Time to Prep for NaNoWriMo ’17

Three weeks to NaNoWriMo. It’s time to get ready!

Getting Ready
I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo site with my novel for this year. Have you? This year, I’m going somewhat down the middle between pantser and plotter. I want to have a very simple plot, so I am not floundering, but not so much I feel guilty if I want to go in a different direction. Now I need to start filling up my story notebook with ideas, plot points, and some character outlines. I’ll add to my notebook as I go.

Story Idea
This year I came up with my story idea without any real work. The basic plot and main character just sort of dropped into my lap one day and I made a few notes in my bits and pieces scrivener file. That folder is the first place I look for inspiration for NaNo novel ideas. If I hadn’t had an idea ready and waiting, I would have done some brainstorming work to find something to write about.

How many words per day?
I’m thinking about trying something a little different with my daily word goal this year. I’ve written before about how many words I like to write per day during November, but I came across something called the reverse NaNo, and I think I’ll try it this year. Basically with a reverse NaNo you write 3,346 words on Day 1, and then write a little less each day until on the 30th you only need 1 word to finish. Currently I’m sticking with a tradition word goal of 50,000, but who knows. If I’m having a good year, maybe I’ll up it.

Other NaNo Posts
I did my first NaNo in 2007. Since then I haven’t missed a November. With ten wins under my belt, NaNo is something I post about fairly frequently. In 2015 I even did a series of NaNo posts.

Are you doing NaNo this year? What are you doing to get ready?

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Fun with Writing – Character Swap

When I start to lose motivation to write, or when writing has lost the spark that makes it enjoyable, I often look for a new writing exercise to get me going again. Lately, I haven’t been writing as much as I should. Life has been busy, I mean really busy, but I also just haven’t been interested in writing. Nothing has grabbed me to the point of needing to write. So, to get myself going again, I set up a new writing exercise with a friend.

With NaNoWriMo ’17 prep in full swing, it is the perfect time to shake things up a bit. I’ve had a concept and a main character for a few months. My friend, after some group brain storming, has a world and a basic concept. The main area we are both lacking … characters. Hence our Character Swap idea.

We each wrote out a very short paragraph about our story, and filled out a questionnaire about our main character. The usual stuff: name, age, what they look like, skills, job, family, weaknesses, annoying habits, etc. Then came the fun part. We each got to make a character for the other’s story.

I often find myself falling into the trap of fitting a character to a story, instead of letting the character be an individual who happens to be a part of this story. The joy of this swap was that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have enough information on what she is writing about to tailor the character to the story. I did consider why this person and the main character would be friends, but also tried to think about my own friendships – why we fit, and how much do we really have in common? It was fun to make a character without worrying about the story they would be put into, or what they could give the main character. Maybe I need to focus on my characters earlier in my planning/plotting phases.

What are some writing exercises you have enjoyed? Have you started planning for NaNoWriMo?

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

I’ve talked before about Camp NaNoWriMo vs Regular NaNoWriMo before. My preference is for regular NaNoWriMo, but I’m doing Camp in April because a few friends are dragging me along for the ride. I set a fairly low goal of 20k for the month. If I meet me goal, I’ll be back on track for the year for writing.

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to continue my NaNo 2016 Sci-Fi project. It has at least 20k left to get to the end, and it is somewhat fresh in my mind. Of course, it wasn’t as fresh as I thought… I spent the first two days of camp rereading the 50k I wrote in November.

On the days I write, I’m making good progress. I write at least two days worth of words when I get butt in chair time. Of course this would be more impressive if I was writing more than every third day. Ya, you might have noticed that math isn’t adding up well. I am currently caught up to day 7… it’s the 11th. My plan is to write another two days worth tonight and then I’ll only be 2 days behind. This in a nut shell is why camp doesn’t work for me. I’m always behind. In NaNo I’m usually ahead by day 3-4 and never drop below par. When I do camp, I’m ALWAYS behind.

I’m determined to catch up. I’m far from out of the game yet. Are you  doing camp this year? How are you doing at meeting your goals?

2016 in Review

Last year I posted regularly for most of the year. My biggest break was from mid-November until now. Here are a few stats, and a short list of my favourite posts from last year.
Total number of blog posts: 77
Top five posts by views:
  1. NaNoWriMo – How to catch up if you’re behind – this is the only post on this list that wasn’t posted in 2016.
  2. Finding my Priorities – again
  3. April Quilting Update
  4. Fourth is a tie between 500 Words – The Tarot Reading and
  5. Making a Fauxdori

A Countdown of my Five Favourite Posts:

5.) Why did I Read that Book?: A post talking about the reasons why I read the books I read.

4.) Tracking my Writing Goals: A look at the spreadsheet I use to track my writing and the stats it produces.

3.) June Quilting Update: I finished my first quilt in May for my son’s seventh birthday. It is a digger quilt that my son cuddles with everyday. The finish was a long time coming.

2.) 500 Words – The Tarot Reading: Last year my second favourite post was a 500 word post as well. This one is my favourite of all the flash fiction I’ve posted.

1.) Inside Out – A new way to develop characters?: A post looking at a new way to develop characters. I often still consider my characters in terms of these five traits.

Visitors from around the world. I had visitors from 25 countries last year. The top five were: Canada (my home country, so not a big surprise), the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Highest Activity Month
March was again the most active month on my blog, but this year I had several other months that came close.

What was your favourite post this year, on your own blog or someone else’s blog? Do you track the views on your blog?

Plotter vs. Panster

I’ve talked before about how I don’t have the usual skills for writing. I’m logical and love math, numbers, and statistics. I have a computer science degree, and pick up computer programs quickly. I like quilting in squares and triangles with straight lines and perfect points. Free motion quilting is about as crazy as I get with my sewing machine. And even then I keep it organized and logical in execution. It should come as no surprise that I considered myself a plotter for years.

In 2012 I took a risk and wrote NaNo without a plot. To be honest when I started writing I didn’t even have an idea. I had a single image in my head of a hidden square wooden door in a dark basement. So, I named a character and let her lead the way through her own story.

Since that time I’ve gone back to my plotting ways, or at least that is what I told myself. Then I started really thinking about my story writing style in the context of plotting vs pantsing. Was I ever REALLY a plotter?

My very first NaNo I started writing with a general concept. It was a sort of alternate world to our own. The only real different between the world of this novel and our own world was that women in my world could only have one child before becoming infertile. When I started writing that story I didn’t have much more than the world, main characters, and a vague idea of where I wanted that story to end.

Most years I plot out the first half or so of my novel, decide where I think it should end, and let the middle kind of take on a life of its own to get to that end. I know I’m not (usually) a pantser, not completely. But as I look back at my writing attempts I realize I’m not really a plotter either. I guess like most things there is a grey area and that is where I fall. I’m part panters and part plotter. It feels kind of good to get that out, to sent the record straight.

Are you a plotter or a panster? Do you fall somewhere in between?

NaNoWriMo – Week 1

NaNo tip of the week: If you want to win at NaNo, turn off your inner editor.
The goal of NaNo isn’t to have a great first draft, it’s to get in the habit of writing. So often people try to write, but it isn’t ‘good enough’ so they stop. All of these great stories are waiting to be told, but the person who has them is too scared of doing it wrong. NaNo forces you to write regardless of how good it is. It forces you to get the practice you need to improve. Don’t forget you have as much time as you want after November to edit these words. Right now the goal is to get past the fear of doing it wrong, so you have something to edit later. See my NaNoWriMo tips and tricks for more advice on how to succeed this month.

Don’t worry if you find yourself falling behind, now is the perfect time to get caught up! Check out my How to Catch up if you’re behind post from last year.

My Progress:
Word Graph one week of writingSo far, this year is going well. My plan was to write 2k each week day and 3.5k each weekend day. Saturday was rough, but in the end I made it with some extra words to spare. My biggest challenge right now is a lack of outline. I really need to get moving on the second section of my plot for this year’s novel. I’m almost at the end of what I had plotted out before November started. My writing tends to be faster if I have a decent idea of where I’m going.

Goal for this week:
Keep on track with my word count, and get the next 1/4-1/3 of the novel plotted out.

If you’re doing nano this year, how it is going? Do you have any great tips for new nano writers?

November Goals

In October my goals were:

  1. Get a sewing/writing area set up in the Study. – nope
  2. Finish my NaNo novel outline. – A good start, but nope
  3. Make my travellers notebook. – Done!
  4. Use my bullet journal for the entire month. – Done!

I did manage to get two more boxes of stuff out of the study in the month of October. It wasn’t nearly enough to pull out my current desk and replace it with the new one. The biggest stumbling block in this room is that we often shove stuff in there that we don’t know where else it should go. I think I need to focus on getting some basement stuff cleared out to make room for some of the stuff in this room.

For the novel outline, I have a really good handle on the first third of the novel. I’ve started working toward the second third, but I haven’t written any of it down yet. I think this will be one of those years where I write to the end of what I have and then start scrambling for what comes next. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

My goals for November are:

  1. Win NaNoWriMo for the tenth year.
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three big ticket items in the basement.
  3. Exercise (run or bike) 6 times.
  4. Use my bullet journal for the entire month.

I’m keeping it light and simple this month. Mostly because that first one is going to eat up most of my free time this month as it has in other years. As my husband likes to say, “in November I might as well be a widower”. I don’t think it is actually that bad, but I do see his point. Writing 50k, in a month, on top of your usual life, is kind of a big time sucker.

Have you set any goals for this month? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

A Decade of NaNo

This year will be my tenth time taking on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a single month. I’ve won in my previous nine attempts, so I don’t feel worried about winning this year. Today I thought I would recap my last nine NaNo’s. This is mostly so I have all this information in one place, but who knows maybe someone will find it useful.

Before I started – 2006
I first heard about NaNoWriMo in November of 2006. I thought it was interesting, but it was already November 5th, and the idea of catching up was overwhelming. I decided I would put the concept aside and think about it again next year.

Year 1 – 2007
October of 2007 was rough. We got some bad news, and I wrapped up a health issue on Halloween. When November 1st hit, I decided I needed to do something to keep my mind off of everything. I completed my first NaNo on the 30th of the month. It was a YA. Basic plot: women can only have one child before they become infertile.

Year 2 – 2008
My second year I convinced my best friend to join me for the challenge. We spent a fair amount of time writing together. We wrote on her living room floor, in coffee shops, and at my dinning room table. I finished on the first day of validation, which at the time was the 25th. She finished on the 29-30th. My novel was a NA fantasy. Basic plot: woman leaves a society of vampire hunters when she discovers not all vamps are evil.

Year 3 – 2009
My son was six months old during my third NaNo. I thought this would make it harder, but in the end I wasn’t working and he had just discovered how much fun crawling and getting into stuff was. I would set up a bin of toys about ten feet away from him, then write for 30 minutes while he crawled to the bin, tipped it over, and played with everything he found. This year I was on my own for NaNo again. I had my fastest finish ever (the 11th). The novel was a YA (superhero). Basic plot: a high school filled with the kids of super heroes and super villains.

Year 4 – 2010
This year a bunch of people from my knitting group decided to give NaNo a go. I think there was only one other winner, but we had a few writing nights and I started getting to know some of my favourite writing people. I finished on the 14th with a NA alternate history. Basic plot: Women hold the titles. An unknown daughter claims her dutchess title when her mother dies.

Year 5 – 2011
For year five I decided to do something a little different. I made a goal of getting 75k instead of the usual 50k. I figured if I could finish in 14 days, then I would have 14 days at a regular NaNo pace to carry me through to the end of the month. In the end I made it was 80k on the 30th. This was the first year I really felt like I had a NaNo support network. My writing friends had become some of my best friends, and NaNo included weekly writing nights, online word wars, and a lot of laughs. The novel was a NA sci fi. Basic plot: an old earth colony requires mandatory military service. The colony is attacked and forced into war.

Year 6 – 2012
This was the year the group that had started as a bunch of writing knitters broke off and formed our own group. We wrote together online and in person regularly. It was so nice to have people to write with. I finished on the 24th and wrote the YA portal fantasy that went on to win the 2015 YA Atlantic Writers Competition. Basic plot: A girl opens a door and brings her friends to a new world.

Year 7 – 2013
I had the idea for this NaNo while walking to another writers house over the summer. Without that early flash of inspiration I’m not sure how this year would have gone. I was starting to tire of NaNo just a little bit. Not enough to stop. After all, I had a lot of friends that did NaNo together by this point, and that was half the fun. I finished on the 23rd with this NA fantasy. Basic plot: NA murder mystery, a female detective gets assigned to a full moon murder on pack land.

Year 8 – 2014
This was my hardest NaNo ever. I’d won NaNo seven times and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue, or take a break. I decided to push through because I was so close to year ten. I figured if I won year eight, nine would be a breeze, and ten would be a great accomplishment. I finished on the 20th, thanks to a good friend and my competitive spirit. I wrote a YA Urban Fantasy. Basic plot: Time travel is possible by reincarnation if you have one of the swords.

Year 9 – 2015
This year was our first NaNo writing retreat! That experience alone made NaNo worth it. I won our first night at the cottage (the 20th). We had quiet hours, good food, and an amazing time. My novel didn’t inspire me, but it got to the job done. It was a YA Urban Fantasy. Basic plot: a girl is supposed to get the power to save the world. Something goes wrong and her friend gets the power instead.

This year is Year 10 and my novel is a YA space opera. Basic plot: a girl finds out she is on a prison colony, and if she doesn’t get back home soon she will lose her crown.

What does your NaNo history look like?

Getting Ready for NaNo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and it’s time to get ready. I need characters, a plot, and a setting. I’ve had the basics for quite a while, but I need to get down to the nitty gritty. I need more than this person did this thing, then a bunch of stuff happens, and this is the end. In my current outline I have over half the novel sketched out as “Insert Adventure here”. That isn’t going to fly when it comes time to start writing out that adventure.

Yesterday I found some time at a coffee shop to sketch out the history of this particular character. It was very helpful, and necessary work, but it hasn’t helped advance my plot at all. I also spent a bit of time sketching out the motivations for some of the minor characters. Again, necessary work, but it isn’t helping to advance my plot outline directly.

Tonight I plan to finish sketching out the minor characters for the first location in the novel. Then I’m going to plot out how the Main Character and her frenemy get off the first planet and started on the main adventure. All that really means though is that the hard work start tomorrow. Because that is when I have to solve the question of what does “Insert Adventure here” mean in this particular novel.

Have you got your novel all planned out for NaNo? Are you someone who uses placeholders like “Insert Adventure here” while plotting out a novel?

Trying to Develop a Novel Outline

Last night I was struck by how different my two main hobbies are when it comes to designing and creating the final product. In my case my two hobbies are making a quilt, and writing a novel.

Quilt
When I’m designing a quilt it requires creativity, but is also very straight forward. The pieces need to fit together without any gaps. Since a quilt top is (usually) two dimensional, you can draw it out on a single piece of paper. Once you know what you want it to look like you break it down into pieces. With each piece you know how big the finished piece needs to be. With a bit of math you can easily figure out how big you need to cut a piece of fabric, so it is the size you need in the finished quilt. Deciding on the layout of a quilt might be tough, but once you have the layout the rest is math and time.

Novel
With a novel things aren’t so straight forward, and there is no simple math to get from an idea, to outline, to final written novel.

My idea for NaNo is beginning to take shape. I have the starting characters, the setting, the basic plot, and the technology of the world. I even know how the novel ends. The middle, on the other hand, is giving me a heck of a time. How can it be so hard to get from point A to point B?

One of my goals for this month was to have my NaNo plot set up and ready to go before November 1st. I wanted a detailed outline, so I could hit the ground running on my tenth NaNo. So far I’ve got character descriptions for two of my major characters. I know of at least 9 other characters. I think four of those are going to be minor characters instead of just background folks.

I have the outline ready for the first scene. Then I know how things are going to go until the big get things going twist. So maybe I have the first two chapters outlined? After that it is all tumbleweed and crickets until the big reveal at the end. My notes literally say “insert adventure here” right now.

How do you fill out the middle of your novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser?