Category Archives: Drafting

NaNoWriMo Win!

Saturday night, I won* National Novel Writing Month!

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What a relief to be done. And by done, I mean: done with the first 50,000 words of my very messy first draft. I’ve still got the whole third act to write, plus a bazillion hours of revising ahead of me, but this whirlwind month of writing at least 1,667 words per day is over. Phew!

I wish I could tell you more about this project of mine, but for now, holding it close feels right. I will say that I love it. A lot. It’s the first WiP I’ve drafted since The Impossibility of Us that has me feeling inspired and excited and like maybe one day, this thing could actually be a book.

Yay!

So, for now, congrats to those of who’ve already won NaNoWriMo! To those still climbing the 50,000 word mountain, you’ve got this! And to my friends who are revising or editing or brainstorming or drafting at your own pace, you are amazing and I’m totally cheering you on! ❤

*Won is a strange term. Anyone who writes any words during the month of November is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

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How to Win NaNoWriMo

There are only two short weeks until November 1st, the start of National Novel Writing Month. Never heard of it? Here’s the gist…

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Cool, right? I’ve NaNo-ed twice, in 2012 and in 2014, and I “won” both times. I never touched the 2012 project again, but my 2014 project went on to become The Impossibility of Us, which will be published in 2018 by Swoon Reads/Macmillan — yay! Point is, I’ve figured out how to NaNo pretty successfully, and I’d love to share a few of my favorite practices so that you, too, can write 50K words in thirty days.

Research ahead of time — like, now.
Is your NaNo project set on Mars? Awesome. Spend the next two weeks reading books about the Red Planet. Are you writing about a person who’s obsessed with riding horses? Great. Reach out to a real-life equestrian today. Are you planning a story about teen counselors at a sleep-away camp? Start cataloguing images of actual camps right away. Trust me — you don’t want to waste your November lost in a black hole of research.

Know your characters, especially the leads.
If character worksheets are your thing, I suggest filling them out before November 1st. Or, do some free-writing. Or, type up a mock interview for your protagonist. Or, print off some photos of what s/he might look like. At the very least, make sure you’ve nailed down strong external and internal goals, motivations, and conflicts for your main character(s) and your antagonist.

Prepare your family and friends.
Talk to your partner/children/parents/friends about National Novel Writing Month. Let them know exactly what you hope to accomplish, and why it’s important to you. If you’ve got a set do-not-disturb writing block in mind, tell them when it will be. That way you’re not fielding visitors and phone calls when you should be banking words. And don’t be afraid to enlist help. If you need your spouse to put the kiddos to bed every night in November so you can write uninterrupted, cement that plan ahead of time.

Incentivize — whatever it takes.
The first time I participated in NaNo, I wanted the Scrivener discount offered to winners. It was enough to drag me through 50K words of an awful (yet unfinished) manuscript. The second time, I wanted a book ready for submission by the following spring, which meant I needed a complete first draft quick. These were the “prizes” that pushed me to win in both instances, but you do you. Dangle a pair of boots, or banana split, or vacation in front of your writerly self. That way when you lose motivation mid-November, you’ve got something other than 50K words to work for.

Front load your word count.
The first week or so of NaNo, you’re going to be excited and fresh and full of energy. This is when you should be writing your ass off. Forget about the daily 1,667 words needed to total 50K at the end of the month; you should be writing at least 2K words in those early days of November. That way, when Thanksgiving rolls around you can take time off without guilt or worry.  

Related: Don’t let yourself fall behind.
Guys, it’s going to be such a struggle to catch up if you slack. That nifty graph they show you on the NaNoWriMo website each time you log your words? You don’t want it to flatline for more than one or two days. Because ugh. Those are days with zero words — zero progress — and there’s no greater hit to your writer psyche than stagnation. It’s hard to climb out of a hole, so do yourself a favor and don’t fall in.

Don’t be derailed by Thanksgiving (or anything else).
The first November I NaNo-ed, I also threw a friend a baby shower, which required hours and hours of preparation. The second November I NaNo-ed, I welcomed my husband home from a trip to Afghanistan, which required (for me, at least) lots of extra cooking and cleaning and poster-making and balloon buying. And then there’s Thanksgiving, which is so totally inconvenient to a writer’s routine. But! When I’m NaNo-ing, I refuse to let additional commitments impact my word count. I plan head, get up early, stay up late, put my writing first. If you’re going to NaNo successfully, you’ll have to do the same.

Hold yourself accountable.
Log your daily words on the NaNoWriMo site religiously. Watch the line on your graph climb. Tweet about your successes. Instagram your increasing word count. Blog about your experiences — the good and the bad. Celebrate (and commiserate) with other NaNo-ers. Whatever you can do to share your progress publicly, the better. When lots of people are rooting you on, it’s harder to be lackadaisical about your goals. You don’t want to disappoint them!

Stay active in the NaNo community.
This one goes hand-in-hand with holding yourself accountable; the NaNo community is exactly the tool you need to stay on track. Seeing others pumped about their manuscripts, hearing success stories about NaNo projects gone on to become published books, participating in this amazing month of writing with thousands of like-minded people… It’s so inspiring.

Skip around.
Generally, I write linearly, but not during NaNoWriMo. I give myself permission to skip ahead, to jump around, to write the fun stuff first. During NaNo 2014, I wrote my characters’ first kiss within the first few days of November, even though I knew it wasn’t going to actually happen until about halfway through the story. If you’re hung up on a scene or dreading a relatively boring transition, move on. You’ll come back to fill-in later, or you’ll discover the scene that was giving you headaches was unnecessary after all.

It’s okay to write crap.
What matters during NaNo is words. They don’t have to be pretty. They don’t have to make sense. They don’t even have to be relevant, really, because sometimes a brain dump, a page of drivel, is exactly what you need to spark your imagination, thus helping you move the story forward. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll just write a super detailed description of the setting or a character’s outfit, knowing I’ll cut most (or even all) of it later. Doesn’t matter, though, because that warm-up often propels me toward the good stuff. The point is forward progress. Do whatever it takes. You’ll revise later.

Tell me: Have you NaNo-ed?
What are your best tips for success?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Watching my daughter compete with her swim team. It’s been such an amazing experience for her, and she’s improved SO MUCH in two months. Her times are dropping and her strokes are looking better and better, and I’m just really, really proud of her. I swam in high school, and it’s awesome to see her enjoying (and beginning to excel at!) a sport I love.

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Reading

I just finished Escaping Perfect by Emma Harrison. While I enjoyed the setting and found the secondary characters to be super likable, I don’t think the “Gone Girl meets the TV show Nashville” comparison is at all fitting. Also, that ending, man… 🤔  In other news, my girlie and I are reading Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu, and whoa. Equally beautiful and heartbreaking and magical. It’s also initiating a lot of interesting conversation. We’re loving it so far!

Watching

Parenthood. Still obsessed. Also, my husband and I recently started watching United States of Tara, about a woman struggling with her family and her dissociative identity disorder. Toni Collette is so good!

Listening To

Invisibilia, an NPR podcast about “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” The topics are fascinating, and they’re discussed in a very accessible and entertaining way. Recommend!

Thinking About

Camp NaNoWri Mo. I’m participating, and I’m chipping away at my 15K word goal. Currently sitting pretty at 8,471 words, and I just passed 60K on my WiP — whoop! Now I need to figure out how to wrap the story up (why are endings always so hard?!)

Anticipating

Remember the annoyingly vague “top-secret” news I mentioned two weeks ago? Well, I can finally share about one of the things I’ve been anticipating… The Uppermans are an officially approved foster family, and we recently received our first placement. I can’t share details or photos of the child, and we’re not yet sure how long the placement will last, but I can say that we’re very happy. Also, very tired. 🙂 Here’s my cat resting on a Boppy pillow, in case you’re wondering how she’s adjusting…IMG_4178Wishing

You’ll sign up to receive my monthly newsletter, chock full of current favorites (reads, shows, movies, recipes, products, quotes, etc), plus occasional updates on my own book-ish pursuits. It’ll be all kinds of fun — promise!

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Making Me Happy

All of the well wishes we’ve gotten regarding our decision to become foster parents. I’m overwhelmed by the kind words of family and friends from afar, as well as the support and excitement and help we’ve received from our local friends. Makes my heart full. ❤

Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit!

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

This vanilla scone recipe. The town where I grew up has an awesome fair every fall, and they sell the yummiest scones. I miss them! I’ve tried to reproduce them before, raspberry jam and all, with little success. The scones I made Sunday morning, however, were incredible! So flaky and buttery and delicious. Big thanks to Jessica Erin of Stuck on SweetIMG_3912Reading

I recently finished Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston, which I loved. It’ll definitely have a place among my 2016 favorites — big recommend! Now, I’m reading Dana Elmendorf’s debut South of Sunshine, a f/f contemporary YA, and so far I’m enjoying it very much.

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Catch up on all of my June book recommendations HERE.

Watching

Parenthood. It’s so good! I just started season 3 and man, if I didn’t have a family to feed and a house to maintain and a manuscript to write, I’d sit on the couch and watch episode after episode after episode.

Listening To

John Corey Whaley’s Noggin, the story of Travis Coates, head transplant survivor. Cool concept, right? I’m loving Travis’s voice, which is insightful and really funny, and I can’t wait to see how the novel pans out.

Thinking About

Camp NaNoWri Mo. I’m participating, and I’ve set a 15K word goal. If I meet it, I’ll be very, very close to finishing the manuscript I’m fondly referring to as Camp WiP (because it takes place at a camp — duh). Also, I’ve got the ~best~ cabin, and I’m having all sorts of fun cheering my cabin mates on.

Anticipating

This is going to be annoyingly vague, but the things I’m anticipating are currently top-secret (but exciting!). The good news? I’m very much looking forward to sharing in the near future. 😘

Wishing

You’ll check out the recently revealed Swanky 17 covers! They’re all so gorgeous — my fellow Swanks are winning the cover lottery all over the place! Find the YA covers HERE and the MG covers HERE.

Making Me Happy

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It’s officially summer! The longest school year in history has finally come to a close (I have a 4th grader!) and now we’re spending our days (and a lot of our nights) at the neighborhood pool. Also, look who got a haircut…

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Also making me happy? Watching yesterday’s Independence Day in D.C. with my family. We had a fantastic time and walked a lot of miles.

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Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit! 

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Barns. (Is that weird?) There are a couple in my current WiP, and we spotted a few that were really cool during a recent trip to Gettysburg. My husband, patient as he is, indulged my requests to “Pull over so I can get a picture!” I have no desire to live on an actual working farm, but I’d really love to have a beautiful red barn on my property one day.

Reading

In observance of Autism Awareness Month, I’m reading How to Say I Love You Out Loud by fellow Swoon Reads author Karole Cozzo and so far it’s excellent! Unrequited love and family discord are two of my favorite themes when it comes to contemporary YA, and How to Say I Love You Out Loud has both.

Watching

Outlander. I recently binged, and I’ve got a huge crush on Jamie (you’re welcome). I’m also obsessed with the history and the romance and the costumes — all of it. But oh God, the last two episodes of the first season… my heart. Also watching: Game of Thrones: predictably upsetting yet totally addictive. I’ve gotta say, I’m reading all sorts of rave reviews about the first episode of season 6, but I was kind of eh about it. I loved the scene where Cersei and Jaime talked about Myrcella (man, Cersei’s really starting to grow on me) and of course I adored Daenerys’s conversation with the Dothraki Khal, but Jon Snow… 😢

Listening To

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, which is blowing me away. The four points of view are equally fascinating, and I can’t wait to see how each character’s story connects back to the others. I’m a big fan of Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy and so far, Salt to the Sea is just as extraordinary.

Thinking About

How to successfully close out Camp NaNoWriMo (I’m so close to meeting my goal!) while at the same time chipping away at round two of my Kissing Max Holden edits (it’s coming together, guys!). Traditionally, I’m not so great at juggling two projects at once, but I’m striving to become better as far as setting word-count/pages-revised targets and hitting them.

Anticipating

This Thursday’s lunch with two of my favorite writing buddies, this weekend’s proposed brunch with a couple of fellow Swanky Seventeens, getting my car back from the shop (sad day when you get side-swiped in a no-fault state), and some celebration-worthy news I’ll hopefully get to share with you soon…

Wishing

You’ll check out the following Goodreads lists: YA Novels of 2017YA Debuts 20172017 Debut YA/MG Novels, and Books Published by Swoon Reads. Kissing Max Holden has found its way onto all of them, which is so exciting! Maybe you’d like to vote for my debut, or add it as “To Read”. Also! Last week I interviewed 2016 debut author Lucy Keating about her recently released YA speculative fiction/romance, Dreamology for The Swanky Seventeens. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it. 😘

Making Me Happy

Springtime. We’ve been enjoying a stretch of beautiful weather and scores of lovely flowers are blooming and I’m feeling extra optimistic and cheerful.

Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit! 

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Mount Vernon! We made our third trip the other day (we’re trying to visit during each of the four seasons), and it was beautiful as usual. George Washington’s home is one of our favorite D.C. spots. If you’re ever in the area, definitely give yourself a day to check it out.

Reading

I recently finished Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss, my most anticipated release of the year, and it was just… perfection. It made me feel a million feelings and the end was just so satisfying. Plus, it’s a NYT Bestseller! Check out my more detailed review in March’s Reading Wrap-Up. Now I’m reading Emery Lord’s latest release, When We Collided, and it’s lovely so far.

Watching

Nothing much, honestly. The older I get, the less patience I have for TV and I just haven’t had time for movies lately. That said, despite my ranting at the end of the last season of Game of Thrones (*sob*), I am looking forward to April 24th and the first episode of Season 6.

Listening To

I just finished All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and it was fantastic. Powerful and important and, unfortunately, timely. I’m so impressed with how layered the characters are, and how complex Rashad and Quinn’s relationships with family and friends turn out to be. Plus, the audiobook narrators are exceptional. Big recommend.

Thinking About

My WiP. It’s coming along, word-count-wise, but oof… it’s a mess. I keep reminding myself that I can’t fix words that aren’t written, but I’ve never dealt with a first draft this shitty. Hopefully by the time I’m done drafting I’ll have figured out what this story’s actually about. I did come across this line, though, written months and months ago — She smells like fields of lavender. She tastes like strawberries. She kisses like a freaking champ. — and I kind of like it. I’m hoping that, eventually, I’ll kind of like the rest of the book.

Anticipating

So, so excited about the Gilmore Girls revival — especially now that Entertainment Weekly has released photos from the set. Can’t wait to be reunited with Lorelai, Rory, Luke, Sookie, and the rest of the gang!

Wishing

That you’ll check out the following Goodreads lists: YA Novels of 2017YA Debuts 20172017 Debut YA/MG Novels, and Books Published by Swoon Reads. Kissing Max Holden has found its way onto all of them, which is so exciting! Maybe you’d like to vote for my debut, or add it as “To Read”. 😘

Making Me Happy

Longtime friends who flew across the country to visit, and were willing to participate in a 10 mile trek through D.C., during which dozens of tourist attractions were viewed. We’re having an awesome time with Kari and Patrick!

Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit! 

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

There’s a lot about living in Northern Virginia that bugs me — the crowds, the terrible drivers, and the allergens, for starters — but one thing I’ll never complain about is the abundance of restaurant options. Coming from a small Florida town where the dining-out choices were Panera Bread, Firehouse Subs, and a mediocre sports bar, the possibilities in D.C. are mind-boggling. We’ve had amazing Latin American, Lebanese, Thai, and Iranian food, and most recently, we had “fast” food from Burger Tap & Shake, which was incredible. I had a falafel sandwich, sweet potato fries, and a cookies-n-cream shake — yum! If you’re ever in Foggy Bottom or Tenleytown, grab yourself some lunch.

Reading

I recently finished Katie Van Ark’s The Boy Next Door, a YA romance set in the world of competitive pairs figure skating. It’s utterly unputdownable, and the character arcs are steep, which I loved. I also read Shannon Parker’s The Girl Who Fell, a contemporary YA about a girl who gets wrapped up in a manipulative, eventually abusive relationship. It’s really well done, and really frightening. Up next? Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss, which is out TODAY and is hands down my most anticipated read of the year. Excuse me while I disappear with my new book!

Watching

Twinsters, which is the most heart-warming documentary I’ve ever seen. It’s the story of Korean twin girls who were split up as infants and adopted by two different families. They grew up on different continents, not knowing about each other until they serendipitously connect via YouTube. So good! Also, I saw Zootopia with my husband and daughter, and we all rate it 5 stars. It’s clever and deep and timely and funny. And, finally, the other night my husband and I watched As Above, So Below, a freaking scary movie set in the Catacombs of Paris. I’m kind of over the “found footage” thing, but I’m willing to forgive it in this case because the story was creative and wildly intense, and the atmosphere was dark and exceptionally terrifying.

Listening To

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier — for some reason, I’d pegged this YA a super serious fantasy, but it’s actually a humorous and entertaining time travel novel full of voice and adventure. To me, it reads on the younger side of YA, but it’s fast-paced and all kinds of fun. The audiobook narrator is excellent, too.

Thinking About

Plotting. Why is it so hard?! I’m in the process of drafting my sixth(-ish) manuscript, and I’m no better at planning a book than I was way back when I wrote that first (awful) story. And so, I’m reading Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants, a clear and concise book about plotting with the goal of increasing drafting speed and commercial appeal. I’m learning a lot, and having a lot of duh moments. Highly recommend reading it if you’re someone who’s struggling to become a more successful plotter, like me.

Anticipating

Camp NaNoWriMo! I’ve got a 20K word goal for April, and I’m part of an excellent cabin of writers. I’m such a bad drafter, guys, and I love the idea of community when it comes to slogging through the muddled middle of a new manuscript, which is exactly what I’m in the midst of doing. Can’t wait to get busy in the new month!

Wishing

That you’ll check out the following Goodreads lists: YA Novels of 2017YA Debuts 20172017 Debut YA/MG Novels, and Books Published by Swoon Reads. Kissing Max Holden has found its way onto all of them, which is so exciting! Maybe you’d like to vote for my debut, or add it as “To Read”. 😘

Making Me Happy

Springtime in Virginia. We’ve been having such beautiful weather.

Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit!