Photo Pocket Insert for my Fauxdori

Photo pocket insert for a fauxdori

I realized a few weeks ago that I don’t carry pictures of my kid with me. As a parent one of the questions people semi frequently ask is what does your kid look like now. Until last week the only picture I had of my son was from daycare … he hasn’t been in daycare for years. If I have my iPad with me I can show more recent pictures, but they are all silly shots. Things like him dressed up with a mask on, or of something he built covering half his blurry face.

These days it is rare for me to be out without my fauxdori, so I figured why not add pictures to it. I found these photo pockets at Michael’s and decided to use them to add a picture insert to my fauxdori. I used duck brand duct tape (I cut about 1/2 cm off the width), to attach two sheets together and ta-da I have a photo insert.

You could make the duck tape narrower, but I wanted it to wrap around one my notebooks instead of using it as stand alone insert. I think having it wrap around one of my notebooks also takes pressure off the duct tape, so it should last longer. The duct tape needs to be wide enough to wrap around the spine of the notebook because the plastic of the photo insert is too thick to curve. I also made sure to pinch the duct tape together in each of the little cut outs for the binder rings the insert is intended for to help keep everything in place.

I’ve been using the photo insert for about a week, and I’m really happy with it. I now have pictures of my family, most recent obstacle style race, my nieces and nephews, and some motivational sayings. Each large pocket is 3×4 inches, so you can get two from a single 4×6. The smaller pockets are 2×2, so you can get six from a 4×6 print. It cost me less than a dollar to print the pictures I needed. Can’t complain about that.

Do you ever print pictures anymore? What is your favourite Fauxdoti insert?

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NaNoWriMo – How many Words per Day?

Deciding how many words per day to write during NaNo isn’t always straight forward. Not everyone can write everyday, some people don’t have the same amount of time everyday, and others need words put away ‘just in case’. Below are a few different plans for how many words to write each day.

The Usual
The traditional method of winning at NaNoWriMo has a plan of writing 1,667 words per day, every day. For many people this works wonderfully. It helps them set a daily writing habit, and encourages them to write more words than they would on a normal writing day. If you are someone who works well with consistency, is dedicated, and likes linear graphs, then this is the method for you.

I Need a Day off
Sometimes you end up with a schedule that no matter what you do you just can’t write everyday. Maybe you have a class that eats up your free time every Tuesday, or you need a day once in a while to give your brain a break, or your spouse has declared Friday night date night. No matter the reason, if you need to be able to take one day a week off writing, then you need to write more than 1,667 words per day. My recommendation is to write 2,000 words each day. This gives you five days off through the month. That is one day a week (for that Friday night date), plus a bit of wiggle room. If you just can’t write everyday, but are also intimidated by large single day word counts, this is the method for you.

The 9-5
Sometimes having the same writing goal everyday of the week doesn’t make sense. For example, I have a Mon-Fri job. When I’m at work I can’t write, because I have to, duh, work. Then when I get home I need to prep for the next day, spend time with the kid, and feed the family.

On the weekends though, I can be a lot more flexible with my time. I still have to do all the usual stuff, but I don’t have my job taking up such a big block of time. If you want to offload some of your writing to your weekend (or any two days of the week) you can easily do that. You might decide to write 1,400 words each work day, then 2,500 words each weekend day (1.5k and 2.2k also work well). This method is a great choice when you have time to write everyday, but you have more time some days than others.

My Plan
I like to validate early. Often I aim to validate on the first day I can, (usually) the 20th. This year is my tenth NaNo, so I have a lot of practice and a very good knowledge of my writing speed. My plan for the month is to write 2,000 words each workday and 3,600 words each weekend day. With a few extra words here and there I should be done by the 20th. This plan is great for me, but could work for anyone who needs to offload words to the weekend, and likes to finish a little early.

Graphing it out
Here are two graphs to show what these plans look like over the first week of NaNo. The first graph is the number of words each day, the second is the cumulative word count if you follow the plan.

Sample word plan graphs for NaNo

Do you have a plan for how much you are going to write each day in November? Do you aim for the standard 1,667 words per day or something else?

Making a Fauxdori

This post is longer than usual. A few people have asked how I made my fauxdori, so here is a basic ‘how to’ post.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I had plans to make a fauxdori to call my own. Well a few days ago I had a some friends over and we got to work. In one afternoon we made a total of four fauxdoris. They were all a little different, but the process for making them was the same.

Tooling leather untreatedWe made them from basic tooling leather. As I like to say, the leather is lower quality good leather. It is 6-7 oz and has a lovely stiff feel for a notebook cover. It was also my first leather project since I was still in school, so we didn’t want to risk spending too much money on a failed attempt.

The first step was cutting out the leather. We cut it with a rotary cutter and mat. I have a lot of cutting experience from my time cutting quilts, so this step was easy. The leather was thicker to cut through than fabric, but once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t a problem to cut it in a single pass. I made my cover 8.5 inches tall and 11.75 inches wide. I’d seen a lot of covers online that were 12 inches, but I thought they had a little too much overhang.

Leather, cover, and awlNext up was rounding the corners. I found a highlighter in our pen bin in the kitchen, and we used it as a guide to round the corners with a scalpel style blade. Once the corners were rounded, it was time to punch the holes in the spine. I knew I wanted two side by side elastics to hold notebooks and I needed one hole to hold the wrap around elastic.

When we punched the holes the leather was still untreated like the piece on the left. I punched my holes 3/8 inch from the top and bottom edge. The holes are 3/8 of an inch apart. The hole in the middle for the wrap around elastic is in the centre of the piece of leather.

Once the corners were rounded, and the holes were punched, it was time to dye the cover. I put on one coat of pure neatsfoot oil, then two coats of red dye. The first picture shows the cover while it is drying. The next two pictures show the cover, with the elastic threaded through, from the front and top.

Right now I have two large moleskine cahier notebooks in my cover (they are 5 x 8.25 inches). One in each elastic. I designed the cover to carry up to four notebooks, but usually it will carry 2-3.

Do you have a midori or fauxdori? How many notebooks do you usually carry around?

How (not) to Begin a Story

There is a lot of advice on how not to begin a story. Don’t start with your main character waking up and getting out of bed. Don’t start with a slow scene. Don’t open with dialogue. Don’t be vague.

For me writing the opening scene of a novel is probably the hardest part. It isn’t because I don’t know the story. It’s because I get caught up in all those don’ts. For me there is an easy fix. I don’t stress about it … at least not in the first draft. If the only way I can think of to start my story is to have an alarm clock wake up my character, then I do it. If I need to write a few pages (or more) of filler to get in the groove, then I go for it.

When it comes to the first draft, the most important thing you can do is write it. Make all the mistakes you want. It might mean more editing later, but at least you’ll have something to edit. In my experience the first scene always needs to be rewritten anyway. It often has the wrong tone, is in the wrong place, or gives away too much of the story or background.

In the first draft of my YA Portal Fantasy the novel stars with my main character waking up and doing some morning push ups. In that original draft it took 11,000 words to get to the other world. In the most recent draft it takes 6,000 words to get to the other world, and the story starts as the characters walk into the school. I didn’t have to just rewrite the first scene to make the beginning work, I had to rewrite the first four chapters.

My advice on how to start a story is simple: Start typing.  If it is a first draft, and you are a linear writer: start it however you want. Use the first few scenes to get a feel for the story and your characters. Find your voice and play around a little bit. If you’re anything like me, getting the writing time is far more important than anything else you can do right now.

Do you usually have to rewrite your opening scene? Are you a linear writer or do you jump around?

Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s time to go to camp. Camp NaNoWriMo that is. I’ve done NaNoWriMo in November many times with great success (2016 will be year ten!). For those who are new to NaNo I’ve written a variety of posts about it in the past. Here are a few of the most useful.

The last four of those posts are actually half of my NaNoWriMo Series. I guess I could have just linked to that instead, but a list of two didn’t seem like much of a list 🙂

This year will be my second attempt at Camp NaNo. One thing I really like about Camp is that I can set my own goal. This month I’m aiming for 15k on my Mystery Project. I decided to keep it short for a variety of reasons.

  • I don’t want writing to take over my life the way it does to get 50k in a single month.
  • I want the time and space to write on more than one project.
  • The novel I’m working on is taking more time than usual.
  • I really want to keep working on my new quilt (see point one above).

Are you doing Camp this year? Do you have any must have tips for getting through a NaNo month?

p.s – Don’t worry (I know, you weren’t) my usual monthly goal update will be posted on Monday. I promise it’s already queued up and ready to go for those sitting on the edge of their seats to see if I earned my new running skirt. Today I needed to talk about Camp instead.

How to Develop Characters

Learning a new skill takes practice. For the last few years I have been focusing a lot of my writing practice on improving my grammar. It has improved to the point where I no longer think it is my weakest writing link. (I can’t believe I just wrote that!) Also I just need a break and working on something else will give that to me.

Last year, a few days before submitting my YA Portal Fantasy to a writing competition, I realized how flat my characters were. The main character was decently fleshed out but was bland. The two main male characters had somehow been blurred along the edges until they were difficult to tell apart. My characters were definitely not coming alive.

Having identified the weakness I set out to figure out how to fix it. Here are a few things I’ve learned for character development and resources I’ve used:

Get to know your character
There are a number of ways to do this. 1) Take online quizzes as your character to try and feel out how they would answer random questions. 2) Fill out one of the many character questionnaires or cheat sheets available on the web. 3) Pretend to interview your character or have a friend interview your character. 4) Write a few diary entries from your characters perspective. Write about an average day, and about some of the special events in their life (marriage, first day in a new town, the day they discovered they could fly).

Write about Dragons
This is a series of lectures taken from Brandon Sanderson‘s writing course. Lecture three is all about character development. I ended up watching some parts of this lecture twice just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. The concepts are simple but eye opening. I’m only halfway through the lectures, but I have learned a lot.

All characters need positive and negative traits
I sometimes forget to give my ‘good’ characters flaws. In the same way I will sometimes forget to give my villains any redeeming qualities. No one is 100% good or 100% evil. A good rule of thumb is to aim for something closer to a 40-60 ratio, with the 60 being the piece that determines if a character is ‘good’ or ‘evil’. There are plenty of character trait lists online to help pick traits from both side. A ‘bad’ character trait doesn’t have to be extreme. Your character could procrastinate or be lazy.

Go out people watching
If you are on a bus, or in a coffee shop, watch the people around you. See how people act on their own, in small groups, or in large groups.. Think about if you are an introvert or an extrovert and how you react in different situations. Consider your friends and family members and why they sometimes do the things they do. The more you understand people, the better you will understand why your characters do or don’t feel alive to you.

Do you find it easy to develop a realistic character, or is it something you struggle with? What writing skills are you working on right now?

NaNoWriMo – How to Finish

We are in the final days of NaNoWriMo. This can be both an exciting and terrifying time. It is exciting if you are on track and (have) or will meet the goal of 50,000 words in a single month. It can be a bit terrifying if you are close, but worried after all this hard work you won’t make it.

Keep Calm and Write On
If you aren’t finished yet, then your number one job right now is to keep writing. Whether you are only a few hundred words from the finish line or still thousands of words away, don’t give up. The last weekend of NaNo is upon us and amazing word counts can be a achieved. But don’t forget not winning NaNo isn’t the end of the world.

Find a Writing Event Near You
If you need a little extra motivation, check on your local NaNo page to see if there are any write-ins happening near you this weekend. NaNo has given me some of the best friends I have. We didn’t meet through official meet ups, but we bonded over word sprints/wars at small NaNo gatherings. I don’t know where my writing would be without this amazing support. If you can’t find anything in person, check out @NaNoWordSprints.

Donate to NaNoWriMo
I know not everyone can donate, but if you can then get yourself a halo. I usually buy my halo at the end of the month when I put in our writing group’s NaNo order. It is only $10 to get a halo on your username. A small price to pay to give back to a wonderful event.

Enjoy the Moment
When you cross the 50k finish line, don’t forget to validate. To validate you need to click on the “I am ready to validate my novel” link under the spot you usually enter your words. Also be sure to tell your friends, family, and anyone else who will listen. You have achieved an amazing thing. Toot your own horn. You deserve it!

How is your NaNo going this year? Are you happy you gave it a try?

All posts in my NaNoWriMo Series

NaNoWriMo – How to catch up if you’re behind

Day six of NaNoWriMo has arrived. The good news is here comes the first full weekend of the month. Weekends in NaNo land are a bit of a strange beast. For many people they are a chance to write many more words than they could ever manage on a work or school day. Today I have some tips on how to handle this weekend if you find yourself behind in your dreams of writing 1,667 words a day for a whole month.

Take heart
Assuming you work or go to school on a M-F schedule you can find more writing time over the next few days. If this is your first try at NaNo you probably have a much better idea after 6 days of what the time commitment will be for you. That knowledge can help you work out a schedule to get caught up or even pull ahead this weekend.

If you think you can catch up
By the end of the weekend (to be ‘on track’) your word count should be 13,333. Subtract your current word count from that number to find out how many words you would have to write to catch up over the weekend. Take a look at your weekend schedule and your progress so far to set up a schedule. If you are averaging 500 words an hour you now have an idea of how many hours you need this weekend. Maybe you will surprise yourself and get more than you need each day and find yourself ahead before the weekend is out.

If you can’t catch up don’t lose hope
If you are far enough behind you don’t think you can catch up in a single weekend, don’t lose hope! NaNoWriMo provides a stats chart for all registered users who have set up a novel. You can find the chart by logging in, clicking on ‘My Novels’, then on the stats button for your current novel. Take a look at the “Words Per Day To Finish On Time”. It will be most accurate before updating your word count for the current day. Your goal is to get that many words each day this weekend. Even if you haven’t written a word as of today that number is only 2,000. Tomorrow it will go up to 2083 for those who haven’t started. Whatever that number says get at least that many words each day this weekend. That will prevent you from falling further behind and set you up to catch up once you find your groove.

Let yourself write
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people jumping into NaNo can be the ability to let themselves write. If you are struggling to get words on the page try giving yourself permission to write really bad words. NaNo isn’t about writing the perfect novel, or even a perfect rough draft in a month. It is about getting words on a page. For many of us writing a novel stops with the intention and desire to write a novel. This is your chance to get some of that novel on paper. Seize this chance! Enjoy it and let yourself off the hook that the words you are typing now aren’t as shining and glorious as you expected. You can focus on making them shining and glorious after November. For right now just focus on getting them on the screen. If you are struggling with this you might find my tips and tricks post helpful. Every novel has to start somewhere. Your novel can start right here and now.

How are you holding up after 6 days of writing? Is getting your daily wordcount taking longer than you expected or are your flying through?

All posts in my NaNoWriMo Series

NaNoWriMo – Tips and Tricks to get you Started

Only two days until National Novel Writing Month! I have compiled a few of my favourite tips and tricks for getting through 50,000 words in a single month. Hopefully these will help you get started.

Quantity not Quality
The number one piece of advice I have for NaNo is to remember the goal of the challenge. The goal is to write an obscene (for the average writer) number of words in a single month. Fifty thousand words a month, or 1,667 words per day. Like most NaNo participants I am not a full time writer. I work and have a family. I can’t spend hours and hours each day working on getting a wonderful, amazing, beautiful 1,667 words. For me NaNo is quick and dirty. I get my word count each day, but it is rough and unpolished. Some days it is words for the sake of making the arbitrary goal of 1,667 words.

Do not edit
This actually relates to my first point. If you start editing your previous days work you can easily get sucked into the always editing, never moving forward, trap. If you absolutely must edit or you won’t be able to move forward then set a time limit. Take ten minutes to reread the previous session’s work but no more. During NaNo I employ a strict no looking policy for previously written words. I don’t want to see how bad they are or I might lose heart and give up writing completely. I know there will be plenty of editing to do, and after November I can take as much time as I need to get it done.

Do not delete scenes
Even if you know with 100% certainty a scene will never be part of the final novel do not delete it. You wrote those words, and at the end of the month you may need every one of them to cross the finish line. If you absolutely can’t stand to look at the scene either move it to a ‘deleted scenes’ folder if you are using scrivener, or turn the text white if you are using a word processor. Either way you want those words to count toward your word count.

Don’t over think it
You are here to write a rough draft. Don’t get caught up in word choice and all the other minutiae of writing. Have horrid grammar? Don’t worry about it you can fix it all later. Trust me grammar is my nemesis. Don’t know what to name a character? Pick the name of your best friend from grade school and get typing. You can always do a find and replace on the name once you know what you actually want to use. Can’t think of the right term for something? Make something up and highlight it to come back and fix later. Keep your momentum as much as possible. This is a time to let your fingers fly.

Take risks
Have you always wanted to write a story with a dragon who takes the bus? Now is your time to give it a go. Be brave, take risks, and let strange things happen. If you get stuck have your characters do something unexpected. Channel Joss Whedon and kill someone off, or send your characters off to the moon in a spaceship made of cheese. Write in a genre that has always interested you but you haven’t been brave enough to attempt. Most likely any novel you churn out in a single month isn’t going to be the best work you have ever done straight out of the gate. Take advantage of that and try something new without all the pressure of getting it just right.

Do you have a detailed outline for your novel this year or are you pantsing it? Are you ready for the insanity that can be NaNoWriMo?

All posts in my NaNoWriMo Series

NaNoWriMo – How to Get Ready

NaNoWriMo is only three and a half weeks away. This year I thought I would share some of the things I have learned through my years as a NaNoWriMo participant. This post is about the stuff you will want to have prepped before November starts so you can slide right into writing on November 1st.

A NaNoWriMo Account
If this is your first year doing NaNoWriMo head on over to the site and get yourself an account. Signing up is easy and free. If you already have an account, you can head over now to create your novel for 2015. To create your novel login then click on the ‘novels’ tab.

Scrivener (or other Word Processor)
You will be writing your novel on your own computer, and I suggest using a program designed for writers like Scrivener. I have also completed NaNo using Microsoft Word. Whatever tool you use I suggest something with a word count tool. I also recommend, if you are using a new processor this year, you do a test validation as soon as validation opens on November 20th just in case your word processor gives a very different value than NaNoWriMo’s website. You wouldn’t want to find out on November 30th that you have 3,000 fewer words than you thought! For those who have never used scrivener before, but want to, they have a special NaNo trial which won’t expire until December 7th, so you don’t have to worry about running out of trial time part way through the month.

In person and/or Online Support
Having a supportive friend, spouse, roommate or neighbour can make all the difference when the going gets tough. At some point in the month of November you will likely come the realization that you are crazy for attempting this feat. This is especially true if it is your first year, or if it is the first year you are ‘in it to win it’. If you don’t have the support of someone where you live you might want to check out the NaNo forums to find some like minded writers. You can add writing buddies on the NaNo site if you know others writing this year.

Well stocked Freezer
This won’t apply to everyone, but is useful if you are usually the main (or only cook) in your household. Having a few meals prepped and stocked in the freezer can make a big difference on those days when you need to get in words around your homework, the kids soccer practice, or date night. I find I use my slow cooker more than usual during the month of November. A few of my friends swear by planning out meals for the entire month before Nov 1, so they don’t have to spend any extra time thinking about meal prep during a month filled with words, words, and more words.

Notebooks etc
While you can’t start writing until Nov 1st you can start plotting/planning anytime. If you are a plotter make sure you have your notebooks, computer files or note cards ready and waiting for Nov 1st. I plot, outline and keep notes with pen and paper. I like moleskin notebooks or I have a lovely leather cover for a classic blueline A19 notebook. I also like to colour code and always have my bic 4 colour pen ready and waiting in case those plot bunnies show up.

Are you ready for November 1st? I don’t have as much plotted as I would like, but I’m feeling pretty ready other than that.

All posts in my NaNoWriMo Series

Disclaimer: I don’t have an affiliation or get anything from the companies I have posted products from. I do have a full version of Scrivener which I bought with my winners coupon many years ago.