I will take every star from the sky until your heart is full again.Lola S
I will take every star from the sky until your heart is full again.Lola S
When my mind is away, wondering about everything, and I see your face in the crowd, suddenly, my…
Don’t you ever mistake that my solitude is replaceable by love. If the idea of loving carries…
My dearest, I have never experienced a heartbreak so strong I feel heavy weights crushing down my…
Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! Now that March is here, we’re starting to think about gearing up for our next writing adventure. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Juliana Xavier shares a few tips on setting realistic goals and making time even if you don’t have any to spare:
Let’s start this post with a silly game, shall we? I’ll tell you a truth and a lie, all you have to do is tell me which is which! Ready? Here goes:
I have time to write this article.
I don’t have time to write this article.
For those of you who guessed it was a trick question, you get a gold star! Here’s the thing: I both do AND don’t have time to write this article. And if you happen to be a creative person—as I’m sure you are—you know exactly why that is.
Camp NaNo is no different. Like many of you, I both DO and DON’T have time to participate in writing events. Not all of us are in a fortunate enough position to be freely creative whenever we want. We have bills to pay, we have mouths to feed. There ain’t nothing in this world for free. And NaNo participation doesn’t pay bills (yet!).
So how DOES one beat the odds stacked against them?
Well, if you haven’t guessed my theme yet, here it is: Fake it until you make it.
There will be days so wonderful, that you’ll find yourself writing well beyond your daily goal. In the same way that there will be days when the world seems to be falling apart, and writing will be the very last thing on your mind.
That doesn’t make you any less of a writer.
Writing makes you a real writer, even if you don’t do it all the time. The steps are simple: create that novel, join a cabin, show up even if it’s from time to time—and write!
Feed your muse some s’mores, tell your inner demons to take a hike (and hopefully get lost while they’re at it). If Camp ends up being too stressful, that’s ok! The important thing is that you tried.
Striking true balance means that you learn to take the good with the bad. Take care of yourself, don’t take too much on. Don’t make it a fight between unrealistic expectations vs reality. Learn to forgive yourself for the horrible first draft, and to cheerlead yourself into growing past it.
The best thing about Camp is that so much help is provided for you right off the bat. If 50K is too much for you, you can break down your goal into something smaller. Don’t feel that your goal has to be tied to a word count either. Plus you get a cabin full of participants just like you (I foresee some incredible friendship bracelets)!
Before I end this, let me read you your horoscope: You are a storyteller. You know first-hand what it’s like to fight for the things that are important to you, but that aren’t necessarily needed for your survival. That’s why you’re a Camp NaNo hopeful! Whether this is your first time participating (welcome!) or your 50th (go you!), you understand that even if you don’t have time, that it’s important that you make time. You work hard to try and achieve your dreams, because deep down inside you know that only you can do what you do.
(If that wasn’t spot on, then it’s probably because you’re an ophiuchus sign, the mythical 13th sign of the zodiac.)
What I know for sure is that, no matter what your astrological sign is, you’re doing this for a reason. Life will go on getting fuller, busier and more chaotic… but at the same time you will go on getting harder, better, faster, stronger (someone please ban me from quoting music).
Did I have time to write this article? Nope. But I did it anyway. So write your novel come April, because you sure as heck got this!
Your friendly neighborhood Wrimo participant.
Juliana Xavier is a writer, illustrator and sequential artist. SCAD alumna, all about that kid lit. Brazilian born but partially American grown. Works as a freelance artist and would love to draw your fantasy maps and book covers. Coffee is ok, but Thai bubble tea is the real MVP. Inkstress witch of the Writer Coven. Find her at: website, twitter, patreon. Like my writing? Buy me a ko-fi! For inquiries, feel free to e-mail at email@example.com
Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! Now that March is here, we’re starting to think about gearing up for our next writing adventure. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Marlena Storm shares a few tips to help you get in the writing zone before it starts:
There isn’t a much bigger or more daunting task than approaching a new project.
You stare at the blinking cursor that haunts your waking hours, sometimes even your dreams, and you wonder to yourself…“Where do I even begin?”
The biggest thing to remember is that making the decision TO begin is an accomplishment in and of itself. Celebrate your small victories and then work toward your bigger victories. Respect and appreciate your commitment and everything else will come a bit easier.
In the almost five years that I have participated in NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned that micro goals (mini goals) and benchmark goals are a strong key to success. Pacing is a critical point to success that I think we, as writers, tend to overlook. It seems so simple but in the bigger picture, those small details are a great foundation for the world you will create through your writing.
Be realistic in your goals AND in your expectations. We all want to strive for greatness but greatness is achieved through baby steps. Keep that focus.
Self-care seems simple but when you are focused on hitting your word count every day, we can forget simple things. Prepare before the event starts! Make sure you have your preferred coffee or tea, your snack haul and those simple comforts covered before you start plugging away at your goals.
Remember the micro goals thing? Keep that in mind not to overwhelm yourself. If you look at your daily goals and have a day where you fall behind, pace your catch-up. You don’t have to write twenty-thousand words a day to succeed. If you get behind, mini goal your catch-up goals. It all starts with smaller building blocks. I’ve learned through execution that sometimes being so hyper focused on that end goal and the overview can be murder for your inspiration. Don’t let your mind get the best of you. Take care of yourself and everything else will start to feel exponentially easier.
You can’t expect a vehicle to run without an energy source, right? You can’t work toward your goals on empty, either. I can’t emphasize the importance of self-care enough.
Another thing to keep in the front of your mind is why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why do you write? Why did you want to participate in NaNoWriMo to begin with? What inspires you to create? These questions and answers can really be an additional fuel source needed to push you to greater heights.
Finally, one more thing I have learned throughout doing this event is VIBE MATTERS. What kind of space do you require to write and be in the mental space to create? Personally, I enjoy lighting incense, putting on music, lighting a couple of candles, and getting nice and zen in my creative space. Add in a hot cup of tea and I’m good to go. Every writer is different. Every artist is different.
At the end of the day, writing is hard. To create something from nothing takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, a lot of focus, and sometimes a lot of tears. Utilize your resources (ex: word sprints, group support, etc.) Find your groove, set your goals, and keep it pushing.
I believe in you, but moreover, I hope YOU believe in you, too.
I’d say “good luck”, but a writer makes their own luck. Remember that.
Now, let’s get to work. Novels don’t write themselves.
Marlena Storm is an amateur writer who has spent her life telling stories. She lives in Tampa, Florida with her partner and her cat. She is an LGBTQIA+ advocate, an animal lover and a nature obsessed tea enthusiast with a deep love of horror culture and rock music. She is currently working on a number of projects, including the Mirrors Series & The Daylight Dies Series. You can visit her on Instagram @MarlenaStorm and her website.
Many authors think of writing as a solitary activity. But sometimes, it can be fun to collaborate with a partner! Today, author and editor Jarie Bolander shares how he dove into children’s fiction by collaborating with Reeva, his young co-writer (pictured above):
I was never an avid reader as a kid. My usual reading material consisted of Popular Science, old textbooks, and the occasional Mack Bolan series. Even to this day, I mostly read and write nonfiction.
My interest in fiction grew out of NaNoWriMo and StoryGrid. It’s been a fantastic adventure to do a deep dive into the fiction pool to see how story shapes our lives. The motivation to actually write a chapter book came from my girlfriend’s daughter, Reeva, who one day said “You write. Why not write a book for kids like me?” Thus started our adventure into writing The Magical Mystical Mirror.
For most of us, writing is a solo activity. We labor away at our keyboards spinning worlds and crafting tales that are interesting to us. It’s only when we’re done with the first draft that we might hand it off to an editor.
The process of writing with Reeva has given me some valuable insights that have made me a better writer. I would have never learned them if I had not opened my mind to different perspectives.
Genre can be tricky for a chapter book. Most of the ones Reeva reads are mysteries so we decided to go that route.
Once we figured out we wanted to write a mystery, we had to figure out the theme. Reeva likes visiting aquariums because she loves animals. We wanted her love of animals to be part of the theme, which is:
The repercussions of the past come to life as a single mother of two seeks to save an endangered species by traveling back in time—The Magical Mystical Mirror.
One of the challenges we faced was how to communicate about what we wanted to write. We needed to come up with a common language—which for us, was via examples of stories she was reading.
Several times through our writing process, we would get distracted. This usually manifested itself in creating more characters or completely different plot lines. Thankfully, we would resolve this by simply committing to focusing on writing the idea we had. We could always change it later.
I normally don’t write fiction, and the nonfiction I do write is usually targeted to the entrepreneur crowd. The Magical Mystical Mirror is a different audience that’s not going to understand subtly or nuance. What might seem obvious to me won’t for a 9-year-old. This was important since my job was to do most of the writing, and without Reeva telling me what she thought, the book would not hit the mark.
As writers, it’s sometimes hard to picture a place or a scene in our heads, especially if you’re writing outside your comfort zone. That’s why we took two field trips to Monterey (where our story is set) to feel what it likes to walk the streets. This was not only inspiring but also made the experience fun for all of us.
Part of the reason that NaNoWriMo is such an enjoyable experience for me is the community that it creates. I would never have thought to write a chapter book, let alone with a writing partner. This experience has made me a better writer and made me want to write more stories outside my comfort zone—something we should all try and do.
Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He has over 20 years of experience bring innovative products to market. He is a Certified Story Grid Editor who uses his training to help his companies tell better stories. He has published six books—8 Startup Dilemmas All Founders Will Face, The Entrepreneur Ethos, 7 PR Secrets All Founders Should Know, #Endurance Tweet, Frustration Free Technical Management, and Business Basics for Entrepreneurs. He’s on Twitter @TheDailyMBA.
“But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” ––Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you have kids, you may be struggling with balancing your creative life with your responsibilities as a parent. Today, writer and mom Dr. Jennifer Harder shares how she’s managed to make creative writing time into a family activity:
A Holy Grail for many parents is that elusive activity you can do with your kids that you all equally enjoy. All too often, we settle for fun the kids can do while we adults look on, applaud, or otherwise support from the sidelines. We find activities that challenge our miniature selves but leave us adults stagnant. At the heart of childhood memories are shared experiences, and sometimes we adults get in a bad habit of not really sharing in the experience at all!
I learned of NaNoWriMo and its Young Writers Program in November 2017 when my son’s elementary school principal proposed it as a challenge to keep our then-second grader from getting himself into some boredom-based mischief. The idea came a bit out of the blue for me: You want my 7-year-old to write a what? In how long? I remember all of the ways that he and I struggled to subdue his inner editor, to unleash his creativity, and to learn to value the process of creating something that was utterly and completely his, all the while suppressing my urge to mom it up. It was hard.
But then, seemingly out of nowhere, it was fun.
For one month, it became our daily time together. Not only did he finish his novel, he added extra chapters because he had “more story to tell”. NaNoWriMo stuck with both of us. In 2018, September rolled around and he asked if we were doing NaNoWriMo again. We. Writing had become an us thing. Less than a year from learning what NaNoWriMo even was, we started a NaNoWriMo writing club at his new school. I thought my hands were just about full enough when my son upped the ante.
“Are you going to write one too, Mom? If I can do it, you can do it.” No more cheering from the sidelines, Mom, time to get in the game.
So on November 1st, we sat at our side-by-side computers, inner editors shoved into hidden boxes and word count goals blazoned on charts. We had just gotten underway when my 5-year-old daughter declared that she too had a story she wanted to tell. So, together, we wrote. We didn’t write alone, and we didn’t have to carve out time away from each other. We wrote as a family.
If you have a story inside of you and think you can’t possibly take time away from your family to get it down on paper, make writing a family affair. Together, you’ll be amazed what you can create! Here are some tricks to help make NaNoWriMo your new family tradition:
Cheer for each other when you hit a daily goal! Talk wild plot breaks at the dinner table, go run around the yard and brain storm word sprints, or get out your colored pencils and draw silly story twists. See the work as a game, and one you can all play together.
Who knows, you may surprise yourself, or stretch yourself trying. It’s what NaNoWriMo is all about! Kids get to choose their own word count goals, so encourage yours to stretch themselves too. Adults enjoy 50,000 words no matter what so trust me, you’ll be stretched!
Kids don’t always believe that things are hard for adults. Let them see that we struggle to achieve goals too, that things don’t come easily to us just because we’re older. Let them see you work hard, let them see you fall down, let them see you fail even. Then let them see you fight back and persevere. Let them cheer you on and celebrate achievements with you. It is one life lesson that is infinitely better to model than to preach.
While children relish in the world of make believe, adults learn to shove it aside as impractical. Rediscover that childhood magic with your kids. Follow their lead. Free your mind for a while from the bonds of obligation, responsibility, and cursed practicality. Do something impractical together.
No, seriously, don’t be stingy with the snacks. The family that writes together snacks together. Cheese, crackers, and pepperoni. Apples with cheddar. Trail mix. Fuel the brain and the fingers. You won’t regret it.
As November 2018 came to a close, my son finished his story first, my daughter continued to add chapters to hers, all of the writing club kids hit their word goals, and I indeed won the year. I did something I’ve never done before, and didn’t even have to stop being a mom to do it. Next stop, a family trip to Camp NaNoWriMo this summer!
Dr. Jennifer Harder is the mom to one dragon afficionado and one fierce free spirit, the wife to a hockey aspirationalist, and the giver of treats and teacher of tricks to a pair of pups and one pup-like cat. She is the author of an untold number of unsung non-fictional works of art for her employer, and, proudly, of her first 2018 NaNoWriMo piece of pure fiction.
Sometimes, growing up makes your childhood passions harder to pursue. It can be difficult to find the same kind of time or energy to invest in them. Today, writer and NaNoWriMo participant Alexandra Caulway shares how NaNoWriMo helped her rediscover her passion for writing as an adult:
When I was a child, writing was as natural as breathing. I would sneak in words before dance class. Scribble in my notebook before bed. Type furiously on the computer in a desperate attempt to get all my ideas out. My stories existed, unfiltered, because I was not afraid to write them.
As I grew up, writing became more of a “have to” and less of a “ want to.” I was in Advanced English and poetry classes, always coming home with an assignment that someone else wanted me to create. Don’t get me wrong—I loved those classes—but my ideas were now structured by a curriculum.
This pattern continued in college. I decided to go to school for writing and communications, intending to be a journalist (spoiler alert: I ended up creating social media content for a living instead). It goes without saying that learning “how to write” for four years meant I was writing all the time.
Then I graduated. At first, I freelanced for a couple of magazines and blogged regularly, but then I got a full-time job. It engulfed me. Working 40 hours a week or more is exhausting, and that is something no one tells you when you’re in school. In the beginning, I didn’t have the mental energy to do anything outside of work. Being in the adult world was an entirely new life in which I had control over my free time, exhausted or not. No one was forcing me to write poetry or fiction for class, and I found it really hard to look at a computer screen after 8 hours of doing so already. The most creative pieces I wrote were lifestyle blog posts that I only published to see how many people commented on WordPress. My identity as a writer was slipping away as I slipped into adulthood.
Then I found NaNoWriMo. It was exactly what I needed. An “assignment” to force me to write, just like back in college. No editors. No grades. Just me and the words I wanted to say. For the first time since I was a kid, writing became about the story I had inside me, not the story I was instructed to tell. Having the challenge packed into 30 days made it seem doable even with my busy work schedule, because however tired I was, it would only last for a month.
I wrote my first novel in notes at lunch time. In hotel rooms while sitting in bed. I came up with my main character’s name while manning the receptionist’s desk. I didn’t think I had enough time to write again, but NaNoWriMo proved me wrong. When I wrote the last sentence of my first novel, the feeling of fulfillment in writing returned to me.
I have now participated in NaNoWriMo four times and won three times. It is the month of the year where I feel most like a writer, because I write every single day. Perhaps most importantly, it has taught me how to maintain writing outside of November, while handling a 9-5 job and the rest of life. I have learned that I need to wake up early to get it done. If I don’t write before 8 am, the words won’t happen. My laptop is the second thing I touch in the morning, after my mug of tea.
Writing after graduation is not always fun. Writing as an adult is not easy. But it’s worth the effort, because the words I spill out in the sunrise hours are the best things I say all day.
Alexandra Caulway is 26 years old from Massachusetts. She graduated from Assumption College with a degree in Writing and Mass Communications, and now works in social media marketing. In her spare time, she writes fantasy and reads a lot of fiction. Follow her on Twitter @alexcaulway (mostly for writerly ramblings during November).