a second draft of last year’s novel, I didn’t want to create a whole new project. Ideally, I want to create the new content in my current project then drag and drop the scenes to the appropriate chapters of my existing novel when NaNoWriMo is over. The issue with this was that I couldn’t track wordcount at the folder level, only at the project or document level…or so I thought. I discovered a trick that I will now share with you.

If you have an existing project in which you’d like to add your NaNoWriMo content, first, create a NaNoWriMo 2017 folder. Now click File > Compile. Find your NaNoWriMo 2017 folder in the list of files and folders and make sure it’s checked in the Include column. Then, uncheck all other files and folders. Then click compile. Don’t worry about the file this creates; you can delete it later.

Next, click on Project > Show Project Targets. Change your overall wordcount target to 50,000 words. Click Options in this window. Change the deadline of your project to November 30th, and then click the checkbox marked Count documents included in compile only. You can also change other settings like what days during the week you’ll be writing or whether you receive notifications as you reach session and project targets. Your session target will automatically adjust based on the deadline you set and number of days per week you’ve indicated you will be writing. You can write more often than what you’ve marked; it just helps create more realistic session targets.

Once you’ve saved your project targets, you’ll see that your targets indicate you’ve written no words! That’s because there’s nothing in your NaNoWriMo 2017 folder…yet. Don’t worry, that’s going to start filling up soon!

My Personal NaNo Journey

I discovered National Novel Writing Month through deviantart.com, a website dedicated to helping artists showcase their talent and sell their works. At the time, I was a Literature Senior for the site; in other words, I was a glorified volunteer. I had just an inkling of an idea for a fantasy fiction novel which had emerged from a Dungeons and Dragons game I’d been playing with friends. NaNoWriMo gave me the motivation I needed to put my idea down on paper.

In 2008 (my NaNo profile says 2009 but I transferred the data incorrectly), I wrote 55,000 words of the novel, which I had tentatively titled Prophecy of the Moonbow. As any fantasy fiction writer or reader knows, however, 55,000 is only about half on the typical size of one of these tomes. I revisited this novel in 2015 to write an additional 20000 words, at which point I’d reached the end of the story. While I didn’t technically “win” NaNoWriMo that year, I’d accomplished my personal goal, so it was a win for me. Prophecy of the Moonbow, also sometimes called A Wish Turned Prophecy because I can’t decide which to use, requires a significant amount of edits and additional content to flesh out the story. Like most would-be novelists, I have yet to get around to those edits.

In between spurts of working on Prophecy, I also worked on a novella, Drug Plan, which was a reworking of a short story I wrote for a university English composition course. My NaNoWriMo profile says I wrote about 20,000 words, but I believe it was closer to about 36,000. Either way, I didn’t officially win that year either, but I had once again reached the end of the story. Unbeknownst to me, that was also the end of the line for that story. It turned out that Drug Plan was very reminiscent of Breaking Bad, which at the time I didn’t know existed. I was very disappointed when I found out about my rather insurmountable competition and abandoned the project, at least for the time being.

In 2016, I hit upon a novel idea that I felt very passionate about because it was based on true events I had recently experienced. It was a contemporary women’s fiction novel about a young mother struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder. Its working title was The Year I Lost My Mind. I wrote just over 50,000 words for this novel in 2016, and over the past year, have been rigorously brainstorming and outlining a second draft.

At first, I intended to work on an entirely new novel in November 2017, but I came to realize that my first draft needed a lot more new content than I’d originally suspected, more than enough to reach another 50,000 words. So, I will tackle the same novel, retitled Finding My Rhythm, this November.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I had been hosting National Novel Writing Month write-ins for a couple of years when I finally got around to filling out a Municipal Liaison application in 2017. Now, I’m an official ML for NaNoWriMo and couldn’t be happier to give back to an organization and an event that has done so much for my own creativity and productivity!

This may go down in history as the most boring blog post ever written, but in case any of my novels ever do get published, it may have a completely different historical significance.

Thanks for reading! You can find me and friend me on nanowrimo.org by clicking here.