(REPOST) – NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately. Life’s getting in the way of blogging. Hopefully that will change soon.

I read this article this morning on Flavorwire, and was thinking of everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo, and those of us who aren’t:

NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Some helpful ideas to keep us writers engaged while we’re not participating in NaNoWriMo.

As NaNoWriMo Approaches, A Decision…

Around this time, many of you, myself included, would begin gearing themselves up for the exhilarating marathon known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Thirty days, 50,000 words. I myself have participated in it three times, having successfully completed it in 2012. It’s a blast, let me tell you. There’s no greater rush than that final week, the words simply flying out from you, and you’re not editing yourself as you’re going along. Just let it come out of you, and the rest will follow. It’s an incredible high, and, believe me, I know highs.

Right before the November 1st kickoff, we NaNers (the term I use for NaNoWriMo participants; the proper term is “NaNoWriMos”) will prepare ourselves, if we are the preparing type. We have a precise idea of what our new work is going to be about. We’ve begun outlining the story, fleshed out characters, consulted our trusted books on the writing craft. We’ll even put together our NaNoWriMo Survival Kit – lots of caffeine and snacks will be involved.

So how am I preparing for NaNoWriMo 2014?

I’m not.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Nope. Not happening.

While I do have some life events that will likely prevent me from dedicating as much time as I’d need to give NaNoWriMo the attention it deserves (I start a new full-time job in two weeks, and my wife may be having surgery in mid-November), the honest truth is that I simply don’t feel like taking part this year. I’m in a self-diagnosed writing funk lately, and NaNoWriMo isn’t going to spur me out of it, either. I haven’t written much of anything lately, and what I’ve written doesn’t interest me. I’ve taken a short break from writing just to recharge and rethink some strategies. Taking part in NaNoWriMo isn’t a strategy that I want to be a part of right now, since my head and my heart just aren’t in it.

I will, however, cheer my fellow NaNoWriMo survivors on. If you’re embarking on this annual marathon, know that I’m thinking of you, and I know you’ve got what it takes to reach the finish line. But remember, ultimately it’s about the challenge, not the finished product. If you can’t finish, don’t beat yourself up over it.

If you’re thinking about doing this, for the first time, NaNoWriMo is a great exercise in the art of sticking to a deadline. While 30 days and 50,000 words won’t produce genius, it will produce that ass-in-seat mentality you need to be an effective writer…says the writer who’s taking a sabbatical from writing.

Ignore me.

Anyway…more from me later, from the writing front, soon.

The Holidays are Over…Time to Get Back to Writing (Insecure Writers’ Support Group)

Author’s Note: Another first Wednesday of the month, another post for The Insecure
Writer’s Support Group
. Be sure to check out the many other writers participating in this blog hop. Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG.

This Blogging<br /><br /> Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

What’s up? You writing? You better be.

Okay, maybe I’m coming on a bit harsh, but in the way that I’m possibly addressing the insecure writer in all of right now who’s struggling with a work in progress or wondering whether they’ve got what it takes to do this writing thing, whom I’m really addressing is me. Because the holidays are over. The gifts have been opened. Time spent with loved ones has been enjoyed. Meals and drink savored. Now it’s time to get off my ass and do some goddamned writing.

Maybe for some of you, December’s a good time to write. Not for me, and not this past December. I was essentially running a household solo for nearly a month due to my wife recovering from knee surgery. As much as I wanted to write, I felt I really couldn’t devote neither the time nor the energy needed to write, not even gibberish. The odd blog post, yes, but not even 500 words.

January is here, and with January comes the promise of the New Year and the frenzy of resolutions to be made and kept. And likely broken. I dislike resolutions. I dislike planning. But I have resolved to make specific plans with regards to my personal life, my professional life, and my writing life, and not just make those plans, but keep them. It’s not enough to make those plans; I need to make plans that are realistic. I can’t possibly write 5 novels in one year, but I will damn well finish the novel I started 60 days ago.

Ah, yes, my work-in-progress…for once, it’s something that’s not making me gnash my teeth, pull what’s left of my hair, question my sanity (actually, I don’t need to write in order to question my sanity), and ponder if I’m making yet another mistake. I heard something the other day during a podcast, an interview with Anthony Bourdain, talking about his writing process for his first book, Kitchen Confidential:

“I wrote as if no one was going to read this, which was very liberating for me, for someone who’d never written before, and who could probably count on eight guys who worked in a kitchen to read what I finished.”

Exactly. I’m taking that exact approach, to write as if no one’s going to read it. Sounds crazy (and I know crazy), but what it means is you’re writing the book you want to read, not what conventional wisdom dictates you should write in order to sell. Damn those conventions, I say.

And with those conventions comes the hinderance of time. The demands of my job, my home life with my wife and child, those responsibilities come first, but my ambitions will be met. So I will meet them, one hour each day, more if possible. With that hour, I’m giving myself permission to write as many words as possible – this week, 500 words one day, more than 700 the next – or as little. I wrote a few weeks back that if I’m going to finish what I started, back when NaNoWriMo ’13 kicked off, I’m going to finish it on my own clock, in my own terms. One word at a time.

So it’s back to writing for me.

And it’s back to writing for you as well.

Post NaNoWriMo Insecurity (Insecure Writer’s Support Group)

Author’s Note: Another first Wednesday of the month, another post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Be sure to check out the many other writers participating in this blog hop. Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG. Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the December 4 posting of the IWSG Julie Flanders, Heather Gardner, Kim Van Sickler and Elsie is Writing!

This Blogging Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)


I wrote a post last night talking about what to do post-NaNoWriMo, and how despite not reaching your 50,000 word/30 day goals, you shouldn’t consider yourself a failure. I didn’t make it to 50,000 words in 30 days, yet I’m refusing to hang my head in shame. I got started on a work-in-progress, and I’m extremely excited about the direction the WIP is going. I can’t be bothered with “winning” and “losing,” and I cringe everytime I see someone refer to themselves as a “failure” for not “winning” NaNoWriMo.

I posted this on my Instagram feed last night


My post earned the following comment: “So the other people should be declaring themselves failures?”

I responded, “Nope. NaNoWriMo unintentionally creates this “winners” and “losers” mentality, meaning quantity somehow trumps quality. No one should declare themselves anything, except “finished” when they’ve reached the last page of their novel.”

It got me thinking about a lot of the congratulating that’s taking place by those who’ve “won” this year’s NaNoWriMo. Of course they should congratulate themselves, and hold themselves up for praise. I congratulate you, as a former winner myself. However, I can strongly feel the insecurity from those of us – well, I’m excluding myself, for obvious reasons – who are made to feel that just because we didn’t finish what we set out on beginning November 1st, that somehow we’re “losers.” Or “failures.”

Writing is a competition in which the only person you’re being challenged with is yourself. It’s like a marathon, and you’ll hear a lot of comparisons made to running and writing; Haruki Murakami even wrote an entire memoir called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. You’re not competing with other writers to see who can reach 50,000 words first. You’re competing with yourself to see if you can write the novel you’ve already written in your head.

As writers, we deal with enough insecurities, about our writing, about the publishing process, about whether or not we’re cut out for this whole writing thing in the first place. What we don’t need is the good intentions of NaNoWriMo to foster needless competition, thereby further fueling our insecurities.

Me thinks this writer may skip NaNoWriMo 2014, just on principle. What say you?

Post-NaNoWriMo: It’s Not About Winning or Losing or Failing, It’s About Finishing What You Started

So you took part in NaNoWriMo 2013. Some of you successfully cranked out 50,000 words or more in 30 days. That’s outstanding. If this is your first time, double outstanding then!

But this post isn’t written for those of you who’ve met the 50K in 30 days goal. You’ve gotten enough congrats and accolades; you don’t need any more from me. I’m talking to those of you who didn’t meet the 50K in 30 days goal. 

Yeah, you. That’s right, you. Listen up.

Some of you didn’t make it, for whatever reasons. Life got in the way. The work-in-progress got a little unwieldly. Whatever. Some of you made it to Day 30 just several thousand words short. Some of you probably threw in the towel around Week Two. The point is, you didn’t finish.

Am I going to give you grief about this? Nope. Because I didn’t finish, either. I knew I wasn’t going to. My total word count for NaNoWriMo: 14,474 words. I was well aware I wasn’t going to have the time I’d wanted to fulfill the NaNoWriMo goals, but no matter. I’d written a solid outline, figured out my plot points, got to know my protagonists, learned what the concept of my WIP is, and wrote a synopsis that for once doesn’t make me want to squirm. Guess what? I’m perfectly fine with not “winning” NaNoWriMo this year. It doesn’t make me a failure, because I’ve got an unshakable belief in my WIP, and that doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

Ah, there’s that word: failure. That word’s been bandied around a lot in many a blog right before the end of NaNoWriMo, and in blogs post-NaNoWriMo. I’ve read a lot of “I failed at NaNoWriMo” blogs over the past few days, and not just from the first timers trying their hand at this marathon writing thing, but from those who’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo before.

“Didn’t reach my 50,000 word count in 30 days, so I failed at NaNoWriMo.”

Failure. Failed. Fail.

You stop using those words RIGHT NOW.

You are not a failure. To quote Gene Kranz, “Failure is not an option.”

Yeah, we live in a competitive society, and we treat the concept of 50,000 words in 30 days as a competition. But we’re missing the point of NaNoWriMo. Sure, it’s great to reach the 50K in 30 days goal, but once you’ve started on your manuscript, the real competition is with yourself, to finish the manuscript. So whether you’ve reached 50,000 words in 30 days – and if you did, give yourself a giant pat on the back – or if you didn’t, you’ve got work to do.

Look, calling yourself a failure means you’re selling yourself short. Once you start using the word “failure” when it comes to your writing, you become used to describing both yourself and your work as “failure.” So fucking what if you didn’t bang out 50,000 words in 30 days? Take comfort in the fact that there’s a lot of people who wrote 50,000 words of pure shit and have smugly declared themselves “winners!”*

Because NaNoWriMo isn’t about winning or losing. NaNoWriMo challenges you to write within a specific time frame, but the true purpose of NaNoWriMo is to challenge you to write, period. I was one of those newbies, all full of hope but without a clue as to what I was doing, and by the second week, all was lost. So I declared myself a failure. Last year, in spite of so many challenges, I plowed through, and met the 50K/30 days goal, but even if I didn’t meet the goal, I was writing, and I was going to finish what I’d started. That’s what NaNoWriMo asks of you: finish what you start. It shouldn’t matter that you’ve only written 22,714 words in 30 days. What should matter to you is that you started something that’s grabbed your attention, enough of your attention to wrest out 22,714 words. So finish it through. See where it leads you. Because you don’t want to be that person that never finishes a damned thing they start, and then spend the rest of their days lamenting this very same fact.

So here’s the deal I’m going to cut with you: I’ll ride your ass about finishing the novel you started more than a month ago, if you promise to do the same. Need the motivation, the push, someone to vent to? I’m here for you. Point being, writers shouldn’t have to go at this alone. Writers support one another, and if you’re feeling like you want to take your laptop outside and fire several rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun at it, don’t. Press through, but most importantly, reach out. I’m happy to listen.

And while we’re at it, I’m going to ask you, dear reader, to go ahead and get on me about the progress of my manuscript. You’ll notice I put a word count widget to the right of this blog. I’m going to update this every few days, and talk about my progress as I go along. Of course, I expect a lot of you to ride my ass in return. It’s only fair.

So let’s recap:

  • Hitting your target goals is great, but refrain from calling yourself a “winner.”
  • Not hitting your target goals should not be a reason to turn you into a mopey sad-bastard, so refrain from calling yourself a “loser” or a “failure” because you’re either 1,000/5,000/30,000 words from finishing what you started on November 1st.
  • You started something. Now let’s finish it. No matter how long it takes.


* – Speaking of which, NaNoWriMo is notorious for having produced some terrible writing from people who believe that simply hashing out 50,000 words or more in 30 days, and not bothering to either edit or ask a friend or colleague to give their steaming pile of unfettered literary horseshit their honest and brutal feedback. These same misguided bunch will either A) send their first draft manuscript to every agent and publisher in the country, and then gnash their teeth wondering why they’re not getting a response, or, B) self-publish this first draft, thereby adding to the thousands of volumes of poorly written, badly spelled, terribly edited self-published crap that will no doubt add to the negative reputation self-publishing gets, especially among the old guard publishing houses and their sycophantic acolytes.

In other words, don’t be this loser. Edit your work. Then edit it again. And get a few people to read it before you send it in or throw it up on CreateSpace or SmashWords for the world to read.

A few other blogs to read and motivate you:

From Chuck Wendig – NaNoWriMo: On the Language of Losing

From MJ Wright – How to Write and Not Be Driven to Eat Your Own Weight in Lard


“The Lithium Shuffle,” Or: Fun With Music Playlists

Music plays a large role in shaping the words I write.

In my current WIP, music plays an integral part in how the story is told. Rather than the story being told in Part/Chapter format, I’m incorporating that so very ubiquitous relic from the 1990s to help tell the story: the mix tape.

There was an art form to the mix tape. You didn’t just throw 15-20 songs onto a 90-minute cassette (or did you?) and simply write “MIX TAPE!” on the label. You chose the songs carefully, those songs revealing a veiled clue about yourself, or something you wanted to convey to the person you were making the mix tape for. My mix tapes were short autobiographical essays – something I covered in the essay “My Life as a Mix Tape, Parts 1 and 2,” in my book, Out Where the Buses Don’t Run: Seven Years of Rants, Raves, Dirty Jokes, and Bad Ideas From a Small But Loud Corner of the Blogosphere. – that were constants in my mid-twenties. The bulk of the music on those mix tapes were what was burning underground in the alternative music scene, some of which became hits, others destined for obscurity.

My WIP takes place right around 1995-96, which would have been during my mid-twenties. So why the mid-nineties? For starters, there seems to be a trend towards writers obsessing over New York City’s past, and I’m one of them. As I’m writing this book, I’m reliving streets I used to roam, conversations I’ve had at bars and clubs, the women I loved, and the music I listened to. The mid-nineties was when the Internet first became a household word. When Friends and The X-Files were what we were watching on TV. This was a particularly difficult time for me, as I was feeling rudderless, the first onset of what would be depression coming down upon me. Music was the salve, what I could most identify with, especially when you consider the music at the time was very feeling-centric. Singer-songwriters who were confessional, stark in their approach. Kurt Cobain, yes, but also Jeff Buckley. Elliott Smith, too. They’re all dead. I don’t know why I’m bringing them up.

Music from the Nineties has something of a mixed reputation these days. The Nineties gave us Radiohead (praise Allah), Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Massive Attack, Pavement, the Chemical Brothers, the Wu-Tang Clan, The Notorious B.I.G., Portishead, Mariah Carey, just to name a few. It also gave us some of the worst one-hit wonders ever. The “Macarena,” anyone? How about “Tubthumping?” “Mambo No. 5?” 

There was also Hootie and the Blowfish. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Boy bands also ruled the roost. Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and N*SYNC, although the latter can be forgive for giving us Justin Timberlake. The Nineties also gave us Britney Spears. Actually, I’m not going to dump on Britney. I admit to liking a few songs of hers. “Toxic?” Three-and-a-half minutes of pure perfect pop. FACT.

But there was a lot of shitty music. If grunge – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden – did smash hair metal into thousands of aerosol-stained pieces, it also begat its slew of hideous copycats. Stone Temple Pilots. Creed. Filter. Limp Bizkit. Oh, Jesus, I just threw up in my mouth typing their name…

We also saw a greater influx of women in the music industry, through both the singer-songwriter – Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrisette, Fiona Apple, just to name a few. The spiritual daughters of Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, and Carole King recreated the confessional tomes of Blue and Tapestry for the Nineties, paving way for future female singer-songwriters.

And there were the Women Who Rocked. The Riot Grrls, lead by Sleater-Kinney, Babes in Toyland, and L7, proved you didn’t need a dick to rock hard, just the attitude and killer riffs. Across the pond, PJ Harvey’s minimalist garage punk, Bjork’s mad-hatter beats and otherworldly banshee wail, and Garbage’s Shirley Manson’s darkly comic lyrics and no-bullshit demeanor left me breathless. Then there was Hole, led by America’s Sweetheart, the delightful train wreck known as Courtney Love. Live Through This was a festering, oozing wound of past traumas, unresolved anger, unaired grievances, dark psycho-sexual politics, and black comedy, and it’s still as emotionally gut-wrenching a listen today as it was when it came out the week after Kurt Cobain romanced a shotgun.

“The Lithium Shuffle” is the playlist I’ve put together to put in the frame of mind as I’m writing this novel. As I listen to this playlist, and write this novel, the idea of the novel as a mix tape began to come to mind. Instead of a book separated into “parts,” it’s “Side One,” and “Side Two.” Each chapter is a “track,” the novel an entire mix tape that tells the story of a suicidal woman embarking on a road trip across 1990’s America with a fictional character.

I thought I’d share with you a few songs (well, some of my favorites) on the “Lithium Shuffle” playlist, a playlist that’s growing daily.. Some of these songs make up the titles of the “tracks” on the novel. Enjoy!

Screaming Trees – Nearly Lost You

Pulp – Common People

PJ Harvey – Dress

Morphine – Cure for Pain

Sugar – Helpless

Garbage – Milk

Folk Implosion – Natural One

Nada Surf – Imaginary Friends

Yo La Tengo – Big Day Coming

Joan Osborne – Right Hand Man 

Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out

NaNoWriMo Checkpoint, Week Two, Or: Getting Sick is No Excuse For Not Padding Your Word Count (Also…a Giveaway!)



First, the good news: I’ve been able to write an outline and write a short synopsis for my NaNo WIP. The bad news is that I’ve been laid up with the early onset of the flu. I never seem to get the full-blown flu, albeit on maybe one or two occassions. I get symptoms, or lingering side effects, but no full-blown illness. Like right now, I’ve got an irritating cough that makes it hard for me to speak – which for someone as verbose like me is pretty much like a death sentence, even with the so-called “sexy voice” – and some chest congestion that’s got me feeling cranky. This has all pretty much ground my writing down to a few precious trickles here and there.

My plan last week was to take advantage of the alone time I was to have. My wife was away on a business trip for 4 days/3 nights, which would have given me a couple of hours during the day to write (always a plus, since I work from home), and some more hours at night, once I put my daughter to bed. But the flu bug started toying with me. “Oh, want to do some writing, huh? Yeah, I don’t think so!” Other than one day where I managed to string together more than 3500 words in about 4 hours of writing time stolen throughout the day, while fending off the I-feel-like-crap feeling, I got very little, and I mean VERY LITTLE writing done.

So I concentrated instead on fully outlining the WIP, and writing a synopsis in a sentence or two that neatly summarizes what I’m setting to accomplish. From this focus, I saw the novel take some interesting turns I hadn’t foreseen, but I was happy with nonetheless. For example, my protagonist has gone from being a male to now a female. Why? Because the story is far more interesting with a female protagonist, and the secondary character, which I discussed in my last post, plays better with her. There’s a road trip across America in their future that I honestly have no idea where that came from, but it makes perfect sense.

In all, I’m obsessed with the idea that this story must remain within the boundaries of being crazy, bat-shit crazy. The synopsis should tell you something about the level of crazy I’m working with her:

A suicidal woman embarks on an existential road trip across 1990’s America with a fictional character.

Sort of like Adventure Time, but with Finn as an adult woman an Jake as a fictional adult male, and with more adult-oriented existential silliness.


At any rate, I am feeling somewhat better, now that a visit to the doctor has armed me with enough antibiotics to rid me of any infections for the next decade, so I should start hacking away at my WIP and make some serious progress. I know I’m not going to reach 50,000 by November 30th, but who knows? 36,000 in 12 days…totally doable.



About that giveaway…I’m giving away a subscription to Poets & Writers magazine. It’s my favorite writer’s magazine, one that I’ve spoken of very highly on this blog. If I re-up for another year, which I will, P&W will give away a subscription to the person of my choice, on them.

The first person to correctly answer this question will win a one-year subscription to Poets & Writers magazine. Answer in the Comments section below. And no Googling!

Which of these American authors have NOT won the Nobel Prize for Literature?

A. John Steinbeck

B. Philip Roth

C. Ernest Hemingway

D. William Faulkner

NaNoWriMo CheckPoint, Week One, Or: Fun With Secondary Characters



So how we doing after Week One? Hitting our targets? Not hitting our targets? Hopefully you’re all still plugging along. For those of you who are struggling, remember, while the goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days, the real task is to find a daily writing routine. So whether it’s the average 1,667 words per day needed to reach 50K by 30 days, or just 500 words a day (or the 716 I’m averaging, although I’m really averaging more than that – I’ll elaborate more here in a few), or you’re cranking out 2,000 words, the point is you’re writing.

And if you’re churning out 2,000 words per day, good for you…you bastard.

As I expected, I got off to a late start. I didn’t get started writing in earnest until Tuesday the 5th, although I did manage to jot a good thousand words or so in my notebook while I was out of town. Since Tuesday, I’ve written just under 6,500 words, and it’s helped that I’ve used Rachel Aaron’s planning technique before I begin writing. I guess if I wanted to argue semantics, I’m averaging 1,786 words in 4 days of writing. But we’re not arguing semantics right now, are we? My pace still places me well behind the desired 1,667 words per day, but no matter: I’m very satisfied with the content.

Finding time to write has been the challenge, like I’m sure it’s been for you as well. Luckily for me, I work from home, so there are pockets of time during my day where I can take advantage of some free time. An hour here in between conference calls, or the hour I pencil in for a lunch break. Once my daughter goes to bed, and my wife and I spend some time together – she also works from home – I’ll use a couple of hours at night to write. I get perhaps three solid hours a day to write. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that time.

I’ve never had luck coming up with titles I liked, but I did come up with one for my newest NaNoWriMo work-in-progress: “Joe the Lion.” If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the title of a David Bowie song. The book’s title has to do with the progression of the character, I think. There’s the meaning of the song’s lyrics, which allude to emotional numbness, which is something “Joe” struggles to overcome. So, yeah, I’m cribbing the song title for my book’s title. If David Bowie’s going to sue me, I’d be honored.

I’m having a lot of fun with a secondary character in the story. Joe, our protagonist, leads a dull, emotionally bland existence as an office drone, and he escapes his existence via his cultish obsession with a fictional TV character named Derek Slate. His hero is a playboy detective with supernatural abilities. Think some Sherlock Holmes mixed with James Bond and splashed with a little bit of Doctor Who, and you’ve got Derek Slate. He’s a dapper Englishman with a smashing wardrobe, a quick wit, a brilliant intellect, a vicious uppercut, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the supernatural. Oh, and he happens to be immortal. He’s a TV character, after all; we can make him as implausible as possible, and that comes into play throughout the story.

Derek Slate is both Joe’s Inciting Event and the person that guides him through his journey. Derek’s motives will be infuriating and sometimes cryptic, but they will mean something to Joe, and it’s up to Joe to figure that out. It’s all magical realism, of course. Anyone who’s ever read Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Haruki Murakami knows how these two authors often use a supernatural secondary character – a ghost, a talking cat, a golem, something to that extent – to push both their main characters and their stories along. Derek’s been a blast to write so far, and he’s really the engine that’s driving this story.

It helps to visualize who your characters look like. If (and that’s a big if) a film version of “Joe the Lion” were to be made, then Derek Slate would be played by this man:

Tom Hardy. I think I just made thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of women VERY INTERESTED in my novel. YES!

So I’m really not certain I’m going to reach the 50,000 word mark by November 30th, but I’m very excited about how this story is unfolding as I’m writing, in the pockets of time throughout the day and in the couple of hours at night when I write.

More details to follow. In the meantime, happy writing, and remember, it’s all meant to be fun! Share your NaNoWriMo stories in the Comments section, won’t you?

The Obligatory NaNoWriMo Survival Kit Post

As zero minus NaNoWriMo approaches, it’s important to take inventory of what you’ll need to get you through the Month of You Questioning Your Sanity. This is called the NaNoWriMo Survival Kit, and you can add whatever you choose you think will help you through. Your survival kit will likely consist of the following tools:

  • Laptop – mine is a Samsung RV511, which is starting a show a little wear and a bit slowness of foot, but it’s still a fine laptop.
  • Pens and notebooks – always keep a few notebooks (I favor Composition-style notebooks, simply because I write left-handed) and several dozen of your favorite pens – mine are PaperMate Ink Joy 700RTs, in black ink – handy, wherever you are, wherever you go.
  • Your favorite Word Processing software – I love Scrivener. If you’re using it, you’re already in love with it. So much you want to marry Scrivener and make babies with her. If not, you’ve already fancied something else. That surely works for you. Again: whatever works for you.
  • Books – For me, books serve one of two purposes: one, they’re books that inspire me – for example, Slaughterhouse-Five, American Gods, and Watchmen were books that I’d turned while working on my last WIP – and; two, they’re essential tools for writers. Stephen King’s On Writing is essential reading for writers everywhere. Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing is an excellent collection of essays on the craft of writing, and it’s also essential reading. Outlining Your Novel is the best books I’ve read on the art of outlining and plotting, and it’s a fun read, too. The 3AM Epiphany offers more than 200 writing prompts that will take you out of your comfort zone. I turn to it for a quick inspiration when I need a writing push.
  • Music – If you prefer to write in silence, your name must be Jonathan Franzen.
  • Caffeine and snacks – also your call. I love Starbucks and peanut butter. I also enjoy bourbon. I’m also insane.
  • Totem – something tangible to hold on to, a security blanket. Mine is this mug below, the greatest piece of advice ever dispensed:

 For some of you, this will be your first attempt at NaNoWriMo. You’re feeling the butterflies, eager to do good, yet so desperate not to fail. For others, you’re now salty veterans at this. You know the tricks. If you nail the 50K, awesome. If not, what the hell. Some of us have really geared ourselves up for this. Some of us have decided at the eleventh hour. Hell, you might be reading this, and be on the fence, and decide, “Why not? I’ll give it a go.”

The good people at NaNoWriMo will tell you this is the most wonderful time of the year. They’ll shower you with pep talks and tons of cheerleading and how-to’s and all kinds of crucial caveats to help you land your target numbers. They’re absolutely right, because writing is a discipline, and if there’s a way to help you maintain that discipline, well then, you best listen. But it ain’t the most wonderful time of the year, that’s fo’ sho’.

I mean, let’s face it: November is a SHITTY TIME OF THE YEAR to actually do this sort of thing. For us Americans, at least; we miss at least four, count ’em, FOUR days of quality writing, with the Thanksgiving holiday. Think about it: either family’s come over to visit for the weekend, or you’re trekking to visit the family, and chances are your Aunt Martha and your Uncle Lou, who haven’t seen you in twenty years, really, really, REALLY want to spend lots of time regaling you with details on their cruises to the Caribbean, and all their chat is gonna cut into your quality writing time. That’s 6,668 words, at the very least, you’d  miss out on writing. Unacceptable! Wouldn’t another time of the year be a better time to do this. Yeah, they do the Camp NaNo in July, but, frankly, everyone ramps up to do this in November, even if November’s a shit time of year to be embarking on something serious like this.

Oh, wait…this really isn’t supposed to be serious.

Yeah, you read right: this really isn’t supposed to be serious. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to test yourself, to prove that, given a specific set of parameters – 30 days x 1,667 = 50,000 words – you can write the first draft of a manuscript. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to make sense. It can be 50,000 words of complete gibberish. The point is, it’s supposed to all be fun.

Because after all the pep talks, after all the useful advice on how to properly prepare for NaNoWriMo, chances are you’re not going to be satisfied with what you’ve written. Chances are you’re going to sweat your totals. Chances are you’re going to write some truly quality material, but you’ve only churned out 27,000. No matter: none of that makes you a failure.

Of course, I could be wrong. And I probably am.

This survival kit will also come in handy to remind me that while I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year, my goals aren’t as lofty as they were last year, so I won’t pull my hair out when I only have 22,718 words written, and it’s November 27th.

Because unlike you, I really don’t think I’m going to nail 50,000 words in 30 days. And I’m perfectly fine with that. What I’m not fine is not getting my project off the ground. If this is the month to get your writing going, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to bend the rules a bit, because, frankly, I like breaking the rules. Knowing what the rules are helps me to better appreciate what the rules are as I’m breaking them. Call me a rebel. So be it. But I will be writing this month. As will you.

And we’re going to have fun doing it. dammit. Even if that means forcing you to laugh at my lame jokes. I mean it.

Okay, maybe not.

Alright, remember: THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. SO MAKE IT FUN. If you hit your daily targets, reward yourself with something fun. A cookie. Your favorite TV show. A nice cold beer. A shoulder rub from your honey. Porn. Whatever. Just don’t beat yourself up if you’re several hundred or several thousand words short. Word counts don’t mean shit if there isn’t something quality somewhere in between the lines. So make each word count, even if that means going for fewer words, and ramping up as each day goes by.

Make it fun.

Don’t beat yourself up.

And no porn.

Ready? Yeah, you’re ready. This isn’t your entrance exam to Harvard, after all. This is something you want to doSo have fun doing it.

If you’re doing the NaNoWriMo thing, feel free to buddy me; I’m Dabi71.


To NaNoWriMo, or Not to NaNoWriMo…

…that is the question, whether ’tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of…



So, yeah, that really is the question. We’re less than 3 days away from NaNoWriMo 2013 kicking off, and I haven’t tossed my name into the ring yet. Several weeks back, I encouraged, even extolled, why one could never get started on planning for NaNoWriMo soon enough. I was planning such a thrust, a full-scale, all-fronts conquest of a new work-in-progress that I was certain I was going to hammer out a more-than-acceptable first draft in 30 days. Plus, it would help me get past the multiple drafts of my current WIP, now languishing in revision hell. More on that fustercluck later.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

Yeah, until life got in the way.

Hindsights always a bitch, and, truth be told, there’s never a good time to sell your home, especially if you just want to sell your home to move to a better school district. I’ve bored you enough with tales of my move. We’re still in some weird transitional flux, adjusting to apartment living for a short period, living out of boxes while our new home is being built. And there’s a general sense of busyness everywhere. I’m busy, my wife’s busy. I haven’t had much time for doing the things I enjoy, like blogging, and writing.

Which would lead you to assume NaNoWriMo would be out of the question for me, right? Well…not quite.

I’m in, but for different reasons. I need to flex my writing muscles, and I don’t believe in starting small. Either go big, or don’t bother. But I’ll be blunt here: I’m not going into NaNoWriMo ’13 with the full-throttled brio I had last year. I could use the motivation.

And that’s where you, fellow survivors of NaNaWriMo 2012 (especially you new readers to my blog – welcome!) and who are getting ready to dive once more unto the breach, dear friends (okay, what’s with the Shakespeare, Sanchez?), come into play. I could use the cheerleading.

The thing is, I’m going to go into NaNoWriMo ’13 with somewhat lowered expectations. I don’t think I’m actually going to finish a first draft in 30 days, but I at least intend to get the foundation of the first draft off the ground and running. I have the idea. I’m going to storyboard it – thank you, Scrivener! – over the next couple of days, and then take off from there. I mean, I proved already I could write a first draft, an entire manuscript, in 30 days, so there’s no reason why I can’t do it again. And once I’m done with this first draft, there’s always the fun of revisions.

Oh…wait. About that. So whatever happened to what I was working on last year? The whole superhero-in-a-midlife-crisis shebang-a-bang? Yeah…Well, there’s always been one indisputable piece of advice regarding writing, and that’s this: finish what you started. But sometimes you need a break. Sometimes you need to look at what you’ve written with a colder eye and acknowledge that you just might need to tear it apart and start all over again. And that will happen. But not right now. I’m not going to be a NaNo rebel and work on something pre-existing. Next month is for something new. Next month is the month I challenge myself, even with all the distractions surrounding me. Why the hell not, right?

So let’s do this, huh? Buddy me at dabi71 over at NaNoWriMo, if you haven’t buddied me from last year. I’ll buddy you back and promise to cheerlead you just the same.

Yeah, I’m in.