5 FOOLproof NaNoWriMo Time Savers

This November on Aussie Owned and Read we’re waxing lyrical ‘For the Love of Words’. Timely, because November for many means NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, where thousands of writers around the world attempt to write 50 thousand words in one month. Yes, you read that right, a 50-thousand-word draft of a novel in 30 days! I’ve never formally taken part in this insane hugely popular initiative, but this year I’m committing informally and have devised some foolproof strategies to help me—and you—succeed.

  1. Buy a month’s worth of undies to cut back on washing. 

weekday undies etsyLet’s be honest, sitting at your computer pounding out the words is not exactly physically strenuous. Wearing the same t-shirt and pair of yoga pants for a week isn’t going to kill anyone, so theoretically you only need 4 sets of clothing to get through the month. But I draw the line at underwear. Undies are a single wear kind of garment. For a no wash solution, make a quick trip to Target where you can pick up 4 packs of 7—the ones with the days of the week on them will help you keep track of time while you’re down the NaNo rabbit hole. Those little cottontails, plus whatever you already have in your drawer, should have you set for the entire month.

2. Pick arguments with friends and family so they don’t talk to you for a month. 

 This might sound harsh, but if you’re anything like me, you enjoy being social and like interacting with family and friends. But all this human connection takes time and therefore a toll on your word count, so it’s best to cut all emotional and social ties for the month of November. Don’t worry, it’ll all come good in December since that’s the season of goodwill and cheer—and hopefully forgiveness—so all those friends and family members you alienated during NaNo are sure to forgive and forget.

3. Petition to rename December November!

Time for some home truths—no one likes December. It’s the most stressful month of the year. Everyone’s racing to finish things up at school or uni or work, attending all the end of year functions, dance performances, farewell parties etc., all while trying to do the Christmas shopping while reggae versions of feliz navi da may drive you to commit violence against the nearest shopping mall Santa. Renaming December November would eliminate all this stress and give you double the time to get your 50 thousand words down. Win win!

4. Put a speech-to-text program next to your bed so you can capture more words while you sleep.

You know how it goes; you go to sleep and dream up a jaw-dropping story premise. The first few chapters roll off your REM waves in high definition perfection, Then you wake up and BOOM! It’s all gone. Nothing left. Your brain is so fuzzy you can’t even remember the genre of this masterpiece. But if you record what you say in your sleep, you’ll wake to a half finished novel. How no one has though of this before, I do not know! You might need to edit out the snoring, but other than that you should be good to go.

5.  Teach your dog to type.

This one is self explanatory.

If all these are too alternative for you, then by all means, try a more traditional approach and drink copious cups of coffee while propping your eyes open with toothpicks. I’ve also heard that boring tried and tested strategies such as getting up an hour earlier, turning off the internet, locking the study room door, and using a dictation app while you’re out on a walk can be effective strategies.

Do tell, what are your most successful NaNoWriMo time savers? Share in the comments!


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is out now with ENTANGLED TEEN. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

 

Spring cleaning my mind

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking the benefits of spring cleaning, whether through edits or literally. Today, I want to talk about something I believe benefits my writing greatly–spring cleaning my mind.

Sounds a little strange? Sure, it does. But when I think of cleaning, I think of freeing a space from the clutter. Stepping back from something after being involved at a level of extreme and minute detail and looking at things anew.

Let me give you an example. I’ve been working on a manuscript for two months. I then moved house, became heavily pregnant, and had an increased workload, meaning that even though all I really wanted was to work on the manuscript again, to refine and edit the work both on a small and large scale, I wasn’t able to.

At first,  it saddened me. It made me so frustrated to know there were so many changes I wanted to make but that I simply didn’t have the time for. Life had gotten in the way.

Now, however, I feel as if my perspective on the book ahas changed. I feel as if I could make greater, bolder edits that I wouldn’t have been able to before. I can instigate greater change within the work, all because I’ve stepped away for so long and in doing so, spring cleaned my mind and my perspective of the manuscript. I have space. Mental room to breathe that I didn’t have when the emotion and hype of the manuscript were fresh.

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Give yourself some mental space.

I think giving your book an ample amount of space and breathing time to clear it from your mind and get a new perspective is one of the most valuable things you can do. It’s something that can be hard, especially given we live in such a world of instant gratification, but it’s rarely not worth it.

So for all of you fabulous NaNo participants out there, I challenge you to spring clean your mind and step back when the month is over. Not just for a day, or a week, or a fortnight. Let’s go big. Give yourself one month. Two. Take extra time until there are details about  your novel you’re not even sure about anymore. Give your manuscript time to rest, as you would a steak after it’s sizzled away on the barbecue. Hopefully, you get as much out of it as I did.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel.  You can find her on Facebook or learn more about her at her website.

NaNo tips — the story continues …

November is synonymous with a time when many writers from the world over batten down the hatches and join NaNoWriMo. The goal? 50,000 words. The reward? Well, no one really seems to go into that part. I guess the reward and the goal are the same. 50,000 words.

In case you missed it, the lovely Sharon gave some great NaNo advice here. Today, though, I’m going to talk to you about something a little NaNo different.

Here are three things I’ve learnt while completing NaNoWriMo in the past:

  1. You get better at it. The first year of NaNo, I completed the 50,000, and it was hard. And I mean giving-up-chocolate hard. My brain felt depleted of sugar and energy all at once.
    But the second year? Writing got faster.
    The third? Faster yet again.
    And even though I didn’t complete NaNo in those two years (see point below) I increased my average 30-minute-sprint word count from something around 200 words to a more consistent 1,000 words. Now that’s a win!
  2. You may not use a lot of it. They’re words any NaNoer will preach from the church steeple — write, write like the wind, and don’t worry about fixing it now. Just go forth and spew words to paper.
    This means that you may later end up not using all the words on that paper. You may even throw that paper through the shredder.
    But that’s okay. Just because you wrote it, just because you bled it from your heart through your fingers onto the screen doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Get rid of those words, guilt-free (your editor will thank you for it).
  3. Forgive yourself. This is the second week of November, which is also occasionally known by me as The Time With Everything Falls Apart. Let me explain.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for the past four years now. The first year, I loved it. It drove me to achieve word counts that at the time, I’d never thought possible for myself. Plus, I discovered the wonders of sprinting — and I do love a good sprint!

Fast forward to the year after. NaNo became hard. I started with the greatest of intentions, but life got in the way. At the start of week two, I was on target for the good ol’ 50K. But by the Wednesday, I was a few words behind. That quickly became a few hundreds of words behind. And soon, I was on a slippery slope to Impossibleville, check your hope and dreams at the door, folks.

Once the numbers start to stack up against you, it can be all too easy to give up hope that you’ll ever achieve NaNo. Your computer becomes this nasty, nagging beast, the word count flashing at the bottom of your document a constant reminder of your failure. Failure. You have failed before you’ve even hit halfway.

Once, that hurt me. Once, that made me so very upset.

Now, though? Now, I have learnt. And this is by far and away the most important NaNo lesson I have ever discovered — there IS no failure. Say you fall a few days behind? It doesn’t matter. Because (see above) the reward when you finish NaNo? It’s the words you DID write. That’s the prize.

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So even if you don’t hit the 50,000, don’t despair. You get a prize anyway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. She’s currently on NaNo-track. Just …

Interview: L.M. Merrington, author of ‘Greythorne’

Once upon a time, not that long ago, I worked with several other writers. One of them moved to London (not me), and another left to pursue a job in the hallowed halls of academia (also not me). L.M. is the latter, and I’m very excited to be able to interview her about her first book, Greythorne. Thanks for dropping by, L.M. 🙂

Your debut, Greythorne, just came out with Momentum Books. Tell us about it.

Greythorne is a Gothic horror/suspense novel for readers aged 14+. I like to think of it as Jane Eyre meets Frankenstein, with a little bit of Rebecca thrown in there too. This is the blurb:

How did Lucy Greythorne die?

From the moment Nell Featherstone arrives at Greythorne Manor as a governess to eight-year-old Sophie, she finds herself haunted by the fate of the mistress of the house, and entranced by the child’s father, the enigmatic Professor Nathaniel Greythorne.

When a violent storm reveals Lucy’s body is not in her grave, Nell becomes suspicious about the Professor’s research. But what she discovers in his laboratory will turn all her ideas about life and death, morality and creation on their head.

Enthralled by a man walking a fine line between passion and madness, Nell must make an impossible choice between life, death and life after death, where any mistake could be her last.

What drew you to the Gothic horror genre?

Greythorne is actually a bit of an anomaly for me, because in the past I’ve always written young adult fantasy. I was inspired by classic horror and adventure stories – not just the obvious ones like Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but also Jane Eyre, Moonfleet and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The Woman in Black was also a big influence. I’ve always had a fascination with the nineteenth century, and particularly women’s stories, because it was time of great social change and options were starting to open up for women in a way they hadn’t before.

I think the attraction of horror/mystery as a genre is the way it lets you explore fear and psychology as an author. I’m not into gore – there isn’t much actual violence in Greythorne – but I’m fascinated by the idea of moral choices and I like putting characters into situations where their deepest values are challenged. I’m also really interested in the idea of ‘normality’ and the line between sanity and madness.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

My favourite part is also the part I hate the most – writing the first draft. Greythorne was a NaNoWriMo book – it was the first time I’d done NaNo and I found the discipline it gave me really helpful. I’ve just started doing it again for my next novel and I’m remembering how much I both love and hate the process. I love it because it’s really exciting watching a story unfold before you – seeing the characters develop in unexpected ways and it going places you never envisaged. But I hate it because I can’t help feeling I don’t know what I’m doing – I have a vague idea about the beginning and the end but the middle is a big blank at the moment and that’s a bit scary.

I also actually really enjoyed the final copy-edit, which is probably not something many authors say. The manuscript was on its fifth draft by then and the copy-editor I worked with was fantastic – she picked up stuff I’d completely missed and I know the book was substantially improved as a result.

If you could live and write anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I visited Venice a few years ago and I think it’s still top of my list. There’s such a wealth of inspiration there for artists and writers – you’re surrounded by this overwhelming richness of history, architecture, art, music and culture, and there’s always something going on.

Failing that, I’d be happy with a little study with a nice view of some greenery. Actually, time rather than place is the real luxury as far as I’m concerned – I currently fit my writing in around full-time work, so if I had the opportunity to write full-time or even just one or two full days a week I don’t think the place would matter much.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just started my next novel, which is tentatively titled The Dark Before the Dawn. I’m sticking with the Gothic theme, but this time it’s set in Australia in the mid-1860s. In traditional Gothic style, there is a strong sense of isolation, usually with the protagonist being stuck in a haunted house or similar, but in Australian Gothic the isolation is very much about the landscape and being stuck in a country far removed from ‘civilisation’. I don’t have much yet, but this is the rough outline of the story. I’m really looking forward to exploring ideas of madness and isolation, as well as drawing on Australian folklore and the rich tradition of bushrangers, ghosts and hauntings in southern New South Wales. I’ve never written anything set in Australia before so this is a new challenge.

Elizabeth King is on her way home to her family’s property near Goulburn after spending the winter with her wealthy aunt in Sydney Town. But the routine journey takes an unexpected turn when her coach is waylaid by bushrangers – Frederick Black and his gang, including his sister Sarah. The only survivor, Elizabeth is forced to accompany Frederick and Sarah, but soon a shocking crime leaves Frederick dead and the girls on the run from the law. They decide to make for the Victorian goldfields, but in the rugged hills and isolated valleys of the Southern Highlands something is waiting…

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Just write the bloody thing. Ultimately there’s no substitute for just turning up day after day after day and getting words down even when you feel like you’ve got nothing left, because you can always fix bad writing later, but you can’t edit a blank page. I’ve been to quite a few writers’ groups made up of people who like to talk a lot about writing – and how hard it is to find time to do it – but don’t actually write much. If you really want to, you can make the time. I wrote Greythorne for an hour a day in the early morning before work, and as I’m not a morning person it was a real struggle. But it was also amazing how fast it came along when I plugged away at it every day. Find a time of day that works for you and just write for an hour (actually write, don’t play on the internet) and you’ll have a finished manuscript before you know it.

The other thing I’d say is learn technique. For many years I had a lot of inspiration but didn’t really have the discipline or understand the mechanics of getting it all down on paper. Learn about things like plot, structure, dialogue and setting, and start to use those tools deliberately. And then learn how to edit, because your first draft will be pretty rubbish. I finished the first draft of Greythorne in three months, but it took another nine months and three drafts before it was ready to even think about submitting to a publisher.

The final piece of advice I have relates to the business of writing. When you get a contract you suddenly have to go from being this isolated, creative soul to being a tough, logical businessperson. Join professional associations, get a mentor, attend seminars, do whatever it takes to prepare yourself for that – learn the basics of accounting/tax issues for small businesses, marketing (because you’ll probably have to do most of it yourself, regardless of which publisher you’re with) and how to negotiate contracts. Most writers don’t even think about the business side until it bashes them over the head, so get across it early. If, like me, you don’t have an agent, you’ll need to work out how to handle all this stuff and where to go for help.

If you could have lunch with any one writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

C.S. Lewis, because I’m in awe of both his intellect and his prose. The Chronicles of Narnia are obviously his best-known books, but I also love his work for adults, a lot of which is non-fiction and revolves around discussions of theology. He had the great gift of being able to discuss complex topics in a way that was simple but not simplistic – the mark of a great communicator – and he also had an incredible imagination and was really just a damn good storyteller.

Pick one of the following:

Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla

Rain or shine? Shine

Introvert or extrovert? Introvert

Beach or mountains? Beach

Cats or dogs? Dogs

Plotter or pantser? Somewhere in between…but probably pantser.

About L.M. Merrington

lm-merrington-portrait-croppedL.M. Merrington was born in Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in media and communications and Chinese, and a PhD in international relations, and has worked as a freelance journalist, editor, strategic analyst and communications manager. She lives in Canberra with her husband Tristan. Greythorne is her first novel.

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Mailing list (exclusive behind-the-scenes content)

Greythorne‘s book launch is on Friday 27 November, 6pm at Paperchain Bookstore in Manuka, Canberra. Click here for the Facebook event.


 

Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy author whose fourth book, Lucid Dreaming, released this week …so she is currently hiding under her doona, eating chocolate.

Cassandra Page

 

How To Finish NaNoWriMo

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If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, you obviously don’t have Twitter.

That’s all I can say. But chances are that you probably DO know what NaNoWriMo is, and if you’re reading this post, you might be desperately trying to finish those 50,000 words.

I’ve done this thing five times now: November 2012, June 2013, November 2013, June 2014 and now November 2014. As I’m writing this post, I just wrote the 57,255th word and finished my (shortest ever) NaNo novel.

Out of the three times I’ve done the November version, I’ve finished the whole novel every time – in 2012 that was over 70,000 words. And fair enough, I was in year nine – I had nothing else to do except bludge in maths (I feel sorry for my teachers).

But it’s been busier for me every year, and this time around, I didn’t even think I could do it.

My inner voice was like:

There are ways, though, to do it.

1) Make goals for yourself. And writing every day really does help.

Your goal might not be 50,000 – it might be less. But I did mine in lots of 1000 words. Then I would reward myself (lots of chocolate was harmed in the writing of this novel). And during the month of November, it really IS good to write every day – it keeps you into the story. I find that if I miss one day I’m more likely to miss more.

2) Set aside one day in the month and write a LOT.

This might be impossible for you – it almost was for me. I have school five days a week and then work on Saturdays and Sundays, plus a lot on top of that. But one Sunday two weeks ago, I decided I was going to write 10,000 words. Which is quite a lot of words in one day. It might be easier to set aside one day, though, than a few hours every day.

3) Seriously, though, don’t listen to your inner editor.

My novel is probably the worst thing that has ever been created.

But fast-drafting means that you can’t worry about that. And I got very worried. I was like, “but my first draft is WORSE than everyone else’s first draft.” And then I remind myself that I don’t keep a single word in the second draft anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

You cannot be worrying about how awful your words are. Trust me. In these last few days, just belt them out and don’t look back.

4) Music!

Music has been really helpful to me this time. Last year I listened to Disney songs. This year I listened to Birdy on repeat. Whatever works for you! But music helps get me in the zone and blocks out everything else.

5) Food.

Embrace your inner Jennifer Lawrence (everyone has one, don’t lie to yourself).

You need fuel to write. And if that fuel is chocolate, all the better. Props to you if it’s carrot sticks or something, as well. That’s self-restraint.

6) Writing sprints.

These are honestly the best way to write, I’ve found. My best was about 1500 words in half an hour, and that can really make a difference to your word count – that’s almost a whole day’s worth. And obviously some parts are harder to write than others, but if you can get a solid amount done in half an hour, all the better.

Give a shout-out on Twitter, and you might have some people joining you. @FriNightWrites also has awesome sprints going.

7) Outline.

Even if you’re a pantser, it’s useful in these last few days to write an outline of where you’re going so that you can write as quickly as possible. You’re not going to get there if you’re floundering around wondering what’s happening.

8) Write something fun.

Whatever genre you’re writing, if you have a fun scene, you’re more likely to want to continue writing it. A “fun” scene for you might not be fun at all – I like writing sad scenes, for instance. But it helps to remind me WHY I’m doing this. First drafts make me fall in love with writing all over again.

9) And most of all, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get there.

I’m in high school. I have more time than most. Which is why I can afford to spend my time on this – but not everyone DOES have that time. Remember that every word you wrote is more than you had at the start of November. I’m proud of all of you. Hugs.

Good luck, everyone! I’ll be cheering.

 

Emily Mead is currently procrastinating on study. She does this a lot.

Future Emily isn’t going to be very happy.

She wishes you luck with NaNoWriMo and assures you that her first draft is 90 million times worse than yours.

 

ME!

 

 

My NaNoWriMo Facts and a Poll

Warning: I may have used the ellipses … too many times.

  1. November is NaNoWriMo month … which scares a lot of people (me included), but there are many who love it.
  2. I haven’t participated for the past two years (my first time was in 2011), but I’m participating this year.
  3. It makes me nervous …
  4. I have to stay on top of my word count.
  5. I don’t work well under pressure … okay, maybe I do.
  6. Yikes! 1,667 words a day, for 30 days? I’m lucky to write that much in a week usually.
  7. NaNo not only scares me … it excites me.
  8. It doesn’t matter if what I write is crap, at least I’ve written something.
  9. Every word can be polished until it’s shiny later.
  10. There are always two sides to an argument …

Which brings me to my poll … do you participate in NaNo?

I’d love to also hear your thoughts in the comments 🙂

For the record, I think anything that encourages creativity is a good thing.

K. A. Last is the YA author of Fall For Me, Sacrifice and Immagica. She drinks lots of tea, is obsessed with Buffy, and loves all things pink. K. A. Last hangs out on Facebook or you can find her on twitter and Goodreads. She’s also been known to blog once in a while. And yes, she has cut all her hair off!

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5 Things to Think About Before NaNoWriMo

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For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is (I mean, I don’t know how you don’t know, but still):

NaNoWriMo is the crazy November event in which thousands of writers across the globe attempt to write a novel in a month. Or at least, they attempt to write the first 50,000 words of one. Last year was my first NaNoWriMo, and I managed to finish the 75k MS a few days before the end of November. I’m now querying that MS, which is called MUTUAL WEIRDNESS. I then did the same thing in April for Camp NaNoWriMo.

The thing with NaNoWriMo is that even if you’re a pantser, it’s not a good idea to go in with no idea of what you’re doing. If you don’t have somewhere to go, it’s probably more likely that you won’t get to the 50,000 word goal. So here is my checklist before you embark on that insane journey.

1) Have you been thinking about this idea for a sustained amount of time?

I ask this because if  the idea came to you last week, it might be a symptom of Shiny New Idea Syndrome, when ideas seem…well, shiny, simply because they’re new. My idea has been rattling around for a couple months, and since I still think it’s a good idea (others might disagree!), I know it’s something I can keep going.

2) Do you know where you’re going with the idea? Plot? Characters?

I suppose the most common reason writers don’t finish an MS is because it doesn’t go anywhere. What is the POINT of this story? How does it end? These are questions you need to ask before you start NaNoWriMo.

3) Are you doing it for the right reasons?

NaNoWriMo’s aim is not to produce a fantastic novel. Its aim is to provide motivation and a kick in the pants to write a first draft. First drafts, almost by Divine Writer Law, suck. This is fact. But NaNoWriMo is such a fast-paced event that you hardly have time to notice how much it sucks. Are you participating because you want to send something off to a literary agent in December? Chances are, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. There are people who use the month to rewrite existing MS’s, of course, and that’s fine too.

4) Have you told people that you’re doing it?

The writing community on Twitter is one of my favourites. People are constantly harassing, ahem, encouraging others in their mad dash for the finish line. You’re more likely to finish if there are others egging you on. The prospect of not finishing seems much more grim if your friends are nagging you to catch up on those words you missed because you were watching Australia’s Got Talent.

5) Are you okay with not finishing?

In the end, life sometimes gets in the way of things. This November, I have school camp, school formal, a part-time job, exams, driving lessons, queries to be sent out, classes to pretend to listen to (I’m looking at you, maths and science), and a family to occasionally acknowledge the existence of. NaNoWriMo is a huge achievement whatever happens, but ALSO a huge achievement is getting down more words than you had before. Remember, you can’t edit an empty page. Try it out – what’s the worst that can happen?

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Emily Mead is a sixteen-year-old writer of contemporary YA. Her cat is, at present, trying to sit on her computer.