It feels good to be back in the writing saddle again after a break after National Novel Writing Month and the Christmas & New Year’s celebrations. Leaving a manuscript for a while helps refresh our brains (and Muse). Obviously, we do not need to return to the frantic writing style of November, thank goodness! With a sizable word count from the challenge, we can now relax back into the story.
There are a couple of options we can take. Firstly, to continue where we left off or to go back to read the text and make changes or plunge into editing. We all have a specific target for our NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Some will be filed way for another time, others completed before the editing process, while others may be subject to a full revision. Whichever, method you use, it is always a personal choice once we see the work of November.
My second book in my detective trilogy – The Tainted Search, took an unexpected twist during November, so I am keen to follow the story line to see where it takes me and my characters. I did know one of the characters was the cause of the procedural mistake, but until NaNoWriMo not the method of how he was found out and by whom. It has created an unlikely alliance.
What are you doing with your NaNoWriMo manuscript?
I found a holiday project to do in the week between Christmas and New Year. A small model of a library (although the label says Sam’s Study). I, of course, opened it when it arrived with excitement, but this was short lived when I realized each component – shelves, cabinets, etc. – were not separated, but all mixed together! So my first job was to find the pieces for each item and put them together. The other ‘surprise’ was how fiddly this is going to be! Oh my goodness – frustration beckons, I do believe. Maybe it will not be the relaxing little craft project after all. Time will tell.
I have not planned a word count for the holiday’s, but will utilize some time to continuing writing the second book in my detective trilogy, The Tainted Search. I have over 50,000 words from NaNoWriMo already so another twenty or so is achievable without full time work getting in the way.
As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.
National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.
The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.
Here are a few tips I found worked for me:
Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.
As writers and authors, learning new skills, keeping ahead of genre evolution, trope changes and writing methods is vital for our continued improvement as a wordsmith. With the industry changing so quickly, we need to be ahead of the game.
The best ways to do this are:
Join a writing group
Read articles on the book industry
Take courses and workshops
Attend writing conferences
Subscribe to industry newsletters
How do you keep current with the writing industry?
This past weekend, I virtually attended When Words Collide and attended as many sessions as I could, while also being a co-presenter and panelist. Although, there was information I already knew, there were also those little nuggets of wisdom, insights and knowledge that made each session a gem. My notes were prolific and my follow up to action each gem will take several weeks.
There is always something to learn, whether you are just starting out on your writing career or have years of experience. We can have tunnel vision and ease into a ‘comfort zone’ so easily, when there are so many other calls on our time.
Some things can be scheduled monthly, such as updating your website or blog with current information. We don’t want a visitor to read upcoming events from 2018! Modify your bio to include your latest book, current WIP progression and appearances etc. Don’t leave your blog stagnant – post content regularly. (This can be once weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even quarterly – just a known routine, so followers will know when to expect you to post).
We all have several social media accounts, so make sure they reflect the latest news, images etc. so they are in line with your current activities. This makes your author platform current. Also check links to ensure they are working properly or direct to a new site, if a change occurred. Refresh content and images so your platform doesn’t look dated or tired. Renew your copyright dates for all content across platforms on 1st January each year – this is one that can be missed very easily.
Can you share tips on what you do to stay updated and improve your writing skills?
Without the luxury of travel during COVID, regular writing retreats have been cancelled, but it is not all bad news. We can create our own mini retreat at home. There will be some necessary arrangements to be made, which relate to your personal circumstances but it can be done. If you have a full household ask if it is possible for your partner to take your children out for an extended walk or to a play ground or even outside yard activities? Set times that you want to write without interruptions. This may be early morning or late evening, a time of day that you can set aside for writing. If staying in the home is too difficult, maybe drive to a secluded spot and write in a notebook to type up later. There is always somewhere you can find to accommodate writing time.
The length of time you have for your retreat will, of course, depend on what is possible for you. You may have two hours a day over a couple of days or a day or two. Before creating your retreat think about the following:
Why do you need a retreat? This might seem like a silly question but take the time to decide if the retreat has a direct purpose for your writing.
What is your goal? Again ask yourself, what can this retreat help you accomplish. Is it to begin or finish a project, a full edit, or a final read through?
Once you have identified these two points, you can plan by initially setting targets with measurable realistic goals, don’t overwhelm yourself. Depending on the time allotted for your retreat, create a daily writing plan. What are your objectives for each day? This can be writing or editing a certain number of pages, sequencing chapter content or revising scenes.
It is important to eliminate distractions as much as possible allowing you to concentrate. This should include switching off your cell phone, setting specific times for social media interactions, or even setting a timer!
The more you organize before hand the better your experience will be. Let’s look at some essentials.
Plan Your Retreat Time– use your preference – a simple sheet with goals for each day/hour, or a whiteboard with retreat objectives or notes in a day planner.
Tools – these can include a notebook, laptop, post-its, record cards, mood board, a print out of your manuscript, reference books or research sites bookmarked on your search engine. Everything that you need to successfully accomplish your goal.
Snacks& Water– the brain needs to be fed and watered as you delve into your project. Have plenty of water and easy nibbles handy.
Space – designate a space where you will work, where you and your tools will not be disturbed.
Rewards – how will you reward yourself for accomplishing your set goals? Decide how, it can be going for a walk, or thirty minutes on social media, or relaxing reading a book.
Remember this time is ultimately for you and your writing, a time to invest in your craft.
I’d love to hear your experiences with a home writing retreat.How did you achieve it?