NaNo Tips- Awesome Ways to Get it Done

I fast-draft all of my manuscripts. It’s much easier and much less stressful for me to write several thousand words a day for 5-6 weeks than it is for me to scratch out 1k a day and constantly be thinking, worrying, and problem-solving about my book for six months. I love fast-drafting because it allows me to get in the zone and stay there.

If you’re doing National Novel Writing Month along with so many of the rest of us, you’ll be trying to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Here are some tips and tricks from a perpetual fast-drafter for getting those words on the page:

1) Get in the mindset. Chant these to yourself until you believe them: You can’t polish a blank page. You can’t edit what you haven’t written. A first draft’s only job is to exist; if it exists, it’s a perfect first draft. Leave editing for December.

2) Prepare your lifestyle. Make a few meals ahead of time and put them in the freezer. Or, you can swap cooking duty with a friend or family member nearby; offer to cook a few nights for them in Dec. if they bring over a meal or two in November. Stock your pantry and freezer with items that won’t spoil so you can cut down on trips to the store. Consider hiring a neighbor kid or local student to come help out with basic house cleaning for an hour a week; I’ve done this several times, and for $50, I don’t have to vacuum or clean the bathroom for a month. Those are valuable writing hours.

3) Re-prioritize writing. For fast-drafting, writing has to not be the thing that gets done once everything else is done. Unless I have guests coming over, when I’m fast-drafting, the house chores suffer. And that’s fine with me. Writing has to come pretty close to first to get a project like this done. Explaining to your family what you’re trying to do and how much work it is is a great idea; consider asking them to help pull the extra weight by taking over dishes, walking the dog, doing laundry, making breakfast so you can get right to writing, etc., in exchange for a fun family party or outing in early December.

4) Create productive ways to give your brain a break. Buy a book that’s a treat– one you’ve been dying to read. Reading helps me to get out of sentence patterns and word habits I get stuck in when fast-drafting, and it’s a blessed relief from hearing my own voice on the page. Working on outlining or research tasks is also a great productive break. I work through a copy of Donald Maass’s WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK every time I draft. When I can’t write scenes anymore, I switch to the book and work through a section. It’s also a great thing to take along for sitting in waiting rooms, working on during a car trip, or anytime I have 5-10 minutes to spare but can’t get writing done. I also keep a file of research tasks– look up this, Google that, find out X crazy detail– that I can work on when I can’t write anymore. Doing these things lets me write scenes when I have the time and energy, and it gives me productive things that don’t require the same level of mental engagement when I don’t.

5) Get rid of your Kryptonite. If it’s Candy Crush, swear off. If it’s Netflix, stay away. Facebook or Pinterest? Have your spouse/a friend change your password and ask them to let you on once a day. Any activity where you aren’t aware of time passing means you’re likely to spend more time doing it than you meant to. Usually way more. It might be your “braindead activity” but unless we’re very different people, those things won’t refresh you and they’ll simply be a black hole in your time.

6) Reward yourself when you meet your daily goals. Maybe the reward is reading time, or chocolate, or new music. I recommend rewards that don’t require tons of time– television, social media time, games I like, etc., tend to mean I stay up too late enjoying my reward, and my writing time the next day suffers. So make sure your reward doesn’t make your writing suffer. A great reward for me is swapping pages with a CP or friend who is doing NaNo– reading each other’s pages quick (no crits, just reading for fun) and squealing over fun details and awesome tension is incredibly motivating. When so much material is being created so fast, the urge to share it and have it heard because IT IS SO AWESOME gets overwhelming. So, share it! There are few better rewards than having a friend love it, too. (But again– no critiques, no editing. Just OMG LUV and high-fives.)

7) Remember that unless you don’t start, you can’t fail. That’s the great thing about NaNo. You can “win” by writing 50,000+ words, but you can’t really lose. If you write 10,000 words, you have a fantastic start on your book, plus all the planning and time required to actually put words on the page. You’re gaining, you’re making progress, you’re creating something every day you put down words. No matter how many words it turns out to be, creating isn’t failing.

Are you doing NaNo? Do you have an awesome project in the works?

Review: Write Your Book in 26 Days

Once again, readers, I’m thrilled to recommend an excellent book.

Reading about writing is essential  to develop skills as a writer. Fantastic books on writing are listed in my “books on craft” page. These books focus on the craft of writing itself: character development, POV, plot and pacing, voice, and a hundred other elements.Their explanations and examples of techniques and principles are invaluable to writers of all kinds. Mostly, though, they teach writing skills, not how to be a writer.

I’ve just finished reading WRITE-A-THON: Write Your Book in 26 Days by Rochelle Melander, and at first I was skeptical. “26 days?” I thought. “Not if it’s a book worth reading.” Ms. Melander’s book, however, is not about rushing writers through creating their masterpiece, nor is the book about cranking out poor material. Her book is of a different sort. Rather than focusing on how to produce excellent prose and story, WRITE-A-THON teaches people how to be sucessful writers.

Ms. Melander comes alongside writers in this book as a coach. She teaches  how to prepare for the write-a-thon, how to write that first draft, and how to finish strong by revising, searching for agents, and preparing for the next project.

Really, WRITE-A-THON is 3 kinds of books in one. First, it’s a field guide. Ms. Mellander discusses who and what writers are and why they write. “Waiters wait,” she says. “Writers write.” She takes writers through the steps of preparing to write a book: finding the concept, beginning the research, designing the structure of the book, creating the marathon schedule, etc. She then moves on to writing the first draft. This first draft is what will take the 26 days. Every step of the way, she tells writers what needs to be done, what to expect while doing it, what works for others, and what may work for them.

WRITE-A-THON is also a motivational book. I don’t normally like motivational reading. I am typically a self-motivated person. This book, however, I found to be genuinely helpful and realisically motivating. Ms. Melander helps writers to identify their excuses, envision what they want their writing career to look like, and obtain the support needed to make those goals happen. She walks writers through isolating why they want to write, prioritizing the desire to write in their daily lives, and learning to take themselves seriously. Motivational discussion continues through the training, drafting, and editing stages of the book to keep writers encouraged and focused. Ms. Melander understands that writing can be difficult, isolating, and frustrating; she also understands how much confidence and persistence it takes. Even though I’ve already written my first novel, I was motivated to keep working by this book- not the brief motivation of cheerful encouragement, but rather the motivation that comes from identifying a goal, valuing it appropriately, and recognizing  progress. Before long, I was motivating myself. My writing motivated me. My research motivated me. The small steps I made each day in developing my writing career motivated me.

Finally, WRITE-A-THON is a toolbox. This is my favorite element of the book. I have truly never read a book this useful for making writing a daily part of life. Ms. Melander, while telling writers what needs done and what to expect, while telling them it will be hard but it will be even more rewarding, shows writers how to get it done.

People can Google warm-up tips and editing tips; Ms. Melander goes beyond standard how-to’s for writers. She teaches how to create a writing space; how to prioritize writing; how to build a support team; how to explain to friends and family that you are sorry, but you are writing, so you can’t babysit. She walks writers through finding out what brainstorming, writing, and researching materials work best for them. She discusses overcoming perfectionism, blank pages, and lack of inspiration. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the write-a-thon is discussed as well, as is developing the writer’s creative life. She keeps the writer progressing while avoiding burn-out.

Ms. Melander organizes all of this material into three sections: training, the write-a-thon, and recovery. Part One: Training takes the writer through the necessary steps to prepare.  I loved this section because of its thoroughness and Ms. Melander’s spot-on observations about writers- how they write, how they think, how they act and react. Faithfully following the steps she lays out will make every writer a better writer.

Part Two: The Write-a-Thon guides writers through getting the first draft on paper. Resources and even meals have been gathered beforehand; daily writing exercises have built writing muscles; project binders and story bibles have captured research, outlines, and character profiles. Writing the draft at this point just takes encouragement, focus, and seat-time. Ms. Melander will get writers there.

Part Three: Recovery helps writers celebrate their accomplishment, then gets them back to the task of finishing. Revisions, editors, first lines and word economy, the querying process, and finally persistence through rejection are outlined. The book closes with a fabulous bibliography of writer’s resources on organizing the writer’s life, writing advice, writing books quickly, fiction writing, nonfiction writing, writing exercises, and revising, submitting, and publishing.

WRITE-A-THON is both accessible and well-written. Concepts are made memorable through clear, humorous writing and relevant examples.  Not only is this a book worth reading, but its also a book worth re-reading. Writers of all kinds and all levels of experience will find it useful and motivating. One quote Ms. Melander includes is from Richard Bach: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Rochelle Melander shows writers how to stick to their goals and not quit. She shows people how to be writers. “Writers write,” she says. WRITE-A-THON thoroughly unpacks how to be a writer who truly writes.

Visit Ms. Melander’s site here, and buy WRITE-A-THON on Amazon here or at Barnes & Noble here!