Breaking the NaNo Habit

Remember that saying “bad habits are the hardest to break”? Yeah, well I can’t even say National Novel Writing Month is a bad habit, but I’ve finally realized it for what it was to me. A habit. I won’t lie. I owe a lot to that silly site. When I did my first NaNo in 2006 I’d never finished a book. I always started and then promptly lost interest a few chapters in. Why?

Because writing is hard. It takes discipline. Discipline I didn’t have back then. And it took me finding NaNo and going, “I can do that,” and finding ‘success’ before I realized my problem. I sat down my first year, wrote 50,000 words by the seat of my pants by Day 17. And then promptly stopped. I slacked off, twiddled my thumbs, and played on the boards. Then, somewhere in week four I realized I was still in the same boat I’d been in before I’d started. Yet another unfinished draft, only this time it was 50,000 words long versus three to four chapters. So I changed my goal and finished the story before the month ended.

That book, well it wasn’t a very good book. I set it aside and went back to playing with the idea of someday being a writer. Then I finished another first draft. Then another. I’ve got more first drafts sitting on my hard drive not going anywhere than most people have published books. For the most part, even if I rewrote them to death, they still wouldn’t be good. But every year, my schedule clears and I gear up to do NaNo.

Until now.

I’ve changed a lot over the last year. I’ve went from playing at turning into a professional writer into slaving my butt off to be one. I’m elbow deep in edits and revisions on projects that need to get out to the world soon, that are ready for it… and suddenly I realize, I was just going to set them all aside so I can write another draft that chances are, will just sit on my computer for eternity or need massive revisions. Why? Because I always do NaNo. I don’t even need it. I write all year round. Daily. And if my reasoning is that it’s just a habit, then why?

So tonight I took the time to really look at what I wanted to finish this year. Where I wanted to be with each of my deadlines… and well, NaNo just didn’t make the list.

Back when I first started doing NaNo and writing consistently to the end, I wrote fast and by the seat of my pants. No clue where I was going and it didn’t matter if I turned out a heaping pile of dung at the end of it. I had fun. Now, I prefer to take my time. Savor the story. I’m tired of the word sprints, but most of all, I’m just plain tired of revisions. More specifically: The sheer numbers of revisions it takes me to salvage a NaNo story. Which are hugely higher than the number of revisions it takes me to polish a non-NaNo story (and these revisions, I happen to love).

So I quit the habit. No NaNo for me this year. Instead, I’m going to finish getting out the projects I’ve been working on. The story I intended for NaNo will still be written, but it won’t all be in one month and while it might still be crap, it’ll be at least at the level of stuff I enjoy revising. In the meantime though, I’m going to finish what I already have on my plate.

And I’m happy with that.

Plan your NaNo – Organize Your Plot

As thousands of people world wide are gearing up for the insanity that’s National Novel Writing Month (also known as AHHH!), I’m rolling out the ball with post two on the Writing Wednesdays… this time, looking at organization.

Not just how you organize the folders on your computer… though I am a bit OCD about that. Or crazy. Probably depends on how you look at this. No, I’m looking at two things here today:

1) Organizing your plot – aka plotting

2) Programs that help you do it!

Now, seeing as I’m no expert on plotting, I figured I’d refer to you all to some wonderful peeps who are. Namely, Blake Snyder over at Save the Cat and Larry Brooks over at Story Fix.

Blake Snyder’s site is particularly helpful because he takes apart movies, right there on the site so you can see how it works. And as visual as I am, that’s a life saver. Larry Brooks’ 6 Core Competencies go beyond the Beat Sheet, and I found it helpful to wrap my mind around the whole story a bit more. Though what’s really great in combination with Larry Brook’s blog and books? Susan Bischoff’s Blueprint (she also does a series of posts that walk your right through it). Let’s me work through everything in a manner I understand (very similar to the snowflake method, but makes more sense with my poor brain).Also, Larry Brooks is doing a series of posts leading up to NaNo, to help you get your story in gear before the big Nov First.

Now, that I’ve passed out all the How-To’s I enjoy, I figured I’d pass on the programs in which I actually get the plotting done. My all time favorite? Sticky Notes, which came on my PC.

BC's outline in progress

I’ve always loved the idea of plotting by sticky notes, but it never works out as well in real life. I don’t have the wall space and by the time I’m done moving around my stickies, they’ve lost their sticky-ness so many times it’s sad. Seriously, the only thing I dislike about the program that comes with my PC… is the fact that I can’t have ‘multiple desktops/files’ so I can plot out more than one book without having to transfer the outline to Word.  I love the sticky note apps you can get on the iPhone, iPad, and through the droid app-stores too. Portable plotting. -grin-

Another favorite of mine is Microsoft Office’s One Note. It’s for when I’m just starting that idea-gathering stage and just beginning to look at starting a blueprint for a story. I can keep all of my idea snippets and inspiration photos in various notebooks there.

Other Writerly Links:

Kristen Lamb just did a series on Structure – Part one

Chuck Wendig did a great post – 25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story

For those who really love the idea of plotting with Real Life post it’s check out Julie Cohen’s blog

Susan Bischoff’s recent review on Character Arcs will blow your mind – it did mine

And, since we are talking NaNo here, Natalie Whipple’s great tips for First-Drafting

Put the dog to work and wa-la more time!

So I mentioned something about Writerly Wednesdays through NaNo… specifically, nano-prep style. Well, here’s something practical for all those out there with busy, busy lives… be in NaNo in the upcoming month, trying to herd five children around the house, a full time job and then some, or well… just all in all addicted to Warcraft. -cough- Let’s not talk about that last bit.

I mean, on the best of days, who really has time to make the bed? Dust, clean the house… I mean, I can’t be the only one with a jar of peanut butter on my desk, two water bottles and an empty Pepsi bottle, right? I am? Damn.

Still. My solution? Either better time investment or all you dog lovers out there hire the Super Jack Jesse:

He even does the dishes and the laundry for you. You could always train your own too. The Moose and Toby frequently help with the laundry… Their Friday Job is to get the clothes from the hampers up stairs to the basement steps. Works great for me, minus the whole running around after them reminding them what good doggies they are and to stop dropping socks along the way.

For those of you who can’t get your hands on – or train – your own Super Jack Jesse, then maybe better Time Management would be good. And here is where I say….

Schedule, schedule, schedule.

I can’t be the only one who manages to do a zillion and ten things when my day is already jammed to the absolute brim, but has a whole day off and manages to do ZILCH. Nada. Dudes, I’m lucky if I even write my To-Do list on the days where I have no structure. And taking vacation time from work to be productive is like shooting myself in the foot, getting the bird flu, and managing to chop both wrists off helping cook dinner the night before. I’m gonna be spending that week off lolling in front of the TV, and probably bemoaning my lack of arms to play WoW or read (though I’m pretty sure I could nose peck my Kindle?)… rather than actually use that whole, wondrous week off for something useful.

So schedule in your writing time. Look at what you already have going each day, write it down in a day planner – or calendar, most emails have a handy calendar function which also emails you reminders. And if you have a smart phone hooked to said email, you’re screwed because you can never get away from those pesky emails. -hides hers-

Then most importantly. Once you’ve set that time for yourself, do everything in your power to make sure it stays open for writing. Now, I understand the barfing toddler can’t be predicted, and life happens, and that’s okay. But if it’s a rerun of Psych and you’re sneaking out of your Write Time… well, have a nice look at that schedule, your priorities, and what you want to accomplish.

What about you?

Any super cool tips anyone else has for managing to squeeze more into the day? Obviously, I’m a fan of putting the pooches to work to earn their kibble, but how about the toddlers? And how many of you guys and gals are hiding superheroes in the closet just so you can have someone speed wash the dishes while you get some much needed ‘you’ time in?

And of course, as promised, some super cool writing blogs I’ve been gathering for a little while now…

Meredith Jaeger posts about the Top 10 Writing Distractions

Writing, Burp Rags, & Sesame Street – on Kristin Lamb’s awesome blog, the post is by Natalie Markey – in helping to better manage your limited time

Larry Brooks over at Story Fix has started a series called Nail Your NaNoWriMo to help NaNoers plot their story for success – and not just another manuscript for the Shelving Drawer of Doom

Roni Loren posted over at Janice Hardy’s blog not too long back with a solution for Pantsers who want to be plotters... Yeah, totally me!

NaNo is Nearing

It’s that time of year again and while I obviously write all year round, somehow my calendar seems to open up magically for November. Amazingly enough, the edits I’ve been working on are drawing to a close for this round, the stories I’ve been prepping for submission and the site are almost in their final stages… and it’s the month before November. Go figure.

To celebrate the National Novel Writing Month’s site reopening last night (2 am… really?), I figured I’d post the cover and summary for Open Season, a book that’s finally going to get it’s full scale rewrite. From scratch. Probably makes me a bit of a rebel, but hey, I love this story and the words are new (a real good thing considering how old the original is!).

Open Season

As a weregoose, everything is about survival and psychologist Juliet DeBranta is a goose with skills. Skills the local werewolf pack decides just might come in handy. So their alpha makes her a deal: He’ll keep her off the supernatural dinner menu if she helps his new wolves make it through their first moons. For awhile, everything is going just fine…until he shows up asking for help for five new werewolves and then ends up dead the next day. As far as Jules is concerned, things really can’t get any worse – that is, until she meets his replacement.

And Marcus Briggs isn’t nearly as nice as his predecessor. He thinks Juliet is more trouble than she’s worth, but he’s willing to give the psychologist a shot. If she can get the pack’s new wolves through their first moon, Marcus will keep the paranormal predators off her back. But things are never quite that simple, and when one of Marc’s wolves starts stalking Juliet, he decides the best way to keep the goose alive is to stay close – but the closer he gets the more Marcus wants her for himself.

On the blogging side of things: For the rest of this month and November, for Wednesdays, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks for surviving November. This month, I’ll be talking a lot about preparation and sharing some awesome links from fellow writers on how to come out of November with a workable story and not just a finished shoddier-than-crap manuscript (been there, done that). I’ll also be joining the Six Sentence Sunday crowd with Sunday updates, though those will continue after November. ^_^ Welcome to blog for anyone new stopping by.