Wednesday, October 28, 2015

13 Tips to Conquer NaNoWriMo 2015

Last year was my first time participating in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. I successfully completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. In fact, I came out ahead of schedule; 66,586 words in 24 days.
I have foolishly decided to put myself through this grueling process once again. Here are my own personal tips that helped me meet my goal last year, and will hopefully help me again this year.

  1. Goal: 1667 words per day - If you write more than that in one day, don't slack off and write less the next day. You need to hit at least 1667 each day.
  2. Set time aside - Remove any distractions and stick to a schedule. I would get up every morning, make coffee, and start writing. Stay away from checking email, playing games, and especially goofing off on social media.
  3. Don't edit - You can do that later. Right now, just keep writing!
  4. Make notes – When you are done writing for the day, makes notes for the next chapter. This will allow you to quickly read the notes, pick up your train of thought, and continue writing.
  5. Carry a notebook/ paper – If you are serious about being a writer, you should be doing this already. Always have a piece of paper or a notebook handy to write down any new thoughts or ideas. (I often come up with new ideas at the most inconvenient times; in the shower, mowing the lawn, while taking a walk.) Have your paper and pencil ready!
  6. Research – Do your research on your own time, not during your scheduled writing time. If you're doing research, when you should be writing, you may not have time to write that day.
  7. Don't get discouraged – Take small steps. Meet your daily goal. You can give yourself a pat on the back, from time to time, but don't start celebrating until you hit 50k. (Don't even do it then. Keep writing until the story is done – then you can celebrate.)
  8. Don't let anyone tell you it is okay not to finish – it's not okay. You made the commitment, now stick to it. There are no participation medals; you only win if you finish. This is something you have been dreaming about for a long time; realize your dream. Don't make up any excuses; we all have them and no one wants to hear them (especially another writer). You may not agree with this point, but you will thank me later.
  9. Write what you want to write - If you have decided not to write a novel, but would rather use the time to edit another project, or write a short story, or a collection of poems, or a children's picture book; then do that. There are no set rules. The important thing is to put aside time for your writing. Hopefully it develops into a habit and you continue to write all year long. Maybe this time next year you will be ready to write a novel.
  10. Coffee – Drink lots of coffee, rest well, and be ready to tackle your goal every day. FYI – you will rest easier if you meet your daily goal of 1667 words.
  11. Track your progress – NaNo has some great tools and charts to help you track your progress. Not only do I use their website to track my progress each day, but I also keep a list of dates and word counts in my notebook. If it helps, post a sheet on the wall, near your writing station, to see your daily goal and keep track of how often you've obliterated that goal!
  12. Writer's block – Don't sit and stare at a blank screen. Write something down. Write anything down. Last year, I hit my goal every day, most days I well exceeded it. If I was struggling that day, I just wrote. I didn't care what I was writing, I just wanted to meet my goal. I figured I could edit out the crap later. When I went back to edit, in December, I couldn't remember what part I thought was so awful that I was going to dump it in the first place. That's not to say that everything I wrote was brilliant, believe me it wasn't. But when I started editing, my initial thoughts didn't matter. I cut what needed to be cut and I left in the parts that I thought worked.
  13. Develop a habit of writing every day – I did. Maybe not all of it was great, but at least I was able to get from point A to point B, each day, and keep the story moving. I am a pantser, so this is crucial for me. When I was done, not only had I surpassed the 50k mark, but I had a decent story; one that I was proud of.
So what do you think? Do you have it in you to write the next great novel? You won't know until you try.

You can sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo on their website:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Highlights Foundation: A Crash Course in Children's Book Publishing

When you grow up, you sometimes forget that there is magic left in the world. Maybe it comes in different forms, but if you stop, once in a while, and take in the beauty that surrounds you, you can see that it is still there.

I was privileged to receive some much needed magic in my life, recently.

The Barn
High up in the Pocono Mountains, I attended a writers workshop for publishing children's books, a course given by the Highlights Foundation.

The material that was presented, and the instructors, themselves, were invaluable.  Each one of them taught us something different, new, and even fascinating.

The classes were a great source of information which I intend to follow, as I attempt to publish my first children's book. But even more than that, the facility and surroundings seemed to ease my mind and allow me to open up.

I had several new ideas and I started writing a few stories.  I even wrote a children's poem about an owl.

It was about 5:30 am on the second day, I was outside looking up at the stars.  I saw Orion, Taurus, and the Seven Sisters. I was also fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of three shooting stars, all of which I wished upon.  I also saw one star that slowly moved across the sky for about ten seconds, until it turned out its light and said goodbye.

As I stood there admiring the early morning sky, I heard a noise in the distance. It wasn't something I was familiar with. At first I thought it was a dog or a wolf.  As I listened closer, I heard a hoot-hoot-hoot, hoot-hoot-who.  I think that was the first time I ever heard an owl.

Not only has my trip been inspiring and beautiful, but it has been a gift; one I hope to share with the world. Who knows how many books I will write, or how many people they will reach, but if I can make just one child smile, that is all the fulfillment I'll ever need.

Listen to your heart, it may be trying to tell you exactly what you need.  Embrace the magic that surrounds you. Be open. Be honest. And love like no other.

Thank you, Bobbie Combs, Harold Underdown, Jo KnowlesLindsay Barrett GeorgeSneed B. Collard III, Allison Kane, and Patrick Greenish, Jr. for all of your inspiration, guidance, and teachings.
I'd also like to thank each of my classmates. It was great meeting all of you, you made the workshop fun and your spirits are motivating.
Finally, thank you, Jo Lloyd and Kent L. Brown, Jr., without whom my trip would not have been possible.

The Highlights Foundation puts on a wonderful workshop program. I would recommend it to anyone.

Last day: Bobbie Combs, Jo Knowles, Harold Underdown