PNSD: Post NaNoWriMo Stress Disorder

For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I broke all my own rules. I let the inner critic sit on my shoulder the whole time I wrote the story. I only plotted the first part of the story, leaving me fumbling as I tried to pants my way through the rest. I kept my social media running in the background, and turned to it whenever writing felt hard (read: every 5 minutes). I looked back on the story, and almost got stuck as I worried about what I’d written. I compared my rough draft to the final draft of my favorite novels.

This year’s NaNoWriMo was a mess. Still, I managed to finish. On Saturday, I had 3,500 words left to go, and I stalled the majority of the day as I did everything but write the story. But around 3 p.m., I finally sat down and began typing, taking a break only for dinner. At 9 p.m., I verified my word count and crossed the finish line with 51,622 words.

I’ve been lucky the past several years of NaNo-ing. Two years ago, I had a blast writing Loving the Wind, a book I hadn’t planned to publish. It was just supposed to be for fun, and I even live-wrote it by sharing my rough draft chapters with readers through Wattpad. That book practically wrote itself. Last year, I wrote Hope at the Crossroads, the sequel to The Road to Hope. I was so inspired by the story, that I immediately wrote the next book of the series in December.

NaNoWriMo has always been my jam, the thing I push on other aspiring novelists as a way to get their book written. I’ve done and won NaNoWriMo for 8 years now, including this one, and it’s what taught me to write fast.

But this year was just hard. I chose to write a book I’d been stalling on writing for years, the sequel to Come Here, Cupcake. My usual genre is Contemporary Fiction. This one is a magical realism novel, but can also be considered a Rom-Com (romantic comedy). I’m more into tear-jerking scenes, this one is a much more lighthearted read. For some reason, it’s easier for me to write about heavier topics than ones just for fun. I can’t tell you how many times I had to scrap what I was writing because the tone was getting too heavy, and this was supposed to be fun.

This was supposed to be fun.

This was anything but fun.

Can I even admit that as an author? Can I tell you this and still hope you’ll read this book when I’m done editing it? Writing was HELL this past month, pure hell. This book was hell. I dreaded writing every day, and I hate that I dreaded it. Aren’t I supposed to come to my writing desk every day, full of inspiration? Aren’t I supposed to be whimsical and filled with light every day I get to write? Let me tell you, I was anything but whimsical. When I didn’t have to leave the house, I wore leggings and a holey tank top, covered with an old, frayed granny robe, my teeth unbrushed and my hair in a messy topknot. I looked as good as my novel, and felt as good, too.

This was the month just after my hometown burned in devastating fires. It was the month after I released Hope at the Crossroads to a lukewarm crowd, my heart not even into it because I was so devastated by the fires. This was the month I’d hoped to knock out my reservations about even writing this book by just ripping off the Band-Aid and going on a 30-day word sprint. It was supposed to be a month of courage and creativity. Instead, it was a month of torture and bad prose.

But now, it’s done. The whole middle section needs to be reworked, contradicting details need to be edited, scenes need to be fleshed out, and at this point, there’s no reason to love the love interest. But I’m not editing until January, maybe later. For now, this novel and I are going to our own separate corners until we can learn to speak nicely to each other. Right now, everything feels too raw.

Right now, I think I’ll sleep for a month.

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Writing process: How to write a novel fast

Crissi vineyardAs I gear up for the release of Hope at the Crossroads (Oct. 24!), I thought I’d take a moment to share about my writing process. I always love reading how other authors crank out their novels, don’t you?

First, I fully admit that I’m not writing any books at the moment. My focus is on college and the Hope series book #2 release, so my main writing is journaling and class essays. However, writing is definitely on the horizon. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner (see more info at the end of this post), and I’m getting ready to start outlining my book project for that month.

In the meantime, here’s a look at what my writing process is like:

Before I’ve even started writing the novel, I have an outline to the story already in front of me, something that lays out every single chapter in as much detail as I can dream up. This outline can change, if the story requires it. But generally, it stays pretty similar. I’ve written books off the cuff, and it can be a truly organic experience. It can also take so much time to do, because there’s plenty of room for writer’s block. I’ve also done it with short outlines. But since I started mapping out each scene and chapter with details, my writing speed has increased a ton. I don’t think it impedes that organic creative flow, as it’s there while I’m writing the outline. Having it all mapped out, I know where I’m going and what it is going to take for me to get there. Then I let my characters fill in the blanks.

Now for my actual schedule. I wake up at 5 a.m. and start the water for a cup of coffee. While it’s heating, I let the dog out to pee, and I do my devotionals. This is my time with God, through both reading and praying. Once I have my coffee and the dog is settled, I finish my devotionals, and then spend about 30 minutes pre-writing. Usually this is just journaling an extension of my prayers or an issue I’m struggling with, or even a character study or scene that I’ll never use in the final draft. Pre-writing is important because it warms up that writing muscle so that when I get to actual novel writing, the first words aren’t those crappy ones we end up deleting anyway.

Then it’s on to the novel. I’ve made it a habit to NEVER GO BACK when I’m writing a book. I do not re-read anything until I’m totally done writing the story, as it will only trip me up. The first draft has a lot of mess to it, and focusing on any of that mess won’t help the forward motion. I do, however, write a paragraph at the end of each writing session to clue me in on where I’m headed. This way, there’s no guesswork. Plus, I have my outline to keep me on track.

My first writing session is about 2 hours, and then I’m off to work for the day. Generally that’s enough time for me to get about 1,500-2,000 words, my goal for the day. I’ll write a little more on my lunch break as well. After work, I often don’t write because I’m busy with family stuff. Plus, my brain stops working in the evening.

When I’m in the middle of a book project, the story is with me constantly, even when I’m not writing. The characters are with me, the scenes, everything. I could drive down the freeway, and I’m stuck in the middle of my world and my character’s world. It’s completely consuming, and I love it. But I can’t stay in that mode forever, because I tend to tune everyone else out. This is why I use seasons for book writing. I devote myself completely to the project, and then detach once it’s done (following the inevitable mourning period after typing The End, of course). I set it down for a month or so, catch up on some sleep, and then pick it back up to re-read and start editing.

And that’s it!

Want to write a novel? Here’s your recipe for success:

  1. Write a details outline of the story, start to finish, laid out scene-by-scene (you may even want to include character studies and scenery. Bonus, some of this can end up in the story!)..
  2. Pick the same time every day to sit down and write. This will strengthen your writing habit, and help your brain settle into writing mode since it’s an expected time to write..
  3. Start with pre-writing. This can be a few paragraphs of what you want to happen next in the story, a character study, or journaling. This is your warmup before you get to the actual story..
  4. WRITE..
  5. Don’t re-read anything, unless it’s just the last few paragraphs to get you reacquainted with the story..
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 every day.

Last year I released Reclaim Your Creative Soul, a book that shares tips and secrets for being the most creative you can be, even when living a full-time life. I included many of my writing tips for writing fast, and ways I’ve used organization to make my writing time the most effective. Trust me, I’m not the most organized person in general. However, I’ve developed a few habits around my writing career that have allowed me to keep writing books, even when I’m also going to college, working full-time, and raising a family.

If you’d like to learn how to find more time in your busy life for writing, you can find it on Amazon here, or visit crissilangwell.com/creative-soul for other retailers.

By the way, right now is the perfect time to start planning your novel. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up in November. That’s only 1 1/2 months away, which is enough time for you to start working on your story outline. Find out more about NaNoWriMo here.

10 gift ideas for book lovers (plus, some exciting news!)

crissiwriter
What I look like when I wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to write. Zzzz…

After 30 days of writing furiously during National Novel Writing Month, I’ve done it. I’ve finished the rough draft of my next novel! Rough, of course, is the operative word. Unlike last year’s novel that just sort of flowed onto the page, this year’s novel has a few rough edges I plan to smooth out in the editing process. But that’s the beauty of writing a rough draft. It’s not about making something beautiful. It’s about creating the bones of a story, and then chipping away at it until the magnificence of the story is revealed.

One thing became clear as I neared the end of writing of this first draft: this story cannot be told in one book. Around day 25, I realized that there was a bigger issue my characters hadn’t realized, and it needed to be addressed. So when I wrote my last word to the first novel on Nov. 29, I took the next day off to plot my course. Then, on Dec. 1, I began writing the sequel.

This means there is some exciting developments for those of you who are fans of The Road to Hope (or are gearing up to read this novel). There will be not one, but TWO books to look forward to reading in the next year that continues Maddie’s story! I plan to release the books close together to ensure there’s no long wait between stories. My goal is to publish by summer of 2017, but really, there’s no set date yet. As soon as I have a date locked in, I will let you know.

In other news, with Christmas coming around, I encourage all of you to put a few books under the tree. Here are 10 gift ideas for book lovers:

Happy start to the holiday season! And happy reading!
loving

Life stops during NaNoWriMo

woman-typing

In the past 17 days, I have discovered that I am not very good at keeping up with the regular parts of my life during NaNoWriMo. It’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve blogged here. My Facebook and Instagram pages are a bit neglected. My house could use a little sprucing. I ran out of towels two days ago because I desperately need to do laundry. My dog keeps looking from me to the door, wondering when I’m going to take him for a walk.The dinners I make my family are of the quick kind (what? leftovers again???). My gym membership is laughing at me….

But, I am almost 30,000 words into my novel, and I love how it’s turning out.

So, I’m giving myself permission to suck at every other part of my life while I wrap this novel up. In December, I can rejoin society. But here in November, I’m lost in my fictional world as I write my characters into a hole and watch them try to get out.

Talk with you soon!

Aloha ʻoe!

pool-area
The pool where we’re staying

Life has been a bit busy this week, which is why I’ve been a bit quiet for the past few days. I’ve been working on a research paper that took up most of my time, giving me a glimpse of what it will be like to write for NaNoWriMo and do well in school at the same time. As NaNo gets closer, I am working on building up grace for myself. I hate to project a loss this year, but I am. This will be my first year since I started that I won’t write 50,000 words in a month. However, I will start my novel in November, so that’s exciting!

view
The view from our room!

At any rate, my research paper isn’t actually due until Nov. 2. However, tomorrow we leave for Kauai!!!! I did not want to stress over this paper while on vacation, so I put my nose to the grindstone and worked it out here. There may still be a few tweaks needed for the intro, but other than that, it’s DONE. This is somewhat of a miracle since I have Kauai on the brain. Even now, I keep interrupting my blog writing to check out things near where I’m staying (Princeville, btw, if you have any suggestions!).

A few things I want you all to know:

  1. My husband wrote a book! After 3 years of hard work and digging deep, he has finally finished his memoir, Beyond Recovery. The book tells about life before and after his father left his family, his struggle with alcohol addiction, his journey into recovery, and what life looks like after giving up alcohol. I loved being one of his first readers as his editor, book formatter, and cover designer. The book will be available Nov. 11. Follow him at shawnlangwell.com.
  2. One of my friends just got back from Mexico, and he took Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan with him so he could finish it. He told me he couldn’t put it down, which is music to an author’s ears! I’m telling you this because I will be having a special sale on the Kindle version at the end of this week, and I don’t want any of you to miss it! Please sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss out. If you have read it, I’d be so appreciative if you’d leave a review!
  3. While I’m in Kauai, I’ll be working on the outline for the next book after The Road to Hope. I am itching to work on this novel! It’s been a whole year since I’ve written any kind of book. I really needed the break to just recollect myself (and to also recover from the awesome experience of writing Loving the Wind). But now I’m ready to get back into the game.

That is all! The next time we talk, I’ll be in Hawaii! Aloha!

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

nanowrimoEvery November, hundreds of thousands of writers commit to a month of solitude for a national (even worldwide) phenomenon known as National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. The goal is to have a 50,000-word story at the end of 30 days.

I have taken part in NaNoWriMo since 2010, and it’s a big reason why I am now a published author. I don’t think I would have had the stamina to finish writing a novel if I hadn’t been writing alongside (virtually) all the other crazy writers taking part in this insanity. Now, 4 of these NaNo books are published, and my writing process has been affected by this fast-paced way of penning a novel. In fact, much of what I learned through NaNoWriMo has been applied to the tips I offer in Reclaim Your Creative Soul, my guide to creating more time in the day for your craft.

I often hear from other people, I wish I could write a book. Or they’ll say, I wish I had the time to write. Or, I’ve always wanted to write a book, maybe someday.

Someday is this year, this November. I encourage you to try writing a 50,000-word story during NaNoWriMo (it’s only 1,667 words a day). Aim to finish, of course, but even if you don’t, you’ll have started that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Here are 3 tips to get you on your way.

  1. Start plotting NOW. I know there are writers out there that swear by “pantsing” (writing a story by the seat of your pants with no plan whatsoever). But if you are just starting out as a writer, plotting is the way to go. You can’t just go in with a good idea and wait for the magic to happen. You need to make a plan on how that good idea is going to work, who will be the characters that will fall victim to this good idea, and what the repercussions of this good idea will be. My suggestion is to jot out a simple story plan, start to finish. Then, dig a little deeper and create outlines for each chapter. Trust me, when you’re faced with needing to write 1,667 words every single day, it’s a lot easier to write from a plan than to battle chronic writer’s block.
  1. Make writing a priority. The best way to do this is to set the same time every day for writing. I like to wake up extra early and take two hours for writing. If you’re a night person, you may find inspiration hits after everyone has gone to bed. Whatever time you like for writing, make that time sacred. No TV. No cellphone. No Facebook. No family. Just you and your story, making things happen.
  1. Don’t give up! There will be days when the writing is crap. Let it be crap. There will be days when you’re tired of writing. Write anyway. There will be days when you wonder about your sanity. Embrace your craziness. There will be days you miss going out with friends or kicking back with your favorite TV show. They will be there in December. If you keep writing, you will have written a novel by the end of the month. That’s a major accomplishment, and a serious bucket list item. But if you throw in the towel before the month is over, you’ll only have regrets. Keep plugging away. Trust me, your whole world will be changed once Dec. 1 is here.

Ready to start planning your novel? Start with signing up at NaNoWriMo.org. Then find me and add me as your buddy.

P.S. Want more tips? Read my list of 11 tips to “winning” NaNoWriMo.

If you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, what would you add to this list?

Big book news!

secret

If you’re on my mailing list, you’ve already been alerted that I have some big book news to divulge today (and if you’re not on my mailing list, why not?!? Sign up here, you get a free book!). Are you ready?

….

..

.

There’s going to be a sequel to The Road to Hope! In fact, there isn’t just going to be a sequel, there’s going to be a series. And I can’t wait for you to read what’s going to happen for Maddie and Jill, and everyone else in their lives.

Now here’s the thing—you’re going to have to be patient. After 3 years of churning out books in a hurry, I’m slowing down my pace. Now that I’m back in school, and the rest of my life hasn’t slowed down much, my writing process is evolving a bit. My goal is to write the next book during NaNoWriMo in November. But because I don’t know how time consuming college and finals will be that month, I’ll be satisfied if November is just a jumping off point in starting to write for the series, and then finishing it during winter break.

So that’s my big news!

Have you read The Road to Hope? If so, what are you hoping will happen next in the story? If not, here’s where you can grab a copy.

5 favorite things about autumn

It’s fall, y’all! I love this season so much. As I wait for the Indian Summer to make way for more autumn appropriate weather, here are 5 of my favorite things about this season. What are yours? Leave them in the comments. ❤

  1. vineyard-kent
    Photo taken by Kent Sorensen.

    The changing leaves. In Northern California, we don’t go through the drastic fall colors that places like the midwest experience. However, we do get some glorious color changes of our own. My favorite is when the vineyards turn from green to gold. It hasn’t happened here yet, but any week now we’ll be seeing golden hillsides of vines. (The photo to the right is of a vineyard in Santa Rosa, taken by Kent Sorensen. I used it for the cover of The Road to Hope).

  2. fireplaceA burning fire in the fireplace. If I could, I’d use the fireplace every night, all year long. Of course, our weather on the North Coast is pretty warm most of the year. But once the cold weather comes, our fireplace is roaring and I’m sitting right in front of it. The only time we don’t have a fire is when we’re going through a Spare the Air Day (thanks, drought), or we’re experiencing a warm November night.
  3. My birthday! Now, my birthday is in December, but it’s on the 7th which is technically still autumn.
  4. 1-NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo! November is National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve participated and one for the past 6 years. Now I’m eagerly anticipating year 7. Now that I’ve started school and I still work full-time, I’m trying to figure out how I can also write a novel at the same time. But I already have a plan in place (a sequel novel to The Road to Hope!), and I’m really excited to start writing it.
  5. soupSoup weather! I eat soup all year long, but I especially love it in the fall. Soup is the perfect meal, because you can make it out of pretty much anything. My favorites are pureed soup. I make a pretty mean Carrot Sweet Potato Soup, and my kids love when I make my Detox Veggie Soup (filled with so many vegetables!). Add some sausage or chicken (or don’t), and you’ve got a complete meal. (here’s my go-to recipe)

Things I don’t love: pumpkin everything – especially Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good pumpkin soup or pumpkin curry now and then. But I’m just not obsessed. And don’t get me started on PSLs. They’re just too sweet to drink. But then again, I’m a black coffee girl.

The book that almost never was

TigerLily tease2

I’m about to tell you about the book that almost never was. Every year I write a book for National Novel Writing Month in November. This last year, however, I was stumped. I had just written Reclaim Your Creative Soul, and that book took a lot of energy out of me. I figured I would just skip it this year. But at the eleventh hour before the eleventh month, an idea came to me—why not just have fun with it this year? I know, a novel idea for a novel.

And so, I did. Having always been a fan of Peter Pan and Neverland, I began exploring the idea of writing about a character that only got a bit role in the original story: Tiger Lily. I began to develop who she was, where she came from, the values of her people, and her likes and dislikes. Just like Peter Pan is a coming of age story, Tiger Lily’s story was much the same. She became a princess held captive by rules she didn’t appreciate, and with hopes and desires that didn’t fit the mold of her people.

Throw in some pirates, a few Never beasts, the Lost Boys, and Peter Pan, and I suddenly had a story.

To up the ante, I not only wrote the story, I LIVE wrote it. Many of you followed along as I posted each chapter to Wattpad, allowing you to see the inside process of what it’s like for a novel to be written beginning to ending. While it was just a rough draft, I was pleased with how things worked out as I wrote. Many of you expressed interest as well, anxiously waiting for me to post the next chapter.

The story was never supposed to be published. It was just something to amuse myself and a few fans, and nothing more. However, the more I wrote, the more I realized that the story was taking on a life of its own. It was more than just an amusing tale, it was a story that needed to be told.

This story became Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, and it just published this morning!

For the next few days, I am keeping the Kindle version of this book at 99 cents so that there are no barriers for you to buy this book. This is my gift to you for sticking alongside me, cheering me on, and anticipating this very moment. Please don’t delay in buying this book now, as the price goes back up after the weekend.

Furthermore, I have a few contests on my Facebook page if you’d like a chance to win the print version of this book. Just look up #LTWgiveaways and you’ll find a bunch of contests that are going until Sunday.

Thank you for all your support, and happy reading!

Love,
Crissi

Loving the Wind LIVE on Wattpad, and other book news

Dear Friends,

FINAL pirate ship cover test3On Nov. 1, I embarked on a new NaNoWriMo journey with Princess Tiger Lily of the Miakoda tribe, Captain Hook, Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys and all the pixies of Neverland. I began with a story I knew I could have fun with, and I wasn’t even worried about whether it would be published or not. In fact, I thought it would be a miracle if I even finished the month with 50,000 words, as November was a really busy month for me outside of writing. Not only did I make my goal, but I came up with a story I am more than proud of – one that still lives on inside of me, even after I finished writing the whole thing weeks ago.

One of the things that made this book so much fun was my choice to share the story as I wrote it. I decided to post each chapter on Wattpad so that anyone who was curious about my writing process or interested in the story could read as I wrote. This choice proved to be difficult at times, and I admit I almost threw in the towel on sharing it in several instances when writing felt difficult. But in the end, I’m glad I kept up with it.

Today, I posted Chapter 20, the final chapter to this Peter Pan and Tiger Lily fan fiction. With Chapter 20, I included the prelim version of the cover I plan to use with this book. It’s the same cover you see above. This cover isn’t finalized, however, and I welcome all feedback (good or bad!) before I set this in stone.

If you’ve been waiting for every chapter to be posted on Wattpad before reading, now is your chance to read along. You can do this by clicking here.

So, what’s next? Well, I still need to go through this story and clean it up before sending it off to the editor. But before I do that, I have a different book I’m wrapping up and will be publishing in early 2016. The working title is Reclaiming Your Creative Soul: The secrets to ordering your full-time life to make room for your craft. I’ve had so many people ask me about how I make time for writing when I have a full-time job, volunteer, and raise a family, that I decided to write a book on how I’ve organized my life in such a way that I can devote so much time to writing and still manage everything else. In the book, I offer tips on finances and budgeting, meal preparation, home organization, quiet time and more -including tips on making creativity easier to come by. This book is a love letter to anyone who has ever wanted to accomplish big things, but isn’t sure how to make room for those things in an already busy life.

At that, I want to thank each and every one of you for your support over the years. Thank you for sticking by me, and for reading my books. There’s so much more to come in 2016, and I’m so excited that you get to share it with me!

Love,
Crissi Langwell

P.S. Come Here, Cupcake is now available in the Amazon Prime Lending Library! If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow this book and read it for free (The Road to Hope is also available in the Lending Library).

To see all my books and where you can find a copy, visit crissilangwell.com/books.