NaNoWriMo: Encouragement For the Weeks Ahead

*Originally Published on I Came For The Soup… November 6, 2017

The first week of NaNoWriMo is behind us with many more blessedly ahead. Some of you have achieved your daily writing and creative goals while others may have missed your designated marks shy of a few words.

No worries. You will achieve your goal if you stick with it. Consider the first week of NaNo as your glorious warm up.

The fact still remains that when we set out with a great goal and miss our intended marks at the very start, we tend to lose momentum or even the courage to continue. Our plans seem not to be as ‘plausible’ as they were before…and then we drift…staring at our computer screens too afraid to make music by clicking the keys of our keyboards.

Can we really do this? Can we conquer our vision for NaNoWriMo? Everyone else around us seems to be doing just fine.

I would like to take this time to give you a bit of creative advice especially in moments when our creativity seems to get the best of us and cause knots to form in our bellies as well as our creative thoughts.

MY ADVICE AS YOU PRESS AHEAD

  1. My advice to you is to simply breathe: We as humans, have this tendency to back ourselves into corners of overwhelm. Our overwhelm is sometimes the result of negative imaginings that have nothing to do with the truth. If you feel yourself going there, take some deep breaths and reclaim your thoughts with calm.
  2. Take pauses when you need to. Take a few steps back if you are feeling overwhelmed: Some of the best solutions to our roadblocks are creating gaps by stepping away from the problem. By doing so, we are able to see what is before us from a different vantage point and gain other solutions. By stepping back from your nano project, you are able to reclaim the joy of the writing adventure by seeing it for what it is, an adventure!
  3. See other Creatives as community not competition: Sometimes when we are racing toward a finish line we tend to turn our eyes and focus on those around us. Let’s make it a point to no longer see other creatives as competition but community.

Be encouraged by what your neighbor has done and take hope in knowing that you can do it too but in your own unique way.

Don’t give up! There are several full weeks left ahead. Keep your focus, keep your peace, and keep writing!

“We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” ~HENRY JAMES

 

How to Tackle NaNoWriMo: My Advice To You (Day 5 of Countdown)

There are now less than 24 hours left before the worldwide writing frenzy of NaNoWriMo begins! Before you begin, I would like to give you my last token of creative advice.

CREATE A SOUNDTRACK FOR YOUR NOVEL

Now, I imagine that this may have you thinking of soundtrack in the same way one thinks of a movie soundtrack. Well, that is not exactly what I am referring to here.

Movie soundtracks are designed to lead the audience in a specific emotional direction while watching the movie unfold. If a romantic scene is on the horizon, cue the sexy music. If suspense, then in comes the music that gets your pulse racing.

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With the soundtrack for your novel,  collect tracks that get you into the head of your characters and reminds you of the spirit of your story as a whole.

Now there are songs that you can gather that help you to build certain scenes, similar to the way movies do, and those are helpful as well.

For me, I generally have specific songs for each of my characters. This helps me to keep every one authentic. Writing a novel in 30 days can cause a bit of character confusion if you are not careful. Soundtracks per person can help eliminate that.

HOW TO USE THE SOUNDTRACK:

Remember music is a muse. When I need to let my mind rest and my fingers stretch from a long stint of typing, I use this time to sit back, close my eyes, and listen to the songs that I’ve gathered that reminded me of my characters and my plotline.

This way, even while resting, I am still allowing my imagination to keep working on the story.

Think of it as an imaginative interlude and meditation. And trust me, it helps a lot.

A COUPLE OF BONUSES!

If you have time, check out sample chapters to my next novel, but FIRST EVER 30-Day Novel, WARDEN  (eBook and Paperback COMING SOON!)

Check-in next week for  The Muse in the Music, just to give you a deeper dive into how music shapes our creative process.

BUT…

Should music not be the muse and medicine that you need to keep in tune with your characters (pun not intended) then try this writing prompt that I created, Coffee With Character…or Tea. The exercise is all about getting to know each individual character in your story on a more personal level.

For instance, knowing your character likes to wear red socks on Monday may not be something you add to the story itself but it is something that helps you, the writer, build the world of their personality. It’s an intimate nuance that sheds greater light on their behaviors.

As laughable as it may seem, a person that specific with something as trivial as sock color will be less prone to certain behaviors, while apter in yielding to others.

FINAL 5-DAY CREATIVE ADVICE RECAP

So here is another brief recap of NaNo Tokens:

TIP 1. Write anything. Let your imagination take control. (Click HERE for full article)

TIP 2. Have a reader who will look over your daily progress with an honest reader’s eye, and give you feedback. (Click HERE for full article)

TIP 3. Set a daily word count goal that you can manage. (Click HERE for full article

TIP 4. Keep a “SPICE RACK”  of ideas  and scenes in a separate word document

TIP 5. Create a playlist that reminds you of your characters and plot, that you can meditate on during downtime.

BONUS: Check out my debut novel, NEXUS GATE 4037: THE ANIMAL, my first published piece born from a 30-day writing marathon like NaNoWriMo, both in eBook and Paperback.

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eBOOK AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

Most importantly, just have fun. Write because you can. Write because you want to, and write because your imagination is worth the time to share!

Cheers! and Happy NaNoWriMo!

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.” ~DORIS LESSING

 

HOW TO TACKLE NANOWRIMO: MY ADVICE TO YOU (DAY 4 OF COUNTDOWN)

*Revised from October 2015, 2017

Token 4: KEEP A “SPICE RACK”  OF IDEAS  AND SCENES IN A SEPARATE WORD DOCUMENT

Years ago, when I first started blogging, I made mention on my creative ministry site, I Came For The Soup, of separate documents that I keep alongside each novel that I work on which contains ideas, scenes, etc pertaining to that story. Now to be clear, this document is NOT an Outline. It is what I call a ‘Spice Rack.’

pexels-photo-256318Assuming (again) that you are already a seasoned writer, I am pretty sure you are familiar with the process of your creativity ‘jumping ahead’ of your story as you write it. For example, you may be working on chapter five when suddenly some thrilling scene pops in your head that has nothing to do with the current flow of the story BUT it somehow fits, like a glimpse into the future. You just don’t know where.

SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THIS SCENE?

If you are smart, YOU WRITE IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY! and you store what you have written in the, you guessed it, spice rack document. (And when I say write it down, I don’t mean write ABOUT it, I mean actually WRITE it as if that is where you are in the novel. This will save you time later and give you the full feeling of your characters’ future selves.)

These scenes may not fit immediately into the storyline, but they do count toward your daily word count and overall word count goal. As you continue writing you will surely find out that this ‘homeless’ scene you took a pause to build early on around ‘chapter five’ was actually the climax of chapter twenty-seven! (Glad you wrote it down when it came to you, aren’t you? )

WHEN DO YOU USE YOUR SPICE RACK?

Keep in mind that writing a novel is kind of like making soup from scratch. You have all the basic ingredients, but as the stock is cooking there are times that you taste test it and find that it just needs something to give it that little extra kick. What do you do? You go to your spice rack.

As you grow deeper into your novel during NaNoWriMo, you will draw toward moments where you just feel like something is missing. This is where you open up your spice-rack-document and grab one of those seemingly out of place bits of writing that you cranked out of nowhere.

For me, there were conversations, heated ones, that my characters who hadn’t even met yet, were having somewhere in the future, and as I kept writing I subconsciously built my way into each one of those Spice Rack scenes.

I have actually been doing the ‘Spice Rack’ since I was fourteen years old…I am now old enough to have a fourteen-year-old.

So here is another brief recap of NaNo Tokens:

TIP 1. Write anything. Let your imagination take control. (Click HERE for full article)

TIP 2. Have a reader who will look over your daily progress with an honest reader’s eye, and give you feedback. (Click HERE for full article)

TIP 3. Set a daily word count goal that you can manage. (Click HERE for full article

TIP 4. Keep a “SPICE RACK”  of ideas  and scenes in a separate word document

BONUS: Check out my debut novel, NEXUS GATE 4037: THE ANIMAL, my first published piece born from a 30-day writing marathon like NaNoWriMo, both in eBook and Paperback.

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eBOOK AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” ~JODI PICOULT

How to Tackle NaNoWriMo: My Advice To You (Day 3 of Countdown)

Tip 3. SET A DAILY WORD COUNT GOAL!

Setting a daily word count goal is such a helpful thing because it gives you a window or a destination for creative breaks.  If you start NaNoWriMo with the goal of 50,000 words, you run the risk of seeing a never-ending tunnel that just keeps getting longer no matter how fast, hard or far you run.tunnel

Do the math and add on from there. It requires a minimum of 1,666 words typed each day in order to reach 50,000 words by close of November 30th.

I suggest aiming for a higher word count goal for each day but with a cushion for a minimum. If you are already a writer you know that even with set goals, life happens and you may not get to write a single word at all.

WHAT DID I DO?

I scheduled my writing into two sessions a day. In the morning I would write for about 2 to 3 hours with a goal of 2,000 to 3,000 words in that session. And then in the evening, I would write again with a word count goal of 1,500 to 2,000 words.

With roughly 5,000 words written each day, this left me wiggle room for the days where “life” interrupted my flow and meant that I had managed enough words to be closer to 50,000.

Perfect example. The first year I attempted to write a novel in 30 days, I used this model of word count. Things went very well for most of the month but then my neighborhood lost power (as did most of the city due to bad storms. The electricity was out FOR A WEEK!

I had to literally write by candlelight and by hand.

Glad to say that I did make well over novel statues by the end of 30 days and even finished the entire manuscript by close of day 96. (That novel will be available WINTER/SPRING 2020. Click HERE for DETAILS.) But because I had managed to work in 5,000 words a day I had afforded myself that cushion for when life took over.

So if you are keeping up, here are the refreshers with my advice:

TIP 1. Write anything. Let your imagination take control. (Click HERE for full article)

TIP 2. Have a reader who will look over your daily progress with an honest reader’s eye, and give you feedback. (Click HERE for full article)

TIP 3. Set a daily word count goal that you can manage.

BONUS: Check out my debut novel, NEXUS GATE 4037: THE ANIMAL, my first published piece born from a 30-day writing marathon like NaNoWriMo, both in eBook and Paperback.

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eBOOK AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ~LOUIS L’AMOUR

How to Tackle NaNoWriMo: My Advice To You (Day 2 of Countdown)

FRIENDS ARE THE BEST! INVITE A READER ON YOUR JOURNEY WITH YOU.

Making the big decision to commit to writing a 50,000-word tome in 30 days is a PRETTY BIG decision to make.

togetherNow that you have done that, and have decided to take my advice on just writing whatever comes from your imagination, and flies out of your fingertips like magic sparks, allow me to offer you token number 2 that I learned in my experiences.

TIP 2. Have an honest friend (One who will be straight with you if your plot is not great) to support you by reading your daily progress. (This person is not writing, ONLY reading.)

One of the biggest attractions of  NaNoWriMo is the worldwide support system that a writer becomes apart of for 30 days.  I read an article, a few years back, out of Writer’s Digest. That entire edition was dedicated to, you guessed it, NaNoWriMo, and it likened this experience to running a marathon, and how being surrounded by strangers with the same goal helps each runner keep pressing forward.Mag Cover

I believe that is sage, to have that kind of support, HOWEVER, that is not what I mean by having a friend come along with you…obviously, because I said that already, twice.

In the first 2 years that I participated, I had a friend who I sent my daily progress to.

This helped in several different ways:

  1.  I had an audience who kept an eye on plot points and pointed out mistakes for me if I got off track.  By them pointing out my mistakes, it saved me time in the future with revisions AND it enabled me a quicker movement back on track with the progression of the story.  She also tended to print out the pages and make copy edits all on her own. PRICELESS!
  2. Because they were invested in the story (They kept reading because they liked the plot) they acted as a dog on my heels, nipping when I wasn’t writing fast enough. This is encouraging because their desire to read more was a sign that they were enjoying the story, which meant I wasn’t writing a bunch of crap.  (If they didn’t like it, they said so. Again get an honest friend for the journey, not one who likes everything you do just because.)
  3. Having to send my daily progress gave me a sense of a more immediate goal to work toward. When there is a feeling of expectation, you are more willing to perform without coming up with a ton of excuses and reasons to not follow through.

So if you have time (and you do) find a friend who loves to read, is honest about what they read, and who will give it to you straight as they read.  As Ecclesiastes 4:9 says:

 Two are better than the one, for they enjoy a better reward for their toil.

Enjoy your journey, and as always, happy writing! And if you somehow missed my Token number 1:

TIP 1. Write anything. Let your imagination take control. (Click HERE for full article)

TIP 2. Have a reader who will look over your daily progress with an honest reader’s eye, and give you feedback. 

BONUS: Check out my debut novel, NEXUS GATE 4037: THE ANIMAL, my first published piece born from a 30-day writing marathon like NaNoWriMo, both in eBook and Paperback.

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eBOOK AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

“I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.” ~CHINUA ACHEBE

How to Tackle NaNoWriMo: My Advice To You (Day 1 of Countdown)

In less than a week, November 1st will be here, and a mass of heroes and heroines will be born from the typing fingers of those who have bravely taken up the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

First, let me say congratulations on being brave enough to challenge yourself with this. I have participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and each year I have come away with a fantastic body of work (that yes, needs editing and revision) that I can be proud of.

Now, let me clarify, I have not officially done the NaNoWriMo with the whole registration thing (which I totally recommend because they have some great rewards for those who complete the 30 days with 50,000 words or more.) Why? Well, because I tend to use any 30 day month, June being the month of choice, to tackle my writing adventure.

November, June, September, April, any of these months will do. They all have 30 days, and they all afford you the chance to learn something new about yourself and your writing craft, and most awesomely, to walk away with the foundation of a novel or a completed novel before you enter the next calendar month. And thus far, I have walked away with several novels and series ready for revision.

Q. SO WITH ALL OF THAT SAID, WHAT DID I LEARN AND WHAT CAN I SAY AS A WORD OF ADVICE FOR DAY ONE OF THE COUNTDOWN TO NANOWRIMO?

A. I learned that, for me, there is NO SUCH THING AS WRITER’S BLOCK.

There are several reasons why we “think” we are blocked, but the truth is we always have something to say, we just have to allow ourselves to say it. Check out my  post on my sister site, I Came for the Soup,  “Are You Listening.” It highlights one of the reasons that keep us from achieving written awesomeness.

My advice…

TIP 1: Sit down and write something. Close your eyes and let your fingers do the talking. If you are relaxed and just let your imagination do what it does, the words will come, and something magical and fulfilling will happen. Don’t psych yourself out with all the overthinking. Breathe, type, breathe, type, breathe.

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AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

Go to Amazon.com to check out NEXUS GATE 4037: THE ANIMAL, my Second NaNoWriMo piece and my very first Indie Published Novel!

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~TERRY PRATCHETT

 

3 Reasons to Write That Novel: Wisdom from the Writer’s Journal

I believe that everyone at some point in their life journey has made the statement, “I think I should write a book.” While many have said it, very few have actually embarked on the actually journey when you think about it in terms of the ratio of ‘said’ versus ‘done’.

Now, having completed several tomes myself and published my first novel, Nexus Gate 4307: The Animal, currently available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.com, I have to admit that writing a novel from start to finish isn’t the easiest thing to do BUT it doesn’t have to be as difficult as many of us make it out to be.

Most of what causes the process to be difficult are:

  • Over-thinking: Rather than letting your creativity guide you and dance with your imaginative muse, you think the story into knots to the point that you ware yourself out even before you’ve even begun the actual writing process.
  • Lack of confidence: You put too much stock in what others will think of your creative work and often assume what they will think will be negative.
  • Perfectionism: You concern yourself with the idea of the ‘finished product’ and expect perfection from a work in progress when the first several drafts are actually just your beginning stages.
  • Thinking its already been done before/ Someone took your idea: You choose not to share your spaghetti sauce with others because someone else has already made, marketed, and sold spaghetti sauce…you get the picture.

These four are definitely creativity-killers not just in the world of writing but in the world of doing just about anything that poses a challenge but holds interests to you.

What are the cures to these nasty bugs:

  • Think less, do more: Enjoy the journey and don’t worry so much about the ending destination, especially not in the beginning stages.
  • Believe that trying is worth it even if you ‘fail.’ (Failure is relative.): The joy of simply having accomplished any creative goal is worth pursuing regardless of if you choose to share it with others or not. It simply lets you know that you can.
  • Remember that no matter how sharp we are at our craft there will always be a flaw: There is beauty in imperfection and often where there is imperfection our brains will either appreciate the quirk or fill in the gap. Some of the most highly funded books still have flaws in them.
  • Your idea is unique even if it resembles someone else’s…how many vampire stories are out there? I rest my case…sorta.

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for you to leave the ocean of ‘sayers’ and become part of the flock of ‘doers.’ It’s time for you to WRITE THAT BOOK!

“Many Great Authors began their writing careers in meeting their own imaginative and literary need. Perhaps that ‘book’ you crave to read, but can’t seem to find, rest deep within the soil of your imagination. Perhaps it’s time you begin to bring it to light! Write the book!” ~ Candice Coates

Octavia E. Bulter is a celebrated Science Fiction author. Her success grew from watching what she said was a terrible Science fiction movie and saying to herself that she could write better than that, and you know what? She did.

3 REASONS TO WRITE THE BOOK

1.WHY should you write that book: If a concept has been playing like a movie in your mind for more than a month (or even a week) you should give it life, even if you are the only one to read it.

And don’t worry if you thought up a great storyline only to find that someone else has tried something that seems similar. Here is the reality, many people have shared ideas and they’ve never even discussed them before.

As I said, there are so many vampire novels out there with the undead being in love with the living. Or think about how many mail-order bride romance novels there are. Similar concepts but if you’ve ever read any of these, you would find they are vastly different.

It’s called a niche within a genre.

So write your book because your idea is worth sharing.

2. HOW should you write that book: I recently read a book by Mark Batterson called Chase the Lion. (Great book!) In it, he describes his concept of using the 80/20 rule when it comes to writing. I liked what he had to say BUT I kind of have a similar but different view of it.

Putting it in my own words, 80 percent of finished work is better than 20 percent of daydreaming about it. Daydreaming without any work done will only lead you down a rabbit hole of nothingness where you let in those four creativity-killers.

Let your first draft be just that, a first draft! Go on and misspell a few words, dance over correct grammar, and use ‘to’ in place of ‘two’ too many times. It’s okay. Goodness, even let the plot slip a few times.

Your job during the 80 is to bring the bones and muscle of the story to life. The skin and clothes will come during the rewrites. Yes, there will be rewrites…at least three.

Putting down the words even with the mistakes is HOW YOU WRITE THAT BOOK! You get out the 80 percent and then weave through the 20 percent during second drafts, editing, and beta.

3. WHEN should you write that book: NOVEMBER 1st of ANY YEAR is a great time to write that book or to at least get it started. Why? Because that is NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. Check out the official site here www.nanowrimo.org.

Participating in NaNoWriMo gives you the chance to connect with other like-minded creatives who are running toward the same goal, like a marathon except you are using computers and being pretty sedentary…and probably packing in the calories instead of burning them but that’s beside the point.

The point is you will have a platform to gauge your progress and be encouraged by that of others.

Me, I like to use June as my Novel Writing Month, but any 30-day month will do just to get you started. That is when I finished both Nexus Gate and Warden (coming out Winter 2020).

Just get started. Write that Book! Why? Because it’s in you. How?  By sitting down and doing it. When? Right now is a good time to start!

WRITE THAT BOOK!

If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” ~Beverly Cleary

 

* Revised from original publication on icameforthesoup.com October 26, 2016, by Candice Coates