Category Archives: NaNo Series

The Pre-Writing Ritual: The Work Before Work

Hello readers! Today is the first day of my self-imposed NaNoWriMo blog challenge for the July camp of 2018. If you follow my blog for topics other than writing, don’t worry. I will be posting about minimalism and travel throughout the month. However, for today’s first post I want to focus on the pre-writing ritual. Personally. I don’t have a pre-writing ritual that I do every day. I do have a pre-NaNoWriMo ritual.

For those of you competing in NaNoWriMo this time around, you may have already started, or you may be procrastinating, or you might be taking part in your pre-writing ritual as you read this. Whatever the case may be, I would love for you to share what your ritual is in the comments below.

What is a Pre-Writing Ritual?

As human beings we can be very superstitious. By nature, we are ritualistic. Perhaps we wear the same socks or racing flats for every cross-country race? Maybe there’s lucky underwear involved or a lucky hat we wear when we sit down to write our academic essays? I for one have never had a pre-writing ritual. However, with NaNoWriMo it’s a different story. Being that NaNoWriMo is a whole month and I try to focus most of my spare energy towards it, I don’t like to spend a lot of time paying bills, cleaning and cooking. You know those daily chores that tend to add up?

I have a pre-NaNoWriMo ritual. Whether you started your NaNoWriMo challenge today, are waiting until tonight or next weekend, it’s still not too late to complete your ritual.

My ritual usually lasts the whole day. Luckily this month’s challenge started on a Sunday. I was on the NaNoWriMo forums yesterday and saw some other writers talking about their pre-writing rituals and what they did to get ready for the month ahead.

Suggestions from Others

Some of the ideas I got from other writers included logging out of Netflix and Hulu, Facebook, and other social media accounts. Some of you may think what’s the big deal? If you wanna get on, just log back in… So many of those programs and social media platforms keep us logged in so we forget our password. Manually logging back to succumb to hours of procrastination and wasted time becomes a chore when you’ve forgotten your password. Fail too many times and your account becomes locked.  That turns into logging into your email before the “reset” link expires… it’s not worth that much trouble to not write. And trust me, writers spend a lot of time avoiding writing. (Non-writers don’t understand that).

Other writers that have large families participate in a 30 day meal preps. I feel like this one is a little bit easier for the winter months because it’s easier to make casseroles, chili, stews and thicker, heavier meals in bulk and then freeze them for the month. Summertime is a little bit different. Usually we don’t eat as heavy. We rely more on fresh fruits and raw vegetables – things to keep us hydrated and cool which may pose to be a bit of a challenge for a meal prep. If you’re looking for ideas I’ve put a few links below to some 30 day meal preps.


30-Day Meal Prep Links:

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/22226/mealtimes/dinner/best-30-day-meal-plan/slideshow/the-best-30-day-meal-plan/

https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/meal-ideas/30-day-shape-your-plate-challenge-easy-healthy-meal-planning

https://girlinhealing.com/how-to-plan-30-days-of-meals-in-1-day/


My Pre-Writing Ritual

Those are just a few suggestions that I received from the forums. Though they don’t really apply to me, you have to know what works best for you. We’re all a little different. Some of us are better at saying no to distractions than others. As a minimalist, I have removed a lot of distractions from my life. But there are still certain things I need to take care of for the month. While I know that there will be times laundry will pile up, I try to keep it at a minimum as best as I can.

Yesterday was Saturday and my day was filled with cleaning the apartment. We have a small two bedroom apartment and as mentioned before no children or pets so I’d like to think it stays  orderly. Below is a list of things and tasks that I completed that you may want to take a look at to help you determine what needs to be done in your household before you commit a month of your life to writing 50,000 words or more.

1. Wash, dry, put away as much laundry as possible.

As always, minimalism helps because we don’t have that many clothes. Take the time to put fresh sheets on the bed and clean all of your dirty laundry.

2. The dishes…

I’m terrible about letting dishes pile up in the sink or not emptying the dishwasher once it’s done cycling through. And I get fussed at for it… It’s not in my nature. The kitchen really isn’t my area, I usually let him do the work. However, I contribute to the mess and I know that I can’t really concentrate when I know that there’s clutter somewhere. It drives me nuts. Run the dishwasher through once or twice, put all of the clean dishes, away scrub the countertops and the floor, and empty the trash.

3. Buy groceries and clean your fridge.

I’m not talking about junk food. Of course, buying healthy food can be frustrating because it goes bad before you can eat it all. I’m used to going to the grocery store 2 to 3 times a week to get fresh produce. Perhaps for this month switch it up a little bit. Buy a lot of frozen fruit and vegetables instead. It’s the next best thing to fresh. I rely heavily on home-made protein shakes for meals during the NaNo months. So frozen fruits are a must in the house!

4. Wipe down all services and vacuum.

There’s something about an uncluttered room or home that just brings peace of mind. Albert Einstein famously said, “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

I’ve never liked this quote. As a minimalist, I like things empty, neat and sorted. I feel like I can’t be creative or think straight if there’s clutter and disorder. Maybe clutter and disorder works for some people? Obviously it worked for Einstein. But I know me and I know that doesn’t work for me. If you have others in the household with you, have them help.

5. Take the trash out and clean vehicles.

By now this list is probably sounding more like your mother’s list of chores than a pre-writing ritual. I’m not talking about giving your car a wash though. I’m talking about the inside, which can also be a hording place for clutter. Some of us spend a lot of time in our cars driving back and forth on long commutes to work. Or stuck in traffic. Do yourself a favor clean out your car.

6. Pay your bills for the month.

The last thing you need is repeated phone calls or text messages from your credit card company saying, “Hey your payment is late!” It’s very easy to lose track of what day it is during NaNoWriMo. If you can afford it, pay everything a month ahead of time. Don’t just consider any credit card bills, take into account rent/mortgage, property tax, vehicle registration, utilities, memberships, insurance, etc.

7. Clean out the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

Things accumulate over time. It’s only natural. But sometimes that medicine cabinet doesn’t really get looked at too closely. Before long, all sorts of creams, ointments, serums, different size bandages, and medicines stack up. Look under your sinks as well. Throw stuff out!

My pre-writing /pre-nano ritual is basically to do a huge, massive and thorough spring clean on the home. I’d love to know more about how every one else handles their pre-writing time. Perhaps it involves reading a blog post or wearing a funny hat? Please share in the comments below!


#NaNoWriMoBlogChallange #NaNoBloCha
NaNo Challenge for the day:

Use the word PENUMBRA in today’s writing session. [It means “a half-shadow”]

Happy Writing!

Cover Art created with Canva.

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – NaNo Blog Challenge

Hi friends! It’s that time of year again for another monthly writing challenge. Originally happening only in November, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has become so popular that there are now “camps” held in April and July. Let’s be honest, November isn’t always the greatest month to try and tackle the challenge for some with the start of the holiday season. Camp NaNoWriMo is something I don’t think I’ve ever completed successfully. I frequently sign up only to flag and flail within the first week of the competition.

In fact, calling it a competition is a misnomer. If anything, it’s a competition with yourself. If you want to know the full details of what NaNoWriMo really is, I suggest you check out my previous post What is NaNoWriMo? Today, I’m here to talk about a new challenge I am posing to myself for the month of July. I’m going to kick off the #NaNoWriMoBlogChallenge.

What is a NaNoWriMo Blog Challenge?

In order to help generate more traffic to my blog and successfully fulfill the 50,000 word goal for the month (Note: during Camp NaNoWriMo you can actually make the word count goal smaller are larger) I plan to post a new blog post every single day. Yes, you read that correctly.

It will definitely be a challenge because even though I’ve developed the habit of writing every day, I have not developed the habit of writing something and publishing it every day. No rough drafts here. I promise that each post will consist of edited, readable content – no NaNoWriMo jibberish.

I’m hoping other bloggers will join me in this endeavor (please use #NaNoWriMoBlogChallenge or #NaNoBloCha in social media posts so we can start a movement!) My blog posts will consist of anything from stories about my personal life, poetry, book reviews, notes on previous trips, NaNoWriMo progress, and regular minimalist and writing posts… and possibly more. My goal is to keep the posts-a-postin’!

Camp NaNoWriMo: Not My First Rodeo

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t my first time participating. As mentioned in my April 2017 Camp post (my only post for that month), I started out strong then vanished. Luckily, the challenge starts on a weekend again this year, giving me a day to get ahead before the work week takes hold. Also, being near an American holiday, I’ll have some extra time off of work which I’ll be taking advantage of.

Yes, I also plan to continue writing fiction during this period. Can we say literary suicide? I predict burn-out and mass hysteria in the Bethory household… or at least in the office. Please subscribe to this blog to join me on this crazy journey. While I’m currently hopeful, I may not have any sanity left by the first of August. So please, take a first row seat to the madness.

Further Reading

For other tips, tricks or words of encouragement regarding NaNoWriMo, please check out some of my other posts regarding Having a Plan and Eating Right for NaNoWriMo. If you still don’t feel inspired, I suggest reading the book that started it all by NaNoWriMo founder, Chris Baty, No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.

Happy Writing!

-RB

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

NaNo Series Vol. 3: Eating Right During NaNo

What’s the right way to fuel your muse?

As November continues, it’s important that those of us participating in NaNoWriMo set ourselves up for success. Part of that involves eating right.

I’ve seen a lot of NaNo Prep videos on YouTube that suggest having snacks near your workstation so that you’re not constantly running to the kitchen when you get the munchies. What do these snacks consist of? Bucket loads of leftover Hallowe’en candy, copious amounts of caffeine (sugar-laden coffee, energy drinks…I used to be that person!) and other snacks such as greasy chips, fattening sweets and anything else that will end up rotting your teeth out, giving you a sugar crash, causing you to gain weight and your immune system to shut down right in the middle of holiday season.

I’m asking you not to do those things to yourself and your body will thank you. I used to be the person who ate the junk described above. I was always thin but felt oily, sluggish and fatigued. Sitting immobile in front of a computer didn’t help either but nowadays I tackle NaNoWriMo from a whole different perspective with an arsenal of healthy snacks and habits at my fingertips.

So what are some alternatives? Below is a list of things I use to keep me up and running during the month.

Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Water

I suggest watering it down and drinking it through a straw so that less acid hits your teeth. However, some people prefer drinking it like a shot. What I don’t suggest is mixing it into your protein shakes…ugh! Trust me, I tried it. The benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar range from improving your nutrient absorption to lowering cholesterol, boosting energy and even aiding in weight loss! It’s also important to note that herbs and spices like cinnamon and cayenne pepper have numerous benefits instead of our commonly used salt and black pepper… Why not try a new seasoning on an old dish?

Lemon water is often used for detox. If you’re really unhealthy, a detox may make you sick. However, water infused with lemon (you only need one!) can help stave off the urge to snack and help you stay boosted and energized. Plus it tastes yummy!

Meal Replacement Shakes

Ah, the glory of liquefied meal replacement. For someone who use to always skip breakfast because their stomach wasn’t awake that early in the morning, these things helped turn me into a healthier person. Whether it’s SlimFast, Muscle Milk, Olly’s or Shakeology (my own personal fav) find a shake that tastes great to you and has all the best vitamins and nutrients. Sometimes instead of having a shake for breakfast, it’ll be my dinner when I’m in a rush. Bottom line is, it’s healthy and keeps me trucking during those long writing sessions.

30 Day Meal Preps

By simply typing in “healthy meal prep” or “30-day meal prep” into your internet browser or a Pinterest search bar, you will find hundreds of healthy ideas for all meals of the day. The best part is that it only involves cooking once a week or once a month! Now, I know what your thinking. “I have a family of six! How can that be possible!?” It is! In fact, a lot of these meal preps are made for people with hectic schedules and larger families. Just think, one Sunday of cooking can set you up for a month of success and good eats.

Yogurt, Nuts, Fruits and Raw Vegetables

I hate to do this to you but when I say yogurt, I don’t mean the kind that has a bunch of added sugars. I’m talking about plain yogurt if you can stomach it. Yogurt is not only good for your digestive system but, like nuts and seeds, it can make you feel more full, faster.  All three are good sources of protein.

Speaking of protein (and can I mention vitamins?) fruit and fresh vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients and energy. If you’ve been living off of fast and processed food it may take some time to adjust but I promise that the results are phenomenal. Ever since I took the time to look into my diet and make adjustments, I’ve had more energy, my migraines have gone away (I really attribute this to the exercise) and my skin is much clearer.

And my last suggestion for you…

Stretch, Exercise and Get Fresh Air

Staying put in an office all day can be depressing, not to mention bad for your circulation. Get up once every hour and stretch your legs, your fingers, your back, and neck. If any part of your body ever feels strained during a writing session, that’s your bodies way of telling you to stop what you’re doing. So if you get a cramp or your legs are restless, stand up and stretch or go for a walk.

It’s no secret that sitting in front of the computer can be bad for our posture or even hard on our eyes! So take an hour and turn away from all screens- no tv, no cell phone, no tablet, etc. Let your eyes rest. Go for a walk in nature. I know, for some of us it’s already snowing outside. You’re writing won’t die if you walk away for an hour. In fact, it’ll thank you.

Exercise (yes, even walking) is a form of meditation. So I encourage you to go get lost in your thoughts. New ideas will come to you. Scenes that you were stuck on will magically provide a way out…a way to move forward.

If anything, I hope I’ve convinced one person to lead a healthier writing lifestyle.  I’ll leave you with this- someone once told me that if you eat “dead,” you are dead and if you eat “live,” you are alive. Now I’m not a vegetarian, and neither was this individual but give healthy stuff a chance. You may just be surprised at how much you prefer it to the chemically processed foods once your taste buds adjust. And a good rule of thumb I always follow when grocery shopping- if I look at the ingredient list and I can’t pronounce something, I don’t put it in my body!

Thank you and happy writing!

Photo Art © Ksenija Tojeckina Zavalnaja | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

NaNo Series Vol. 2: Planning A Writing Project

Most writers fall into one to three categories when it comes to their method of writing and novel planning. There are pantsers, plotters, and those who are a mixture of both (like me). When starting a writing project, it’s important to look ahead so you don’t wind up writing yourself off of a cliff or into a dead end. So what’s the difference?

Not Much (If Any) Planning: Pantsers

A pantser is someone who sits down with little to absolutely no idea what their story is about. They are not sure who a majority of their characters are, if they know any at all. Some say that this is the essence of creativity. Pantsers make everything up as they go and usually abhor the idea of an outline. I find that this is usually because they hear or see the word ‘outline’ and think of those horrid things we had to write in grade school. In fact, outlining a novel is a much different process.

Planning: Plotters

Plotters are your outliners. They decide ahead of time where their story takes place, who the main players are and ultimately what their story is about. I used to consider myself a plotter and if you get really technical about it, I am but being a plotter doesn’t mean that you know every single detail in advance. This is usually where people get confused or overwhelmed when they hear the word ‘plotter’ or ‘outline.’

I once had a classmate tell me, “Oh no! You should NEVER outline. It ruins the creative process.” This particular classmate was often rather bossy and enjoyed telling others what they should do and how they should do it. In my opinion, whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, it doesn’t matter. You do what works best for you! Everyone is different.

A Mixture of Both?

I consider myself a mixture of both a pantser and a plotter because while I do have a plan when I sit down to write, not everything is planned or set in stone. I’m flexible. I allow my stories and characters to change and evolve. After all, some of my best ideas come while in the moment of writing but pantsing leaves me with no goal or sense of direction. I also find that I’m far more productive when I have a plan. When I know what is supposed to happen in a scene, it’s easier to get the words on paper.

My main problem- I didn’t like the format of my outlines. While I kept the door open for other things to happen, I wasn’t happy with this format. I researched ‘planning a novel‘ and stumbled upon what is known as ‘The Snowflake Method.’

What is the Snowflake Method?

A software architect named Randy Ingermanson designed The Snowflake Method. Stressing the importance of design, he combines physics and fractals with creative thinking. I made that sound more complicated than it is, but he does a better job of explaining it at his website, found here.

This method is fantastic for me. You take a simple idea and expand upon it in steps until you have a full story and a hefty outline. This is the point where you start to realize that pantsing and plotting go hand in hand. After all, there isn’t an outline for the outline. Meaning, plotters don’t plot before they plot, they have to dream up the outline too. So there is still a creative process happening. Overall, I find that this structure makes the writing process more pleasurable and the editing process less painstaking.

In the end, it’s your writing and your decision on how you want to go about it. There is nothing wrong with listening to someone else’s suggestions but you don’t have to take their advice (especially when you didn’t ask for it in the first place). What works for them may not work for you. The last person I suggested The Snowflake Method to freaked out and was convinced that I was asking them to draw a snowflake…no comment.

Photo Art © Vetkit | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

NaNo Vol. 1: What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month which is in November. It started out as a national event when it was created by Chris Baty in 1999. Back then I think only twenty-one people participated so “national” may have been a bit of a stretch. Flash forward to 2016 and it has become international.

People from all over the world participate and they don’t just write novels. While it was originally developed for people trying to write a novel-length project, many use it to write short story collections, screenplays or even to tackle that thesis paper or dissertation.

Why 50k words?

The length of a novel is debatable. That goes along with other lengths of fiction as well, whether it be a short story, novella or even something as small as flash fiction and micro fiction. Genres may also play into length but to keep things simple, we will just talk about length right now.

Here is the breakdown from what I understand:

Short stories= <7500

Novelettes (I didn’t know they existed either)= 7500-15000

Novellas= 15000-40000

Novel= 50000<

That hazy area between 40k and 50k I never know where to place. I’ve seen some titles marked as ‘novels’ when they are very small. It’s possible that these fall into that gap. (Ex. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears, or Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen.)

Also, most books that have a greater word count than 100k are often deemed ‘epics’ such as, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This is part of why 50,000 words became the goal; it’s the smallest length of a novel that is widely agreed upon. It can also be easily broken down over the course of a month. Many professional authors state that they write anywhere upwards from 1500 words a day. 50,000 divided by 30 days equates to roughly 1667 words per day.

The Evolution of NaNoWriMo

As you can see from some of what was mentioned above, NaNoWriMo is an ever-evolving monster. The main point that its creator was trying to drive was forming a habit of writing every day. Even if you only write 500 words a day, progress is progress and a daily routine/habit will be established.

Sitting down to write a novel can be daunting. Even if you’re doing it for pleasure (which should always be at least one of the reasons). After all, 50k words is a lot! And to think that’s just a first draft. Most popular novels are 80,000 words+ and if you write like Stephen King, he cuts 10% of his novel out during editing…so 50,000 words won’t cut it for a final draft.

The object is not to write a polished, publishable novel in 30 days. It’s just to get that first draft out. That can be the hardest part or it can be the part that’s most fun. The real writing comes in the editing process and re-writes. That is what will end up making or breaking you as a writer.

How did I first hear about NaNoWriMo?

I first heard about NaNoWriMo when I was in college. I was a member of The Writer’s Digest Book Club and one of the books I was drawn to was Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! (Grab a copy here.)

Obviously, I purchased it and low and behold, he introduced me to his creation – NaNoWriMo. I’ve been participating ever since. That means that this November (2016), will be my 9th year participating. Have I hit the 50k word goal every year? No. I’ve only reached the goal five years out of the previous eight.

Why November?

November isn’t always the ideal time of year for people. In America, we are dealing with Thanksgiving and Winter Holidays, school, and travel. Whereas I have a friend in Australia who has Christmas during her summer break.

Chris explained in a YouTube video that November was the month his group of friends settled on due to family vacations. Now that NaNo has become so popular, two other annual month-long writ-a-thons were born under the name Camp NaNoWriMo. The camps take place during April and July.

My Goals for 2016 NaNo

This year, I’m trying to set myself up for success but I’m also crazy enough to shoot for a bigger challenge. There are several projects I want to work on this time around and I have no idea how long they will all be as I’m still in the brainstorming phase. However, this year I’ve told myself that I want to double the 50k word goal. I’m shooting for 100k. Yes, I’m insane but I believe it’s possible.

Rey (She is totally a Kenobi): Is that even possible?

Han Solo: I never ask that question ’till after I’ve done it.

If NaNoWriMo sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can sign up for free at their site. And if you need a writing buddy feel free to add me, Aljinon.

Photo Art © Weerapat Wattanapichayakul | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.