How to Make NaNoWriMo Especially Difficult

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Ah, NaNoWriMo—thirty days of manic writing where writers across the world attempt to race to 50,000 words in thirty days and achieve the coveted title of NaNoWriMo winner, as well as other goodies and a brand, sparkly new manuscript.

I've written a couple posts over the last month or so about NaNoWriMo, including foolproof (not) advice on How to Be a NaNoWriMo Champ, and well, I may have accidentally taken some of my own not-actual advice.

Up until this year, I'd never done NaNoWriMo before—and truth be told, I wasn't sure if I was really participating even while I was actually attempting to reach those 50,000 words. I quietly pounded away at my keyboard while asking myself, wow, am I really doing this?

Now that we're in the final stretch of NaNoWriMo and I've just recently passed the 50,000 word mark, I think it's safe to call myself a 2012 NaNoWriMo participant. I just made it much more difficult for myself than necessary.

To give you an idea of what exactly I mean, here is my word progress chart thingy:
As you can see, my chart is a little unconventional to say the least. There I was, ahead of target for the first thirteen days, then—BAM—I went from roughly 24k to 760 words.

Yeah. That happened.

Now, you're probably wondering what exactly that was. If you just looked at my chart, you might guess that I had a hard drive crash or something equally horrible that wiped out all my progress, but alas, technical difficulties were not the problem this time—no, it was the WIP itself.

You see, while I was plotting my potential NaNoWriMo novel in October, I had a new idea hit me. One that wouldn't leave me alone no matter how much I tried to ignore it—one that kept nagging at me even as I continued to faithfully plot my original NaNoWriMo WIP idea. I told myself that I would write it later. That after I finished this other story, I would go back and write the new idea. It wasn't Shiny New Idea Syndrome, per say, if only because I hadn't started writing either novel yet, but it was an idea, and it was distracting and truth be told, I probably should have taken the hint from my subconscious and tried brainstorming a few plot points for the new idea if only to prove to myself that it could wait.

But I was stubborn, and I was going to stick with my original idea no matter what because I'd already started plotting it and it was a good idea. A cool premise. One that could potentially be marketable, while the other idea was a little more questionable in that regard.

So when November started I dove into the original idea I'd now plotted halfway and I told the other idea to be quiet for a couple weeks. A couple days into the month I read this post by Beth Revis, who had written 10,000 words, then cut nearly all of them and talked about why she was proud of her decision to do so. I thought it was rather brave of her and continued writing.

Roughly 15,000 words in, however, a nagging suspicion began digging into the back of my mind—one that said that I was writing the wrong novel. And I resisted for a while—I told myself it was too late to turn back now, that I'd already written so much and if I was really going to do this NaNoWriMo thing, then it was too late to start over. Then I remembered what I'd read just a week earlier on Beth Revis' blog about how the point wasn't to win NaNoWriMo—it was to write, and to write the right story.

I kept trying to make the WIP work. I wrote another 9k, but I was dragging—worse, I was dreaded my writing sessions. Me. Not wanting to write. At all. It was unlike me, and quite frankly, it was ruining the fun of writing a novel to begin with.

I came to realize that if I continued with this WIP I may very well reach 50k, but it would be 50,000 words that I didn't even like very much. It would be the start of the story that I wasn't passionate about anymore—and I hadn't even reached the editing part. And really, what would be the point?

So I took a chance. I opened up a new document and started writing the story that had demanded so fiercely for my attention. And 700 words in, I fell in love with the characters. It was like magic, guys, two pages into the story and I knew this was what I was supposed to be writing. This was my NaNoWriMo story.

Except, you know, I'd lost two weeks.

Being the competitive person that I am, I decided that I would try to win anyway. I did the math and figured I was going to have to write over 3,000 words a day to reach 50k by the end of the month, and I buckled down and did it. And you know what? I had fun—hell, I'm still having fun. It's not the best thing I've ever written—far from it, really—and I don’t know if anything will come of it, but it's different and it feels right.

And I now have 50,000 words of a WIP I'm actually enjoying. And in the end, that's what really matters.

Now you've heard my NaNoWriMo war story—I want to hear yours. For those of you participating (or who have ever participated), how did your NaNoWriMo experience go? For those who didn't, what have you accomplished this past month?

How (Not) to Finish Writing a First Draft

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Seeing how it's the end of November, and many of you are likely racing to the end of those 50,000 NaNoWriMo words (or at least, trying to get there), I thought it a particularly fitting to talk about first draft writing —specifically, finishing that first draft.

The first draft is the major building block of your novel —without it, you have little to work off of while attempting to write a cohesive and memorable story. But writing a first draft isn't always as simple as we writers might have hoped—and especially not when you're trying to complete the first 50,000 words in a month, as NaNoWriMo participants are.

So whether you're attempting to complete a NaNoWriMo novel this week or else just working on a first draft at your own pace, here are eight foolproof tips to completing the best first draft in the history of first drafts.

How to Absolutely, Positively Finish Writing that Fabulous First Draft (With or Without NaNoWriMo)*
  1. Write in front of the television. The television is the purest source of inspiration for writers in the universe. To truly harness those golden words for your masterpiece of a novel, make sure you always write while watching something on TV—the trashier, the better (Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of wherever are particularly effective). As an added bonus, when you inevitably hit writer's block, you already have something to distract you from the sorrows of not being able to write. 

  2. Only write when you feel like it. Because let's be honest—it's just not nearly as fun to write when you'd rather be doing other things. 

  3. Write only once a day (if that). I mean, you have other things you should be doing too, don't you? Plus you don't want to tire yourself out and risk writer burn-out. 

  4. Follow the shiny ideas! You know those magical, sparkly ideas that hit you while you're neck-deep in your novel? Those are direct downloads from the writing gods. Heed them or suffer their wrath. 

  5. Pants absolutely every detail. You should know absolutely nothing about what's coming next in your novel —even your next sentence should be a surprise to you. Even the slightest bit of pre-planning will turn your writing into a dull, dead experience. 

  6. Edit constantly. There's little point in writing a first draft if it's tens of thousands of words of complete and utter nonsense. Perfection is the goal in the first draft of every novel you write —no exceptions (not even NaNoWriMo). In fact... 

  7. Start every writing session by reading your full novel up to that point. Do this every single time you sit down to write, so that you have your story fresh in your mind while beginning to write. And if you run out of time while re-reading? Well, at least you know what's going on in your story, which is half the battle, right? Right. 

  8. When in doubt, make everything a dream and start over. Hey, if you do it enough times, it'll be like Inception. And that was massively popular, so why not? 

*Sarcasm alert! These are not actual tips, nor are they meant to be taken seriously. There is a parenthetical in the title of this post for a reason (and it's not just because it looks pretty).

Those are my "tips"—now it's your turn! What so-called tips would you add to the list?

How to Know It's Time to Shelve Your Novel

Photo credit: Erwyn van der Meer (Flickr)
I received an interesting question on the blog from one of you lovely readers the other day (have I mentioned lately how much I love it when this happens? Keep the questions coming, you fabulous readers, you). As is often the case, it was a question that I thought I'd answered, but I've since realized that I skimmed over.

You see, I've written in the past about what happens when your novel isn't the one—meaning, when you come to realize that you might want to consider shelving your WIP. What I failed to discuss, however, was how to know when the time to shelve your novel has arrived.

In my experience, there isn't ever one definite sign that you need to shelve your WIP —instead, it's often a combination of signs plus a sprinkle of instinct that generally lets you know that now would be a good time to move on to a new WIP.

While this is far from a comprehensive list, here are a few signs that it might be time to shelve your novel and start writing something new.

  1. You've edited your WIP to your best ability and it's still not working. "Not working" can mean a couple of things—for those who seek traditional publication, it can mean that you can't find representation for it despite massive editing and feedback from others. "Not working" can mean that your beta readers still think it needs more work, or it can mean that you're still not happy with it. Whatever the case may be, this sign can be a pretty big red flag.

  2. You've lost interest in your novel. This tends to be something we writers don't like to admit, but it is perfectly possible to lose interest in your WIP. While this doesn't always mean you need to shelve your work (sometimes you just need to fall in love with it again, which is also possible), it can be a good indication that it might be time to take a break from your novel and start writing something else—at least for the time being.

  3. You have ideas for new WIPs. This is a tricky one, because you don't want to confuse it with Shiny New Idea Syndrome, which is a pretty common writing danger that you should be wary of. The difference, you see, is that Shiny New Idea Syndrome hits when you're in the middle of another WIP, and it tempts you to begin writing your new idea immediately. What I'm referring to, instead, is when you've completed a previous WIP (the one that you're now contemplating shelving) and you've along the way collected idea for future novels.

  4. You're wondering if it's time to shelve your novel. When I said that instinct plays into this one, this is what I meant. We writers usually have a good sense for when something isn't working, or when something with our writing is off. And when we do, it's often when we begin to contemplate if maybe it's time to start something else—and you know what? Sometimes it is.

The thing I'd like you guys to understand about shelving your work is that it doesn't have to be permanent. Shelving your novels doesn't mean that you're giving up—it means that you're accepting that it's not quite the right time for your novel at the moment. That's it. It doesn't mean you're a failure, or that your WIP is a failure, or that it'll never see the light of day again (although, you may later on decide that you don't want it to see daylight again)—it just means that it's time to move on.

And that's ok.

Go ahead and write another WIP—hell, go write three or four more. I guarantee that with each novel you write, you will at the very least continue to refine your writing skills, and at the most, end up with a nice collection of wonderful writings to choose from.

What do you think? For those of you who have shelved novels in the past, how did you know it was time? For those that haven't, have you ever contemplated shelving a novel? Share your experiences in the comments below!

On Writing "Real" Characters

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Many months ago I read The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen (review here) and upon completing it, I was hit with a revelation—your point of view character doesn’t have to reveal everything, he can tell the story however he’d like to. I know that doesn’t sound like a particularly stunning revelation—and it’s not like I didn’t know that before, but I’d never seen it executed so well in a first person POV novel, and it made me start to think.

You see, what I really liked about The False Prince was that Sage, the protagonist and POV character, wasn’t entirely honest with the readers about both large and small reveals. He skipped over events and failed to mention specific information, not because he didn’t know it, but because he didn’t want to reveal that information to the readers. The result was rather fascinating, because it felt like Jennifer Nielsen wasn’t writing the story—Sage was, and he was writing it the way he wanted to, rather than the way the author was dictating, and I think for writers that is a result that is highly desirable.

We often talk about character development and getting to know our characters and writing multi-faceted characters with flaws and fears like the rest of us, but in the end it all comes down to this: do your characters feel real or do they feel like characters?

Now I’m not saying it’s a terrible thing if your characters feel like characters, rather than 100% I-might-run-into-this-person-on-the-street-real. There are plenty of characters from successful books that are good, interesting characters that people want to read about, but don’t necessarily feel like you could possibly run into said character on the street. 

Take Voldemort, for example—as far as villains go, I think Voldemort proved to be an interesting, deep (and deplorable) antagonist, and he certainly was strong enough to remain an opposing foe throughout the course of seven novels. Despite that, I’m not sure I would say that he was so incredibly realistic that I could imagine him to be a real person living on Earth. It’s not a bad thing—it’s just where the readers’ suspension of disbelief comes into play.

But then I read novels like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green where the characters are so vibrant, quirky and multi-faceted that they feel like they could truly be real teenagers living among us. Like The Fault in Our Stars isn’t a novel at all, but Hazel Grace’s memoir. The characters feel real.

There isn’t a magical button you can press or sentence you can write to automatically make your characters entirely realistic—it’s usually a combination of a particularly strong voice, realistic thoughts and decisions (and not always good ones) and actual flaws, fears and other humanizing factors. Once accomplished, however, it’s an effect that can truly make your characters stand out and remain memorable, even long after your readers have put away your story and started something else.

Have you ever encountered a character that felt real? What character was it, and how do you think that effect was achieved?

Thanksgiving: A Writing Exercise

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Seeing how it's Thanksgiving in the States tomorrow, I thought it especially appropriate to talk about—what else?—being thankful. Rather than going through a list of things I'm thankful for as I did last year, however, I'd like to do something a little different and think instead about our characters.

As writers, it's important to know our characters as thoroughly as possible—everything from their fears, to their birthdays, to their favorite foods, nightmares and aspirations are relevant, even if we don't intend to include even half of that information into the actual writing. The important part is that we understand our characters so that we can write them as realistic and multi-dimensional people.

That being said, take a moment to think about your characters in your most recent WIP: what are they thankful for this Thanksgiving? Go through each of your major characters—yes, that includes your antagonist—and think about what they would say they were thankful for on Thanksgiving. Is what they say they're thankful for and what they're actually thankful for different? Are they actually thankful, or do they just go through the motions to get to the turkey and cranberry sauce?

Maybe your characters live in a world where Thanksgiving doesn't exist—that's ok, place them at a Thanksgiving table anyway. What would they say? How would they act if they had to sit at a table full of food and share things that they were thankful for? Would they consider the holiday quaint? Wonderful? Ridiculous? Pointless?

I'd like to hear your answers: what are your characters thankful for? And for fun, what do you think various book/movie/TV show characters would be thankful for this Thanksgiving?

And to all who are celebrating—have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Book Titles: How Do You Choose?

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Choosing an intriguing title for your book is arguably one of the most important parts of marketing. After all, the very first impression any reader will have of your book, before they even glance at your writing, before a book cover is chosen and the summary is read, is the title you choose to represent your story.

As I'm a writer who focuses on character first (as opposed to working out the setting first, then populating the story), my working titles tend to be one of the first things I know about the story: the protagonist's first name. For me, the process of choosing the title is a somewhat nebulous thingabout half of the time it reveals itself while I'm writing the first draft, occasionally it crops up before I even begin writing, and the rest of the time it's something I brainstorm after the first draft is completed.

In the latter cases, choosing a title (to me) can be one of the more difficult parts of writingalthough I'll admit that's probably at least partially due to the fact that I have a tendency of being extremely indecisive. Regardless, choosing a title for your book doesn't have to be a stressful experiencein fact, it can be pretty enjoyable.

When brainstorming book titles I recently tried a new method that I found I really liked, based off of a suggestion I found online (if I find the original post with the exact process, I'll let you guys know). You start with creating a list of themes, images and potential title ideas. As is the case with most brainstorming, this is a stage where you don't censor. Anything you think of goes on the listeven if it's ridiculous or a terrible-sounding title. The idea is to write as many ideas as you can without censoring your writing at all, so that you can go back and eliminate choices later.

Once you have a sizable list, start making note of ideas or images that you like. This is also about the time that you start taking a look at book titles for other works in the same genre, as your title should sound like it fits with other novels that it would potentially be sharing the shelf with. After some mix and matching and comparing to other titles, you choose my favorite potential book titles and get some feedback. If one title stands out as a particular favorite, you know you have a winner.

Choosing a title, however, isn't a writing process that's set in stone: I for one am still experimenting with different methods and I'd like to hear yours.

So now you tell me: how do you choose titles for your WIPs?

How to Juggle Writing and Life

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again in the future—writers are never just writers. We’re husbands, wives, parents, students and employees. Some of us work nine to five jobs, others the graveyard shift, some are stay-at-home parents and still others attend school full time and work part time elsewhere. We all have multiple responsibilities and oftentimes, life likes to get in the way of our writing.

Despite life and workish things that like to become obstacles and suck up valuable writing time, it’s still entirely possible to juggle life and writing in a manageable and less stressful way. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Make a plan. Without a doubt, one of the best ways to maximize your productivity during the day is to map out what you need to get done and figure out when you can do it. For some, that means dedicating the large nine to five block to non-writing work, then either getting up early or adding an extra hour (or half hour) after work to get some writing in. For others, that means spreading out short writing bursts throughout the day until you’ve reached your goal. Regardless of how you do it, making a plan is a great way to figure out how much time you can dedicate to your writing daily, and actually getting it done.

  • Use timers. I’ve written about this before, and this point is related to the first one, but I think it’s worth repeating—timers are a fantastic tool for writers. I’ve found that I actually like to keep one running somewhere visible while I’m writing under a time constraint (like now). It keeps me pushing harder (because few things are quite as motivating to write as much as you can as a visual representation of your available time literally slipping away) and it allows me to make sure I can write without worrying about going overtime and being late to start whatever my next task is. Use timers. They help more than you’d think.

  • Allow yourself to write in bursts. For a lengthier explanation of this, you can check out this post, but in short, writing in bursts is just as productive, if not more so, than sitting down for long writing sessions. Many writers don’t often get the opportunity to sit down for an hour or more to write, but we often have bits of time scattered throughout the day—ten minutes while waiting for lunch, another fifteen before a meeting, etc. If you use these little doses of time to write a couple hundred words here and there, you might be surprised how quickly it adds up.

  • Be forgiving. We writers have a tendency of being pretty hard on ourselves when we miss a day of writing or don’t meet our daily quota. Sometimes we have to accept that life gets in the way and that it’s ok if we don’t meet our daily writing goals every day. Don’t waste energy beating yourself up for a bad writing day—instead, invest that time in getting more writing done tomorrow. 

Those are just a few tips for juggling life and writing, now it’s your turn to add to the list: how do you juggle writing and life? Any tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Write Like It'll Never Be Read

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When brainstorming ideas for my next writing project, I often catch myself thinking about publication. I'll knock down ideas before giving them a chance because I know they'll be difficult to publish. I ignore perfectly good story inspiration because the genre it would fall into has been overdone, or because I know how challenging it is to break into that particular sub-genre at this time.

We writers often have a natural tendency to censor ourselves. We discount ideas and say things like no one would want to read that, or it'd be way too hard to find an agent for that. While writing first drafts we look at our work and groan because the writing isn't up to par or because, truth be told, it'd be a little embarrassing to let anyone read what we have so far. We psych ourselves out and make the task of writing a book that much harder for ourselves.

Sometimes we have to remember to forget everyone else and write for ourselves.

I made the decision to write like no one will ever read my work a couple manuscripts ago, and I have to say it's been one of the most freeing decisions I've ever made when it comes to my writing. When you write completely for yourself, you no longer have to worry about the writing not being good enough to even merit a first draft. When you write like your WIP will never be read by anyone else, you no longer waste time thinking about how difficult your WIP may or may not be to publish later on or whether people will like it, or whether it'll ever sell a copy. None of those things matter when you write for yourself.

Naturally once you get published (or decide to publish independently) you can no longer think that way, because you know for a fact that it will be read. But while you're an unpublished writer, writing for yourself is a great way to free your creativity and allow your story to flow without those extra stressors. And who knows? Maybe after some editing and refining of your WIP, you might just decide that it's ready for some external eyes after all.

What do you think? Do you write for yourself or do you write anticipating future publishing prospects? Have you ever discarded an idea due to a poor publishing outlook? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Discussion: Can Anyone Become a Great Writer?

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I came across an interesting article the other day from TIME Entertainment on NaNoWriMo. It questioned whether NaNoWriMo was a positive movement for writers or if it’s actually harmful, and while the article brought up some thought-provoking arguments, there was one point in particular that really caught my attention.

The article reads:
"[A] common complaint is that NaNoWriMo devalues writers' talent by indulging the cliche that everyone has the potential to be a great writer if only they'd sit themselves down and actually write. 'NaNoWriMo relies on the peculiarly American belief that every person has a story—or a novel, or a book of any kind—inside...' the Economist's Prospero blog once sneered. 'There is no analogous drive to write the Great French Novel, or the English, or the German. They very notion that a novel is in everybody's grasp, and could be knocked out as a draft in just a month, is far more likely to induce some cringing in other countries.'" (Read the full article here).
The thing is, I really do believe that with enough practice, dedication and determination anyone can become a great writer. We writers aren't born with some magical ability to write exponentially better than everyone else—we don't come out of the womb with full knowledge of the English language and how to write beautiful images and compelling stories. We learn how to write like everyone else—starting with our names in preschool and moving on from there. I reject the idea that in order to be great at something you have to be born with some magical fairy dust that makes you extra talented in a certain field—writing included.

The difference between writers and everyone else isn't that we're born with a supernatural ability to write well—it's that we love to write. The difference between writers and everyone else is that we do spend the extra time needed to hone the craft of writing and learn how to tell stories people want to read. Not everyone wants to be a writer, and not everyone who thinks they want to be a writer loves it enough to stick with it until they're skilled enough to reach a level of successful publication. I believe that anyone can become a great writer, but not everyone will reach that level—or even attempt to, for that matter.

In my mind, NaNoWriMo doesn't devalue writers—it empowers them. It gives writers who are afraid of writing something terrible, of failing halfway through, of not writing well enough to give it a try and write anyway. It reminds writers around the world that we are not alone—that there are hundreds of thousands of other writers out there who are experiencing the same difficulties and frustrations that come hand-in-hand with attempting to become a writer.

At least, that's my opinion. Now I want to hear yours.

What do you think? Can anyone become a writer, or do writers have something that others don't? Does NaNoWriMo devalue writers, or does it empower them?

Conflict: The Key to a Good Story

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In order for a story to exist—or at least be worth reading—it must contain conflict. A story without conflict is like food without flavor—it's bland, boring, and hardly enjoyable to consume.

The root of all stories lies in conflict: from the story of Adam and Eve (a man and woman are told not to eat from the tree of knowledge, but a snake tempts them to do so anyway) to Romeo and Juliette (boy and girl from opposing families fall in love) to more modern stories like The Lord of the Rings (a young hobbit sets out to destroy an evil ring that many more powerful than he would kill to possess).

So what is conflict? Here's's definition:

When it comes to writing, conflict generally comes in two forms: internal and external, and the most interesting stories have a fair mix of both. To recap, internal conflict focuses on psychological and emotional discord (i.e.: the more Frodo wears the ring, the less he wants to destroy it—but he must in order to save Middle Earth) while external conflict operates on a more physical level (i.e.: Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo).

While the balance between the two and the amount and intensity of the conflict will vary a bit genre to genre, it's important to incorporate some kind of conflict or build up to a conflict in every scene.

Now that's not to say that there needs to be a gun-slinging psychopath attacking your characters on every other page. What I mean is in order to keep the story progressing and your readers interested, there needs to be some form of conflict—internal or external—throughout the story. In chapter one it may be something minor, like your protagonist is on his way to a job interview that could change his life and his family's negative opinion of him as a moocher, but a dangerous blizzard has hit early that morning and the terrible road conditions are making it impossible for him to arrive on time. During the climax it may be something much more significant—like a high-stakes wrestling match on Mount Doom that ends with a lost appendage and a tumble into a very active volcano.

There's no question that every story must contain conflict—and with the right mix of internal and external discord, you'll have the start to a great story on your hands.

Which if the two does your story rely on—internal or external (or both)? Do you have a preference writing or reading-wise between the two?

Writing Tool: Scrivener

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I'd first heard about Scrivener something like a year and a half ago when some wonderful writing tweeples mentioned it to me. At the time, I was a Microsoft Word person, and while I knew there were other word processing programs out there, I'd used Word for ages and I didn't see any reason to switch programs. I did take a brief (read: exceedingly brief) look at Scrivener, but I didn't really give it much of a chance.

Over time I started to realize that this Scrivener program was actually more popular amongst writers than I'd initially anticipated. Some of my favorite authors like Veronica Roth and Beth Revis used Scrivener and it seemed that no matter where I turned, a writer somewhere was raving about Scrivener.

So I gave it a second shot and decided to play around with the cork-board feature to do some brainstorming for a potential WIP idea I had. That initial Scrivener test turned into a full outline for said WIP, and I had a revelation—I sort of liked Scrivener.

Unfortunately then my laptop died and took Scrivener (and the files) with it.

My new computer did not have Word installed, but after a couple months I downloaded a Scrivener trial again. And now that I've been using it to write, I have to tell you I sort of still like Scrivener. A lot.

Scrivener makes it easy for you to consolidate all of your writing notes in one place—everything from your initial outline (which, by the way, allows you to brainstorm on virtual flashcards, which I love), to character and setting sketches, to random notes about your WIP, can all be saved into a project that is the novel you are working on.

Even better—it encourages you to think in scenes or chapters, which makes the intimidating process of having to write an entire novel much more manageable. Writing a novel doesn't seem quite as scary when you break it up into bite-sized chunks.

I've only just scratched the surface with Scrivener, but between it's fantastic brainstorming capabilities, note consolidation and distraction-free writing modes (can you say beautiful, focused full-screen mode?) it's quickly becoming one of my favorite programs to use for writing.

Have you ever used Scrivener? If so, what did you think? If not, what word processing program do you use?

Writing Tip: Keep an Ideas List

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So you're away from your computer and you get an idea for not one—but two fantastic blog posts. You write the first one as soon as you get to your computer and smile happily because you already know what you're going to write in a couple days for the next post.

A few days later you sit down in front of your computer and realize you've completely forgotten what you were going to write for that second post.

That definitely didn't happen to me this weekend because I keep a running ideas list and I would never neglect to write an idea down before I forgot it. *ahem*

Regardless of whether or not the aforementioned example is in fact based off of recent experience, I'm sure many of you have had something similar happen—and if not with blogging ideas, then with WIP or otherwise writing-related ideas.

An ideas list is a simple and helpful tool that can be used for various aspects of your writing career. I tend to keep two runnings lists: one for blog post ideas and one for WIP ideas. The format, how often you use it, and how often you refer back to it is up to you, but the only rule is this: don't censor yourself.

You see, the ideas list is a sort of never-ending brainstorming sheet. Whatever bits and pieces of inspiration you get—whether it's a full-fledged concept for a new WIP, or a wisp of an idea for a character, can be added to the list for future use. Don't worry about something sounding silly or overly-ambitious—no one else will ever see the list, and just because you write it down doesn't mean you have to go with it. The point is to keep track of your ideas while you have them, so you have something to springboard off of later on when you're fresh out of inspiration.

That way, when you realize you've forgotten that awesome idea that hit you while doing dishes yesterday morning, you won't have to worry because you've already written it down.

Do you keep an ideas list or something similar?

NaNoWriMo Tip: Write and Don’t Look Back

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With NaNoWriMo in full swing, many writers have joined the writing race to 50,000 words. Whether for the prizes, bragging rights, a new WIP or just the sake of writing, NaNoWriMo gives writers of all levels of experience the chance to prove that they have what it takes to write a book in a month.

Writing 50,000 words in thirty days isn't easy, but one way to make the task a little more manageable is this: don't look back.

I know it's tempting—we're writers, many of us perfectionists, and when you write at the speed that's necessary to complete the NaNoWriMo goal, most times the writing that results isn't exactly Hemingway quality. Because of that, many writers feel the need to go back and edit what they've written before moving on.

But if you're serious about completing NaNoWriMo and you'd rather not make the task even more difficult than it already is, you cannot look back. 

Look, the goal of NaNoWriMo isn't to have a publishable masterpiece by December—it's to get your butt in the chair and write 50,000 words of a story that you didn't have thirty days ago. The goal isn't perfection—it's words, plain and simple. It's to write, and write quickly, which means it's probably not going to be your best, but that's ok. No one's asking you to write something you can publish on December first. Your goal is just to write. 

But what's the problem with looking back? you ask. Can't I edit and still complete the required 50,000 words by the end of the month? 

I'm not going to tell you that's it's impossible to edit and write a WIP in thirty days—it's certainly possible, it's just unnecessarily difficult. Editing isn't meant to be done quickly, and the problem with editing your writing throughout the course of NaNoWriMo is that it slows down the writing itself. That time that you're spending editing chapter one could be spent writing chapter two.

I know there are writers successfully edit while completing NaNoWriMo, and I don't doubt that there will be some of you who read this post then go on to do it anyway. But if you truly want to make the process as stress free and quick as possible, then I highly recommend you surge forward without looking back until you've written the words THE END on the final page.

What do you think? If you're doing NaNoWriMo, will you be editing while writing?
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