Category Archives: Goals

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?

Advertisements

Currently…

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

Currently

Loving

My friend Riley Edgewood got me started on Bullet Journaling, a notebook organizational system that helps with structuring your days/weeks/months. I like it because it’s super flexible and easy to change up day-to-day or week-to-week. I’ve been using my Bullet Journal to track habits, make to-do lists, catalogue IG challenges, scribble down book ideas and revisions notes, and all sorts of other things. Here’s a comprehensive video, if you’re curious. 

Reading

I recently finished The Year We Fell Apart, a contemporary YA romance. I enjoyed it very much, particularly the way Emily Martin gender-flipped the bad boy/good girl trope. Declan was totally swoonworthy! Now, I’m reading Summer Skin by Kristy Eagar, because Aussie authors are the freaking best.

Watching

Still obsessing over Game of Thrones and Outlander. I recently watched Laggies, which was entertaining and, in my opinion, under-hyped. My family and I saw The Jungle Book last weekend, which was InCrEdIbLe — such perfect casting. And my husband and I started watching Mercy Street, a PBS drama about two nurses who support opposing sides during the Civil War. It’s set close to where I live in Northern Virginia, so that’s fun.

Listening To

I recently finished Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn in preparation for its follow-up, The Rose & the Dagger. This rich, romantic fantasy’s just as incredible upon second read, and I can’t wait to dive into the sequel. Now, I’m listening to Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event. Guys, remember when I met Judy Blume? *happy sigh*

Thinking About

Our recent trip to President Lincoln’s Cottage, a beautiful house three miles from the White House where Lincoln and his family moved shortly after their son died of Typhoid fever (thanks to drinking water pumped right out of the Potomac). I had no idea this “cottage” even existed, but I’m so glad we left the beaten path to visit. The tour’s fantastic, and it was really cool to see a more humanized side of President Lincoln. Did you know he used to ditch his security detail so he could ride his horse into the city alone, and sometimes he’d pass by Walt Whitman and they’d give each other these respectful little bows? So cool. Highly recommend this spot if you’re ever visiting our nations’ capital.

Anticipating

I’m typing this post yesterday (Monday, May 9th) and I’m HIGHLY anticipating the Fierce Reads event I’m going to tonight at the Bethesda Library. Marie Rutkoski‘s going to be there, and  my inner fan girl is going cRaZy.

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”.

Making Me Happy

I won Camp NaNoWriMo!
I’m chipping away at my second round of Kissing Max Holden edits.
I’m having tons of fun with a couple of Instagram challenges.
I’m reading two amazing books.
Summer’s right around the corner.

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

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! 

Thirty Before 35 –> Life List

(Read my original Thirty Before 35 post here.)

Sun

Tomorrow I turn 35. Yowza.

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know I set some goals two years ago, when I turned 33. I’ve crossed quite a few off the list, which makes me really happy. I’ve also stopped caring about accomplishing others. Others still, I’m hoping realize one day. And so, I’m giving myself more time.

Indefinite time, in fact. 

I’m going to revise my Thirty Before 35 list, and I’m going to start calling it my Life List. I’ll add to it occasionally, too, because surely I’ll come up with new goals as time passes. I’m excited!

So, here’s my Thirty Before 35 list as it stands today…

  1. Bake a Rainbow Cake.
  2. Sell a novel (or two!).
  3. Complete a 500 piece puzzle.
  4. Have a picnic on the beach.
  5. Read and review a Stephen King novel.
  6. Drink a Hurricane in New Orleans.
  7. Have professional family photos taken.
  8. Run Disney’s Princess 1/2 Marathon.
  9. Attend a writers’ conference or festival.
  10. Order a Stitch Fix box.
  11. See a musical.
  12. Plan and host a tea party with my girl.
  13. Make a quilt.
  14. Take an international vacation.
  15. Watch Friday Night Lights in its entirety.
  16. Complete a three day juice cleanse.
  17. Write a manuscript that’s not contemporary YA.
  18. Pass 2K Twitter followers.
  19. Read Speak (my most shameful YA gap book).
  20. Host a brunch.
  21. Master “Space-A” travel.
  22. Attend a writers’ retreat.
  23. Get a massage.
  24. Make Chocolate Babka.
  25. Add another child to our family.
  26. Visit Mount Rushmore.
  27. Master “Crow” pose in yoga.
  28. Go to a(nother) country music concert.
  29. Plant an herb garden.
  30. Teach my daughter to swim (really well).

And here’s my new and improved…

Life List

Stay tuned for updates. 🙂

Currently…

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

Currently

Loving

The #AuthorLifeMonth photo challenge, hosted by Dahlia Adler. I’m still going strong, and so are tons of other writers. Check out the hashtag on Instagram to see how everyone’s responding to the prompts. A few of my favorites so far…

Reading

If you remember back to my last Currently… post, I mentioned I was reading The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. Well, I finished, and I loved it — it’s definitely a new favorite. Please, please, please pick it up! I also recently finished These Vicious Masks by fellow Swoon Reads authors Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, and it was SO much fun. Protagonist Evelyn is the best sort of snarky, and the “Jane Austen meets X-Men” pitch is spot-on. Recommend! Now, I’m reading The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry and it is aMaZiNg so far. Guys, I’m so lucky — I’m picking up the BEST books this year!

Watching

Kendra Akins on YouTube. She posts videos on health and beauty and lifestyle. I love her makeup-focused videos most. I’ve learned tons about the big name brands, as well as lesser-known natural products. Check her out if you’re into beauty and/or healthful eating — she’s super savvy.

Listening To

I recently listened to Colleen Hoover’s November 9, which was everything I was hoping it’d be: romantic, but also angsty and overwrought — a total guilty-pleasure listen. If you can overlook some slight but irritating misogyny, you’ll likely be entertained. And I just finished Keith Donahue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters, a creepy adult horror. Different from my usual fare, but I liked it!

Thinking About

Wrapping up the Kissing Max Holden revision I’ve been working on since Christmastime. I’ve completed all of the big-picture changes, and now I’m in the midst of a read-through, doing all the fun fine-tuning stuff. Yay!

Anticipating

My birthday… It’s Saturday! I’m going to (try to) sleep late, and then my husband and daughter are going to make me crepes for breakfast — yum! Be on the lookout for a Thirty Before 35 update later this week. Spoiler alert: I haven’t finished all of my goals, but I’m not about to let them go. 👍

Wishing

For sandals and summer and sunshine. Simple as that…

Making Me Happy

These two, as usual. My girlie has had lots of time off school lately (snow days and end-of-quarter days and holidays), and while I do value my quiet work time, I really love having her home. ❤

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

My new yoga studio! My husband bought me a membership for Christmas and it is aMaZiNg. I’ve practiced yoga for several years now, but mostly at home. I’ve never consistently attended classes, but after just a few short weeks in the studio with instructors who are deeply knowledgeable about the practice, I’m hooked.

Reading

Julie Murphy’s sophomore novel, Dumplin’, a contemporary YA about a small town girl who loves Dolly Parton and ends up an unlikely participant in a local beauty pageant. So far, it’s as glorious as its cover.

Watching

My husband and I just caught up on Homeland and, as per usual, my favorite character appears to have died in the season finale. I’m sad. My falling in love with a TV character pretty much guarantees his or her demise, which is why I don’t watch much TV.

Listening To

The new season of Serial, for starters. It explores the case of Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier who was held as a POW by the Taliban for five years. I have a lot of feelings about Bergdahl and the circumstances under which he was captured, and I’m finding Sarah Koenig’s reporting compelling as usual. I’m also listening to a YA historical fiction, Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky (using the new-to-me OverDrive app). I’m enjoying the story and the narration very much.

Thinking About

Goal setting, and the sort of 2016 I’d like to have. In the past, I’ve set a focus word for the New Year (ResolveAcceptanceStoicism, and Present) and tried to keep that word in mind as I went about the business of being a wife, mama, friend, and writer. This year, though, I’ve decided to create a mission statement, one that will hopefully remind me to live my best life in 2016. Already, it feels like a postive step forward…

Anticipating

My upcoming writers’ retreat! I get to spend four days in a lovely Maryland house with five of my favorite writer buddies. I’ve got plenty to do as far as my Kissing Max Holden edits go, and I’m super excited about a girls’ weekend away. Can. Not. Wait!

Wishing

For smooth sailing as I tackle a fairly substantial revision. I know the changes on my To-Do checklist are going to make for a stronger story, but man… I’d forgotten how challenging revisions can be! One tiny alteration, and I’ve suddenly got a waterfall of adjustments to make. But! I love revising a thousand times more than drafting, so no complaints here. 🙂

Making Me Happy

Guys, I signed a publishing contract. I have an amazing editor, and an edit letter I believe in. Kissing Max Holden is on Goodreads. I have an author page on Facebook. In 2017, my book is going to be a BOOK. How can I not be happy?!

What’s currently making YOU happy?