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.

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?

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

NaNoWriMo LIVE: What it’s like to write the story

My favorite part of being an author is when I am actually creating the story, immersed in a whole different world than the one I am living in. As I’m writing, my characters are all around me. The scene takes over the room. Their emotions become my emotions, and their drama becomes my drama.

When I’m not writing, I am thinking about my characters and their stories. They become like real people to me, almost like they are friends. I can be at my day job, going out for the evening, making dinner, or walking the dog, and the story I’m writing is right there with me. If you’re around me during the days I am writing a novel, just know that I am more than likely thinking about the novel. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Thing is, while I’m writing the novel, this is when I am the most amped up about the story. It’s when those little moments of magic happen, when certain situations present themselves, or surprises pop up that I wasn’t even expecting. Problem is, I have no one to share these moments with. And sometimes, I miss that. I’ll be writing along, and all of a sudden, a moment arises that just falls onto the page, and I want to turn to everyone around me and say, “Did you see what just happened???”

But I can’t, because the rough draft of a story is a very private moment between a novel and its author. So I just keep writing, anxious for the day when I can finally reveal the finished story to the public.

Not this time, however. Live posting my NaNoWriMo novel has been both freaky and exciting. I am revealing all of my grammatical errors, story holes, bad ideas, and moments of poor writing. But I am also revealing the magic of the story as it unfolds, offering it up chapter by chapter, and sharing the excitement of the story as it is written.

As of right now, I have finished writing the setup chapters of the story, and I’m heading into the midsection, when so many different things can happen. While the story is mapped out in its entirety, I’m still coming across plenty of unplanned moments that could potentially steer the story in a new direction, or shape the path that it’s already on. This is when the story writing process is at its most precarious. In past years, I’ve been known to write these midsection chapters only to toss them for different versions. By live posting, I am revealing chapters that may or may not make the final cut.

This is totally what it feels like to walk around in my underwear.

Nevertheless, it’s been incredibly motivating to share the story with readers as I write. Each time I share a new chapter, I receive texts from family and messages from fans to hurry up with the next chapter. It’s almost like I’m writing my first book all over again. This experience has made novel writing brand new, and I can’t wait to add to the story each day!

I’ve created a page for this story here on my blog, which I will update regularly as I add chapters. You can access that at crissilangwell.com/tigerlily.

You can also go direction to Wattpad at w.tt/1Ql8r3N.

Here is what has been posted so far:

Chapter 4 will be published sometime this weekend.

And, of course, if you want to be notified every time I post a new chapter, you can join my mailing list by clicking here. You get a free book from me when you do. 🙂

If you’re reading along, let me know what you think! I thrive from your feedback!

NaNoWriMo 2015: Chapter 1 is live! 

I have finished the Prologue and Chapter 1 of my NaNoWriMo novel, and they are now live at Wattpad! For those of you who love Peter Pan fan fiction and would like to follow along, go to http://w.tt/1KVHVXD.

Click on Table of Contents, and start with the Prologue. When you’re done, continue reading Chapter 1.

I look forward to hearing what you think!

NaNoWriMo LIVE: Posting chapter by chapter

Day 1 down, 29 more to go. This morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m., thanks to daylight savings. Honestly, I was counting on that early wake up time to get in some serious writing before heading off to church. So imagine my disappointment when my husband wakes up two hours later and I had a whopping 600 words written.

Ugh. Is this how NaNoWriMo is going to be all month?

Thankfully, the slogging only lasted for those mere two hours. Once I got through the dreaded opening paragraphs, the story took off. My daily word count today is 4,018, and I am really loving where this story is going.

LOVING THE WINDAnd that’s a good thing, because I have some news for you. I will be sharing this story LIVE, posting the story chapter by chapter as soon as I finish each one. Chapter 1 should be finished by tomorrow, and I will be sharing it on Wattpad.  If you want to be updated every time I add to the story, you have the option of subscribing to this story on Wattpad.

*Note: If you tried to access this earlier, the link has been updated.

Of course, an easier way to keep up to date with this story is to subscribe to my newsletter. I plan on updating people on my list every time I add to this story. It’s a good idea to join my mailing list, anyway, as it’s how you can be kept in the know about new releases, exciting news, and whenever I have a cool promo or giveaway to share.

In other news, the competition for NaNoWriMo is fierce in my house. My husband just started his own book today for NaNoWriMo, and is totally beating my personal word count by at least 800 words. He’s about to see the ugly side of his wife as I show him just how competitive I really can be.

And yes, it totally is a race to the finish. But a fun one. 🙂

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How did today go?

Being chased by a novel (NaNoWriMo prep)

Earlier this week, I had the extreme honor of chatting with a 4th grade class in Virginia (via Google Hangout from California) to discuss NaNoWriMo, and how they could write a novel in 30 days. The class will be trying their hand at this challenge, with an appropriate word goal for 9-year-olds, and had so many great questions about the experience, and about my own creative process.

One boy asked me, “Do you ever doubt yourself?”

“All the time,” I told him honestly.

And it’s more than the truth. At the time that we talked (it was Tuesday), I had 5 days left to figure out what I was going to be writing for NaNoWriMo, and nothing was coming to me. Usually by this time, I have my whole entire novel mapped out, and have been carrying on personal conversations with my characters. This year, my original plan was to write the sequel to Come Here, Cupcake. But last week, I chose to save that novel for a time when I can be more diligent and give it the detailed attention it deserves. I decided to, instead, write a novel that was more fun and carefree, not even worrying about whether I would publish it or not.

Problem was, nothing was coming to me.

Do you ever doubt yourself_So when that student asked me if I ever doubted myself, I couldn’t have been more honest by saying yes. I was currently doubting myself. I was starting to think I would never come up with a novel idea, and that I would enter NaNoWriMo on Nov. 1 already a loser.

And then, later that day, my novel idea barreled at me, tackled me, and wrapped itself around me so tight, I could barely breathe from excitement.

In her Ted talk, Elizabeth Gilbert relayed a conversation she had held with the late American poet, Ruth Stone. Ruth described how there were times when she’d be working the fields (ironically, in Virginia, where the students I talked to live!), and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. She would actually feel the earth shake, and she knew she needed to get to a pen and a piece of paper as fast as she could before the poem thundered through her. She would, in her words, “run like hell” toward the house, the poem at her heels as she ran. Often, she’d make it, and was able to collect the words as they moved through her and write them on the page. But other times, the poem would barrel through her before she got to the paper, and then would continue over the landscape, looking for another poet. And sometimes, she would almost miss it, and feel it go through her just before she got to the paper, and at the very last second, she’d grab the pencil with one hand and the end of the poem with the other. She would then pull the poem back through her, transcribing as she did, so that the poem would be written from ending to beginning, completely backwards on the paper.

When I first heard this Ted talk, I thought it was utterly amazing. I also thought how poetic it sounded, but not very realistic. I mean, really?  A poem chased you?

But on Tuesday, it happened. My next novel chased me as I drove into work that day. I felt it thunder down the hillside, and the air around me shake. And I was suddenly consumed with it, with no paper or pencil around to write it down. Ideas kept pouring through me, and I begged them to stay with me until I could get to my desk and write them all down. I tried to memorize each thought and idea, trying to retain everything. And while a few fragments dissipated on the walk from my car to the office, the majority of them stayed so that I could capture each lingering thought and place it on paper.

Since Tuesday, the ideas keep coming, thundering over the hillside and barreling through me. And I keep doing my part and writing them down. My notes are a mess of ideas. My soul is consumed with this new story. And last night, I finished mapping out the entire book.

I am now ready for Nov. 1.

What time is it? NaNoWriMo time! Can you tell I’m kind of a Peter Pan fanatic?

Because we’re all friends, I’ll reveal what I’m writing here. I’ve decided to write fan fiction by retelling part of the story of Peter Pan from the eyes of Tiger Lily. Like all great literature, this has been done by a couple other authors. But I’m not worried about that. Like I said, this novel is for fun, and may never be published. Or maybe it will. For now, that’s not a decision I care about. I’m only concerned with enjoying the next 30 days as I fine tune my writing muscle with a piece of writing I couldn’t be more excited about writing.

To prepare, I’m re-reading Peter and Wendy, which has been a completely enjoyable experience. Man, I love this story! Of course, the parts about the Indians show a different sign of the times, so a few details will be changed (like the way they speak, and the name of their tribe).

During the next month, I will try to blog about my writing process as much as I can. I will be spending a lot of time writing my novel, you know. I’m also considering sharing the novel publicly as I write. The jury is still out on that one, however, as rough drafts are often terrible things. But wouldn’t it be fun to see the process of a novel as it’s being written?

Are you doing NaNo? Share what you’re writing in the comments!

P.S. Be my NaNo buddy at nanowrimo.org/participants/crissi.

11 tips to “winning” NaNoWriMo

1-NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo is coming up! All right, it’s technically coming up in November. However, it’s never too early to start thinking about NaNoWriMo, it’s only too early to start writing for NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

From the website: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

Here’s a little history on how National Novel Writing Month began.

NaNoWriMo was founded by Chris Baty in July 1999 in the San Francisco Bay Area, with only 21 participants. The goal of 50,000 words was set after Baty grabbed the shortest novel on his bookshelf (Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley) and did a rough word count. Only 6 of those 21 participants completed the challenge. But doing NaNo in July proved too difficult due to the gorgeous weather outside. So after 1999, NaNo was changed to November to take advantage of the miserable weather.

More stats:
The first official year of NaNoWriMo was in 2000, when the event had an actual website.
By 2001, 5000 people signed up.
In 2014, 175,002 people signed up, and 40,325 crossed the finish line with 50K.

So why was 50,000 words the magic number? This seemed like a difficult, yet not impossible amount of words, and the length makes it a short novel, about 175 pages.

Other novels that are 50K:
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks

Several bestselling novels that were first written during NaNoWriMo:
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Wool, by Hugh Howey
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

11 Tips to WIN NaNoWriMo

(Disclaimer: Winning NaNoWriMo basically means you have written 50,000 words or more before the deadline on November 30. Biggest prize is being able to call yourself a novelist. And the sponsors will kick in a few discounts and freebies to those who cross the finish line. But there is no competition here. The novel doesn’t even need to be good. Anyone can “win” just by writing 50,000 words.)

1. Plotting is better than pantsing.

This is controversial, as there are many pantsers out there who are probably reading this and ready to click away. But hear me out. First of all, let me explain what plotters and pantsers are. Plotters are the people who come up with a plan, any plan, before sitting down to type. Pantsers are the people who sit down on Nov. 1 with no plan at all, or maybe just an idea of what to write, but nothing else. They plot as they type.

Here’s my argument for plotting. Sitting down with your computer or notebook on Nov. 1, things are going to go much smoother if you have a plan. You can start with anything from a rough idea to a detailed play-by-play outline. Things may change along the way, and you can adjust your outline to reflect that. But things will go much smoother if you start out with a plan than it will if you start out staring at a blank page.

2. Kiss your family goodbye.

Not really. But do let those close to you know what’s going to be happening over the next month. Not only will it help you to be held accountable to your lofty goal, but it will also warn them that you are going to be less available this month than you are in other months. Skip all the socializing you can get out of, plan for easy dinners (or take out!) for the month, understand that the housework might go to the wayside (or get your family to help out), give the kids away (kidding!), don’t sign on for anything extra, fill up your DVR with all the shows you won’t be watching…. Make writing a priority. It’s just for a month. On Dec. 1, your family can have you back.

3. Set a daily writing goal.

NaNo’s goal is 1,667 words a day. I always set mine to an even 2,000. This way, I’m always ahead, even on days when the words aren’t coming. And on days when I have a lot more time to write, I will strive to double that amount—because, let’s face it, life happens, and there might be some days when writing isn’t so easy.

4. Set your writing time at the same time every day.

This time should be when you’re at you’re most creative. For me, that’s 5-7 a.m. before I need to start getting ready for my paying job. It also allows me to get my writing done first thing so I don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day, or I know how much I need to make up if I don’t finish my goal. I will also use my lunch breaks and the evenings if I need to. However, the early mornings are when my writing muscle knows it’s time to get down to business. If you sit down at the same time each day, your body will soon realize this is when it’s time to be creative.

5. Avoid all distractions!

Another benefit of having a set time when you are writing is that you can make this time sacred. No one should be allowed to bother you (unless there’s an emergency – and not the “we’re out of milk” emergency, but “the house is on fire” kind). Anything that might tempt your attention, like your phone, TV, or internet, should be turned off and out of your reach. Best place for you is behind a closed, locked door. Even better, go write somewhere away from home, where no one even knows you.

6. Connect on the NaNoWriMo forums.

This tip is being given with caution. The NaNo forums can be a major distraction, especially at times when you should be writing and Writer’s Block is looming. During your writing times, stay FAR AWAY from the NaNo forums. But in off times, peruse the forums for a subject that calls for you. A good place to start is the one for your home county. For most of us, that’s Sonoma County. Here you will find a bunch of people who understand the craziness of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, because they’re doing it, too. You’ll make new friends and connections here, and even learn about some of the write-ins going on around the county.

7. Attend a write-in.

Write-ins are NaNo meetups, usually at coffee shops or bookstores, where everyone hangs out, glued to their computer screen. It’s awesome! For one, it’s nice to put faces to the people you’ve been chatting with on the NaNo boards. And two, it’s powerfully motivating to be surrounded by the clacking of keys. For the most part, people at write-ins are writing under the same rules you are—no talking to the other writers, and utilize the time for actual writing. My one piece of advice is to try and buy something when you’re using a food or drink place as your write-in location. This will ease the stare downs from the wait staff when you tie up their tables for hours on end.

8. Don’t look back. EVER.

Once you’ve written something, leave it. Don’t re-read it. Don’t edit. Just let it be. If you think of something you want to change, make a note so you won’t forget when you edit in December (or whatever month you edit after November). But just keep moving forward.

9. End in the middle of a senten…

Never end your writing session at the end of a scene or chapter. Instead, leave a little bit left of the scene (even a sentence!) and write a note about where you’re heading. That way when you sit back down to start writing again, you can warm up that writing muscle with a part of the story you’re familiar with. By the time you’re ready to move on to the next scene, you’ll be moving full speed ahead.

10. Don’t give up.

The first week of writing is always the best. You’re going, you love the story. Things just keep happening. Then the second week comes, and the story you’re writing just sucks. Nothing’s going right. You hate your characters. You’re pretty sure they hate you.
Don’t give up.
You’re going to have slushy days, when the words are just not coming easily. I’ve found that if I just get my characters to talk with each other, they usually come up with the next scene on their own. If that doesn’t work, throw a scene-changing wrench in the story. Have ninjas swoop in and steal the main character’s love interest. Create a pink elephant that charges through the storyline. Drop a steep cliff on the path they’re headed on. Give them something to struggle about. Do whatever it takes to get you through your daily word count to ensure you don’t fall behind.

My crazy dog, Jasper. Isn't he adorable????
My crazy dog, Jasper. Isn’t he adorable????

11. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

What you’re writing could be totally awesome. It can also be total crap. Who cares? You’re developing your writing muscle. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing until you get to the editing stage. For now, just have fun with it, and know that in 30 days, you’ll be able to say you’ve written a novel.

Wrap up:

1. Plot your story.
2. Kiss your family goodbye.
3. Set a daily writing goal (1667 minimum!)
4. Write every day at the same time.
5. Avoid all distractions.
6. Connect on the NaNo forums.
7. Attend a write-in.
8. Don’t look back. EVER.
9. End in the middle of a senten….
10. Don’t give up.
11. Remember, this is supposed to be fun.

Sign up for NaNoWriMo at nanowrimo.org.

It’s free! And it’s fun! And you come away with your very own novel!

Find me and be my buddy at nanowrimo.org/participants/crissi.

FAQs

1. When can you sign up?
You can sign up anytime, but you won’t be able to update your novel until sometime in October. They should send out an email.

2. Can I work on a longer novel?
It’s encouraged that you focus on once novel during this month with a set beginning on Nov. 1, and a set end by Nov. 30. But this is only to give you the satisfaction of writing an entire novel in 30 days. Other than that, there are no hard and fast rules.

3. What if I start late?
You still need to come up with 50,000 words by the end of November, so just set your word count a little higher each day to make it to that number.

4. Can I finish early?
Yes!

5. What if it takes me 31 days?
You’re still awesome in my book, but you won’t win NaNoWriMo. Still, good for you for writing a novel!

6. What if I write 50,000 words, but I still haven’t reached the end of the story by Nov. 30?
You’ve still technically won! However, we should all strive to reach the end of the story by Nov. 30. The point of NaNoWriMo is to get you a complete first draft of a novel by Nov. 30. It will make Dec. 1 that much more satisfying. However, if the story still isn’t done by Nov. 30, just keep going at the same pace until it is finished. You don’t want to lose momentum before the story is done being told!

Have your own tips? Have questions? Leave them in the comments!

Crissi Langwell has participated and “won” NaNoWriMo every year since 2010. Three of her four fiction novels started out as NaNoWriMo novels, including her latest release, Come Here, Cupcake. See all of her books at crissilangwell.com/books.

Event: How to write a novel in 30 days

I almost forgot to mention that this Sunday (Sept. 13) I will be the featured speaker at the Redwood Writers meeting to discuss NaNoWriMo, and my tips on reaching the finish line of 50,000 words. For those of you who know me, you know that I HATE public speaking of any kind. However, this topic is such a huge deal for me because it’s how I got my start as a novelist, and it’s helped me to improve the speed of my writing process and crank out books at a faster speed than I ever thought possible. Because I’m so passionate about NaNoWriMo, and because I have real tips to offer other people who want to learn to write fast, I’m actually really excited to give this talk on Sunday! Yes, I’m also a little nervous. But I’m more excited than nervous.

If you’re in the Santa Rosa area on Sept. 13 at 2:30 (note, the meeting will be in the COURTYARD rooms, not the Empire room as the flyer suggests) and would like to learn how to write a novel in 30 days, head on over to the Flamingo Resort and join me! More information at redwoodwriters.org, and on the flyer below.