Nano Fail

So I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I can hear your collective gasps.

I am very aware of all the benefits to participating in National Novel Writing Month: the motivation to get words down, the camaraderie of knowing you and all your best writing buds are typing away, the assurance that it’s ok if your draft sucks since that’s what first drafts are for.

But the guilt of not making daily quotas and the inevitable burnout that always results from going full tilt don’t appeal to me, especially given the timing for me this year.

Word Count Guilt

For the past two years, I’ve participated in Nano. I’ve never “won,” but logged 20k the first year, closer to 30 the second. And I considered those victories. But the 1,700 words a day wasn’t sustainable. At least for me.

On a good day 2k is about my limit. On a really good day, 3.5k is possible. But that usually means I’m way over-caffeinated, my hand aches from writing so much, and my legs have fallen asleep from sitting so long. Not exactly the balance I seek in my writing life.

After a big writing day, I usually take a break. But during Nano, the pressure to “catch up” takes over. And while it might be good to understand just how far you can push yourself, to motivate you in the future, you eventually have to worry about…


We’ve all heard the horror stories, related to Nano and other publishing deadlines. Burnout’s no fun. It can leave your brain a pile of goo and have you questioning your resolve. And as far as I’m concerned, anything that makes you doubt your decision to write is not a good thing.

Plus, with the projects I’m working on, the goals I want to reach with them, I really can’t afford the time off to manage burnout symptoms.  Besides, I believe you should be focused on writing everyday, not just once a year, as outlined in the NaNoWriMo No post from Writer Unboxed. Slow and steady, wins the race… (at least I hope!)


Despite my (lack of) progress in Nano’s past, I have used November as a good time to jumpstart a new project or restructure an old one. But this fall, I started another project, wrote a skeletal draft, and am now fine-tuning things. The WIP is not in typical Nano shape, and I’m in too deep to consider starting one that is. So the timing just didn’t work out this year. For me.

That doesn’t mean NaNoWriMo isn’t a worthy goal for those of you forging on. But I’m sitting this one out, and hopefully I’ll be able to join in next year!

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Taking the Time to Tinker

My father is visiting me this week. It’s been a good visit so far, and tomorrow we’ll be having an early Thanksgiving, making a mini version of the turkey, stuffing, and other goodies since we won’t be able to celebrate together at the end of the month.

But there’s a twist. Instead of pumpkin pie, we’ve made a key lime pie. Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, we’re having a sweet potato and butternut squash gratin. And we’re trying out a new recipe for cooking the turkey instead of the traditional standby method we’ve used for years.

Part of this is for practical reasons. As great as Thanksgiving is, two full-blown meals just a few weeks apart is just too much for any mortal. Changing up the menu is a way to preserve the symbolism of the meal but keep it fresh for the palate.

It’s also an excuse to try something new. Something different. It’s also a way to practice something we both love to do: cooking. Maybe we’ll find a new method or recipe that will replace the old one. Make a new tradition for ourselves. Or, then again, maybe not.

But we won’t know unless we try.

Just like revising, until you take the time to rework that problem scene or brainstorm ways to invigorate the third act of your story, you won’t know what works unless you try.

And in the mad dash to produce a draft, to get an agent, to get published, time is at a premium.

This November, even with NaNoWriMo in full force, I encourage you to take the time to tinker. Take the time to try something new, something different with your writing.

Give yourself the mental headspace to consider the possibilities of what can be in your story.

Your craft will thank you for it.
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Resource Roundup – NaNoWriMo Edition

In case you’ve been living under a rock, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo or simply NaNo for short. 50,000 words in 30 days (1,667 words/day). Whether you are sailing along or have already found yourself in troubled waters, consider this your one-stop-shop for NaNoWriMo resources when the going gets tough.

As with previous Resource Roundups (Finding the Right Word, Conjuring Up Titles, and Crafting Dialogue), I focused on online resources. There were a ton of posts out there, which I’ve gone through and evaluated for their usefulness. But if you’ve come across other valuable resources, please tell me about them in the comments, and I’ll include them when I add this to my Resource Roundup page on the sidebar.

Post Series: 

Write Anything‘s NaNoWriMo Workshop by contributor Karen covers planning your NaNo project in addition to specific aspects of craft so crucial to storytelling. She pulls the best bits from numerous books on craft and technique to give NaNo participants a helping hand.

Find, and Flush Out, an Idea
Setting It Up
Point of View
Constructing Scenes

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp courtesy of Agent Nathan Bransford is a must read, if only because Bransford condescended to write about NaNo in the first place. Besides, you should be reading his posts on craft and publishing anyway. He has 4,660 Goggle followers (and counting) for a reason.

Choosing the Right Idea
Goals and Obstacles
Editing As You Go

Countdown to NaNoWriMo by Paulo Campos at yingle yangle gives you tried and true advice from a NaNoWriMo veteran. When you hit the wall, Campos’s posts provide options for moving forward.

Part 1: Winding Up Your Writing Clock
Part 2: Why Outlining Your Novel Is Essential
Part 3: Outlining A Novel Worth Reading
Part 4: Your Outline Will Fail
Part 5: Making the Most Out of A NaNoWriMo Crisis
Part 6: Making A Mess of A NaNoWriMo Crisis
Part 7: Why NaNoWriMo Naysayers Should Please Shut Up
Part 8: So Your NaNoWriMo Novel Sucked

Stand Alone Posts:

The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo – Gives a great overview of the benefits of participating and the trade-offs you’ll make when you lock yourself away to reach the goal.

NaNoReaMo – Author Natalie Whipple decides she’s going to spend November reading instead of writing.

Putting the NANO in NaNoWriMo – An alternative take on what “NaNo” really means.

NaNo Checklist – The title says it all. Make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

6 Golden Rules of NaNoWriMo -When you start questioning where your story’s headed, read this for a reality check, courtesy of editor Victoria Mixon.

9 Ways to Prepare for National Novel Writing Month – Another post from Write Anything to make sure you’re ready for NaNo.

Other NaNoWriMo resources from those who know:

***Please let me know in the comments if you’ve found a NaNoWriMo resource that should also be included. Thanks!
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Write On Con Recap

As I mentioned in my previous post, I, like many others in the blogosphere, participated in the awesome Write On Con, a free online conference for YA writers. And it was fantastic. Really and truly.

In addition to my desire to learn all I could to apply towards my YA project on the way for NaNoWriMo, I was curious to see how the whole “free online conference” thing would work from a communication perspective. (I have a masters in mass communication and am always a sucker for anything related to media and communication).

Organizers Jamie Harrington, Elana Johnson, Casey McCormick, Shannon Messenger, Lisa and Laura Roecker, and Jennifer Stayrook did a terrific job in getting a whole host of authors, agents, and editors together to address a wide spectrum of issues in kidlit – from meter in picture books to sex scenes in young adult novels.

Content was a mixture of standard blog posts, vlogs, and live chat and/or video sessions with industry professionals, which gave the illusion of attending a panel or Q&A session in person at a writing conference. I’ve never been a fan of vlogs – you never know what kind of content you’re going to get (and unlike blog posts, you can’t scan them and see if they’ll be worthwhile) and if you have a dicey internet connection, it’s usually not worth the hassle. But in the context of an online writing conference, the vlogs added a human dimension to the content. Although I will say some presenters were more effective than others in using the different medium to full advantage.

You can find links to all conference content here, but I’ve pointed out my favorites below. Please note that I didn’t really concentrate on any picture book-related stuff as it is not one of my writing interests.

And now, without further ado, here are my picks:

Day 1

Give Yourself Permission by editor Molly O’Neill – I found this to be a great inspirational post that came – appropriately enough – early on in the conference. It really resonated with me as an aspiring writer who’s still struggles sometimes with finding balance, figuring out the “right” way to do things, and measuring progress.

In Defense of a Less Than Huge Advance by literary agent Michelle Wolfson – I found this to be an informative practical piece on a topic that I at least haven’t seen addressed elsewhere. Wolfson does a good job of disentangling what the dollar signs really mean when an author is ready to sign with publisher.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Revision by editor Kendra Levin – Levin provides an overview of overarching questions you need to address with your manuscript as a whole. She also has a couple of revision tips towards the end of the article, including this (which is always good for me to remember):

Remember that no matter how much you revise your manuscript, it is never going to be perfect. Perfection is not your goal. Your goal is to tell this story as clearly, thrillingly, and beautifully as possible. So let go of the idea that you must get everything perfect, and instead have fun playing in this elaborately detailed playground you’ve created for your brain.

Panel of Professionals chat (Elana Roth, Kathleen Ortiz, Martha Mihalick, Paul Samuelson) – I found all the panels hugely illuminating of the submission process and how important first impressions are. This panel in particular focused on a writer’s online presence and how important that is in building a platform.

Day 2

Plot and Pacing by author/literary agent Weronika Janczuk, part one, two, and three – This series of posts is epic, yes, but worth a look. Parts one and two review different ways to structure a novel, and Part three brings it all together, with ways to strengthen your novel’s plot and overall intensity.

The Revision Process by author Cynthea Liu, part one, two, and three Part one focuses on ways you can evaluate your own writing, Part two is how to evaluate your story, and Part three talks about how to revise. Lots of useful nuggets.

Queries with literary agent Natalie Fischer – This may be of more personal interest to me since I found out Fischer also reps Romance (yay!), but it was also valuable for those at the query stage. If you don’t want to scroll through the entire chat session, be sure to check out Adventures in Children’s Publishing’s overview of this session with all the useful bits highlighted.

Panel of Professionals chat (Anica Rissi, Joanna Volpe, Suzie Townsend, Mary Kole) – This panel focused on the ever-present enigma that is voice in writing. If you spend time with any of the panels, make it this one, as there were some great distinctions made about voice that are valuable beyond the YA genre.

Day 3

Writing Realistic, Captivating Dialog by author Tom Leveen – A useful overview of how to make your dialogue show characters’ motivations and other important elements of the scene. He also says that each line of dialogue should represent a win or a loss for each character – a fascinating way to think about characters’ conversations.

From Submission to Acquisition: An Editor’s Choose Your Own Adventure by editor Martha Mihalick – This was a playful but really informative way to show the routes a manuscript takes once it reaches an editor’s hands. Where would your novel end up?

Avoiding Character Stereotypes by literary agent Mary Kole – One of the few vlog posts that’s worth a second look – not necessarily a surprise from Kole who runs the popular and informative blog. Not just pointing out how stereotypes are bad, this post also show ways to create unique, interesting characters from the ground up.

Creating New Mythologies by author Aprilynne Pike – A clear overview of how to use the best bits from mythologies and make them yours in your story.

Looking forward to Write On Con next year. The bar is set very, very high!
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Write On Con

Tuesday through Thursday this week, I’ll be participating in Write On Con, which, if you haven’t heard of it already, is an amazing online conference for YA writers founded by YA writers (go here to see the list of awesome organizers). When I heard about this free conference a couple of months ago, I was thrilled for the opportunity to learn more about YA. And this will truly be an Event with a capitol ‘E’ if the high-profile authors, agents, and editors who have volunteered to present are any indication.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Bluestocking, don’t you write historical romance and science fiction? Yes, but I also dabble in other areas as well, and YA has been on my to do list for a while now. In fact, my participation in this conference is a precursor to my NaNoWriMo project goal this year. I already have an outline for a tentative contemporary YA story and thought NaNoWriMo would be a good way to jumpstart that particular project since I’m currently knee-deep in revising and submitting my romance novel and hard at work at the second draft of my spec fic novel.

Lofty goals, I know, but this is also an interesting case where I’ll be informing myself of the genre conventions before launching into the project full steam ahead (which I did not do with my past works). Granted, YA is the only genre I’ve read consistently since being a kid, so I feel confident in that respect. Plus craft is arguably craft, regardless of genre or style, so I know Write On Con will benefit me whether or not I complete a YA project in the future.

There’s another benefit too – the energy this conference has galvanized. On the blogs, on Twitter, on the Write On Con forums, the excitement, the support, the goodwill has been tremendous, and such inspiration can be hard to come by when your typing away in isolation.

So if you’re interested in getting involved, get signed-up, checkout the schedule, and park yourself in front of your computer for the next few days. That’s what I’ll be doing.

Happy writing!
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