Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November?

It's a fun time full of writerly companionship, and if you're on the fence I hope I can convince you to jump on in.  I thought I'd share part of a post (with a link to the rest) I wrote for Willamette Writers this summer to help persuade you.

Have you tried NaNoWriMo? You should—it’s a great way to get your words flowing and get your stories out on the page.

Admittedly I’m biased in favor of NaNo. I’ve been signing up for it since 2003 and actively participating since 2006 (turns out you actually have to write something to get to 50K). I’ve taken part as a writer (and a winner seven times). I’ve been the Portland, OR municipal liaison. I’ve attended and hosted local write-ins and events and participated in the online forums. But most importantly, I have written. I have written in November even in years when writing was a struggle. NaNo did that for me.

(Read the rest of the post here.)

I really do love NaNo.  I'm hoping to participate this year even in the middle of a house renovation and move (which may be completely crazy, but I'm still thinking about it).  I hope you'll give it a try and give your writing a jolt of NaNo energy.

Drop me a line, let me know if you're jumping in, let me know how it's going.  I'll cheer you on and see you at the finish!




Willamette Writers Conference Wall of Advice
Wall of Writing Advice

This past weekend I was at the Willamette Writers Conference here in Portland, Oregon (an amazing conference with great teachers and programs--I highly recommend it).

On Sunday I had the pleasure of presenting some programming about NaNoWriMo.  For one of the activities, the attendees wrote down their best writing advice on sticky notes so we could create the Wall of Advice you see above.  I promised to write up a post so everyone could see what was written, so here it is.

The advice:

  • First read, then write. Write every day.
  • The difference between your book and the last book you read that you hated is that they sat down and finished theirs.
  • Don't over-outline. Let your characters develop themselves. ~Stephen King
  • It is pen and paper not a monster howling outside your door splintering the wood as it crashes through to slice you to shreds with fearsome claws.
  • The importance of concepting. Being able to describe your work in a simple phrase so others get it.
  • Trust your voice--and follow it.
  • Allow yourself to write for just 2 minutes and stop if you want. Often, you will want to keep going.
  • When someone tells you writing is a waste of your time, ignore them. They don't know what they're talking about.
  • First, do a good, big vomit. Edit later.
  • Just get it on paper. You can fix it later.

So much great advice, isn't it?  That second one about finishing really hit home for me.

What's your favorite or best piece of writing advice? Leave a note in the comments so we can all gather some wisdom to rev up our writing lives.



December 1.  NaNoWriMo 2013 is behind me.  I am so relieved!  This year, I really felt constrained by the need to start something new on November 1 and then by the need to write quickly, not stopping when I really needed to work out some details.  I won, but the event felt much more like a chore than an adventure this time around.   I am looking forward to working on my novel on my own schedule, with my own rhythm, in a way that will make it a better piece of writing even in its roughest form.

Barb Wires

Today is also the start of the last month of Round 4 of ROW80.  I'm feeling excited about the possibilities opening up for my writing life right now, but I'm vacillating between excitement and worry that I won't be able to figure out how to make it work.

Here's my revised goals list for December:

  • Complete an outline for Inheritance using K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
  • Create a scene list of what I've already written so I can figure out where the biggest gaps are
  • Create a writing schedule for finishing the first draft

December is going to be busy--traveling to visit family, holiday parties and dinners--so I think this is enough.  If I have time, I'm also going to read Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, also by K.M. Weiland.

I'm also going to get back on track with checking in with my ROW80 team because I fell behind during NaNo, and I'm going to get in at least a little bit of art journaling when I can.

What about you?  What will you do in December to keep connected to your creative work?



It's my final ROW80 check-in for NaNoWriMo 2013.  Kait asked us to share what we're thankful for in our writing lives.  I am thankful that NaNo is almost over!

Thanksgiving Dinner

There are other things, of course, but that's the big one.  Too much going on this year, and NaNo has been tough!  But I'm going to hit 50K on Friday, and I'm thankful that I was able to get things together enough to make that happen.

I'm also thankful that every time I do NaNo I find out a little bit more about my own writing process.  I think over the past two years the combination of ROW80 and NaNo has brought me to a place where I am starting to believe I can figure out how to finish a novel.  And that's huge for me.  HUGE.

I'm thankful for finding a great critique group that expects to see pages from me every other Wednesday.  I'm still stumbling a bit, trying to get a rhythm in my writing life, but having people waiting to see something from me is an excellent motivator.

So that check-in... I am standing at 43,414 words right now.  I was behind for most of November, but I caught up yesterday.  I haven't written today, but I will.  I intend to hit my 50K on Friday, a day early, so I can have the day off Saturday to lounge around and get ready for a holiday party that evening.  And then on Sunday I will be posting revamped goals for the rest of this round and also for the completion of my novel.  Overall, a pretty good check-in today, I think.

Now if someone would just finish those sweet potatoes, bake my pumpkin bars for me, and fill in these gaping plot holes, I'd be golden!  Happy Thanksgiving!



Do you ever catch yourself wishing that things were easy or saying things like, "Why can't this be easy?" or "I want this to be easy!"?  What do we mean by that?  Do we actually mean that we want a life that is effortless, where we never have to exert ourselves or stretch ourselves in any way?  I don't think that's actually what we mean when we're wishing and hoping and longing for easy.  I think if we didn't have things to work toward and strive for, we'd get bored.  I don't think we really mean "easy" at all.

Now this is easy!
Now this is easy!

So what do we mean when we wish for easy?  I think we might really be longing for a clear path--knowing where we're going and the steps to take to get there.  I think it's the uncertainty of what comes next, of what our next move should be that makes us wish for that chair on the beach and effortless days.

I think when I find myself complaining that something is too hard, that I wish it (whatever the current "it" might be) was easier, I'll remind myself that easy isn't what I'm looking for.  Instead of asking how things can be easy, I will ask myself "how can I clear the way to move forward?"  Semantics, yes, but I think it's important.

Does this relate to my ROW80 check-in and NaNoWriMo?  Oh yeah.  I've been whining to myself for the past two days that this next section is too hard, I want it to be easy, why won't it be easy?  Today, just a little while ago, I realized it was the wrong question.  I don't actually mind spending hours writing, staying up a little too late, skipping other things to get in some words.  So it's not easy I'm looking for.  What I'm really needing is a focus, a plan, a clue.  So the question I need to ask myself is "how can I figure out what I need to write next?"  "How can I make the next section make sense as a lead-in to what's going to happen after?"  "How can I plan things so I don't have so many stops and starts and stuck places?"

Maybe just writing along getting all the thoughts down, knowing the basics of what I'm going to put in that spot before I get started is a form of ease.  I don't know.  But I do think I need to be focusing more on how to know what I'm going to write when I sit down rather than focusing on how I want things to be easy.  Because the truth is, I don't care that much about easy.  I just want to get my words flowing again.

What would you like to have going more smoothly in your life?  What would you like to get unstuck?  How can you clear the way for yourself to do the things you want to do?



It's ROW80 check-in day. I decided that makes us checkers. So...


As in all November posts, all I have to check in about is NaNoWriMo.

I am moving along pretty steadily but have still not caught up on my word count.  I have realized that I don't have enough conflict (or anything else) planned for the section leading up to my first major plot point, so I am doing some discovery writing and what-if brainstorming, so I think I will be able to work my way through this.  Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of a fun scene about a demon, so I am really enjoying myself right now.

Anyone have recommendations for good spooky stories--novels or movies? I could use a little structure study.

That's my week so far. What's up in your creative world?



I almost missed the ROW80 check-in today.  Was I writing?  No.  (Well, a little.)  I was reading a really fun book, though, and it completely took over my whole day. (Ravensblood by Shawna Reppert.) And I'm not even sorry!


I'm still behind on my word count for NaNoWriMo.  But I've been writing steadily, and I'm enjoying my story and feel like it's coming together nicely.  I'm also waking up every morning with story thoughts in my head, and it's usually the last thing I am thinking about as I'm falling asleep.  I feel enamored of the story, but the love feels a little tenuous.  I don't want to ruin it by putting on too much pressure and focusing too much on word count.  I want to focus on how much fun this story is.

As I mentioned, I've been reading, so I'm on target with my reading goal.  I got in a little bit of art journaling time today, too.  I am enjoying giving myself time and space to figure out what I really, truly want to be doing.  It's hard sometimes.  I find myself slipping and wanting to make plans and fill all the spaces, and I have to pull myself back and remember that I am trying to find what my real loves are.  It's a good journey so far, but not as easy as you would think it would be.

And now I'm off to bed to read a little more before sleep.  Happy writing everyone!



ROW80 time!  I will pause from my story writing for some blogging, then.

Jack wears his heart on his nose.
Jack wears his heart on his nose.

I am still behind on my NaNoWriMo story, but I can't seem to manage to sir up any worry about it.  I have been so very tired lately, and it's hard to put in as much time as I need to to reach the daily goals.  But I am thinking about this story all the time.  I even wake up with thoughts about it first on my mind.  It's like being in the throes of a brand-new love.  A very strange, slow-moving love.

Since Sunday I've written almost 6,000 words.  I've checked in on my ROW80 team.  I've kept up with my Municipal Liaison duties for NaNo.  That's about it, and it's been plenty.

Now I must head back to Blackburn's Hollow and figure out when they are going to learn that there's a demon involved in the curse.  (Yep, that's NaNo talk.)

How's your writing life this week?



It's the first ROW80 check-in of NaNoWriMo 2013.  I'm pretty sure I should have more to report, but I am off to a very slow start.  Most of my NaNos start slowly, though, so it's probably not too big a deal.  But I always feel so anxious in the first few days, until I really start writing and things start coming together.  That could happen any time now (you hear that, brain?).

Molasses Sequence courtesy of technicool licensed via Creative Commons
Molasses Sequence courtesy of technicool licensed via Creative Commons

What have I done since Wednesday?  Here's the list:

  • Finished a rough outline of my novel
  • Started my novel (only a few hundred words so far, but it's started)
  • Finished my painting for the Audubon Wild Arts fundraiser (I will post photos here tomorrow)
  • Delivered stickers to an outlying NaNo area
  • Checked in on the NaNo boards and did my Municipal Liaison duties

I think other things have managed to get done, but nothing is coming to me.  Those are the biggies.

Now I need to get my words warmed up and get this novel started.  I might be having a little bit of a harder time this year because I know I'll be handing these rough pages over to my crit group.  They don't care if it's very rough, but I can't quite stop caring yet.  I'm going to do some writing prompt exercises and see if I can get the words flowing that way.

What do you do when you really need to write (or do something else) and can't seem to get started?



It's ROW80 time again.  And what a few days it's been since the last one!

Turning this plan around
Turning this plan around

I was cruising along, moving forward on my goals, following my plan.  Life was looking good, things were coming together.  And then my Muse grabbed the wheel.

"Look at this shiny new story," she said.  "You could get this ready to write for November," she cooed.  "You know you like it," she wheedled.  And I caved in.

Yesterday I (temporarily) threw all of my other goals and plans out the window, grabbed a new notebook, and started planning a brand new story.  And I'm thrilled and excited and can't wait to finish the post so I can get back to it!  I love this story.  This tiny little seed of a story, really.  I have a character name.  I know how things start.  There's so much more to find out!

Tonight I'm going to do a little more brainstorming and free writing, and then I'm going to use The Busy Writer's One Hour Plot to lay out a basic plan.  And then I'm going to wait until November, and I'm going to write and write and write!

This is crazy, of course.  I don't know how this is going to work with writing for my critique group.  I need to decide if I'm going to continue writing my short stories for my group while also writing a new story.  If not, I need to figure out what I'm going to take to my next meeting (next Wednesday, so still October, so not the new story yet).  I don't know how I'm going to make the group thing work out.  But I know I'm going to write this new story, so I guess I'll just have to let the rest of it sort itself out as I go.

As for my other goals, I'm going to get to the other craft book after I finish doing this plot work.  I've been checking in on my ROW80 team.  My writing practice is brainstorming for the new story this week.  I've been downloading my art journaling classes and getting them in order (there are so many of them!).  I am reconsidering how I want to do the coaching stuff.  I think I'll have some new goals in the coaching category on Sunday.

That's it!  I'm back to my haunted house/witches/creatures in the forest story (it's still a little up-in-the-air).  See you Sunday!