NaNoWriMo Pep Talk: 6 Days Away – You’ve Got This

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by yours truly and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.25.17

full tank of gas quoteAs I write this we are 6 days away from deadline. I see some of you have already reached – or passed – the goal of 50K, and some have validated their novels and won: to you, CONGRATULATIONS!!

To the rest of us: I’m reminded of that scene in the Blues Brothers movie, when Jake and Elwood are getting ready to deliver the cash raised at the concert to the tax assessor’s office in time to prevent the orphanage closing –  and it goes like this:

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake:  Hit it.

Here’s a link to the clip if you want to see it.

Throughout the movie, we’ve watched Jake and Elwood attempt the impossible: raise cash to save the orphanage. During the middle of the movie, they’ve gotten the band together, played a few gigs, been chased by the Chicago cops, Illinois Nazis, and Carrie Fisher, driven all over the Chicagoland area advertising the concert so they can fill the hall. They stay on task because they keep their goal in mind: They’re on a mission from God.

This movie comes to mind because with 6 days to go, I’m really behind in word count. I’ve needed to spend time puzzling out my story – my middle – and sometimes this was literally writing out outlines and questions and other times it was stepping away from my computer and muddling over it while I raked leaves and cleaned Thanksgiving dishes.  Yes, this might all seem like time lost because I wasn’t sitting staring at my computer screen but it was necessary.  Now I feel like I’ve got that full tank of gas, and it’s just a matter of staying awake at the wheel. I will encounter distractions and obstacles along the way (my own version of Chicago cops and Illinois Nazis) but I need to keep my foot on the pedal and burn that gas.

You’ve got this, WriMos. The writing process is mimicking a novel’s structure: we’re in the “murky middle” or we’re experiencing “fun and games”, the “bad guys are closing in”, we might have even experienced a “set back” or “the dark night of the soul” and we need to keep going to push through Act III to our “resolution” and tie up those “loose ends.”

On Thanksgiving morning, I was making chocolate pudding for the trifle and I realized that I wasn’t stressing out about all the things I needed to do before 1 pm.  Maybe it was because I had jotted down a schedule. Maybe it was because I delegated cooking the mashed potatoes and caramelized carrots to others.  Maybe it was because I was focusing more on spending the day with people and not about the perfection of the things I was bringing. Maybe it was because I had done this so many times over 20+ years of cooking for family gatherings that I was just operating in my routine.  I’m not sure. What is most vivid to me is that I wasn’t freaking out and making everyone else miserable.  It struck me because I remembered years ago, I used to bounce around the kitchen trying to do lots of things simultaneously by myself, not asking for help, and then being cranky and resentful because no one was reading my mind and rescuing me.  Yeah, probably after years of doing family gatherings, little by little, I’ve learned how to execute these recipes, how to ask for help, how to pace myself, how to keep my mouth shut, and how to let go of perfection (to be perfectly honest, I did nag my husband about driving reasonably so that our crockpots of stuff wouldn’t tip over in his car. Happy Ending: everything made it to Grandma’s)

My point, WriMos is, you’ve got this. Like Jake and Elwood, keep your goal in mind. What excited you about this story back on November 1? What was that question niggling in the back of your mind or wanting to be scratched? Maybe you wanted to hit 50K…can you modify your word count goal to something you can reach during these last 6 days? Like me, over the weeks (days, months, years) of writing stories you’ve learned what you need to do.  When I described my book to my MIL at Thanksgiving, she said it sounded fascinating – mind you, I wasn’t reading her pages, I was telling her my idea. And that’s the thing I keep needing to go back to – that I really do like this idea and because I think it deserves to see the light of day, I’m actually ok with throwing a very messy first draft down.  I tend to write dialog first and then  I reread what I’ve written and go back to add description. This year, I feel like I’ve finally accepted that this is my working style and I just need to keep encouraging myself to get the ideas out in whatever format so that I’ll be able to have something to work with later. Somehow, in my mind, this acceptance is a similar feeling of calm that I experienced when I was stirring that pot of chocolate pudding – I’d done it so many times, I hadn’t even realized I had developed a method and I didn’t freak out over it. It would take a certain amount of time and I just needed to be attentive to it.

Ok, WriMos enough of my babbling.

Hit it.

I’ll see you on the other side of 50K.

Yvette/wilabea94

ML: New Hampshire

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NaNoWriMo Week 4 : Guest Pep Talk with Ryan Elizabeth Clark,”I Put the PRO in Procrastination…”

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by New Hampshire author and Gibson’s Bookstore (Concord) staff, Ryan Elizabeth Clark and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.21.17

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Ryan Elizabeth Clark (NaNo handle: momewrathsoutgrabe)

Greetings NH WriMos!  Since I’m many thousands of words in the red, and I’ve got to double up my daily wordbcount to reach 50K, I’ve enlisted NH WriMo Ryan Elizabeth Clark (NaNo handle: momrathsoutgrabe) to bring you Week Four’s Pep Talk. Those of you local to Concord will recognize Ryan from Gibson’s Bookstore. Stop by and say Thanks. – Yvette/wilabea94

Has this ever happened to you? You sit down at your computer, you open a word document, you may even have an idea in your head, but the second you put your fingers to the keyboard, your eyes glaze over and you open Facebook instead. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the world of procrastination. 

I like to say that I put the pro in procrastination. I can procrastinate astonishingly well. Tell me I have a deadline, and I suddenly have snacks to eat and shows to watch and Facebook friends to stalk. If you’re like me, you will do almost anything to avoid working on your novel, not because you don’t want to write, but because your brain simply jumps away every time you try. You find excuses not to write. I have to work. I have to make dinner. I have to decorate the house. I have a newborn. I have used each and every one of these excuses this month, and while they may sound valid, they are just my procrastination in disguise! 

I don’t know if there is a cure for procrastination, but I do have some tips that got me through college and several years of NaNoWriMo and will hopefully help me hit my goal this month.

1. Pick a writing space. Find a spot that works for you. Maybe it’s your bedroom, surrounded by cozy blankets and pillows. Maybe it’s your kitchen table with snacks all around you. Maybe it’s somewhere quiet and clean, maybe it’s somewhere chaotic! Everyone is different. Try writing in a few different spots, and pick the one that works the best. It may not be your writing space forever, but if it works for RIGHT NOW, then that’s all we need. You can pick a new writing space tomorrow if you’d like. 

2. Snacks. Are you a snacker? I’m a snacker. I find that when I’m writing, I need to know that there are snacks nearby. I use them as rewards when I write. You can’t have that cookie until you finish this paragraph. If you’re a snacker, stock up on your favorites and keep them close by. 

3. Background noise. This is a big one for me. I like to imagine myself as the type of writer who goes off into a silent room and lets my inner monologue pour out onto the page, but in reality, I need noise and lots of it. I like to layer sounds. There are several websites and youtube channels out there that offer different types of sounds and background noise. I have several that I open all at once, and the end result is soft music playing over furious typing on an old keyboard in a bustling cafe in the Slytherin Common Room. It’s a lot, and it’s kind of chaotic, but it works for me. Maybe music works for you. Find your soundtrack. In college, Rush was my study music. Sometimes classical works better. I write more quickly when I’m listening to hip-hop. I can’t write at all when I’m listening to Hamilton because I just start singing along. Maybe you’re a silence person. Get some noise canceling headphones and bask in the void whilst you type away. Whatever you need for background noise, find it and use it. 

4. Just write. Even if you’re staring at your novel and you have no idea what your characters are going to do next, and you can’t for the life of you figure out what your plot is, or even if you haven’t even started yet and you’re staring down a blank page with an evil blinking cursor, just write. Write what you’re thinking. Get some words out. Once you start, you’ll get into a groove and your novel will break out of the confusion. Give yourself small goals. Are you stressed by the idea of writing 1,667 words every day? Try breaking it down. Write ten words at a time. Write five sentences. Write a paragraph. Fill a page. You’ll get there. 

Hopefully, these tips can help you at least a little bit. If nothing else, reading this just helped you procrastinate a little bit more. Now, write! 

Ryan Elizabeth Clark / momerathsoutgrabe

Bradford, NH

 

Helpful links:
https://harry-potter-sounds.ambient-mixer.com/
https://coffitivity.com/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn4d5F-rdJs
https://www.youtube.com/user/MindAmend
https://www.calm.com/

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NaNoWriMo Halfway Point Pep-Talk

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by New Hampshire author and NH Writer’s Project Board Member Rob Greene and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.17.17. Chat him up on Twitter @rwwgreene. Want to write a novel? Check out NaNoWriMo.

headshot (3)I know what winning feels like, brothers and sisters, and this ain’t it.

Time was I’d have a thick stack of paper under my elbow by now instead of a few pages of type and chicken scratch. Once upon a time, I’d have 28,000 words—more!—by Nov. 17, and I’d be feeling The Flow. The staccato clackity-clack-ding-whir of my Olympia SM9 would be waking the sun every morning.

Those times are not this time. I’m not going to make it.

Come Nov. 30, barring time travel or a close encounter with an event horizon, I’m going to come up well short of 50,000 words.

I could blame the first couple of weeks of November, packed as they were by my wife’s campaign for city office and my four days away from home on a work detail. I could point fingers at all the college recommendations I’ve had to write. Really, though, it’s my fault. I haven’t made the time or expended the effort to find The Flow and shape my story. I let the NaNoWriMonster stomp me real good.

With only a couple of weeks left, I figure I have two options: Quit and chalk it up to experience, or keep writing and see what I end up with.

On the one hand, I’m tired, depressed, and feeling the claws of Imposter Syndrome scratching at the back of my neck. On the other hand, the weekend is nigh, and the Olympia is game to go.

And, hey, my wife will be away at PAX Unplugged until Sunday! (She doesn’t mind me writing—encourages it, actually—but I like spending time with her.) Also, the Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner; I can bang out some pages between helpings. I can even save time in the mornings by eating leftover pie for breakfast!

Even after the sun sets on Thanksgiving weekend, I still have four writing days left … You know, maybe I CAN do it!

I mean probably not, but half a book—hell—a tenth of a book is better than no book. If I get a good (second) start and keep churning through December, I’ll still have a new novel drafted before 2018 begins, and that ain’t bad.

Yeah, I know what winning NaNoWriMo feels like. I’ve done it. I know what losing feels like, too, and a hard-fought loss feels a lot better than quitting. I may go down, friends, but I’m going down typing.

R.W.W. Greene is a New Hampshire writer with an MFA that he likes to exorcise in dive bars and dim coffee shops. His work has seen daylight in Daily Science Fiction, Writers Resist, and The New Republic, among other places. He collects typewriters, keeps bees, and serves in the board of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. 

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NaNoWriMo Week 3 Pep Talk: The Fall

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by New Hampshire co-ML Angela D’Onofrio and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.12.17. For more information on Angela and her books, please visit her website.  Want to write a novel? Check out NaNoWrimo.

angela donofrioWelcome to Week 3, Wrimos! By now, you’ve let your monsters loose, like Yvette mentioned at the start of Week 2, and I hope they’re running rampant all over the place. (I’ve got a bear in mine – fun times!) But how long and how far do we let them run?

The answer is: as far and as long as they want. It’s NaNo.

Yvette closed her last pep talk by saying that we need to think of this as a first draft, and I’d like to expand on that a little bit, if you’ll indulge me.

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, at this point, you’re probably battling the urge to listen to your inner editor. I know I do, constantly. Around day 8, I had a scene which, from an editorial point of view, could have had a nice neat little button put on it so I could move on. But there was a little more to possibly be had from it: a cameo of another character waiting in the wings, hoping for some time on the page. I decided to give it to him, even though I’ll probably cut it later, depending on how it drags down the flow of the finished story. I used to think this sort of writing was wasteful, cutting into the time I could have been using to write the rest, until I found this quote by Jane Smiley:

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

Take a moment to think about that one with me, Granite State Wrimos. Really roll it over in your head. Let it rest like a steak fresh from the oven and get good and juicy in your brain. All it has to do is exist. You can do whatever you want. Let your characters sit around a fire, in a coffee shop, in the middle of a busy spaceport, wherever, and drink beverages and yammer at each other while you get to know them. Let them tell you things. You can always take what you learn from them and give it better form later. Don’t focus on later. Be present with your story. Be mindful. Focus on letting it exist.

One of our fellow novelists, MITWriterGirl, did me the great favor of introducing me to Rainbow Rowell, and when I’m not writing, I’m devouring Fangirl. At one point, the protagonist is bemoaning the difficulties of writing original stories to her professor…

“When I’m writing my own stuff, it’s like swimming upstream. Or … falling down a cliff and grabbing at branches, trying to invent the branches as I fall.”
“Yes,” the professor said, reaching out and grasping the air in front of Cath, like she was catching a fly. “That’s how it’s supposed to feel.”

Invent the branches as you fall, or put a few here and there to help you slow the descent … but let the fall happen. Eventually you won’t have to think about making the branches. They’ll just show up for you. Your job is just to fall. The draft is your parachute. Just let it exist. It’ll make sure you reach the ground. And if you start to flip out about it a little, if the gravity and the rush of air start to make you dizzy, just look around and notice the other Wrimos falling around you. Reach for someone else’s hand. Fall together for a little while. It might take some drifting to get close enough – I know, New Hampshire’s a weird, rural patch of metaphorical sky – but you can and will find your skydiving tribe if you look for them. We’re all here. We’re all falling together.

And isn’t the rush, that exhilarating shot of adrenaline, the story of the fall, why we all jumped in the first place? Let’s enjoy it while it lasts. It’s just a quick little month, and even when you’re falling … time flies.

Happy noveling,
~ Ang / chartharsis

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NaNoWriMo Week 2 Pep Talk: Foot Holds and Hand Holds

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.6.17. 

A Business Men Climbing a Pile of PapersTo be honest, I’ve never climbed a rock wall or scaled a mountain. But that’s what it feels like so far this NaNoWriMo.  Prior to November 1, I made less progress outlining my novel than I wanted to, which means that I’ve been trying to maintain a pattern of writing/outlining/writing/researching/outlining to keep up with the daily word count. I’m creating small foot holds and hand holds. I imagine this is what it’s like scaling a mountain: my commitment to my project is maybe my safety harness, and I reach up and forward, chip away at the rock face of the unknown and dig just enough to get a handhold. It’s messy, hard work, but then I pull up and move ahead just a little bit more.

But it’s enough.

The point is to keep moving forward. Sometimes something unknown unravels as I’m writing, sometimes something else will reveal itself in my research and I see these tasks as supporting each other.  And when I’m focused on my project, when I’m feeding my creativity, I notice more connections in the novel periphery that is my real life. I allow myself to follow this glimmering shiny thing and see what else it might shake loose in my story.  The other day a friend was describing a family situation that was pretty serious and I have to admit a tiny part of my brain was thinking, “Is there any way I can work that into my NaNo novel…”  While this might seem rude it was a signal that my writing antennae are up, and since for me, a big part of NaNoWriMo is giving myself permission to feed my creativity in the midst of a very busy life, I took this as a good thing.  That part of me is awake.

Also, I’ve started to babble about my book but that’s typical for Week 2. Week 1 started with a hopeful idea and by now we’re all getting to the middle of the story, which some writers call “Bizzarro world” or the flipside of the world our MC started out in, or the middle muddle. Friends will ask how my book is going and instead of starting at the beginning, I just start talking about that current question that I’m mulling over in my head about bizzaro world.  I’ve started babbling in a notebook and write down a lot of questions so I can spare people in my real life, and I think being able to refer back to written questions has been helpful.

I’ve got this Stephen King quote pinned to the top of my MS:

“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”

In Week 1, we’ve met your MC and some other characters; in Week 2, what kind of monsters will they face in their version of bizzaro world?

The remedy for this middle muddle, I think, is to consider what feeling do you want your sarah connor terminatorreader to have after they’ve finished reading your book?  For me, it’s the feeling that’s evoked by an image of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor at the end of Terminator when she’s no longer innocent because she just battled the Terminator and she’s planning for an even bigger battle ahead.  I know my MC goes through *something* to become more…wise? experienced? adult? …to become that image of Sarah Connor…but since I haven’t written that part yet, I remind myself of the image. For some writers, music will do that same – evoking that feeling that you want your novel to produce in your reader, which is why creating playlists can be so helpful.

So hang in there, WriMos!  We can do this and come out on the other side with a bit more knowledge about our story that we had before. Let’s just try to get that idea on paper; think of this as a very messy first draft. The world needs your novel!

Yvette/wilabea94

NH: Municipal Liaison

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Yes, You Have Permission to NaNoWriMo

Around mid-October I start planning for NaNoWriMo.  I’ve been the Municipal Liaison for my region (USA : New Hampshire) for several years, so prepping for NaNoWriMo not only means getting my head around my own project, it also means making notes for my weekly pep talks or lining up guest writers to farm out a pep talk or two, adding events to the regional calendar, ordering participant stickers and getting psyched not only for myself but for the couple hundred WriMos who will also be participating.  As a mom and a manager I come to cheerleading naturally, but it still takes a certain amount of energy.

And then I read something like this.   tl;dr article author and “Author” Alma A. Hromic rants long and hard, poo-pooing NaNoWriMo in the vein of

“I am a writer. I just get terribly, terribly frustrated when something I have devoted my life to is treated in as cavalier a manner as [event creator Chris] Baty seems to be doing. To be a writer is not a right, it’s a privilege. And you cannot buy that privilege by writing “50,000 words of crap” in a month. The price is much, much higher than that.” 

Alma, I have something to say to that.  But I’m going to say this first.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, find out more about this 30 day challenge to write 50K words of a first draft) is growing in popularity, in my opinion at least, I think, because adults are frustrated and burned out and really need some kind of creative outlet.  Think about how often you notice a paint/wine shop, for example.  Or adult dance class.  Our adult craft nights at the library are ridiculously popular.  Community theatre.  Adult voice lessons, music lessons.  My town seems to have a growing abundance of cupcake bakeries. One of the cops I know plays in a hockey league, and one of the men in the finance dept. plays in a local soft pitch league.

Do the cake bosses and professional chefs complain about that local cupcake shop opening next to the insurance adjuster’s office? Do professional athletes rant on about the local amateur leagues?  So back to you Alma, because you seem to so desperately need to be HEARD, here’s my question: how does disparaging aspiring novelists, or at the simplest level, hobbyists who are playing escape from reality for a month, make you a better writer?

I think I’m in a position to ask you that, peer to peer, because I attended an elite arts program in high school (selected for their inaugural year) my junior and senior year, won the NJ State Theatre Festival for “Best Play,” attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program, graduating in 3 1/2 years with a BFA in Playwriting, was produced on off-off Broadway, worked for a theatrical agent for 5 years, was published by Baker’s Plays Boston, have received royalties (not big money by any means)…yes, so la dee da, I was certainly on a trajectory for a successful writing career —

–And then my incredibly self-centered life came to an abrupt halt when I got pregnant. And then we got married. And then we talked about what would be best for our new little family. And then we moved and he went to school and we had two more kids…

Family life is great and I don’t regret any of that, but a creative person can’t pour their creative energy into kids and housework and a job and whatever else. I had no creative tribe. I had other moms and church and work and that was great but…I was frustrated. They didn’t really understand how I processed stuff. I had questions I needed to write about and no time and no community. And then I found NaNoWriMo. Thank God, between NaNoWriMo and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I had permission to write again, to practice self-care and nurture my creative self.

rock_band

Every Tuesday night, my husband’s band comes over and practices in our basement. We counted once, and I think in the years since he’s returned to music, he’s been in 14 or 15 projects. And no, he didn’t study music at a conservatory. He picked up a bass and poked around like every other amateur. Life took him away from that and then he had the opportunity about ten years ago to pick it up again. Observing this side project of his, I’ve discovered there is this whole world, this whole community of musicians – adults – playing in garages and basements and bars, and listen, Alma, some of them aren’t that good, or they don’t play “my” music, but they are having F U N. They’re not playing for me, they’re playing for them. If you play music, you are a musician. If you write, you are a writer. I don’t see the benefit of maybe hyphenating that to amateur-writer, when so many other factors in your life make noise trying to stifle your voice.

When kids figure out how to stand up and take their first steps, we call them toddlers.  They toddle and fall, then get up and take a few more steps, fall again. But the label toddler points them to a positive future accomplishment.  We don’t call them fallers. We cheer their process.

Alma, I believe in a God who is the creator of the universe, who made man in His own image, and therefore, we – men and women – are creators, too. Some of us get to do that for a living, while some of us are called to other good work and are able to create on the side. But none of us should be made to feel inferior because of decisions or circumstances.  We have a divine need to create.

Here’s my last word on this, Alma. There’s an entire list – that grows longer every  year – of WriMos who knocked out a shitty first draft in 30 days. And their circumstances have allowed them to accomplish the dirty business of rewriting. At what point in their process would you validate them? November 5? Or some years later at a book signing? Would you only validate the traditionally published authors and not the self-published authors?  And again, how does that make you a more successful author? Or a more successful human being?

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Register for NH Writers’ Project’s “Writer’s Day: Spring Training,” April 1

Sharing this from NHWP:

annhood“The Writers’ Project’s twenty-ninth annual Writers’ Day extravaganza will run 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH. The keynote will be novelist Ann Hood with children’s author and illustrator Tomie dePaola. The theme of this year’s event is “Spring Training,” so there will be a bit of a baseball flavor … complete with a chance to win a couple of Red Sox tickets.”

The day is filled with a variety of workshops, lunch, networking opportunities and pitch sessions.  Attendees can register in advance on-line (with member and non-member levels) through March 28th, or on the day of the event.

Pricing:

  • NHWP Member registering by Thursday, March 30 – $175.00
    NHWP Member Walk-In on Saturday, April 1 – $195.00
  • Non-member registering by Thursday, March 30 – $230.00 (includes one-year NHWP membership)
    Non-member Walk-In on Saturday, April 1 – $250.00
  • Undergrad and Graduate Students – $125.00 (Limited to thirty students. Bring your school ID!)
  • High School Students – $25.00 (Limit 20. Bring your school ID!)
  • Partner Organization Member (MWPA) – $195.00

 

Follow this link to register or visit their site at http://www.nhwritersproject.org

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