NaNoWriMo 2015 Wrap-Up

NaNoWriMo 2015 Wrap-Up

NaNoWriMo #4 is in the bag.  I’m thrilled to report that I won, continuing my streak.

In the past, when I’ve started something new, typically a character shows up with a tiny plot seed.  I think about the character, who they are, and the conflict tends to present itself when I know how the character will handle it.  I like to marinate on all these things for a while, jotting down notes, until I have the big picture and the voice figured out.  Sometimes it takes a few days, if I’m lucky, and sometimes a few weeks.

This year, in an effort to come up with stories with bigger hooks, I came up with a ton of hooks, shared them with my agent and writer friends and they unanimously chose one over the others.  So I had a great, compelling hook–but no idea who the characters were.  I did some preliminary research on a few things I had no clue about (cryobanks anyone?) and came up with some major plot points, but the characters just wouldn’t come.  As I marinated, small details finally began to present themselves, but I waffled for so long on big important things like gender and settings.

Eventually, a few days before November 1, it seemed to click.  I settled on a story with 2 sisters because it made for better tension and set them on the road between Virginia and Chicago.  It felt like the Red Sea parting and the little paranoid voice became quieter.

The last 3 years, I’ve had the opportunity to really front load my manuscript due to a few days off work and/or an amazing writing retreat totally off the grid.  Didn’t happen this year, so I was really nervous about not winning, even though I knew I was really only competing with myself.  But somehow, I managed to discipline myself and write my 1700ish words daily and a few days before the deadline, I won!

The book is currently several scenes from being complete and it is a literal mess–scenes are all out of order and overwritten and things are missing or forgotten.  But I won and that’s the important part.  With a few more days of drafting, it will be done done and I’ll put it away for a while and think about other things.  I don’t know if this book is meant to become shiny and beautiful or not yet, but I know it needs to sit for a bit.

And, it’s worth mentioning that the book I write AFTER NaNo tends to be a thing I love.  I do have a new idea (there’s always an idea…), so here’s hoping.

I always learn something with each book and this one showed me more clearly what my personal process is.  Every book is different of course, but this solidified for me that I NEED to know who my characters are in order to move forward.  Otherwise, I just don’t care enough to put in the work.

The verdict?  Another great November spent generating a fun and interesting story–regardless of what happens next, that’s always worth it for me.

The Season For Writing

The Season For Writing


Now that the leaves are slowly beginning to change color and the nights are getting cooler and darker, I’m feeling the itch I’ve felt for the last four years now:  the need to make words.  I always feel the need to write, but it is a thousand percent stronger when autumn rolls in.

True story–I always wanted to write a book but never had the guts to do it.  One year my work load was a little lighter than usual in the fall and the evenings normally spent writing recommendation letters were miraculously free.  So of course I decided to write a full length novel instead of binge watching TV like normal people.  I signed up for NaNoWriMo, labored for that month, and won.  And now every fall, those same feelings of needing to be creative when there’s a chill in the air come back to me with a vengeance.  I love it.

Here are a few of my favorite fall/writing things:

  1. Flavored coffee:  I wasn’t a coffee drinker before I started writing.  Like, at all.  And somehow it’s become a necessity.  I associate Panera’s hazelnut coffee with fall and writing, but I also enjoy a pumpkin spice latte every once in a while.
  2. Scented candles:  I love candles in any season but especially in the fall and especially fall scents.  Pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, leaves, etc.  I made my annual pilgrimage to buy my stockpile last weekend and I also replenished my wall air freshener thingy replacements in fall flavors for my office.  It must smell correct to put me in the creative mood.
  3. Pumpkin Spice Rooibos:  I found this at Trader Joe’s after one of my CP’s was raving about it.  We drank buckets of it on November retreats and I can’t even smell it without feeling like I need to write.      
  4. Wrist warmers:  I tried these last year for the first time and after writing 75 recommendation letters following immediately by a 78K word book, they were lifesavers at relieving the wrist pain.
  5. Retreats:  I’ve been on two fantastic retreats in the last few years with my lovely writer friends where we were almost completely off the grid.  Beautiful scenery, cool air, fuzzy boots and big sweaters, a roaring fire, fellowship and lots and lots of words.IMG_8871
  6. NaNoWriMo:  I love NaNo more than I can say.  It was the experience that taught me I can do anything I put my mind to and I’m gearing up for my fourth year.  I even sponsor the NaNo club at my school.  I’m gleefully plotting in October for a book I already love, so bring it on!

Fall is also my birthday season but I am MUCH more excited about writing than getting another year older.

I know I’m not the only writer who gets jazzed by fall – what other fall things make you want to create?

NaNoWriMo 2014 Wrap-Up

NaNoWriMo 2014 Wrap-Up

Winner-2014-Web-Banner (1)




So it’s been a week since NaNoWriMo ended for this year and I am pleased to report that I “won” for the third year in a row.  And, a gigantic improvement over last year, I don’t hate my manuscript!  NaNoWriMo will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the thing that got me writing seriously.  And now, with 3 under my belt, I enjoy sharing it with my students and writing friends.


Writing 50,000 words (or more for you overachievers) in 30 days can be a very daunting task, so here are some things that work for me, in case you’re interested in trying (or trying again) with me next November:


1.  Give yourself a head start.  I am very fortunate that my job has some time built-in at the beginning of every November for me to do as I please.  I now spend it writing.  My first Nano, I holed up at a coffee shop for 2 days and banged out 10K.  Last year and this year, I went on retreat with three of my critique partners and got 12K and 13K respectively.  If you know what you want to write ahead of time, and you eliminate whatever your personal distractions are for a day or two (use a sick day perhaps, if your schedule permits it), you’ll be amazed at how many words you can write.


2.  Plan ahead.  I’m not a detailed outliner, but I do like to make notes and mull things over before beginning a new draft.  Last year, I had a very loose idea of plot points and spent too much time figuring out my characters’ names.  This year, I let my ideas and my characters marinate for about two weeks, and didn’t write anything else in that time, and took notes in Scrivener as the ideas came to me.  I think making decisions about characters and their personalities/motivations was the most useful.  When I got stuck, I had something to fall back on.  Which year was more successful?  2014, by far.  My lack of planning in 2013 really took its toll on the story.


3.  Research in advance.  Even if you’re creating a world entirely from scratch, there’s gotta be something you need to google to help you out.  This year I wrote a book about swimming.  I’ve never been on a swim team and haven’t taken a lesson in over 20 years.  So I interviewed 2 experts – a student-athlete and a coach – for over 5 hours and took copious notes.  I also read a number of documents online about various related topics.  I saved items I knew I would need in Scrivener, but the process of talking about these ideas with experts was invaluable, so I rarely had to refer to the notes.  Just talking put me in the right mindset.  And, it saved me valuable time during November.


4.  Rely on friends.  Nano should never be a solitary experience.  Even if your critique partners or fellow writers aren’t participating, just letting them know that YOU are helps you be accountable.  I spent time with writing friends both in person and online, both of which got me really amped up about reaching my goal.


5.  Reward yourself.  50,000 words is a lot.  Just under 1,700 words a day is daunting, especially in a month where many people travel for several days or have family obligations more than normal.  Make yourself feel good about what you do accomplish.  I give myself stars for every 500 words written.  November looks pretty impressive on paper!  I also tend to reward myself with more coffee, which can be both a good and a bad thing.






That’s it.  Piece of cake, right?  Sure.  If I can do it, you can do it.


I’m always on the look out for new tips – what helped you get through November this year?