It was the Week after NaNoWriMo…

And not a word was written.

Or, not a lot anyway.

For someone who had hit 50K words in the first 9 days of NaNo, I found myself at a distinct loss for words. The honest truth was that I’ve drained myself a little bit. Writing takes so much energy that blasting out 140K words in 30 days seemed to have taken most of my reserves. I had anticipated this luckily and hadn’t set out a lot of writing projects for December. I had finished my largest one just before NaNoWriMo and the rest… Well. They could wait for the New Year.

What I’m experiencing isn’t actually all that uncommon. A lot of NaNoWriMo writers don’t indulge in their creative juices again for a full year until the next NaNoWriMo. Projects are abandoned half way, the dreams of becoming a published author sliced with the reality of every day routine. Worlds are left as they were, sometimes never visited again.

I find the latter incredibly sad but not as sad as those writers who abandon their keyboards and stories. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gives you the ‘oomph’ that you need to start your ‘One Day’ project. The problem with NaNoWriMo is a lot of times it leaves you in the middle of it and because you drained away most of your writing energy in the past 30 days, you can’t make yourself go back to it.

The truth is that although writing is a great hobby, it’s also like work sometimes. It’s certainly become a little bit like work for me, even though I really enjoy it.

And, it’s a discipline, a routine that you need to establish.

To try and get over the NaNoWriMo Blues, I have a few suggestions that I would like you to try out, if you feel that you want to continue writing but can’t make yourself start.

  1. Give yourself time to relax. Make it a set time like 14 days, or 31 days (the whole of December). If you’ve set down a time, stick to it. Turn on your computer directly the day after. If you post pone, you’ll be doing it your whole life.
  2. Set yourself a goal. Don’t make it a ridiculous one – make it easy and achievable. Remember, this is not NaNoWriMo anymore, it’s about your own personal time and your own personal goals. Mine is 7000 words a week which equates to 1000 for every day of the week or 1400 per day if I don’t count weekends (which I don’t write in a lot to give myself a break).
  3. Keep track of your goal. Set up an excel spreadsheet and enter the amount in every day. You laugh? It works! There’s nothing more motivational than seeing what you need and what you have. Some days you can sit back, open a proverbial (or physical!) bottle of red wine and go: I did good. Other times you can brew a cup of coffee and type out that extra couple of lines that you need.
  4. Find a writing buddy. Share your goals and your triumphs. Give each other reports. It helps having someone checking up on you every now and again. Humans are strange like that because we don’t like it if others see our failure. 😉
  5. If you can – join a writer’s group or a writing workshop. An author I know called it ‘author group therapy’. We need people like ourselves to keep encouraging us. No offense to you non writers reading this, but you just don’t always understand. We need that understanding sometimes.
  6. Don’t give up. Ever. Keep on writing, keep on trying, keep on setting goals for yourself. It will pay off in the end.

A good friend of mine, Aheila (who you can find in my links page) did just this. She set up a goal for herself and she’s stuck with it through thick and thin. She’s not published her first short story and I believe that she’s well on her way to becoming a published author. She’s shown me that it can be done, and I would like to hold her up as an example to all of you.

Go to her blog, see what’s she’s done.

Remember that, although writing is patient, some stories aren’t and when you have an idea you need to put it down into paper now.

Otherwise you’ll lose it, and that would be tragic. Like the mass murder of dozens of characters that the world will never know. So, please – continue on writing. If you have the NaNoWriMO Blues – sulk, but then step out of it.

There’s still a whole world out there for you. 😉


Alyss’s NaNoWriMo Tip 3: BACK UP!

This should’ve been tip number one, reinforced with tip number two and spelled out in detail with tip number three.

Back up your work.

It happens during every NaNoWriMo that some writers somewhere lose their precious word counts by either forgetting to save, by losing their USB disks or by faulty computers and freak thunderstorms that can destroying a hard drive in one single flash. For those of us who work on computers, it is wise to remember that we are at their mercy.

The sad thing about backupping is that we all know we should do it (myself included) but for some lazy, procrastinating reason we never do. We like to think that we will be spared, that we will miss this evil curse of every anxious writer but we are wrong.

It will happen to us. Not today maybe, or tomorrow or even for the whole of November. But, one day, when you least expect it, you will find that you have lost all your information through any of the above mentioned reasons (or different ones, you never know how creative Murphy’s Law) can be. And then, you find yourself swimming in the pool of regret, telling yourself over and over and over again that you should’ve backed up your work.

So, go now and back up. Save a second copy of your precious manuscript. Put it in at least two safe locations. Flash drives aren’t that expensive anymore. It’s quite affordable to have two of them. I have two, one which I use for my general work and the other which I use solely for backuping. It puts my mind at ease (even though I don’t nearly do it as much as I should). I also put my work on my computer hard drive (though not so much as I feel that that encourages the beast to crash). But, I always make sure that I have at least two or three copies available of what I’m working on. Another good idea, (although I don’t use it myself) is to email your work back to yourself at the end of the day. That way it’s in your inbox, safe on the world wide web (for every pirate and his mate to read, lol) which should save you from that fateful (and terribly unlucky) day where every single space where your work is kept is destroyed.

They cannot kill the internet.

Good luck with your writing guys, and don’t take this advice lightly. Not today.

Your work and word count is too important to keep at this stage. 😉

Good luck, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Alyss (who is following her own advice right about… now).

Alyss’s NaNoWriMo Tip 2: Go at your own pace.

Yesterday I spoke about finding your pace and sticking to it, and today I would like to elaborate on that idea. We’ve had a crazy amount of wild stats in my country this year. Port Elizabeth Region is currently sitting at number one with it’s average number of words per person, my region’s at number 6. We’ve had a whole bunch of people shoot out from the rest, putting up word counts three/four times more than they should have (yours truly shamefully included). Its impressive, and it can be intimidating.

I’ve noticed that some of the people have been comparing themselves to these over achievers and feeling terribly inadequate about their (on target) word counts that they have been posting. I would like to tell you now that there’s no need for that.

Like I’ve said before, we all have our own pace. Some of us can comfortably write 10k words a day where as others are comfortable to push for 1700 words per say. The thing is that we all have different experience and different skills My saving grace for instance is that I can type very quickly with all ten fingers. Some people write by hand, and that takes a very long time. Naturally, I’m going to be able to go quicker than the person writing his/her book in ink. It makes my effort no more greater than theirs and my word count no more superior. What’s more, some of us (like myself) write whether it’s NaNoWriMo or not. It makes us more comfortable with writing and juggling our characters where as those who do this only once a year needs a little bit more practice and rhythm to get back into the swing of things.

The thing is that (biggest cliché in the world to be stated right now) we are all unique and we have unique goals.

Mine at this stage is to try and oblivirate Port Elizabeth’s average word count, but (lol) that’s personal. 😉

Stay by your own goals and don’t be intimidated by others. Remember you have to do this at your own pace, otherwise you will burn yourself out and then you’ll be of no use to anybody. J

Happy Writing people.


Alyss’s NaNoWriMo 2010 Tip 1

Is to pace yourself.

We had a massive word sprint in our country these past four days. A lot of people shot up to between 15 thousand and 20 thousand words within the first 3 days. Yours truly did almost 25 thousand which is exactly halfway with the set goal of 50 thousand words. The average word scores were amazing for the regions. One of our regions for instance is currently standing at number 2 for average word score per person and yours truly’s region is number 6.

In The World.

That’s amazing.

I found myself thinking about this as I tried to push myself last night to try and reach 25 thousand words. I couldn’t imagine that all of us would be able to keep up the pace because I realized quite suddenly that I wasn’t going to. I had done the one thing I had told myself in the beginning I shouldn’t do and that was out write myself. It hadn’t been hard or at all planned or hard. I had very good dialogue, very good characters and, when I started reading the Forum and Personal Message comments on my word count, I had the motivation to push myself as hard as I could.

It was with this frame of mind that I tried desperately to touch the 25k mark at 9pm last night. I hadn’t done a lot of writing (in comparison to my other days) because I had actually had to work for a bit and I had spend some much appreciated and much needed time with my Other Half. I also had to plan for a crazy business trip that my collegue and I went to in our Mpumalanga Province (Alyss is here right now) and get into bed at a reasonable time that would allow me to get up at 4:15am so that I could fall into the road.

The pressure was up and… I folded.

Just shy of 24k words, I sat back and realized that it was not the end of the world if I didn’t reach my goal for the day. It would’ve been cool and impressive and it would’ve given the other Wrimo’s in my country something to chew on, but I realized quite suddenly that it wasn’t really what NaNoWriMo was about for me. Some considered it their goal to reach 50k words, others set their own goals and worked with them. I knew that I’d be able to reach 50k easily (I did 58k in 21 days last year) but what I wanted to do was to be consident. To write a certain amount each day despite my hectic work schedule and stick to it (also giving myself sufficient space to take a days off to spend with my horse and Other Half without being too jittery about my lagging word count).

In other words, I wanted to be consistent and I wanted to pace myself.

Which I haven’t been doing and when I realized this, I found myself pushing my computer back, staring at my scene (which had been struggling actually) and thinking: It’s alright, I can relax. Tomorrow will be another day. And if it isn’t, then there will be the day after or the day after.

So, I suspect I’m going to fix my pace a little bit. Settle into the long distance rhythm as opposed to the flash sprint and see how far I can take this for as long as I can take this.

I have to say though – this is truly all I had hoped it would be. I am once again, having the time of my life. 😉

What about you?

Sacrifice Quality

Quantity will follow.

It’s Day 3 of NaNoWriMo.
And, when I say that I find myself staring at the three with a touch of disbelief. This time of the race last year, I was still happily ignorant, wondering what on earth I was going to do to make November pass quicker. This month, I’m already standing at 18,000 words (as of this morning, it’s bound to change later…).
I’m not quite sure what happened.
My plot, my characters and my fingers ran away from me and on the very first day of NaNo, I already produced 10,000 words. To give you guys an indication, my average words per day normally ranges between 2000 and 3000 words. On good days, I’ll cough up 5000. And then I’m pretty chuffed with myself.
To write 10,000? Mind blowing.

I’m doing a couple of things different this year, which I suspects ads to the massive amount of words streaming into my statistics.
In true NaNoWriMo style, I’ve sacrificed quality firstly. I’m adding in bits of long monologues and descriptions to muscle up my plot and my characters would relapse into brief arguments. Not lengthy in themselves but, if you add it all up, I gain about 3000 words.
I’m also not too worried about editing this strangely. Last year I was still posting the chapters which I was working on at my other site and I knew that it would be negative if I just put a whole bunch of space fillers into my chapters. This year I decided to largely keep my novel to myself and first see where I could take the plot before I decided to share it.
I’m also cheating a little, and working on another story, adding those words to my word count. Instead of writing one novel, I write two so, when I struggle in one, I fall into the other for a quick refresher course. This also gives me time to plot on the other one.
And, this year – I have a very basic plot line. I have few characters, which gives me space to introduce new ones (a tactic I learned from a fellow NaNoWriMo Stilldormant) and liven up the conversation when my two characters starts to loose their tongues.

So, things are going well. I know in my heart of hearts that I won’t be able to keep up this pace, that I’m going to sprain my muse’s proverbial ankle. But, like the first racehorses in a race that takes the lead (only to fall back later to the better runners) I’m enjoying my time ahead.
I can hear the others pounding at my heels, but I have to say – I won’t mind if they pass me. Because honestly? The South African Wrimos are doing SO well, that I can’t help but feel proud of their achievements!
Espesually, I have to add, my region. I am a new Municipal Liason, in a new region with a whole bunch of new writers and they are truly exceeding my expectations!
It’s a great feeling.