These are the last words that I will write this month.

I hope that everyone enjoyed the magical journey that is Nano this year.  We had a lot of wonderful moments.

Our first ever Team Championship has been such a success, and I’m so happy about it.  We have had so many people get so excited and so into it, and that’s so great.  There’s less than six hours of nano left and I have no idea who is going to come out on top in the end.  Minion Laura and I worked REALLY hard on the poster, and a bunch of people  bought them!  So validating!  Speaking of validating…

I personally had a great nano and set all kinds of new records for myself.  I beat my previous highest word count by a LOT.  I finished faster than I ever have before.  I crushed my previous record for words in one day.  And the really exciting thing is that a lot of the people I have talked to have also blown their goals away.

We won’t have the final numbers until sometime this weekend, but let us consider this:  Nano as a whole has a finish rate somewhere in the high teens.  The Detroit region finishes somewhere in the low twenties.  This is all in percents, by the way.  Now, that’s already an awesome thing, that proves that Detroit is way cooler than everyone in general.  But the teams, as of this moment FORTY PERCENT.  Do you realize how awesome that is?  It’s awesome.

This year was also the Year of Swag.  You guys asked for more swag in the last yearly survey, and boy howdy, did we deliver.  There was something in the neighborhood of twenty brand new pieces of swag.  So much swag that it’ll take at least another year for a lot of folks to collect it all.

We had some truly grand events.  Hugely productive Midway.  Boot Camp came back for its second year and we all had a glorious time that was EXACTLY as productive as Midway, but with about half the people.  First hopefully of many, Night Owl events at Joe and Dev’s house, that was so fun, and now here we are, sitting at the One Last Push, just having a nice quiet time chatting and getting a few last words in.  Of course the Productivity Gulag is fully operational in the basement, where there are sure to be cheers erupting any minute as those desperate souls churn out the last of their words.

We had some great potlucks!  I’m here for the food, really.  Both to eat it and to make it.  The Midway church made us breakfast.  Super cool.  We had pizza at Boot Camp that was possible because of our fundraising.

Fundraising might just turn out to be a record year as well, and for that, we are so grateful to everyone.  People dug deep into their pockets in so many different ways, and without those contributions, we would not be able to do all of the things we do.  So thank you.

We had a lot of fun times with friends.  Some of whom we do nano with because they are our friends, and some of whom we are friends with because we do nano with them.  Both of those friendships are good.  The community that makes up nano is it’s defining feature.  Victory is sweeter when your people are there to cheer for you.  Failure doesn’t sting as much.  The clack of the keyboard is better in unison with twenty other keyboards, and the coffee tastes better at your favorite writein.

People have made some amazing stories, and some terrible stories, and some terribly amazing stories.  But they are our stories, and they are all good.  Because they didn’t exist before this month, and now they do.

Things exist now, because of this thing we have done, that did not exist before.  And no matter whether you are excited about revising what you wrote, or plan to burn it so that it never sees the light of day, it is still a thing you did, and you should be proud of it.

It’s the end of the year.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

The Last Events

The end is in sight!  There are only two more chances to surround yourself in kindred nano spirits this year.  The times and places and all those deets are in the forum threads and on the calendar, so head over there to set your clocks and check your maps.

The first is the One Last Push party, hosted as always by the gracious ML Eric.  Ever been to the Push?  It’s pretty awesome.  I’ve only been once myself and am very much looking forward to going back this year.  Bring a snack, if you’re so inclined.  Bringing a power strip isn’t such a bad idea, either.

If you’re sitting comfortably, you might find yourself a nice little spot in the living or dining room where you can chat and share your battle stories.  If you need every second to get your words in, head on down to the basement where it’s nothing but word wars and silence in the Productivity Gulag (Patent Pending).

Then Sunday, once it’s all over with and you’ve taken Saturday to sigh and rest and lick your wounds, we have the Thank Goodness It’s Over Party in Royal Oak.  Trying out a new location this year, you’re welcome to bring snacks to share for a little potluck.  If you’re feeling especially brave, bring an excerpt of your novel and you could win the Most Likely to be Published award.  We’ll hang out and have a nice, chill time.

EXCEPT for the part where we’ll announce the first ever winners of our first ever Team Championship!  Members of the winning team will receive their congratulatory buttons and sign their names in the Golden Notebook.  We will not be officially announcing the winner on ANY of the online things until AFTER we announce at the TGIO.  So be there or be informed late.

Good Luck, everyone!

How can there only be two days left?  It seems like the month has both lasted forever and also only started a minute ago.  It’s all coming to an end.  The grand finale is a mere 51 and a half hours to go.

Most of you probably know how the month is going to end for you.  Either you’re finished, ahead, on track, behind, or so behind that you know that it’s not in the cards this year.  There are a few of you, though, who are in an interesting spot.  That special place where you’re behind, but if you pull off a miracle, you just might make it.

You got this!  The final push is ahead of you, and beyond it, Victory!  (The One Last Push is Friday, and beyond that, Redford.)  Take a deep breath, turn up the music, and get to work!  Don’t fret yourself worrying about if you’re going fast enough to make it.  You just gotta run your race and don’t look at the clock until you hit that 50k!

BOOT CAMP!

This event is TODAY, and you need to come!  It is a GREAT event.

It runs from 1pm til 9pm, and the map and directions are in the calendar, and the facebook event, and the thread in the forum.

What is it?  Well, let me tell you.  We’ll meet at 1pm.  The Word Wars start at 1:30 and go constantly until about 8:15.  We will go on a tight schedule, with only fifteen minutes of break time in between each war.  Fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, thirty minutes, FORTY FIVE MINUTES!  Three times!  And another thirty minutes, fifteen minutes.  Don’t worry, there’s an hour break for dinner, and the pizza is on us!  We’ll wrap things up with a small raffle.  Did you want to get a Team Championship poster, but couldn’t?  Well, here’s your chance!  We’re raffling one off.  As well as a few other odds and ends from the prize bin.

Now, keep this hush hush, but our host is a real live marine, and if we’re nice, he might yell at us to WORK HARDER.

Sound intense?  Well, it had better.  This is a write in meant to stretch you to your limits.  Last year our words per person beat out Midway!  You know how much you gotta write to beat out Midway?  A lot, that’s how much.  I wrote NINE THOUSAND WORDS last year at the inaugural (and shorter) Boot Camp, and I hope to do ten thousand this year.  That is a reasonable goal.  You can do it, too!

So many wars, so much swag, pizza, prizes, what’s not to love!  You can work off all your Thanksgiving calories through your fingers!

 

PS: I haven’t forgotten about doing the fundraising update.  I’ll get it done this weekend, I promise.  This past week was just too much madness.

 

It’s The Final Countdown!

One week to go!  How the month flies by!  Doesn’t it seem like both it’s been November forever, and yet it just started a minute ago?  Such is life.  Such is Nano.

How’s it going?  Ya doing good?  Staying strong?  Fighting the good fight for your team?  (as I write this, Team Golden Phoenix is ahead by a beak!  SCREEE!)  Fighting the good fight for the region vs Seattle?  At the moment, they’re ahead of us by a measly 261 words.  If that seems like a lot,  know that at this time last year, they were ahead by probably three or four TIMES that.  I don’t remember what the final was, but I’m pretty sure it was well over a thousand words.  So even if we don’t come out on top this year, we are having a MUCH stronger year, and I’m perfectly satisfied with that.

How are your punchcards coming?  We’re at that time when people are starting to get them filled.  You’ve got a week left to go, so if you don’t have a lot of punches, how can you get caught up?  The FIRST thing you should do is make sure that you have all the stamps you have earned.  Count up all the writeins that you’ve been to.  How many major events?  Those get two!  Did you attend Kickoff week events?  We’ll give you stamps for those.  Did you get all the stamps you should have for writing seven days in a row, and for each 10k you’ve written?  Does it sound like I’m just reading off the back of the card?  Read that card!

Okay, now that you’re sure you’re where you should be, as you can see, there are two main ways to get a punch:  go to stuff, and write words.  Write those words!  Reach that next 10k!  Now find some writeins to go to and get there!  THEN, if you drop a little something in the donation jar, or hand it right to the resident ML or Minion, you get ANOTHER stamp!  Got a dollar?  Great!  Just a handful of pocket change?  That’s fine, too!  We appreciate every penny, and you get that sweet, sweet stamp.

And come to BOOT CAMP this weekend!  Two punches, three if you chip in for the pizza.  And if you can’t hit your next 10k with the intensity of the word wars we’ll be running, well, there’s not much else I can do for you.

When you DO fill your card, make sure that Minion Erika knows about it.  Send her a nanomail, comment on the forum thread, or tag her on the nanowrimotown facebook.  Or pester another leadership person to message her.  She’ll make sure that your name goes on our 2018 Hall of Fame.

Good luck!  The holiday is over, time to get back to writing!

Strategies for Survival:  It’s Okay to Quit

This is going to be a sho1rt one, and the last in the harsh reality comfort sort of series we’ve got going here.

If you need to quit, it’s okay.

Yes, I did just spend the last post encouraging you to keep going, and keep trying, even if you know you’re not going to win.  I meant it, too.  You should.  Mostly.  Probably.

But let’s say that something has happened that is preventing your words that is really big.  Really heavy.  Maybe really distressing.

Or let’s say that for some reason looking at the hole you’re in is REALLY stressing you out.  You got off to a bad start and it’s just gotten worse and instead of feeling inspired by your story, you just feel bummed.

Or your schedule just filed up with nonsense to the point that you can’t go to any of the events you wanted to go to anyway, so you don’t have the benefit of having a good time while losing.

If you open your document and feel sadness instead of fun, and you KNOW you’re not going to get past it, AND you just don’t have it in you to start something new, you know what?  You can quit, and it’s okay.

Don’t quit for good!  Don’t let this one bad experience get SO BAD that you never want to do it again!  Just the opposite.  Nano will ALWAYS be there for you next year.  Even camp comes twice a year, in case you can’t wait that long.

Sometimes, it’s not so much about giving up as it is about letting go, and I will tell you my letting go story, of the VERY FIRST time I tried nano.

The year was 2005.  I had JUST heard of nano a few weeks before.  It sounded so fun!  So cool!  I didn’t even know that the website was a thing or that there was a community or anything!  I just thought it was a go ahead and do it sort of thing.  (Meanwhile, in reality, ML Owen was two years into doing it, and three years away from becoming ML Owen.  Perspective!)  I had a little idea, based on the mechanations of some coworkers that I thought I could plunk into a fantasy setting about the political maneuvering of women in a harem, and that was about it.  No plot, no characters, but who cares, let’s go!

Yeah, I failed.  Almost a week into the month, I had a paragraph, and no idea what I wanted to do.  The blank page was giving me SO much stress.  And I was so disappointed in myself.  I thought I was going to do this cool thing, and I had failed, miserably.  I was venting my woes to a school friend, and she said words I will never forget.

“You know…you don’t HAVE to do it.”

She was right!  I DIDN’T have to do it!  I could stop!  So I did.  I deleted that file, and I never looked back.  And I don’t think I’ve ever felt such relief.

A few years later, I got back into when a different friend did, lost that first year (but kept writing to the end, see previous post) won the next year, and have won every year since, except that year I had a herniated disk and figured if I had any words at all between school and waiting for surgery it was close enough to a win for me.

Enough about me, back to you.

If you feel like trying to finish your nano is giving you more stress than happiness, give yourself permission to stop.  Don’t feel bad about it.  The ONLY thing that really matters about nano is having a good time, and if you’re not, there is no shame, no blame, in letting it go.

Just don’t forget to come to kick off next year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What a great day!  What an awesome holiday.  All food all the time, how bad can that be?

For some of us, a day off work.  For others, the biggest day of work in the whole wide world.  (I feel you there, friends, although my big work days are actually BEFORE the holiday.)

Don’t feel bad if you only have time for a few words today.  Between work and family and cooking and eating, it might not be in the cards.

Your characters having a feast of some kind isn’t too bad an idea, either.

Strategies for Survival:  Failure is an Option

So we spend a lot of time talking about success and winning and pushing through, and believe me, we mean every bit of it.  You can be ten thousand words behind and I still still be right there to tell you that you can TOTALLY do it!  We are all about the success.

But you know what?  Failure is also an option.  And that is NOT a negative statement.

There comes a time in a wrimos life when they look at their word count at some point during the month and realize that fifty thousand is just NOT going to happen.  Let’s be real about that.  Sometimes it just does not happen.  So let’s talk about what happens when it doesn’t.

A lot of people quit.  It’s a thing that happens.  They get discouraged by failing, and they give it up.  Maybe say that they just can’t do it.  Maybe feel bad about it, like they’ve REALLY failed something.  Like it says something about them as a writer.  And in the worst case circumstances, sometimes people never try nano again.

It’s understandable to think why a person might think that way, to be honest.  After all, for all of the encouragement we offer each other, and we offer a LOT of encouragement, most of it is centered around success.  People crow about their successes.  It can throw inevitable failure into sharp relief.

But it doesn’t HAVE to be that way.  Did you write a thousand words?  That’s a thousand words you didn’t have before.  Can you get just a thousand words more in the rest of the month?  That’s reason enough to keep going.

So you don’t win.  So what?  The glory of nano is that it is absolutely and hundred percent risk free.  Nothing bad happens if you lose.  You just give it a try again next year.  You work on your writing throughout the year.  You maybe try a different strategy for planning.  (You maybe try planning?)  Or maybe the reason you didn’t make it this year was because LIFE HAPPENED and you know that things might not all fall apart like that again next year.

But you DON’T have quit.  You can keep trying to get as many words as you can before the end of the year.  Give yourself something to build on!  Still come to the writein.  DEFINITELY come to the events.  Remember, nano is mostly about the community, and the having a good time with like minded creative people.  You don’t have to be winning to have a good time.

So take it easy on yourself.  Go ahead and have fun losing.

Strategies for Survival AND Success: Take a Break

This message inspired by Owen’s thread in the forum about taking a break.

See what I did there?  Tying my own break into his thing he already wrote?  Good times.

Sometimes, you gotta take a break.  Especially now, around the middle of the month.  I skipped over all the days I was going to write about the midway thrill, and also the midway doldrums.  We’re past week two, but for some people, it’s week three that’s the real week two, if you know what I mean.

Some people can pick up a lot of steam by just KEEPING GOING the whole time.  Some people can use a big showing at Midway to springboard into a win!  Yeeeah, not me.  A day after I write a ton of words at an event, I can barely turn on my computer.  I still update at least a little bit each day, but anything beyond that is a no go.

(Now I am in a word war, so you all may forgive the sudden drop in quality.)

That’s okay.  Burnout is a very real thing.  Sometimes the only difference in people with burnout is WHEN does it hit?  Week two?  When you’re super ahead and you don’t feel the pressure to keep going?  Or can you hold it off until the end?  There was one year where I was so DONE by the end of the year, I couldn’t make it to TGIO because I was just.  So.  Tired. Of.  Nano.  Everything.  Another year, I was just fine and had a great time.  So it can vary even person to person.

If you’re feeling burnt out, or sick (did you follow the Strategy for Survivial: eat a Vegetable?  No?  Well that’s what you get.  Oh, you did?  Got sick anyway?  Bad luck, my dude.) now might be the time to take a break.

If you’re ahead, or on par, it won’t hurt you to phone it in a day or two.  Even miss an event, if you need to.  That’s right, I’m telling you that you can skip your weekly writein if that is what you need to get back on track in your brain space.  It is seriously okay.

And do what?  Hang out with your not nano friends.  Say hi to your family.  Talk to your mom.  (Conor.)  Catch that movie you’ve been putting off until December, or crash out on the couch with some cocoa and Netflix.  Read a little.  Whatever.  Do all those little self care things that you should be doing throughout the month anyway, and focus your energy on that ALL day.

For a lot of people, the Thanksgiving weekend is a time when they need to take a break anyway, because Turkey Day demands their attention.  Go ahead and use it.  Gobble Gobble.

Now, I’m not saying that you should skip updating entirely for the day.  No no, if you’re going for that 30 day badge, still update.  But ten words is still an update.

Take a break.  You deserve it.

 

 

 

Strategies for Success: Your Characters are not Real

Wait, what?  How could you say such a thing!  I imagine my characters as real all the time!  They speak to me!  They know me better than I know myself!  They know themselves better than I know them!  And besides, how am I supposed to write my characters realistically if I don’t imagine them as fully fleshed out real people?

Well, that’s kind of the point.  You IMAGINE them as real people.  Look, we all try to picture our characters as real.  We imagine how they look and sound, how they feel and act.  You have to try to make them consistent, and act according to their character most of the time.  You have to weigh how to make them act against character sometimes in a way that is compelling and impactful, not unbelievable.  You have to imagine them as real in order to portray them in a realistic way.

But they are not real.  All that imagining you are doing is imagining.  You are their maker.  You decide everything about them.  If you don’t like something, you get to change it with impunity.  You are the Decider of Things.

This is a good thing.

Not just because the idea of fictional characters being real people with their own agency and agenda is terrifying (or a sign of a serious illness).

Because it means that you’re in charge!  You are not a helpless vessel bending to the whims of some recalcitrant entity.  You are the master of this whole shebang.

So when you’re tempted to say “The character is being stubborn!  They don’t want to be written about right now!” remember that that’s not true.  It’s just that you’re having a hard time figuring out how you want the story to go.  You can just give it some thought and push through.  Side characters never “speak up and demand that their story be told!” it’s that you had a different idea that you wanted to explore for a bit.  You can either decide to go with it for awhile, or table it and go back to your story.  And your characters certainly aren’t going to gang up on you and forcibly take the story in a completely different direction than you intended, with you along for the ride.  You just wrote it differently than you had planned, and that’s okay!  You can keep with it, or make yourself go back to your outline.  The former is spontaneous, which can be fun, and the latter requires discipline. Sometimes it seems like stories do take on a life of their own, what with the ways they can go that you didn’t plan.  That’s cool, but it’s still what came out of your own head.

The important thing is that YOU are in control of your story.  Which means that you are not helpless to change it.  Keep those unexpected words!  Maybe you’ll decide that your new idea is way cooler than the old one.  Maybe you’ll decide that you’re going to write a whole other story about this other side character.  Maybe you’ll just keep that cool idea on the back burner and turn it into your outline for next year, when you’ll wind up having ANOTHER DIFFERENT cool idea, and the whole thing repeats every year until there’s a pile of books by you on the desk!

You’re the author.  You get to decide.