NaNoWriMo 2018 – Join Us!

It’s time for writer worldwide to commit a certain amount of their time and creativity to NaNoWriMo 2018!

For those who’ve done this before, you know the drill – find us on NaNoWriMo: lehamm9 and superopie.

For newcomers, I’ll give a brief overview of what to look forward to!

NaNoWriMo is a month out of the year where writers gather and encourage one another to create and finish a book in 30 days. Seems pretty intense right?

Some people pull off writing a book and others use this as a time to plan and prepare for a novel. You don’t necessarily have to write an entire epic, it can be a collection of short stories, poetry, novella, or CNF. You can work on a new screenplay, essays, or biography. There’s really no limit to what you can work on, just so long as you’re writing and documenting your word count daily.

In the past, I’ve only pulled off an entire month once. It’s an extremely hard, somewhat taxing commitment to make, especially when you’re a busy person. Being a writer, whether professionally or as a hobby, can be hard. Part of it means developing good time management. NaNoWriMo forces you to learn to set aside a certain amount of time during your day to work on whatever project(s) you’ve committed to. It’s to help you develop good habits to carry on through the year.

In fact, once November is over you can continue your project with the support of NaNoWriMo through the “Now What?” months. Instead of abandoning the project, NaNoWriMo works to help you continue on, encouraging you and offering help with writers block.

There’s also a shop where you can display your support and decision to commit through t-shirts, mugs, or a thermos!

There are some neat features offered to writers while they work:

  • upload a cover for your project
  • participation, writing, and achievement badges
  • writing goals
  • writing buddies
  • NaNo Prep and NaNo Events
  • word count helpers

So, have a book you’re wanting to start and just haven’t yet? Feeling stuck on a project that you wish would just advance already? Need support? NaNoWriMo offers you the chance to make connections with new and experienced writers willing to read and offer advice.

Finding your “Flow”

A couple days ago, I received a “memory” notification on Facebook about a painting I’d completed around 7 years ago.

At that point, I was in college, oil painting was still completely foreign to me, and I was constantly surrounded by inspiration, other artists, and a workspace dedicated exclusively to painting. F U L L I M M E R S I O N. With these circumstances, all conducive to being productive, it was easy to start painting, get lost in it, and realize I’d been working for 3 days without sleeping, with minimal eating, basic hygiene, and too much caffeine (Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme). In Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s “Flow,” he notes that state of mind where someone can get into “the zone” or “flow” in a given activity (If you haven’t read it, it’s worth checking out). When you’ve got a workspace designed to place you in this state of “flow,” it’s simple enough to be produce work. Then I graduated and moved into a fairly small apartment, removed from the workspace I’d grown so familiar.

This brought up an issue I hadn’t considered upon graduating from college: how do you tap into that “zone” or “flow” in a new environment? How can you develop your workspace, whether it be for art, crafting, writing, or any other activity, to be conducive to production? What kind of routines do you have to begin creating? For me, it’s imperative that in my apartment, without a separate studio space, that I have SOME kind of space dedicated to my work in my apartment. In that space, I need it to be free from my living areas. When I go to that space, something in my brain clicks and says, “Hey, you’re here to work, so lets do that.” Maybe you don’t have a lot of space to dedicate to your work area, then what do you do? I read one of those buzzfeed style “Routines of 20 Famous Writers” articles a few years ago, and from Hemingway to Charles Dickens, they all had specific routines for how they’d approach their day to best create work. One that stuck out to me was how many writers would go on walks before working, but the important part was developing a routine. If you want to trick your brain into thinking you’re leaving your small studio apartment to go to your dedicated studio space (That you don’t technically have), why not do something like take a walk? Leave your “living” space, walk around a couple blocks, and come back, intentions set to creating. Again, the most important part is that whatever you decide to do, and however much space you’re given, you need a routine that will allow you to have focus, free from distraction.

Here’s what I’ve found for myself. When I work, I work best at night. I’ve got a corner of my living room with my desk, easel, bookshelves, etc. to keep myself inspired, while being separated from the rest of the living area. I’ve got a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones that work wonders for keeping outside sound out (also a great neutral studio monitor headphone for you audiophile folks out there). I also have to have socks. I can’t work without socks.

So, what kinds of routines do you all have to begin working? How do you tap into that “flow” to get lost in your art or writing? Tell us about it!

 

Adventures in Writing Plan Land

I think we can all agree- sometimes it’s just hard to find time to write. If you’re like me, I work a normal forty hours a week and writing is the second job that I fit into the spaces between work and socialization, which doesn’t leave much. I decided to read a lot of suggestions from successful writers and ultimately I found that they all agreed- you have to make time to write.

With that being said, I decided to try it for myself and come up with a writing plan that I could fit into my schedule. In a Google search for writing plans, most of them suggested similar ideas: Decide how much time to set aside, write consistently at the same time of day, and keep track of your progress somewhere visible.

Easy enough- here was my writing plan:

Fifteen minutes, every morning for a week.

I should preface that I have to be at work in the mornings by seven-fifteen, so my new writing plan required me to wake up by at least six each morning that I worked, which again, is still doable, but I found I had to make some slight life adjustments.

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First of all, I had to go to bed earlier, which was hard for me because I’ve generally been a night owl and will do a lot of writing at night. Some people might ask why I didn’t decide to do my writing at night as part of my writing plan. A large part of the plan is making sure that it’s consistent and I find that my nights are not always consistent. Sometimes you get tired and go to bed early after work, or you socialize with friends or have too many drinks. The evening just wasn’t as promising as first thing in the morning.

The second thing I had to do was upgrade my coffee maker. I had been using a single cup brewer but found with getting up earlier, I was having to make multiple single cups of coffee, and it just made more sense to switch to a pot of coffee. With my upgrade to a pot of coffee, also came the ability to prep my coffee the night before and set a timer for it to brew each morning before I woke up. This was quite the game changer for me, I will admit. It is much easier to roll out of bed with the smell of coffee in the air.

The third thing I did was take the advice of the articles I read and write my progress on the large marker board calendar on my desk. I marked my beginning word count and pages and made a box to check off for each day for a week to make sure I fulfilled the day’s writing. I also kept track of my word count and pages for each day, which was nice to physically see my progress and how far I had gotten from my starting word count. It also felt nice to put a big X in the day’s box to show I did my writing for the day once I was done.

Also, to add some backstory- the writing I have been working on has been a long project of mine- a book I started a few years ago. Since I started, with no writing plan, I would just write in my spare time, between poetry and short stories and I would write at varying times and lengths of times, so there was really no organization. My book had been more of a hobby than an actual book it felt.

With doing all the suggestions, I will say that I am super pleased with the results. For one, I felt so much better going to work after getting my brain started and doing something that I love. I felt more awake, more accomplished and I found myself looking forward to the next day and continuing with my characters and what was going to happen next.

So here are the results of my writing plan:

Starting word count: 21,926 – page 75.

After one week, ending word count: 25,567 – page 87.

Each morning started with a few sips of coffee and reading the last two paragraphs over before starting my fifteen-minute timer. I learned how quickly fifteen minutes goes by the first morning. I realized that each sip of coffee took time away from my word count or if my phone wasn’t on silent and I received a notification it took time from my brain and thought process.

By the third morning, I felt like a pro. When I sat down to my computer, I was only there to write my story. I felt like I was racing my timer and that every second counted. I would look at the previous day’s word count and challenge myself to beat it. I was waking up early and I genuinely wanted to be there; it was a proud feeling.

The only downfall I would include in this plan is the lack of time to think while writing. Previously, I have always been a writer that will dwell, think about one sentence or paragraph, and make sure it was perfect before moving on. But with a timed plan, there is no time at all to sit and dwell. This, of course, is why editing exists. So I didn’t have a hard time not micro-managing my sentences, rather, I was getting to significant moments in the story where I needed to think about how I wanted a character to act or what I wanted to happen next, but I couldn’t just sit there and think it through.

This downfall was good and bad, I think. It was good in the aspect that I felt all my scenes were drawn out and more detailed. I also worked on developing the dialogue among characters because I had the time to write through the scenes while trying to think where I was taking them next. The bad part was the actual progress of the story. I wrote through maybe one vital scene in the book, but most of the writing was spent on character development.

Overall, by starting my writing plan, my book gained 12 pages and 3,641 words in two hours, and that feels like a win to me. I actually enjoyed my writing plan so much that I’ve continued it on a regular basis. I will be honest, I am more relaxed with myself on the weekends, but throughout the week, I still set aside time to meet with my characters before work and I’m continuing to see my word count grow as a result.

From one writer to another, if you find yourself reading this post and consider developing your own writing plan, I would say do it, absolutely. I think each plan should be different and cater to the writer’s lifestyle or else you might find yourself resenting your writing time and develop it into a negative experience. So go forth, stay in love, or fall in love with your craft and get the words out. Just write.

-Brittany

This isn’t about anchor tattoos.

When I talk about writing I feel confident in my viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean I’m correct at all. Writing, as you know, is organic and each writer must feel out how to approach the beast with the intention of creation and not destruction. Which, coincidentally, is how I think of trying to pet my cat’s stomach. There’s a chance that I could die every single time I tempt fate when the cats expose their belly.

But while reading three things at once that touch on very different subjects, I’ve spent some time thinking about how I choose what I choose for the journal. And then I think about how I write what I write and how I need to start writing what I write to see it make it somewhere other than the folder of shame. As writers, we’ll always be working on optimizing our mechanical skills and tightening sentences, so they’re delivered as short devastating punches. But the one singular thing that I think those of us that like to write about the weird is to accept the world of the mundane as our canvas.

When reading stories that go sideways, what I’ve found that makes them worth reading is how they’re framed. Every single time I start reading a submitted manuscript, I like to settle in a world that, at first, seems like it’s not going to have any kind of weird aspect to it. Then lo and behold a man will peel the flesh off his face to reveal he’s a giant fly. And then I buckle up my let’s fucken go seatbelt.

To make something shocking happen, or at least, for the reader to feel the shift from the normal to the strange, we need to set up rules of our small written worlds. The first one being that we should never minimalize the small details. Effective stories usually have the main character do normal things like making some coffee, worry about bills, pet a cat, or think about petting a cat. This is something that’s been said to us all over and over and over and over (make it stop) but I’m going to say it again: keep the reader grounded.

This is especially important for those of us that like to explore the idea of the weird. As a reader, I want to be immersed in the story and the world, no matter how short it is. I want to be. And to do that, we must use regular and mundane details and actions as anchors that we can latch onto. Because deep down, we’re always looking for something in a story to take for ourselves and apply it to our own lives. Maybe not an answer, but just the simple single truth that seems to keep us afloat.

But to step back a little, sometimes there are stories that I call carnival rides. Meaning that we, as the reader, are supposed to understand that this is wild from the get-go and we’re to enjoy it as a passenger. Shiver and laugh at the right places while the actors move and do their things for entertainment.

Either way, both styles have their place in our journal and in the world. Many academics will tell people that there’s just no worth (except entertainment) when it comes to the scary, weird, strange, or new age. But I think they’re the most visceral types of art. Because it peels back those layers and exposes parts unknown to us. Once the initial shock is over, we then explore the why. And truths about our darkest selves, once unraveled and understood, only makes us a little more whole.

Let’s be honest. Isn’t that what we’re looking for anyway?