Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

My NaNoWriMo Experiment

imageNaNoWriMo is a week away, and today, with a little help from a friend, I came up with a great idea for an experiment.

You see, I had this really epic dream last night. I have really vivid dreams all the time, and my dreams are usually either “oh, what a beautiful, beautiful life” dreams, or what I call the epic story dream. Both are quite wonderful. The beautiful life ones make me feel really good when I wake up; the epic story ones are thrilling, like a great novel that I just happen to be in.

So in this epic story dream of mine, the setting for the last scene was a really vivid one, vivid and wonderfully strange. And when I woke up, my first thought was, that’s the kind of setting I want to use in my writing.

When I write, it’s usually from a movie in my head. I get characters, dialogue and action, and I try to capture it all in words. But the setting is usually never more than a faint blur, which probably explains why my first drafts are short on description.

So I want access to the stuff that comes to me in my dreams. After a few email exchanges with a friend of mine, who has written fiction in this way herself, I’ve decided to experiment with one of my NaNoWriMo projects (I’m going to work on two this year, in keeping with my new multi-focused approach).

I’m already a “discovery writer”, in that I don’t plot and prefer instead to write by the seat of my pants, discovering the story myself as I write. Having said that, I usually know in what general direction I’m writing; I just don’t know the details of the journey there, and of course, the direction itself is flexible and changes as the details emerge.

My WIP ELEMENTAL is a quest tale, and I have a vague idea what the quest is. So I’ll continue writing that one out with that general direction in mind.

But I’m going to play around with my other WIP, experiment with different “meditative states” while I’m writing it. Kind of like lucid dreaming while awake. I’m not going to write this one chronologically, either; I’ll get down the scenes as they (hopefully) come to me, and afterwards I’ll figure out what the sequence is. I already know what one of the scenes will be: the one I dreamt about last night.

So it’s going to be a complete experiment, from beginning to end. I’ll do this one both on the computer and in longhand. I’ll go wherever it takes me, however it goes, and then at the end of 30 days, I’ll see what I have.

It sounds like great fun to me!

Have any of you ever written like this? Investigating other states of being while writing? I’d love to hear about your experiences!



NaNoWriMo the Longhand Way

imageI’ve been thinking about doing NaNoWriMo a little differently this year.

I recently stumbled on this post on Neil Gaiman’s blog from back in 2007, when he was in the middle of writing The Graveyard Book (I got there, as usual, by some convoluted route while I was procrastinating. It’s how I find most of the interesting things I come across.)

I loved seeing the blank book in which Gaiman wrote his first draft. I know he writes all his novels in longhand, using a fountain pen, which sounds both wonderful and tiring to me. But I admit to trying out the longhand way this summer. It never quite took, though. For me, there’s something about my fingers flying along a keyboard that really lets me get the image in my head down onto paper in just the right way.

But I think the children’s book that I’ll be working on as part of NaNoWriMo next month (my intention is to work on two projects simultaneously) would benefit from being written in longhand.

I’m saying this after what happened with last year’s NaNoWriMo project, WAVERLEY. I “won” NaNoWriMo last year, hitting over 50,000 words in November. But after that, I got stuck, so I set the project aside to mature for a bit.

Now, usually this is what happens when I reread something I’ve set aside for a while: I almost always think it’s better than I remembered; but not so in this case. I ended up cutting 33,000 words from it.

And back then I had thought I’d be able to plunge back into rewriting the words that I’d kept. But I haven’t been able to. Because I realized something else a little while after that.

I’d written a very different story than the one I wanted to write.

And I’ve been thinking today, it’s because I wrote it on the computer. My writing brain took a look, found a tangent it liked, and basically took the whole story down another rabbit hole.

(I actually think that tangent is a good tangent on its own, just not a good fit with the story I was trying to tell.)

Also, doing NaNoWriMo the longhand way gives me an excuse to find “just the right notebook” and “just the right pen”. Such excuses are worth their weight in gold!

What about you? Do you write on the computer, or by hand? Or a bit of both?

A Lost WIP, and NaNoWriMo

imageI hadn’t been planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I recently spent a day cruising writing blogs, and NaNoWriMo fever is quite enticing.

Still, I didn’t think I’d do it, mainly because I’ve already started my current WIP, ELEMENTAL, and I’ve always thought of a NaNoWriMo project as a “fresh start” kind of project.

But it did occur to me that I could easily work on ELEMENTAL throughout November and use my word count as my NaNoWriMo word count; there’d be some subtraction involved every day, as I’d have to figure out what my word count for NaNoWriMo itself was, and not the for the project as a whole, so I went to bed trying to figure out whether the extra headache would be worth it (math was actually one of my best subjects in school – the other was English – but I’ve never been good at the basics like adding, subtracting, multiplication and division).

Anyway, I went to bed last night after catching sight of this contest at Dear Editor, where you can win a free edit of a picture book manuscript.

(In case you’re wondering what on earth the previous sentence has to do with NaNoWriMo, I guess all I can say is, this post gives a glimpse into how my mind works …)

Now, I don’t have a picture book WIP lying around, so I fell asleep thinking to myself, “gee, I wish I had a completed picture book manuscript so I could enter”. I do have a few picture book “starts”, but picture books are much harder to write than they appear, and that’s all I have to say about the subject.

This morning, I woke up and remembered a WIP I had last worked on years ago. It had started out as a picture book but around 500 words into it, I did have the sense to realize it was way too long to work as a picture book. I kept writing regardless, because I really liked the idea.

The last time I worked on it, my protagonist had just met this really shy dragon; I can remember their meeting almost word for word.

So as soon as I got out of bed, I made a lunge for my computer, clicked on my Writing folder …

and nothing.

The WIP wasn’t there. I’m pretty sure it resides in the innards of one of my older computers, which I might or might not have anymore. And if I did have it, it might or might not work anymore. There’s also a hard drive on the shelf next to me that might or might not contain it (my husband accidentally dismantled that particular PC, thinking it no longer worked – I managed to save the hard drive).

In other words, I’ve lost the WIP.

(Now I’m finally getting to the point.)

After a moment of grief, I put two and two together, and decided, “Yes! I WILL do NaNoWriMo this year. Yes, I will! And I’ll rewrite my was-a-picture-book-now-a-middle-grade novel as my NaNoWriMo project.”

So here I am.

Any of you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Here I am – I’d love it if you’d buddy me!

NaNoWriMo: Winner!!

nano_09_winner_120x240I did it! I won NaNoWriMo this year!

According to the word validator, my official final word count is 51,070 words. But that includes my chapter titles, and according to my writing software, my real word count is 50,774 words.

I really wanted to do this – I felt such determination on Saturday when I woke up and realized there were only three days left in the month, and I had to write 13,413 words by midnight tonight.

As it turns out, I managed to write 14,187 words, and it’s not midnight yet! (Although I won’t be getting back to my novel today, because I still have that work deadline to complete …)

I must say, this type of deadline really seems to work for me. Not only did the deadline itself motivate me to write, but the chapters I wrote between Saturday and today flowed well and really moved the story forward.

A death also turned into a spooky murder, which I’m eager to find out more about!

Here’s my NaNoWriMo profile page, with that nice little “Winner!” banner.

Cheers!Of course, there’s still more to go. For this first draft of Waverley’s Word Shoppe, I’m aiming for about 70K words, which I will then edit down to between 50K-60K. I’d like finish this first draft over the next two weeks (which doesn’t seem impossible at all, now that I know I’m capable of writing 14,000 words over three days!).

In the meantime, cheers!

(My husband took this picture of me on Saturday, at the Dojo holiday party – and no, I don’t normally wander around with TWO drinks in hand. What can I say? It was a fun night!)

Three Days to Go


I will keep coming back to update this post with my current word count. Doing updates here is the best way I know of keeping myself on track and getting those 13,413 words written.

Nov. 28, 4:14 pm:

Current total word count: 38,203 words. Required to complete NaNoWriMo:  11,797 words.

Nov. 29, 3:08 pm:

Current total word count: 39,971 words. Required to complete NaNoWriMo: 10,029 words.

Nov. 29, 6:05 pm:

Current total word count: 41,602 words. Required to complete NaNoWriMo: 8,398 words.

Nov. 29, 8:26 pm:

Current total word count: 42,877 words. Required to complete NaNoWriMo: 7,123 words.

Nov. 29, 10:02 pm:

Current total word count: 44,030 words. Required to complete NaNoWriMo: 5,970 words.

Nov 30, 12:47 am:

Current total word count: 47,110 words. Required to complete NaNoWriMo: 2,890 words.

I’m debating whether to stay up and finish, or go to bed and write more when I get up …

November 30 Final Update: I did it!


I woke up today and realized there’s only three more days before the end of November – three more days to reach 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo.

After a glorious start, I find myself woefully behind. Right now I’m at 36,587 words. If I want to complete NaNoWriMo this year, I will need to write 13,413 words between now and the end of the day on Monday.

I’ve decided I’m going to do it. Things are so much clearer in my mind now that I’ve had my moment of bathtub inspiration. I just have to find the time to sit down and write.

With that in mind, I thought I’d go through the obstacles standing in my way and how I will master them:

Dojo Holiday Party

Tonight my husband’s dojo is holding it’s yearly holiday party. Because our house is too small, it’s usually held at one of my husband’s student’s houses, and this year is no exception.

So all I have to do is get myself ready for it. No need to clean up the house! It’s a potluck but Ward’s handling that end of things – he’s in the kitchen right now cooking up a storm. We’ll be bringing chicken pot pie and homemade lasagna (homemade, right down to the sheets of pasta – yes, he’s a brave man, my husband).

I, of course, won’t have to worry about any of that. I have three hours before we have to leave, and I’ve decided I’ll spend some of that time writing. So that’s one obstacle down.

By the way, you can see Ward in action in the dojo here. If you’re wondering which one he is, he’s the one wearing the black belt who’s ordering everyone else around. The video features the three martial arts he teaches (karate, aikido and jodo) and when you get to the aikido portion of the video, he’s the one wearing the long black skirt-like thing (a hakima – it’s actually a skort, not a skirt but it’s hard to tell) and throwing people around.

The Shoe Issue

I was worried I’d have to run out to the shoe store this afternoon and pick up some dressy sandals or pumps to go with the dress I’m wearing tonight. I don’t have much opportunity for wearing dressy shoes, and I was hunting through the front hall closet but couldn’t find anything appropriate.

Ward said something about how I’d only be wearing it to the house, where I’d be taking my shoes off at the door anyway, but as I told him, that’s not the point. One has to have decent shoes, regardless of whether anyone actually sees one in them or not.

Luckily, though, it occurred to me that this summer when I went to my cousin’s wedding reception in New York City, I wore a black dress and when I thought hard about it, I remembered I’d worn these gorgeous, strappy black sandals to go with them. Another moment’s thought, a rummage through my own closet, and I found them!

Another writing obstacle down.

The Deadline

I have an index due on Monday and at first this kind of threw me for a loop.

But then I had a thought. I have to face facts: until the day I become an NYT bestselling author, I will be dealing with non-writing, work-related deadlines. There’s really no way around it. That’s just the way it is.

So obviously, I will always be writing around my work deadlines. Why should NaNoWriMo be any different?

Tomorrow and Monday, I will write. And then I’ll work. And then I’ll write. And then I’ll work. And in that way, I’ll meet both my NaNoWriMo deadline and my work deadline.

Another obstacle down.

The Sunday International Book Giveaways List

I will, unfortunately, have to postpone this list until next Sunday. The good news is that next week’s list will be a nice long one. See? There’s always a silver lining.

A Book Diary for WAVERLEY

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been any good at keeping a regular journal. Not that I haven’t tried. When I was in grade school, some well-meaning person gave me one of those small five-year diaries, the kind that has two cute little keys and a lock. I found it quite intriguing, and in a spurt of excitement, immediately filled in the little space allotted for that day.

I can’t remember exactly the course of events after that fateful day, but soon after, I lost the keys that came with the diary. Yes, both of them. And you know I locked the thing, because really, wasn’t that the whole charm of it all?

When I was in my teens, I gave the whole personal journal thing another whirl, this time with a small hardcover journal another well-meaning person had given me.

This is what I discovered back then: I would write consistently whenever I was feeling anguished, and I wouldn’t write at all when I was feeling grand or even partially good.

My problem was that, even during the whole hormonal mess of puberty, the days I felt pretty good outnumbered the days I felt angst by a whole lot. Which usually meant months and months would go by before I picked up my journal again.

Nothing changed since my teen years. The fact is (and I’ve finally accepted this, although very reluctantly), I simply do not have the disposition to keep a personal journal. I’ll only ever write in a personal journal when I’m feeling down, and quite frankly, I’ve always been quite an optimistic person.

Where I’ve had success, though, is with “specialized” journals. For example, I stayed faithful to writing daily “Morning Pages” as outlined in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for eight years. I also have a spiritual journal which I find myself coming back to again and again. And the year after my divorce from my first husband, I kept a Gratitude Journal which helped me to keep my spirits up during a nasty custody battle.

Specialized journals work for me. They’ve proven to be rather magical, in fact.

The other day, I came across the idea of writing a book diary at author David Hewson’s blog.

Now, I’ve come across this idea before – in her book Write Away, Elizabeth George prefaces each chapter with an excerpt from her “Journal of a Novel”.

But it wasn’t until I read David Hewson’s thoughts about keeping a book diary that I felt really inspired to give it a try – the fact that I’m deep into WAVERLEY for NaNoWriMo is probably a factor, too.

Here’s what Hewson does with his book diary (he starts a new one for each book). It’s the place where:

…I note down ideas, concerns and, at the end of every week, a tally of the word count and any general feelings I have about the project. My wake-up thought this morning has gone into that diary already. So I know where to find it and it will stare up at me until I either accept or reject it.

While Hewson recommends the software program he uses, I always like to find free or shareware alternatives whenever possible. After a lot of searching around and trying out several different free and not-so-free programs (it was, after all, a nice way to procrastinate – not to mention, I ended up finding a lot of sweet-looking software that had very little to do with journaling), I decided on Efficient Diary. While there’s a paid version, the free version has all the features that I think I’ll need.

What I was looking for, mainly, was the ability to create several different diaries, the ability to print out my diary, and the ability to search diary entries. I also wanted to be able to add a picture if a diary entry felt like it needed one, as well as links.

What Efficient Diary lacks is the ability to use tags but since it has a search function, I figure I can just manually type in any necessary tags at the end of an entry (like “Revision”, “Edit”, “Chapter 9”) and I’ll find what I want eventually.

I suspect my book diary for WAVERLEY will be a success. I’ve only been doing this for a few days so far, but what I’ve been finding is that at the end of a writing session, the first thing I think of doing is opening up Efficient Diary, and jotting down my thoughts, fresh from the completion of a writing session.

There will, I trust, also be days when I open my book diary to add thoughts that come to me about certain revisions I’d like to make to WAVERLEY.

I may eventually move on to a paid journaling software – there are several on the market, and the company that makes the one that Hewson recommends (a Mac-based one) also makes a Windows-based one that looks pretty good.

But for now, I’m thrilled (and inspired!) by the idea of keeping a book diary of my thoughts while writing WAVERLEY.

What about you? Do you journal about your personal life? If you’re a writer, do you keep a book diary, or “journal of a novel”?


And now for my NaNoWriMo update: I went for three days without writing, because of the dinner party we had this past Saturday, and then a deadline that ended up dragging into Monday. So I’m about a day behind.

My total word count right now is 28,449 words.

I plan to do two writing sessions tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get all caught up!

The Saturday Ramblings Post

I’m practicing the Art of Procrastination (I am an ardent and devoted follower of the Art), so I thought I’d sit down and write my semi-regular rambly Saturday post. Why am I procrastinating? (I’m usually always procrastinating about something, and today is no exception.)

Tonight’s Open-House Dinner

I only managed to get a couple of rooms clean yesterday, leaving the untidiest rooms to do today (in the next few hours, no less). I’m still debating whether I should tackle my office or whether I should put up some sort of a barrier and an “Enter at Your Own Risk” sign at the door.

We have 28 people coming for dinner. It’s funny how that number makes me feel like I need to get the house cleaner than, oh, say six people coming over.

So wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

NaNoWriMo Update!

So much for my stellar start with NaNoWriMo. Initially, at the pace I was going, I should have been close to finished by now. But I still haven’t gotten the write-everyday-pattern down pat, and ended up taking two days “off” from writing. I’m not likely to get any writing done today, either.

Current total: 25,651 words

I’m still on target to complete 50K words by the end of the month, which is a very good thing indeed!

Currently Reading

I haven’t had the chance to read any print books this week. I did, however, end up sticking with my M.C. Beaton audios, and just finished up Death of a Dreamer. I’m really liking this series in audio – the Scottish accents are wonderful, and the stories are great cozies, very good when you’re in the mood for a comfort read.

Bookworms Carnival

And speaking of comfort reads, I’m hosting the 42nd edition of the Bookworms Carnival! (I think I am, anyway. I’ve submitted my topic, but haven’t heard back yet, so I need to get on the ball and email again, I think.)

The topic I’ve chosen is Comfort Reads. Deadline for submission of posts is November 27, 2009.

And if all goes well (meaning, my emails to the organizers haven’t been going astray!) I’ll be writing up a more detailed post later this week.

This Coming Week

Things should be less hectic this coming week. Several of my deadlines have shifted into December (great for November, not so great for Christmas!) so I’ll be able to take a bit of a breather and hopefully be able to finally tackle my Google Reader.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get tomorrow’s International Giveaways List post up, as I usually write that one up on the Saturday and well, it’s Saturday already, the house is only half-cleaned, and tonight I’m going to be more busy than not.

What have you been up to this week? I haven’t had a chance to visit very many blogs, so please feel free to leave links in the comments to your posts about any interesting things going on this week in your reading or writing life!

NaNoWriMo Update (Day 6)

Today’s word count: 5,553 words

Total word count to date: 14,668 words


I didn’t write at all yesterday, so when I woke up today, I was determined to sit myself down and put my fingers to the keyboard.

You wouldn’t think indexing a book is particularly strenuous work, but I always find myself feeling pretty drained after I finish up an index. Yesterday I worked on, and finished, two separate assignments, and even I was a bit astounded at how lethargic I felt afterward.

I literally spent most of the night lying around, playing a version of Poppit on my iPhone. Seriously.

I was so tired, I didn’t even listen to an audiobook before bed (now that I’m finished the Harry Potter books in audio, I’ve been sampling M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series. Very fun, and I’m loving the Scottish accents.)

The good thing was, I ended up going to bed early (early for me, anyway – it wasn’t quite 1:00 a.m. when I fell asleep). And I woke up feeling incredibly refreshed.

So I squeezed in two writing sessions today, and ended up with 5,553 words.

I think I’ll have to take advantage of these bursts when they happen!

A lot of what I wrote today was really backstory; I doubt too much of it will remain in the final draft. But it’s all stuff I needed to know – about my characters, about the plot – so all of it was necessary in its own way.

At nearly a third of the way in, I should be a lot further into my storyline than I am. But I’ve only just introduced my final main character. And it was fun writing about him today!

That’s a good sign, I think.

Completed: The Harry Potter Challenge!

NaNoWriMo progress report (day 4): 9,115 words to date. I’ve already had one writing session today, but I’d like to do another one, as I’d like to make it to 10,000 words by the end of today.



Now for some wonderful news. I have completed my very first reading challenge EVER!

Yes, that’s right. I’ve completed the Harry Potter Reading Challenge!

It will actually be one of my last reading challenges completed, because I’ve sworn off signing up for more reading challenges, even very interesting ones like the Women Unbound challenge (I had to sit on my hands to avoid giving into the temptation of that one – but if you’re looking for a great reading challenge, you should definitely consider this one).

I did the entire Harry Potter challenge in audio, and even though this is a reread for me, I realized I must have read the last two books in the series in one or two gulps; listening to the last two books, I found I had forgotten (more likely, “skimmed over”) a LOT of the plot, and so it was almost like reading them for the first time.

In other words, very, very exciting. And I cried lots, too. I even get teary eyed now when I think about what Harry named his middle child (you find this out in the epilogue. I won’t mention it here, as it’s a spoiler).

And while it’s a kind of funny thing to express appreciation for, I wouldn’t have finished listening to the series in audio so soon if I hadn’t had those days in October, and most recently, the first day in November, when I wasn’t feeling well. Audiobooks are great when you’re under the weather, and these Harry Potter ones were especially enjoyable.

I’ve had Harry and his friends as my bedtime reading for the past three months now – I’m really going to miss listening to the books. I’d definitely reread them all in audio again!

NaNoWriMo, Day 2

Today’s word count: 5,240 words

Total words to date: 5,240 words


This is my first NaNoWriMo update. Yesterday, the starting line for NaNoWriMo, turned out to be a big “0” for me. I wasn’t feeling well all day, and didn’t even make it to my computer, much less my writing program.

The day wasn’t a total loss, though. I discovered the names of two of my main characters, and a lot of different, unrelated bits and pieces also came to me. I wrote them all down in my notebook this morning, when I was feeling better, and ended up with three pages of notes.

I did three separate writing sessions today to make up for not writing at all yesterday. In order to write 50,000 words this month, I will need to write the equivalent of 1,667 words a day.

I read a tip about writing your NaNoWriMo novel this weekend which suggests you try to rack up as high a word count as you can the first week, so that you won’t get stressed if you hit any obstacles later in the month and have to slow down. So right now, I feel like I have some words in the bank!

And if I do have 50,000 words by the end of November, because my NaNoWriMo novel (WAVERLEY) is a middle-grade novel, I should have a complete first draft, ready to be put away to age a bit before revisions.

Here’s my opening sentence  – it’s highly unlikely though that this will remain my opening sentence once I finish WAVERLEY and begin my revisions.

For as long as Charlie Merrygold could remember, The Place had stood dark and shuttered at the bottom of Low Street, seeping a nastiness its bruised and blackened walls made no attempt to contain.

I don’t think it captures exactly what I have in my mind (“seeping a nastiness” will certainly have to go!), but it works for now. It’s the sentence that started the whole process that has lead to 5,240 words so far, so I figure it’s already done it’s job.

The words I’m putting down don’t feel like they’re translating the film strip running in my mind as well as I’d like them to. I know I won’t know for certain how good a job I’ve done transferring what I’m seeing in my mind to paper (or rather, keyboard and monitor) until after I’ve written the whole thing, but I’m hoping I’ll feel more confidence as I get deeper into the story.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how did your first two days go?