Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

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

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! 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid, and loved it so, so much! I chatted about it (and all of my November reads) in Monday’s Reading Wrap-Up post. I also read Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, a fabulous contemporary NA. Loved the musical component, and a particular element of diversity (no spoilers!) I haven’t seen represented much in literature. Also, it *almost* made me cry, which is extremely rare. Yesterday, I started The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. While fantasy is not my genre of choice, this one’s been too highly praised to pass up. It’s excellent so far! 

What I’m Writing: I took a writing break after winning National Novel Writing Month (!!!) last week. I didn’t even open my laptop over the long Thanksgiving weekend, which was a very nice recharge. Though I still need to finish the last 10K or so of my NaNo story (I shared its Love List last week), I’m putting it on the back-burner to work on a CP-recommended revision of my WiP The Road So Far. I’m so happy to be back with this story and these characters! 

What Else I’ve Been Up To: All the holiday things! Baking, buying, wrapping, mailing, decorating… It’s been a busy week…

  
I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my little family, and I made a super yummy Chocolate Pecan Pie, among many other goodies. So many leftovers! 


Last year we moved over the holidays so we didn’t get to put up any of our holiday decorations. It’s been wonderful to trim the tree and hang stockings in a house this year. My daughter is beside herself with excitement! 

What Works For Me: Perseverance, which for me, is all about shutting down the voices of uncertainty that are constantly chattering in my head. The only way I know how to do that is to continue to push on, writing-writing-writing, even when it feels like there’s no point. The busier I am, the less time I have for second-guessing. *Curious: How do you quiet the doubt monsters?

What’s up with you today? 

L♡VE LIST

Guys, I won National Novel Writing Month!

I still have about 10K left to write in my story (the end — scary!), but I’m so super happy to have made it this far, and with time to spare. Yay!

To celebrate, I thought it’d be fun to share the Love List I made for this WiP, tentatively titled Stars Like Dust. Love Lists are kind of my favorite. ❤

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

Castle Turrets
Cemeteries
Chai
Cottages
Dandelions
First Kisses
Flower Gardens
Foreign Words
Fortune Cookies
Goldendoodles
Hand Holding
Milkshakes
Photography
Poetry
Prayer Rugs
Princesses
Rumi
Sandy Beaches
Salty Water
Shooting Stars
Star-Crossed Love
Wishes

And a few of the visuals I’ve spent hours staring at…

         

This a kissing book, obviously.
Would you expect anything less out of me? 😉

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Losing It by Cora Carmack and thought it was a fun read. Perhaps not my favorite of all the NA I’ve encountered, but some trusted sources tell me her All Lined Up is excellent, so maybe I’ll try that one sometime. Now, I’m reading Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid, a series of lovely, interconnected short stories about delightful people (so far). This one’s a contemp written in 3rd person which, when done well, I love. Luckily, this one is done VERY well. Plus it’s about a road trip, and road trip books are my jam.

What I’m Writing: Still NaNo-ing, and I’m getting SO CLOSE! Hoping to finish today (before Thanksgiving) so pardon me if WUW comments go unresponded to for now. I will get to them ASAP. Goal: Win NaNoWriMo!

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Other than tons of writing, I’ve been doing Thanksgiving prep. We’re having a quiet meal at home (with Seahawks football!), but the many foods Thanksgiving are my husband’s favorite, so there’s a lot of cooking in my immediate future. He deals with the disgusting turkey carcass, and I do everything else. Fair trade! 🙂

 
This little lovely has had all week off from school, so we’ve been hanging out plenty. Lots of coloring and puzzles and books and shopping.


I received the most EXCELLENT package from my #SipSwap buddy, Sarah Marsh, who is so generous and kind, and obviously has amazing taste in Harry Potter commodities. Plus, Chocolate Strawberry Tea, friends. So yummy!

What Works For Me: I spent all month making my way through Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and I found it incredibly inspiring — especially in the midst of the all the NaNo craziness. He’s so real and frank about his process and the industry and his past, plus he’s drily funny, which I dig. I highly recommend On Writing if you’ve yet to read it. What’s your favorite craft/writing/creativity-focused book?

What’s up with you today?