Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Write Out of Order

In the spirit of the Camp NaNoWriMo that’s going on right now, I’d like to piggy-back onto my previous post with some short, sweet advice. If you’re stuck and you don’t know where to go next in your story, write out of order! Or maybe you do know what comes next but you just aren’t feeling that scene today, or this week… Write out of order!

Start in the middle of a scene. Write the ending first. Focus on a plot point that’s further along. Skip around. You can always come back to where you were. Maybe start a fresh page or a fresh document! One of the beautiful things about art is that there really aren’t any rules. Sure, there are guidelines. And obviously, you want a final draft to be polished and edited- you want to put your best foot forward but there it nothing that says you have to write a story in the order it should be read.

And don’t be afraid to mess up! After all, that’s what rough drafts are for. Throw it all out there onto the page so you can sift and sort the treasure from the trash in the future drafts. In a rough draft, you can’t make mistakes. They simply don’t exist at that time.

Now, go write something!

-RB

On Writer’s Block

I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the concept of writer’s block. I know there are times where we don’t know what to write next. I’ve always got ideas, but sometimes I’m uninspired. However, that’s the thing with writing- you’re not going to be inspired or motivated. In fact, most days you won’t be. There will be times where you get stuck and you’re not sure what to do next. You’re not blocked.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

That is a concept that amateur writers think exists because they think we all sit down, inspired to make magic happen every day. We don’t. I used to be one of those amateur writers. In fact, there are still days where I don’t write but for the most part I’ve developed a habit. That’s the important thing- develop the habit of writing every day. You don’t have to work on the same project every day. And that’s really what I’m here to talk to you about…

Get Yourself “Unstuck”

It’s really very simple. As mentioned in a previous post, Turn on the Faucet, words tend to flow once you sit your butt in a chair and start making things happen. Start typing about your day. Describe your surrounding in excruciating detail. If you start writing “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again, eventually your brain will find something else to write. Maybe you’ll start writing about the film, The Shining, or the book by Stephen King, or maybe you’ll start writing about how you feel overwhelmed at work and you don’t get enough free time. This can spiral into another idea. Need a place to do this? Check out my previous post on 750words.com.

The bottom line is, you could write anything. It may not be applicable to your current work in progress but it doesn’t matter because you’re still writing. You’re still honing your craft- a craft that none of us master, according to Ernest Hemingway.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

Just because you didn’t work on your current WIP, doesn’t mean you can’t make progress in some way. Work on a blog, work on a short story, work on a different novel idea, brainstorm a new project, and when you’re not doing all of those things, read!

You should always be making progress towards your future self.

There’s a lot of inspirational quotes online- some of which say something like, “will the you five years from now look back and regret not taking those forward steps to get closer to your dream?”

Stop trying to skip the struggle. If writing were easy, everyone would do it. Instead, people romanticize the idea of being a writer. I’m still not sure why. There is something about it that people find alluring when really most of us have had times when we skipped showering, brushing our teeth and eating in order to down more coffee and churn out that next chapter. When you’re a writer, you’re essentially playing God. You are creating characters, moments, places, and events from nothing. It’s exhaustive work.

Understandably, sometimes you don’t feel like playing God but in order to hone the craft you need to work at it every day. It will be a struggle.

Write every day as though it were breathing.

I hope things are going well for those of you who are participating in Camp NaNo this month. We’re about to head into the doldrums of week two and the second week tends to be the toughest. If you find yourself running out of steam, it’s okay. It happens. If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to skip around in your story or work on something else. You can always come back. Your work isn’t going anywhere without you.

Happy writing!

-RB

Sometimes I Fail at NaNoWriMo (And That’s OKAY)

April Camp NaNoWriMo 2019!? Is it that time of year again already? I suppose since NaNoWriMo technically happens three times a year now it comes upon us a lot faster than it used to and we’re not always ready. I don’t know how many times I’ve participated in the April and July camps, but I can say that I have participated in the November writing challenge for over 10 years. Does it get any easier? Not really. But that’s okay. That’s why it’s a challenge, right?

If you consistently participate in NaNoWriMo, there may be times where you don’t reach your goal for the month. And there may be different reasons for not reaching said goal. Work, family and health may be some of the reasons you don’t reach that goal. Don’t panic. It happens to all of us. There will be years where you make it and there will be years when you don’t. Don’t beat yourself up.

Failure is a key to success.

Sounds backwards doesn’t it? You can’t win all the time. And if you did win all the time and you knew you were going to win, it would defeat the purpose of the challenges that life presents. After all where is the fun in that?

NaNoWriMo is a challenge in that it’s a competition with yourself. It’s not a competition against other writers. You’re not competing against them, you’re competing alongside them.

Setting SMART Goals

The great thing about the April and July camps is that they allow you to set a different goal instead of sticking to the regular 50,000 words. Don’t be afraid to push yourself but if you feel like, “I just want to get this 20,000 word novella out this month,” or “I want to finish the last 10,000 words of the novel I started in November,” that’s fine too. Set a goal that challenges you but is realistic. I’ve seen people knock out over 150k words during these challenges. Personally, I’m not there yet.

I am guilty of setting goals for myself that are way too big for me to achieve. When I set them, I think, “I know I can do this. I know I’m fully capable.” However, some days I come from from work after staring at a computer screen all day and I don’t feel like staring at a computer screen anymore. Life happens. I’m not saying you should purposefully pad your schedule but the most successful goals are SMART goals. And by SMART I mean Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

I am severely guilty of setting goals for myself that are unattainable because they don’t take into account my daily mood and life schedule.

The real objective of the month is to get you writing daily. Whether that’s one word a day, two pages a day, or 2000 words a day, it’s progress on a daily basis. NaNoWriMo is about forming the habit of sitting down and putting words on paper every day, no matter what. So if you don’t reach that traditional end goal of 50,000 words in a month, don’t beat yourself up for it. Beating yourself up will only slow you down and hinder you even more. Trust me, I’ve been there. Sometimes I still go there.

If it’s your first time doing NaNoWriMo, you don’t know what to expect, you aim for those 50,000 words, and you find that you’re way behind halfway through the month- it’s okay. You’re not failing. The only way to fail at writing is to not write.

As we embark on this journey of the April writing challenge, I say to you, just keep pushing forward. I look forward to seeing you all out there in NaNoLand. I will be joining you in this camp. If you would like to see some motivational posts or memes, please follow me on Instagram here. I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress. Good luck in the month ahead!

Happy Writing.

-RB

P.S. Don’t forget bug spray, rope, a knife, and a good sleeping bag.

Cover art created with Canva.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Baby Steps, Pacing, and Ye Holy Writing Time

As most of you know, NaNoWriMo 2018 has already begun. We are four days in and things are going rather well on my end. But as I promised, this month I will post two blogs a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays. And look! I’ve already fallen behind. But I’m okay with that and I’ll tell you why.

NaNoWriMo 2018

Previously this year I participated in the NaNo July Camp in which I challenged myself to post a new blog every day for 30 days. While it was an interesting and… challenging challenge (I guess that’s why they call it a challenge!) it really did push me to my limits and I eventually ended up burning out.

Not ideal…

But I proved to myself that I could accomplish the feat. It wasn’t always easy. I don’t see myself doing that challenge again. This month for NaNoWriMo 2018 I am finishing the edits of In Articulo Mortis while writing the second installment. I keep pushing back the release date for the first book because editing is taking a lot longer than I originally anticipated. Truth be told, the writing of the rough draft is the easiest part. All you have to do is put words down. They don’t have to make sense and characters’ names can change. It can be pure craziness but that’s part of why rough drafts are so much fun!

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” -Terry Pratchett.

Many times writers sit down to write and we may have a few scenes in mind or maybe a character but we don’t have it all figured out. Even “plotters” who painstaking outline their stories before sitting down to write that first draft will encounter some surprises along the way.

So while editing one novel and writing the second, I’m trying to uphold the promise of posting 2 blogs a week. A large part of my success this month is going to depend on how I finish out this 4 day weekend. I got a head start by using two days of vacation.

I’ve also been staying active on my Instagram account, engaging with other writers. So while NaNoWriMo 2018 is kicking off, there are two important lessons that I’ve learned. And I think some of this month’s blog posts are going to focus on the lessons I’ve learned from writing every day as opposed to only writing when I feel inspired.

NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned

If you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, I’m sure you’ve come across 1,000,001 sayings, advice and clichés. But the thing is – they are all true. In today’s post let’s discuss Baby Steps and Writing Time.

Baby Steps

I’ve always held myself to really high expectations. I’m talking unrealistically high. I expect myself to come home from a full day of work and sit in front of the computer for hours on end and churn out the next Great American novel. And I expected it to be easy because I know that I’m a smart person and that I’m capable. However, I fall into this trap of making things way too hard on myself. It is so much easier to break a task into smaller portions to accomplish it.

Granted, I still have extra time on the weekends where it’s okay to spend a few hours in front of the computer trying to get the words out. However, this is a rare luxury. Even if you’re just getting 500 words down a day you’re making progress. Don’t get down and don’t be too hard on yourself because you’re not writing 10,000 words a day and some other author is. This can lead into the whole “don’t compare yourself to someone else’s progress” advice.

Every artist works at their own pace.

I’m sure some painters can paint a masterpiece in a week and some might take months or years. We’re all different and that’s okay. The importance is that you’re always moving forward and working toward your goal.

I’m currently reading a fanfiction that’s in progress and is such an inspiration to see the author post the new chapter every week – sometimes two a week – and each chapter is a little over 1000 words. This may be lightspeed to some people or this may be really slow to others. The point is, it doesn’t matter. This author is making progress every week, every day, towards their final destination. It’s okay to take baby steps. It’s better than taking no steps at all then beating yourself up for it because you didn’t write 10,000 words.

Keep Writing Time Holy

When you’re around other writers, they understand, “Hey, this is writing time. This is work time.” But when you’re around a lot of people who don’t write or who are not creative, they just don’t understand. It’s equally frustrating when no amount of explaining helps it sink in.

They see your hobby, or your life as an artist as fun and games. They don’t see it as work. And therefore they don’t respect as work. They often selfishly think, “He/she can write later. There is plenty of time for that, therefore they should be able to spend time with me doing this and that.” Wrong.

Family and friends can be selfish when it comes to your time.

It is very important that you tell your loved ones that your writing time is sacred. It’s work time. No, you can’t go to the movies right now. No, you can’t go out to dinner tonight. No, you can’t watch so-and-so’s baby. If you have a writing time scheduled, stick to it. If you don’t, you’re doing a huge disservice to yourself. And after all, you are in a relationship with yourself longer than anyone else in your life. Your relationship to yourself matters most.

It is vital to love yourself and honor your own promises before anyone else’s. And as for the people in your life, I guarantee there are others out there who will respect you, your time and your decision to be a writer. It may take some trial and error to find the right people but if I can find them, so can you!

Happy Writing!

-RB

July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018: Blog Challenge Complete

Dear readers, the July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 has come to an end and with it, my self-imposed blog-a-day challenge. I have to say, when I first got the idea for this challenge it was about three days before the start of July. It seems like yesterday. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up or that I’d run out of ideas. However, thanks to a remarkable camp cabin and all of you, I’ve been able to persevere.

What I Learned During July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018

Above all, I learned that I am more than capable of writing over 50,000 words in a month. In fact, much like my high school years of running cross country, I find myself crossing the finish line thinking that I could have pushed myself harder. There were nights I came home from work and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of a computer screen, but I found a way. There were days that I could’ve gotten ahead by writing multiple blog spots in spare time, but I didn’t.

This month has proved to me the importance of the phrase “slow and steady wins the race.” Too often do I have the notion set in my head that I can sit down and dictate an entire novel’s rough draft in a weekend. While I’m sure it’s possible, it wouldn’t be the greatest to edit. There is something very satisfying about seeing that NaNoWriMo progress bar go up a little each day. (I’ve been trying to create my own spreadsheet in MS Excel to track my words off-season. Any suggestions are appreciated in the comments below!)

Overall, I had a blast this month and proved to myself that I am capable of accomplishing what I set my mind to. While it’s something that I’ve been aware of before, sometimes we all need a little reminding.

What’s Next?

While I do plan to regularly post on my blog, going forward I will no longer be posting every single day. I’m sure my subscribers will be thankful to give their inboxes a break! I do look forward to spending more time on my fiction.

At the end of August, my novel, In Articulo Mortis, will be released for Kindle and in paperback in 2019. I will be making a few promotional posts and sharing excerpts . Other than that, I plan to continue travel and minimalism blog posts. I will also be accepting guest posts from other bloggers.

In addition, I’d like to start doing an “Author Spotlight” series. Perhaps once a month? Feel free to leave any suggestions or input in the comments below.

How Was Your July?

If you participated in July Camp NaNoWriMo 2018, how did it go for you? What did you learn from the experience? If you’re not a writer or didn’t participate, that’s OK! Please feel free to share your successes and stumbling blocks this month in the comments below!

Thanks for sticking with me!

-RB