Category: nano prep

How to Make Your Writing Three-Dimensional

Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! If you’re wondering how you might be able to keep up your enthusiasm for your writing project through the month, writer K.R. Garcia shares some tips to help keep your excitement alive: 

Writing is a two-dimensional art form. No matter the quality of the words you place on paper, they are still just black and white. In the time between NaNoWriMo events, it’s easy to push your novel aside and spend your time on more pressing or more exciting matters. But writing can branch off the page.

You can keep your writing inspiration alive by bringing it into other areas of your life. 

Do you take pictures? Sculpt? If you cook, you could craft a delectable imitation of your main character’s favorite meal. If you draw, you could sketch your characters or, if you’re daring, make a map of your novel’s world. 

Do you play an instrument? I play the piano, and on occasion I have composed entire scores for my stories. You could also embellish your novel with other kinds of writing—poetry, song lyrics, fables, an origin story for the pebble your main character kicked down the road back in Chapter 5, and so on. There are many ways that you could incorporate your other interests into your novel.

Keep in mind that, although these projects could be used in your novel, they do not have to be used that way. They are intended primarily for yourself. If you do these projects for more eyes than your own, they may bring more stress than relief and distract you from your novel.

“Creative side-projects can give you enough immediate reward to carry you along the writing path.”

The goal of these synergistic creativities is for you to reignite your interest in writing. When I play those compositions mentioned earlier, it puts me in the writing mindset. Painting your novel on a three-dimensional canvas may open your eyes to its complex beauty. Seeing your novel in a different light, or a different medium, could inspire you to dive back into those pages of black and white and add some color to it.

Why does this work? Writing is a complex art form. For the painter, the cook, or the musician, reward can be immediate: a lovely brushstroke, the right flavor, or harmony between notes. For writers, reward can take forever to reach. Creative side-projects can give you enough immediate reward to carry you along the writing path.

Why is it important to keep your interest alive? Without motivation, you can’t get very far. Though writing offers more long-term rewards than short-term, when you do finish your novel, the feeling of accomplishment will be everything you imagined, if not more.


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K.R. Garcia has been creating stories since before she could hold a pencil and has participated in eight NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo events. An avid Agatha Christie reader, she writes mainly in the mystery and adventure genres. She coaches a class for young writers at her high school in Texas. When she is not writing, she enjoys classic rock, psychology, and music boxes. You can find her on Twitter at @katerpillar43.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Tom Small on Flickr.

How to Balance Writing with Everyday Life

Are you missing the energy of Camp NaNoWriMo and can’t wait for it to start again in July? If you’re trying to find time in your hectic schedule to sit down and write, participant Nicole Maharaj shares some tips to help you balance your writing time with your everyday life so you can finish your writing project:

When Camp NaNoWriMo ends, many participants are left with either a project that is mostly done or one that still feels unfinished. This year, for example, was my first Camp NaNoWriMo, working on a project I haven’t looked at since 2011. Surprisingly (to me at least), I was able to write more than I usually do, ending up just 10,000 words short of my original goal.

Now, just a couple weeks before the next Camp NaNoWriMo session begins, I’m at 52,000 words with no end in sight. Although you can create your own goal in Camp NaNoWriMo, I usually aim for the requisite 1,667 words a day (that is, 50,000 words per month). But for a lot of people—myself included—sometimes getting that amount written down is harder than it should be. A lot of writers have other responsibilities: Children, spouses, work, friends—all have a way of getting in the way of your writing. Personally, I’ve learned that if I change my goal from a daily one to a weekly one, I get more done.

I’ve never been the kind of person to get words easily down on computers. I’m sort of old school in the way that I work best with pen and paper, especially since inspiration can strike anywhere. The first draft of my 2011 project was forty pages, all long hand, done while traveling back and forth from college. So for me, rather than tracking my word count every day, the easiest way to set goals is by planning chapter by chapter. I usually make a goal on Sunday to set where I want to be in my novel by next Sunday. That way, I have a whole week to plan scenes, have characters randomly appear, and villains fall to their doom, instead of trying to rush through 1667 words in a day.

“Every writer needs to find their own way of working through writer’s block—or in my case, writing in infinite circles I can’t get out of.”

The other thing to remember is to take breaks from your writing when you need to. I noticed during Camp that while trying to get words down on paper, there were phases of my writing when I was just writing myself in circles. Now, because I’m not in Camp, I’ve learned to figure out those moments and to take a break when that happens, because all that writing in circle does is ensure I have over 1,000 words that will never make it past the editing floor. 

For example, during the past week I noticed this was happening, so I stopped writing completely and did something else creative I haven’t done in a really long time: I made some art. Really weird art with aliens and monsters, but art that eventually helped me look at how I was writing my scenes in a new light. Now, I have a much better idea of how to write my next chapter.

Of course, what works for me won’t necessarily work for everyone else. Every writer needs to find their own way of working through writer’s block—or in my case, writing in infinite circles I can’t get out of. Especially as summer is approaching, with its distracting days of BBQ’S, family gatherings, beach excursions, and long walks ahead. Even if you can only get a couple of pages every so often while in the pursuit of other interests, you should still try to make time to write.


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Nicole Maharaj has been writing since she was thirteen years old. Her first published piece was a poem and short story published in a textbook in her first year of high school and has two e-books currently online via Tablo Publishing; The Prince’s Vow, and Hunter’s Bar which share the same universe, as well as most of the characters. When she’s not in that universe she’s working on her first attempt at Science Fiction: Thorns. Her author penname is Katherine Drake.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from CollegeDegrees360 on Flickr.

How to Restore Your Writing Energy

Are you missing the energy of Camp NaNoWriMo’s April session and can’t wait for it to start again in July? If you want to continue your noveling adventures, participant K.R. Garcia shares some tips to help you keep your writing energy up:

It’s over. That month of late nights, exhilarating twists, dizzying plunges, and ink-stained fingers is over at last. As June dawns and fizzes, the stress and adrenaline diminuendo into a soft murmur, barely audible amidst the flood of relief. But so, too, does the inspiration that pushed you through the month.

When you began the race, you stood at the starting line with an empty notebook, fresh pens, and a fully charged laptop. The only opponent was the clock. Your mind-hotel was rented out to a number of misunderstood and eccentric characters, and you had promised them growth and room to be themselves. Nothing could dim the dazzling potential of your brilliant idea. As the race went on, your legs began to ache and your vision blurred. When you crossed the finish line, your legs gave out.

The track beyond the finish line looked more treacherous than the race itself. You jogged along for a while, but you could not go quite as fast. The smallest slip-up felt like a collapse.

You’ve lost your energy. Now, your idea, the starting line, is a distant memory.

How do you get that energy back? Simple. What gave you energy before? The race.

To restore your energy, bring the excitement back into the writing process. Make it a challenge again.

Here are a few ways to challenge yourself:

1. Set a goal. 

This is wonderful for both short- and long-term inspiration. Goals are especially useful if they require you to write more per day than you’re used to. They don’t have to be about word count. You can make, for example, a page, chapter, or hour goal. On the NaNoWriMo website, you can create goal trackers all year round.

2. Establish habits. 

Writing a set amount, at a certain time, or in a specific location every day could help you attain a constant writing energy level. You could reward yourself when you write or make a schedule for yourself that includes writing time.

3. Try something new. 

You could try your hand at an emotionally heavy scene or incorporate an unfamiliar genre. If you’re a pantser, you could try writing a plan for your novel. If you’re a planner, you could try giving yourself some room for spontaneity. Attempting something out of your comfort zone could inspire you to write more.

Why do you need to have energy to write? Writing may not be fun all the time, but if it’s never exciting, you will not finish your projects. Challenging yourself could help you regain your writing energy and finish the race at last.


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K.R. Garcia has been creating stories since before she could hold a pencil and has participated in eight NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo events. An avid Agatha Christie reader, she writes mainly in the mystery and adventure genres. She coaches a class for young writers at her high school in Texas. When she is not writing, she enjoys classic rock, psychology, and music boxes. You can find her on Twitter at @katerpillar43.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Vlad Litvinov on Flickr.

5 Research Tips for Writing a Novel

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Even though the frenzy of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session has passed, that doesn’t mean you need to stop writing! If you’re feeling like you want to continue your noveling adventures but you’re not quite sure where to go with them, participant V.S. Chiu shares her top tips for researching your novel:

Research is one of those things in life that you either love or hate—but it’s one of those things you have to do. Not just in writing, but in life: plane tickets, buying a computer, the time of a movie—all of those things require just a little bit of research to make sure you get the best deal, or show up when you need to. As an archivist and professional researcher, I may be one of the people who loves research the most, and when I’m teaching people to research it’s always how to make life easier. My top tips are mostly for academia; however, adapting to fiction is not that hard.

1. Find somewhere to start.

Wikipedia is a starting point. Wikipedia is a great resource to find jumping off points, due to editable nature however makes the information somewhat hard to take on its own. Those lovely footnotes (the numbers after a word) are a great way of getting more information.  If you have vague questions, or thoughts, going through the Wikipedia article is a great place to start.

2. Find the repeat. 

Science, history, everything really has a bias. Bias is an inherent vice in life, as humans all have a bias. You have to be mindful of the bias in the research, and in yourself. It can be hard to see the bias in the material, so look at multiple sources. If multiple sources repeat the same thing, that’s a pretty strong guarantee that the thing happened.

3. Be aware of your sources.

Look at the sources you’re getting information from. Use your judgement on how credible those sources are; as much as I want to say trust the masterlist on Tumblr on x there is distinct lack of sources usually involved, or you’re given a “Trust me I’m an x” as a source. That doesn’t mean they aren’t credible, it means you need to do your own research.

4. Know your limits.

Now, the thing about research and writing—and I’m including myself in this—is that sometimes it can be so tempting to just go down a research hole. It can be too daunting to write, so researching to make sure you get everything Just So and you’re Completely Accurate, is a good escape.

Except, if you’re only researching, you’re never writing and that is also Not Good.

Take breaks, and learn the limits. Yes, you want to be accurate and authentic but do you really need to know the expiry date of the typical food in a pantry for a family in the 1960s? No, you don’t. You also don’t need to know how to make whatever food your characters are eating. You know your story better than anyone, but somethings don’t need to be in it.

5. Remember that you have creative license. 

There is also a point where fact and fiction diverge, and that is perfectly okay. I beta read and fact check for a friend’s story and there was a point when she mentioned a character was born in the Year of the Snake. She had already mentioned the year the story was taking place, as well as the character’s age, and it just took a quick search to find out that the math didn’t add up and there was no way the character could be born in the Year of the Snake, at that age and year the story was set.

I told my friend, and she shrugged.She didn’t care, and being wrong didn’t change or ruin the story. Research can help enhance, but in the end, it’s just another tool in your tool box.


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V.S Chiu is an anthropologist, archivist and academic. She specializes in Chinese history, immigration and biracial/multicultural research in Canada. She is currently working on her debut science fiction novel set in Canada in a post 9/11 world, as well as currently working to curate the upcoming Reawakening anthology, written by women of color in Canada. She lives in Vancouver, with her cat Mistoffolees, and never-ending quest to go to all the coffee stores and to see the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. You can find her on Twitter at victoriaschiu or on Instagram at VS.Chiu.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Trevor on Flickr.

How to Piece Together Research and Free Writing

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Even though the frenzy of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session has passed, that doesn’t mean you need to stop writing! If you’re feeling like you want to continue your noveling adventures but you’re not quite sure where to go with them, participant Larisa Hunter shares some tips for researching and organizing your first draft:

Free writing is exactly how it sounds: you sit down and just write. It doesn’t seem like it would be a good tool to organize your thoughts, because it’s somewhat chaotic, but I find it very useful. You don’t have to write about a specific thing; you just take thoughts that are all over the place and put them down. 

I’m usually a very organized person. I used to be extremely organized until I became a mom, at which point it began to be more trouble than it was worth. You can’t always predict what kids will do, and planning for everything is virtually impossible (as children, if nothing else, are great at finding the one thing you didn’t prepare for). I began to realize that not much was under my control. Life is often fraught with unexpected events, so trying to organize everything is virtually impossible. In completing a writing project, I’ve found that a mix of free writing and organization work best for me.

Step One: Organizing Research

If you’re writing nonfiction, you have to do research. There’s no way to avoid this, as getting facts wrong can be devastating to your reputation as a writer. When writing nonfiction, you’ll also usually need many sources to research any topic. 

To organize my sources, I find it easier to research one topic at a time and list notes for each section. Each note includes essential information about my source, including the author, title, year, publisher, and page numbers for direct quotes. Making my bibliography is super easy with those notes. I always make sure my sources are backed up by both internet and physical books to ensure I have correct, up-to-date information. It’s vital to ensure your sources are accurate and that you’re sticking to the rules of the style guide you’re using.

With fiction, research can be helpful if you’re looking for background information. It can help you create believable settings and characters. If you’re writing about a fire fighter, you’d want to find out as much as you can about a fire fighter’s life. Don’t be afraid to ask someone who has direct experience if they’d be willing to give you the details of what their job entails. 

Think about fiction research as a way to be a kind of detective: you’re discovering material that you can use to push the story forward. You can research locations locations by physically going to them and noting what you see, and you can read stories similar to the one you want to write.  

Step Two: Free Writing

After I compile my research (or at least have an idea of what exactly I’m going to write), I then go into my free writing sessions. I personally prefer to just sit down at my keyboard and start typing. I don’t really have an idea of where I’m going in the beginning, but I often find the idea when writing it down. Sometimes just putting your fingers on the keys and allowing your mind to pour out its ideas becomes a very good way to finish your project—or at least begin to work it out.

Don’t worry at all about structure with free writing. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or anything related to editing and formal writing. Free writing is an exercise to get your inspiration going. I find it extremely helpful to just roll with it, to allow yourself to go places in your mind and to write your story in whatever way you want. 

It’s helpful to set a time limit on the free writing block—say, twenty minutes—then sit and self-reflect. Review what you’ve written and take a critical eye to it. This may require you to give it to someone else because we often can’t criticize our own work fairly—we tend to be way too harsh on ourselves, or self-deprecating of our own talent.

Writing is an art, and art takes time to craft. You have to have a lot of patience with yourself. Sometimes pressure can override your ability to have a clean piece of writing that will turn into the product that you want it to be. I think that patience is the hardest part of writing to learn, because writers often get caught up in our own heads. When this happens, take a break. Breathe, relax, go outside, do something else to get a break from yourself. These things will help organize your project in a way that is not overwhelming or stressful.

Writing should never be a chore or a task, but an expression of ourselves on the page. Remember that this is your time, your space, your page, fill how you choose. Don’t let yourself feel that this page is your enemy, but a friend waiting to hear your secrets.


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Larisa Hunter has spent most of her life on the East Coast of Canada. She is the owner of a small publishing house called Saga Press, and has been involved in publishing for about 6 years.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Rick Payette on Flickr.

Conquering Writer’s Block: Online Generators Edition

Even though the frenzy of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session has passed, that doesn’t mean you need to stop writing! If you’re feeling like you want to continue your noveling adventures but you’re not quite sure where to go with them, participant Kayla Ann Diaz shares some tips for beating writer’s block:

If you’re like me, there is always a point in your writing in which the dreaded phenomenon known as writer’s block occurs. Some people say that writer’s block isn’t real; it’s just insecurity or the anticipation of an epiphany that causes writer’s block.

In my case, every experience I’ve had with writer’s block resulted from one of two reasons: I either got bored with the idea I initially had, or I ran out of ways to embellish that idea.

I’ve found that I can get myself writing again in one of three ways:

  • Introducing a new character
  • Moving my characters to a new place
  • Using a random prompt to spark inspiration

Online generators help in all three areas. Online generators are inherently prompt generators, a great tool to have for a project like NaNoWriMo. I use them for inspiration and as a way to add a new element to my story more quickly. What better use for something like that than a writing project in which you need to crank out as much content as possible in a short amount of time?

In the corner of the Internet, I found little nuggets of content gold.

Of the three methods I previously mention for adding words to the page, my favorite is character creation. New characters thrown into the mix have unique backstories and motives, which can take on a life of their own. They are an excellent source of new material. There are online generators out there that make adding characters to your story simple by either supplying a unique name or giving you a character description to embellish.

For some writers, even just a new name for a character can spark creativity and battle writer’s block. For one story, I received the name “Inissa" from a name generator.  It made me think princess, royalty, a heart of gold. I immediately saw long dark hair, blue eyes, and a scar on her arm from that time she went to the market in disguise and saved a homeless boy with ailurophobia from a stray cat.

Perhaps a simple, generic character description will do the trick. You could create a few humorous moments in your fantasy epic by introducing “The unathletic Druid” or have the sudden misfortune of adding “The awkward, pious, clinging Rogue” to your party. Your stalled science fiction masterpiece may even be in need of “The bitter, philandering cyborg.” The descriptions are just generic enough to get ideas flowing. You start contemplating situations before even officially adding them to the story.

There are even generators that provide detailed character descriptions for more severe writer’s block, randomizing and selecting things like demeanor, gender, and physical descriptions.

Don’t like a name or character description you received? With the click of a button, you receive a whole new word or phrase to use. You can keep refreshing until you find something you like, something that sparks creativity for you.

The following are online generators I use. I hope they help you the way they help me. Happy writing!

  • Seventh Sanctum — the first online generator I ever used. The generators here span different categories that range from generic to descriptive.  
  • Chaotic Shiny — my new obsession. It has writing and gaming generators, a lot of them designed for D&D campaigns. I whole-heartedly recommend the Tavern/Inn generator.
  • Fantasy Name Generators — my go-to name generator nowadays. There are many name generators worth exploring.

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Kayla Ann Diaz grew up in Brooklyn, New York and is still adjusting to life in rural Pennsylvania. She has loved writing ever since she discovered forum roleplaying, and she has participated in NaNoWriMo events since 2010. She finds inspiration in works like Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series while secretly favoring the young adult Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. Kayla has a B.A. in English and has a passion for fantasy and all its subgenres.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Judit Klein on Flickr.

What Will Your Camp Creation Be?

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We’re gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo, and we’ve asked our great community for their advice for campers, both new and returning. Today, YWP writer Claire Marino shares what makes Camp NaNo so special: 

Imagine being locked in a room for a month. You’re told to set a goal for yourself, keep track of your progress, and create something you care about. You have complete creative freedom—something that, these days, is much harder to come by than you might think.

So, what is this mighty project? What do you immediately itch to write when given such a guideline? Take that inkling—that feeling—and bottle it up! You will need that inspiration later!

You might be thinking, “NaNoWriMo? Isn’t that the insane novel-in-November thing? I can’t do that. I don’t even want to write a novel, anyway.” To which I would say, “Great! Then Camp NaNoWriMo is just the thing for you!”

There is one main difference between Camp NaNo and November NaNo: creative freedom. In Camp NaNo, not only can you write whatever you want, but you can also track your progress however you want. You can track your project progress through words, lines, pages, or hours spent working on the project. The only measurement I could even think of to add to the list would be seconds spent thinking about the project. (Boy, wouldn’t it be great if they counted?)

Just think of all the wonderfully YOU things you could write with such progress-tracking freedom. In case you’re awestruck just thinking of all the possible things you could write, I’ve curated a list. From the conventional to the unique, there are truly no bad options with what you could write. You could write a…

  • Novel
  • Novel outline and/or other pre-writing processes
  • Novella
  • Screenplay
  • Video game script
  • Short story or collection of short stories
  • Poem (an epic, a few poems, or a whole collection)
  • Board game
  • Zine
  • Memoir
  • Letter collection
  • Essay or essay collection
  • Dictionary in the fantasy language you’re creating
  • Recipe, or a whole cookbook
  • Comic book
  • Response to a different word prompt each day
  • Anything else you can imagine!

With Camp NaNoWriMo, not even the sky is the limit—you are encouraged to surpass it. 

I could probably write a novel itself about the endless possibilities Camp NaNoWriMo provides. In fact, I did, and I won last April. (Just kidding…I lost.)

It’s important to sit down and really think about what you want to create this month. Camp NaNoWriMo was created for people like you to create the things that matter to you—things that don’t necessarily fall under the “novel” umbrella.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by to learn something about yourself and write something you care about in the process. Or, you know, write a dictionary chock full of the words your dog knows how to say. Whatever inspires you. This is your time to take advantage of creative freedom and set a goal. Prove to yourself that you can. Prove to the world it didn’t know what it was missing.


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Claire Marino is a high school sophomore from New Jersey who has been creating stories since before she could read. She spends her free time reading anything she can get her hands on, singing under every breath, and writing everything from novels to poetry to music. Some of her favorite authors and greatest literary inspirations include Jandy Nelson, Marissa Meyer, L. M. Montgomery, and J. K. Rowling. Two recurring themes in her work about which her family loves to tease her include deceased fathers and the moon.

For the Honor of Tippy! How to Host a Regional Competition

Every year, NaNoWriMo’s super cool Municipal Liaisons find ways to make writing even more fun. Today, Dayton, Ohio, ML Rochelle Bradley tells us about the November challenge that her region started with the neighboring Indianapolis region. (Want to create a fun regional challenge this year? Join a region and start chatting with fellow participants and MLs!)

For NaNoWriMo 2017, the Dayton, Ohio region declared war on Indianapolis, Indiana. Both regions have awesome Municipal Liaisons ☺, Wrimos, and mascots. Dayton has a cute three-legged cat named Tippy, an actual pet of a former ML. Indy’s mascot is Moe the tomato.

The regional MLs decided on the winning criteria. The losing region had to write a poem in the opposing mascot’s honor.  We posted the “call to war” in Indy’s forum:

Hark!

We the Wrimos of the Dayton, Ohio Region challenge thee to a duel! For Tippy the three-legged cat’s honor, we shall raise our pens and open our laptops to take the battle to the pages of our novels. Our region may be small but we are fierce.

The duels shall three be:

  1. Average word count per Wrimo
  2. Average donation per Wrimo
  3. Percentage of winners per region

The battle of wits and words will commence forthwith on the first of the eleventh month and ending on thirtieth day at the stroke of midnight.

Prepare thyself for battle! Tippy is hungry for marinara sauce.

Indy replied in kind:

The bold Indianapolis Wrimos challenge the entire region of Dayton to a WAR! There will be blood, there will be screaming, there will be… probably lots of writing and money donated, let’s be honest.

The realms of combat shall be as follows:

  1. Average word count per Wrimo
  2. Average donation per Wrimo
  3. Percentage of winners per region

Let the battles commence! Well, starting on November 1, and ending on the 31st at midnight, as specified in the lore of old. Indianapolis WILL be victorious! By the end, a tub of tomatoes will be toppled on Tippy. Bring it, Dayton!

ML Strych and I loved working with Indianapolis’ MLs, Chelleybean13 and Cgarrett. We all were motivated to inspire and encourage our Wrimos.  From the Hogwarts House Cup challenge, weekly Write-Ins, and even meeting mid-way in Richmond, IN for a cross-region write-in, we worked to prod the words out of our regions. What greater motivation do you need than a fuzzy three-legged kitty?

Who won the challenge? Indianapolis. This time.

Here is the ode the Dayton Wrimos wrote at the TGIO (Thank Goodness It’s Over) party:

Moe’s Ode (AKA Tippy’s Lament)

To Indianapolis and rotten tomato Moe,
a lament from Tippy and Dayton, OH.

Tomato! Beauteous, Moe! Delish in marinara,
freshly chopped in salad, red as Scarlett O’Hara.

Poor Tippy, we tried,
how sad to see your tomato-covered hide.

O Glorious orb, ripe, red, and round,
emerging from the sun to pound us to the ground.

“Tippia volt!” we cried and charged into the fray.
How odious that a vegetable/fruit should carry the day,
while Tippy the kitty lazed away.

Indy’s writing game was mean,
whether Moe was fresh and red or crispy, fried and green.

And we must admit, the tomato, however green or soft or flavorless,
will always cook up better than a cat—a tasteless cat.

So keep on rolling, oh great round fruit,
while Tippy tries to right (write) herself.

Even though Dayton didn’t come out on top, we collectively wrote 8,438,171 words. That’s eight million words! Crazy awesome!

New friends, more words, collaborative poem writing…we all won. There’s nothing like the competition of a regional NaNoWriMo war to motivate DayOhWrimos to write for the honor of Tippy.


In autumn of 2008, Rochelle Bradley wrote her first romance novel. Midway through, Hurricane Ike (yes, a hurricane in Ohio) rendered her laptop useless with a nine-day power outage. She didn’t give up, but continued to pursue her dream. Introduced to NaNoWriMo in 2008, she became hooked and has won every year since. In 2015 she became a Municipal Liaison for the Dayton, Ohio region. Her 2013 NaNoWriMo novel The Double D Ranch was published in December 2017. Rochelle shares her home with one cat, three lizards, two high schoolers, and her Prince.

3 Writing Distractions and How You Can Stop Them

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We’re gearing up for Camp NaNo, so we’ve asked the community for their best advice for new and returning Campers. Today, writer Sarayu Adeni shares three distracting writing “mosquitoes” and how to defeat them:

I confess, the title is a bit deceptive. You can’t actually stop distractions from draining your time and motivation from you while you’re writing. Like writing mosquitoes, they’re aggressive little beasts. 

Meet the three distraction “mosquitoes” whining around my (and possibly your) ears at Camp NaNo this year:

1. Work

That is to say, actual work, or grad school work, or undergrad school work, or homework. I’ve lived, studied, and worked on three different continents during past Camp NaNos, and despite valiant efforts, I’ve sometimes rejected my super-novel’s attempts to fly and gone back to my meek alter-ego’s everyday grind. This year, I’m balancing Camp NaNo with a job hunt—so this mosquito bites hard. The resume polishing, cover letter creation, networking, interviewing, etc. are top priority!

2. Love and/or Heartbreak

You may be in that fresh, sparkly initial stage of any new relationship, or—like me—you’re pushing heavily past a recent disappointment and moving on. These are raw, common experiences. But I find when I’m trying to write, they like to buzz in my head with daydreamy replays and alternate endings as if it’s never happened to anyone before. Which of course, as far as word count goes, is completely unproductive. Swat that mosquito!

3. Living Space 

I recently moved into what Virginia Woolf referred to as “a room of one’s own,” which means I have space and solitude and every reason to hit my Camp NaNo goal this time…right? 

…Except I have to take out the trash tomorrow, don’t forget! And that’s the third lightbulb that’s gone out this month—better get that checked. It’s almost seven p.m., go feed the dog! When was the last time I watered that potted succulent? …I think it’s time to break out the vacuum cleaner. 

How to deal with these distractions:

There’s no amount of bug spray that will get rid of these distractions for good when I’m trying to write. So here’s my approach at Camp NaNo this year: instead of trying to oust the mosquitoes from my tent, I’ll invite them in.

I’m resurrecting a long-unfinished NaNoWriMo novel that I’ve been working on in Camp NaNo the past two years. By looking around my own house (distraction #3), I can add richer descriptions of surroundings and what tasks my characters are doing or need to do. 

Maybe some of them are better than I am at balancing it all. In fact, do all my characters have stable jobs? If not, why not? Maybe I should see how they hold up in an interview. And maybe my own areas of expertise in international development, youth empowerment, and journalism can add something legitimate and complex to my made-up plot. In other words, make use of your own distractions to push your writing ahead.

As for the ups and downs of relationships, I don’t want to inflict heart-suffering on my characters—but I do want them to learn the same lessons I did, or at the very least teach me something. Maybe as I journey forward, they can keep me company. A long tirade from a jilted lover is good for word count, anyway.

Your whining mosquitoes—your distractions—at Camp NaNo this year might be the same as mine. Maybe they’re different. But don’t give up and let them consume you alive, or waste time trying to slap them away. Find a way to work them all in to the novel, poem, play, script, whatever. This year, turn whining into writing.


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Sarayu Adeni lives in Austin, Texas, but in different eras of life, she’s called Chicago, Valparaíso, Kumasi, Playa Najayo, and New York City home. Amid her travels, she has participated in Camp NaNoWrimo since April 2013, ScriptFrenzy once, and NaNoWrimo for over eleven years. When not facing down the ol’ writer’s block, she works in the nonprofit sector, studies classical Indian dance, and holds the world record for slowest eater. Visit her on LinkedIn or on her website.

Top image modified from an image licensed under Creative Commons from frankieleon on Flickr.

The Secret to a Successful NaNo

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As we’re nearing the end of November’s creative challenge, it’s important to remember that a month of writing doesn’t need to mean a month of solitude. Today, writer and Austin ML Jackie Dana shares one of her secrets to NaNo success: 

We tell ourselves NaNoWriMo is all about the writing. We’ll write a novel and prove we can do it,
impress our friends, or maybe give ourselves an excuse to get out of
Aunt Rhonda’s Thanksgiving “Massacree.”  

But there’s a secret the NaNo veterans know: it’s not just about the writing. NaNo is people!

The Ordinary World

Before NaNoWriMo,
you were probably like most people. You might have a job, or you’re
in school. Maybe you’re raising small children. But you’re also
that quirky friend with a good imagination—a person whose compulsion
to write befuddles friends and family.

So NaNoWriMo seemed like it could be fun, but it’s a big commitment. Could you really put
your social life on hold? Would your family and friends understand why
you’re going to become a hermit for a month?

When you sign up for
NaNoWriMo—alone on a strange website filling out your personal
details—you can almost hear the devil on your shoulder urging to
forsake your social life.

But as you may have already discovered, that doesn’t have to be the case.

The Adventure Begins

Once you created your
novel on the NaNoWriMo site, you might have gotten curious, and started clicking around. First, you discovered the discussion forums for all
participants, and then your regional forums…

Whoa, where
did all these people come from? There are in-person activities and
Facebook groups?

When you
discover that the “solitary” act of writing is more social than you
thought, your inner introvert may be scared
and confused.

What do you do?

It’s All Fun and
Games

Many regions host
kickoff parties on Halloween or November 1st. Maybe you summoned up the
courage to attend, thinking you could get a few lingering questions
answered. Maybe that’s when
everything started to change. Writers—at
least the kinds who do NaNoWriMo—are a tribe.

We understand the
compulsion to write. We like going into those scary places inside our
heads and finding out what’s lurking within. We enjoy putting our
characters through torturous twists and turns, only to discover that
the evil queen is really the most interesting character, so we make
her the protagonist, and we start slaughtering all of the good guys
just because we can…

Did I mention we’re a tribe?

The Whiff of Death

When you’re caught
up in the midst of NaNoWriMo you might struggle a bit. The holidays
are tough. You’ve got a week to go and you might be barely past the
halfway mark. You might become tempted to give up and
walk away from the whole endeavor. Let the novel-in-progress die a
slow, forgettable death. That’s you
talking—but you’re part of a tribe now, remember?

Turn to your new
NaNoWriMo buddies—the ones you met at the kickoff or on
Facebook—and ask for help. Maybe you need a pep talk, or someone to
sit across from you at Starbucks while you play catch-up. Or perhaps
you just need to hear from others who have been in your shoes and be
reassured that yes, it is possible to turn this turkey into a winner.

Writers don’t let
fellow writers give up.

The Reward

Joining a community
of fellow writers could very well change your life.

You’ll make
friends with people who understand that sometimes you’d rather stay
home and write or read a book. You’ll discover that you’re not
the only person who takes notes during a movie. It will no longer
feel so weird to spend two hours researching all the different kinds
of barrels, or which kind of chain mail best resists a
broadsword—because your friends do those things too.

Your writer friends
will become your favorite people to hang out with. They’ll also be
the ones who will help you succeed over the long run. After
November’s over, those people might have tips for revising your
novel, and there’s a good chance they’ll join you for coffee to
discuss the ideas you have for your next book.

A Believer’s Born
Every November

Before you started NaNoWriMo, you might not have realized how much fun it would be to meet
other people like yourself. But once December rolls around, you’ll
discover that it’s not enough to hang out with your new writer buds
once a year. You’ll want to keep the spirit of writing camaraderie
going.

Here are a few ways
you can indulge your writer fix throughout the year:

  • Become a Municipal Liaison—join the ranks of the MLs who help run local regional events. 
  • Join a local writing group on Meetup.com—or start your own! You can host regular write-ins, book discussions, critiques, or workshops.
  • Attend writers’ conferences.
  • Enter short story writing contests online.
  • Join writing groups on Facebook.
  • Organize writing retreats. 
  • Attend fan conferences and book festivals and schmooze with fellow authors (that’s right, you’re an author too!).

And if all else
fails, you’ve always got Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July to keep
you going until next November.

As you plunge
head-first into NaNoWriMo this year, don’t think of it as a solo
pursuit. Use it as an excuse to climb out of your shell and meet
fellow participants. While we might spend time getting into the heads
of adulterers, serial killers, and evil goblin kings, most of us are
actually pretty cool people. And every single one of us wants you to
win!


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Jackie Dana loves
words and the people who write them. She’s a professional blogger and
content manager, and published her first novel,
By
Moonrise,
in 2015 (with a sequel on the way).
Recognizing the value in a writing community, she serves as a
NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for Austin-Central Texas and organizes
the
Write
It Already! Meetup
for all writers. You can check out
her blog at
JackieDana.com.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons Zero.