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NaNoWriMo Already!

Eek!  It’s NaNoWriMo time again!  National Novel Writing Month.  Often known as NaNo by writers.

I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year.  I’ve been struggling with pneumonia for the last seven weeks.  I’m recovering after two rounds of antibiotics and at this point it is still a question of whether it will come back when I finish this last round.  I’m exhausted most of the time and feel more like lying about on the couch than sitting my bum in the chair and writing.

BUT it is NaNoWriMo, one of the months I am forced to be most productive.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in November.  That’s 1667 words a day, every day in November.  It’s not impossible; my goal is usually 2000-2500 words a day.  I normally average 2000, but there are those days that getting more than 500 words from my brain to the computer is difficult.

Why the powers-that-be at NaNo decided on November, with Thanksgiving right at the end, I’m not sure.  But there we are, writing frantically and suddenly along comes Turkey day.  Try writing through a food coma!  Some of us are okay, and already ahead of the curve, or have completed the 50K and are just cruising along.  Most, like me, are struggling to finish up.  And we only have four days left to get our last words in!  Panic, panic!

What takes the pressure off is that whether or not you actually finish the 50K words and “win”, you are ahead because you have written.  It really is about writing, getting words into your story.  They might not be the very best words you’ve ever written, but that’s what the rewriting process is for.  The goal of NaNo is to write: 30,000 40,000, 50,000 or 100,000 words.  As my son says, “It’s all good.”  I have done two NaNos before this.  I wrote 45,000 words the first year and 67,000 the second year.  I’ve skipped a couple of years because of circumstances, but cheered on my friends who did it.

And now, I have been talked into NaNoWriMo for another year.  I both love it and hate it.  I love the writing, hate the pressure, love the word goal, dread the days my brain goes mush and not even three pots of coffee help.  The discipline of sitting and writing every day is good, even when I’d rather go for a long walk on the beach and watch the seals play in the waves.

One of the best ways to complete Nano is to have goals of your own, and to be well prepared.  I am not. My goals this week are to get organized.  I need a plan if I’m to do this well and not spin about in circles. I’ve had an experimental novel going for a number of years, a pirate spoof called Avast.  It is at the halfway point and I moved too many times in the last three years to  get it finished.  A month ago, a boy of twelve asked to read it.  He devoured it in two days  He is now waiting for my next chapters and bugging me to get the book done.  So for Johnson, I am going to work on what has turned into a Middle Grade Adventure novel.  It will take about another 50,000 words to finish up the story.  I am anticipating about ten more chapters.

I’ll let you all know how I do and any lessons I learn from NaNoWriMo this year.  I always learn something — about myself, my characters, and writing.  This is never a bad thing.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo and what do you do to stay disciplined in your writing?  I’d love to hear from you.  Drop me a line.  For anyone doing NaNo, I wish you the best of luck.

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The Essential Tools of a Writer

This should be an easy topic on the surface.  Most writer can reel off a list of things they need when they write: pens, notepads, computer.  But when I stopped to think about it, it wasn’t quite so easy.

Each writer is different in the way they approach their writing, so each writer’s essential tools are different.  Some need only a couch, a computer, and a cup of tea.  Some work best in a coffee shop, in a library, or on the beach.  Others need a space to call their own, where no one interferes.  Some like writing outdoors, and some can’t think if there’s anyone else about.

I have certain things I require to write effectively.  Here’s a quick list of what I find essential:

  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Pens
  • Notebooks
  • Binders
  • Dividers
  • Filing Cabinet
  • Files
  • Binder Clips
  • A Desk
  • Bookcase
  • Books on Writing
  • Books to Read
  • Music
  • Coffee

You can laugh at the last one, but coffee is an essential ingredient in my life  A lot of writers I know have a favourite beverage they can’t live without when they write: tea, hot chocolate, water, a soda.  For me, it’s coffee.

One essential not listed above is space.  To be most effective, I need a room of my own.  I’ve got friends who say, “Nice, if you can get it.”  That is true.  I started out writing at the kitchen table, then had a desk in the corner of the living room for about eight years when the kids were young.  It wasn’t till we moved to our own house On Whidbey Island that I got my own office – and even then, I had to share it with my husband for a while.  Once I had the room to myself, I painted, brought in a squashy couch, and some bookcases, which I filled with books, making my haven more library than living space.

We moved to Hawaii in 2013 and I found myself working in small spaces, one of them with my desk facing a wall in a sort of hall just outside our bedroom; behind me was the dining room table, and beyond that a view down to the ocean.  My notebooks, binders and a few writing books were set on a board on boxes in a cramped alcove.  Still, I managed to finish the first draft of two novels.  I had the basics: desk, computer, printer, file drawers, files, and notebooks.  It wasn’t ideal, but I made it work.

Our house on Whidbey Island sold so we left Hawaii, packed up thirty plus years of life into storage, and finding ourselves footloose, decided to take a trip to Australia.  My essential writing tools for that trip were a computer and a thumb drive for back up.  We took a cruise across and I wrote on the tiny desk in our cabin.  My goal had been to finish the novel, but I spent more time watching the ocean go by. During my time in Australia, I was privileged to be invited to write with two great writer friends, Paula Beavan and Marisol Dunham.  Thanks, ladies for the use of your table and counter.

Today, I have an office set up in one of the bedrooms of our house on the Oregon Coast.  It’s not a bit space and I share it with the Wi-Fi and Internet equipment, and a box of spices for my spice business.  It has two throw rugs, a dining chair and a 7′ table as my desk.  I have the requisite filing cabinet, coloured file folders, binders and a set of bookshelves in the closet behind me.  The printer sits on one end of the table and at the moment I have files and papers from three projects in fairly organized groups around the computer.

A printer is the other essential for me.  I read best on paper.  A waste?  Maybe in years gone by when people didn’t recycle, but now we recycle all our paper (and glass, plastic, aluminum, tin, and anything else they will take; but that’s an entirely different blog!)  I have been known to keep my previous drafts to look through later, but when a manuscript is 750 pages, I quickly run out of space.  Besides, with programs like Scrivener, I can save my different drafts.

These are my essential office tools.  What are yours?  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave me a message and tell me about your essential writing tools.