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.

Strategies for Success: Changing Projects

No matter whether you are a planner, pantser, plantser, no matter how much prep work you do or don’t do, there will come a time someday that you will discover that you hate your novel with the passion of a thousand firey suns.  Maybe not this year.  Maybe not for many, many years.  But it happens to everyone at some point, so it will happen to you someday.  Every word is painful.  Every line of dialogue is infuriating.  Maybe your characters are flat.  Maybe your plot just doesn’t work.  Maybe you took on something too big and now it seems overwhelming. Maybe you’re just bored with it.  Or maybe you just had a crummy idea and now are realizing it.  It’s all right.  It happens.

When it does, what do you do?  You could just keep writing, and hope that you get over the hump.  Sometimes all you have to do is power through.  Keep writing until you get an idea of how to salvage the mess.  People that are heavy duty planners might be well suited to this approach, especially if you just don’t feel comfortable trying to start from scratch on the fly.

But there is an other option for you.  You can scrap it all and start over.  I don’t mean throw your words away!  No no no!  Keep those words.  You wrote every one of them and you deserve every one of them in your count.  But you can put a nice lil page break in your file and start a new story.  If you get a sudden burst of inspiration for a story that is now bugging you in your head, and you want to write that instead, who’s to say you shouldn’t?  Nobody!  What’s wrong with doing some of your nano words on one story, and some on another?  Nothing!  I wouldn’t even call that rebelling, quite frankly.

So if you need a fresh idea to brighten up your enthusiasm and get those words flowing, go ahead and do it.  You might wind up with two stories that are worth telling.

Strategies for Success: Join the Wars

Of course we’ve been bugging everyone to join the Team Championship (and will continue to do at every opportunity) for the fun of it all, but there’s actually more to it than that.  A lot of people find getting into the little competitions a thing that helps them drive their word counts up.

There are three main sorts of word wars: the Team Championship, the War with Seattle, and the individual nemeses from either of those two challenges.

Have you got your team assignment yet?  If not, you can talk to any leadership and they can help you out.  Once you know what marvelous mythical beast is yours, you can get in on the fun!  We’ve got people smack talking all over the facebook page and a little bit in the forums.

We’re also running team games during word wars at write ins, and that means more word wars, more chances to win swag, more chances to get a ton of words.  And you’ll have your teammates to cheer you on and your opponents to razz you on to victory.

Next is the word war with Seattle.  You don’t have to DO anything extra.  Everybody in the region is already taking part.  To check how we’re doing, there is a thread in the forum with a widget that shows who’s ahead.  You can razz Seattlites in that thread, or in the companion thread over in their forum.

Now, we’re fairly behind right now, but that’s all right.  Last year they were WAY further ahead!  And it’s all in good fun.  You can look at that widget and think, how many words would I have to write to raise that average?  Am I pulling us up or down?  Use that energy!

Finally, nemeses.  Having a nemesis is a direct way to compete with one or more individual people, and that can be a major motivator.  If you signed up for the Team Championship during the first few days, you were paired up with someone from each other team to fight.  If you signed up after that, you weren’t assigned a nemesis, but there’s no reason that you can’t find your own!  There should be a thread up in the forum in the next day or two to let people match themselves.

About twice as many people signed up from Seattle as Detroit to have a nemesis (no surprise, seeing as they have so many more people than we do) so there are some unmatched Seattlites looking for people to fight.  There’s a thread up in the forum by the Seattle ML who you can message to get yourself a nemesis.  I’m sure they would be very appreciative to have some more people to participate.  I messaged them yesterday to ask for FOUR additional nemeses, but I think they’re scared of my crazy self because I haven’t heard back yet.

All of these things are ways to add a little external competition into what is primarily a personal challenge.  If you’re the sort of person motivated by competition, this is a great way to get your word count up.  If it’s not, it can still just be good fun, especially if you naturally contain high levels of sass.