Monday, December 12, 2016


Due to a mixture of busyness and life-related things, I have decided to go on indefinite hiatus. I hope to get back to blogging in January, or sooner, but we'll see what happens. In the meantime, I’ll still be around commenting on blogs and answering comments (hopefully).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up // Part Two

If you missed my first NaNoWriMo wrap-up post, you can find it here. As promised, today I'm going to be answering some frequently(ish) asked questions. 

How, what even, why? 

I'm glad you asked that question. Let me explain. 

I am a very determined person. 

Also, I am nauseatingly competitive. 

Did you even sleep? 

Yes, actually. Because I was sick for over two weeks, I made sure to get a little more sleep than usual each night. 

How much coffee did you drink?

Too much, and simultaneously, not enough. 

Surely no one can write that many words in one month. You must have used filler/purple prose to pad your word count. *squinty eyes* 

First of all, that's a statement, not a question. You had one job. *shakes head* 

Second of all, no. I don’t write concise rough drafts, because my thoughts wander when I’m writing. It takes me multiple tries to say what I'm trying to say, and I sometimes write in circles just to figure out where I’m going and who my characters are, but every word I type is written with the idea of moving the draft forward, not upping my word count. I never write words just to write words. 

I've been accused of cheating before. *sad face* And I feel like I shouldn't have to say this, because it should be apparent, but I'm going to say it anyway, because apparently it isn't (see what I did there?), but while my word count may be discouraging for those who struggle to reach the 50K, being accused of cheating is just as discouraging. I'm sorry if my word count makes you feel bad, I really am, and I don't mean to rub it in your face or put you down. I promise I'm not sitting here judging you for writing less than me. If anything, I'm judging me for not writing more. 

For the record, I didn't just wake up one morning, suddenly able to write 606,606 words in a month. I wasn't born dipped in talent and sexy. I had to work up to this. (I still look like a potato though.) Five years ago, a 3K day was a phenomenal day for me, and I haven't forgotten how magical that felt. I think I was more excited for my first 3K day than I was for my first 50K day. 

So remember to celebrate your own achievements, and please don't feel bad to tell me about them, because I would be more than happy to celebrate with you. 

Are your hands about to fall off? 

Maybe. My wrists have been sore off and on, but it’s nothing compared to last year. I'm thinking my wrist braces really made a difference. 

How many books/projects did you work on? 

I started writing my Scottish Romance, but I only got 15K in before it turned into a cynical story about why love is a destructive force, so I decided to pull the plug on that project. I also pulled the plug on another project after a couple thousand words because it felt like the sort of story I would enjoy writing at a more relaxed pace (which is odd for me). I wrote the prequel to DRACONIAN, the sequel to TIB (and planned another sequel), my ghost story, the third book in my literary trilogy, and then I went off plan and wrote two spontaneous novels: the first book in a duology about assassins and a horror novel about space travel (which was supposed to be a novella, oops). 

How did you manage to pull off three 50K days, and how many hours did it take? 

My first 50K day took 12.5 hours, including breaks and driving time. I only wrote for about 10 of those hours. In contrast, my third 50K day took 10 hours, including breaks, so only about 8 hours of actual butt-in-chair (except I tend to sit on the floor, for the most part, so butt-on-floor). I made sure to get 20K written before noon and to read during breaks, since Facebook and Twitter drain my brain cells. I also walked around a bit and made sure to stay hydrated. Most importantly, I didn't let myself procrastinate. 

Just as a caveat, because there were several newer writers in the forums expressing hopes of pulling a 50K day themselves: If you want to do a 50K day, then go for it! By all means! But also keep in mind that it is strenuous, both physically and mentally, and you might want to work up to it. If you can't write more than 30K in a day comfortably, I would recommend waiting and getting that under your belt first. You don't want to pull a 50K day, only to burn out and have no energy left to write for the rest of the month. Plus, you'll enjoy your accomplishments more if you're not about to pass out from exhaustion. 

Did you have work?

Excluding Black Friday, I worked Fridays through Sundays every weekend. Fridays were lighter work days, so I made sure to write on those days, but I didn’t push myself on Saturdays and Sundays. In retrospect, I think this was the main reason why I didn’t burn out. 

How fast can you type? 

My cruising speed ranges from 110-170 wpm, depending on pain levels and mental energy. I can only sustain 170 wpm for about an hour (hence the 10K hour I managed). 

Are you happy with your results? 

Yes. I mean, my drafts are messy, with faces not even a mother could love, but at least I have something to work with now. And editing is my jam. 

How much do you plan to write next year? 

I’ll have to get back to you on that one. There’s a chance I will have less time next year, so I don’t want to get my hopes up for an 800K year, just in case. 

Oops, too late. 

Any advice for writing lots of words? 

Keep typing. Once you sit down at the computer and start writing, make sure to maintain that momentum. I know that if I pause to think, my mind wanders like an untended hamster and I end up accomplishing very little. If I’m running low on ideas for advancing my plot, I spend a couple paragraphs discussing my characters’ motivations or back stories until the thought mill starts running again. (I know this sounds like unnecessary filler, but if I don't do this, I never figure out my characters. Last year I didn't allow myself to do this, because I got super paranoid and worried that people would accuse me of padding, and it hurt my drafts majorly. Pro tip: It's not filler if it advances the story.) 

What about you, my little coffee beans? How was your November? What are some accomplishments you're proud of? 

Monday, December 5, 2016

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up // Part One

Well, it’s December. When did that happen? 

I guess it’s time to talk about how NaNoWriMo went. 

For today, I’m just going to touch on the highlights, but I’ll go into more detail on Wednesday, if my brain doesn’t die. At the moment, I’m crunching to finish DRACONIAN by the end of January, and this after writing 606,606 words in November (oops, spoilers), so we’ll see how this goes. Send help.

Before November, I listed my goals. I passed my main goal of 500,005 words and came in at 606,606. 

Click to embiggen

See those low-word count days? Aside from the first weekend, on Saturdays and Sundays I wrote 1,100 so I could get the badge for writing every day. But since those were work days, which leave me a little extra tired and spacey, I decided to give my wrists a break and not push myself to write. I’m weirdly fond of how wavy my graph looks. It has character. *hugs graph* *gets confused and starts gnawing on keyboard* 

While I didn’t get my dream goal of 800,008, I’m cool with that. I felt like I paced myself well, broke most (if not all) of my records, and came away feeling accomplished but not burnt out. I socialized, hung out at my church a lot even on my days off because I like my fellow staff, worked custodial on the weekends, enjoyed Thanksgiving, watched a couple movies in theaters, took care of my wrists, and got enough sleep. The month didn’t feel like a chore, or even too much like a marathon—it felt like fun, which is what it’s supposed to feel like. That’s not to say there weren’t days I felt like quitting, because there were, especially toward the end, but I don’t feel disappointed with myself like I did last year. 

As for personal achievements, I managed to write 10K in an hour, reached a typing speed of 170 wpm (not consistently, of course, because pain), and got not just one 50K day, but three. 

And another bonus, last year I tied for 9th place in the faces chart. This year, by some strange twist of fate, I got 1st. Someone hold me. 

Yep, zat is me, Lorna Doone 11

Sadly, after flying off fifty million times throughout the month, the J key on my keyboard is officially broken. (Just the key, not the actual button—I can still type with it. See: jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj.) It’s sitting on my bedside table right now, waiting for me to buy superglue to, hopefully, stick it back on. *squints disapprovingly at keyboard* 

And that’s it for today, my little coffee beans. On Wednesday I plan to talk about the projects I worked on and other assorted wrap-up stuff. In the meantime, how was your NaNoWriMo? Did you participate this year? What were some highlights?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You're Almost There

It’s the last day of NaNoWriMo. *distant sobbing* I know you’re tired. I’m tired too. But I know we can do this. I know we can push ourselves and finish strong. 

I don’t want to use up precious writing time, so I’m keeping this brief. You are awesome and inspiring. Remember that. Your wrists may be sore and your mind may feel burnt out, but you can rest tomorrow. To dredge up an overused metaphor, NaNoWriMo is like a marathon, and when it comes to long distance running, this is the final stretch. This is where you start sprinting. 

So sprint. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Day in the Life of NaNoWriMo

Note: A little while ago, Cait @ Paper Fury suggested I write a “day in the life of NaNo” post. This is my attempt to provide a completely factual, not at all embellished account. Ahem. (It’s written in second person, because at this point in the month, I am insane and don’t know what I’m doing anymore. Not that I ever know what I’m doing.) 

The sound of your alarm clock bursts through your dreams like an unwanted character in a story that was going so well for you until this moment. For several seconds, you deny the existence of this alarm, until you realize this is no way to live. The protagonist in your novel would never be so lazy. You need to be more like her, or you else will turn into a potato. And that is also no way to live. 

Eventually, you come to terms with the fact that it’s morning (see also, the final stage of grief), and pull yourself out of bed. You hear a sound in the other room, a sort of muted screaming, and remember two things: a) it’s NaNoWriMo, and b) the muse fairies don’t like it when you put off feeding them. You leap out of bed, adrenaline rushing through your veins like caffeine, and zombie-shuffle as quickly as you can to the stash of chocolate-covered coffee beans on the counter. As the muse fairies strain against their cage, you jam your hands into the un-yielding leather of your third set of gloves this month. The chewed remains of the other two pairs lie abandoned in the far corner of the room, a testament to the dangers you are willing to endure, all in the name of NaNoWriMo. 

After you finish feeding your muse fairies, you rush to the shower to wash yourself. This is a good place for you. You don’t have to hear the crunching of the coffee beans, like breaking bones. You don’t have to hear the shrieks as the fairies fight each other for more than their fair share. The shower is quiet. The shower is peaceful. The shower is safe. You can brainstorm here, under the rushing water. You can think or not think, as you so please. No one will judge you or try to chew off your toes. 

But eventually, you have to step out of the warm shower into the cold air, and it is like crossing that painful bridge between sleeping and wakefulness all over again. Then it’s time for you to eat. You toast your bagel and scoot to the far end of the counter, away from the muse fairies, all slouched against the bars, holding their distended little stomaches and wiping what looks like blood off their mouths. You notice with a sinking sensation that the number has fallen again this morning. One is missing. You were warned that this would happen, that muse fairies were not exactly….nice beings. But still, actually seeing the evidence of this for yourself has turned out to be more jarring than you had expected. And considering the number you have lost already and the remaining days in November, you are starting to worry you will run out of fairies too soon. 

At least, you tell yourself, at least the number is not dwindling because they are escaping again. Your toes ache just thinking about it. 

With this in mind, you pull out your laptop and begin typing away at your story, watching the fairies out of the corner of your eye. After you’ve written a few words, to give your mind something to think about, you brew your pot of coffee and don those stiff gloves once more. It’s time to harvest the muse fairy eggs. They look so tiny, so innocent in the palm of your hand, like drops of metallic paint. You don’t want to think about what’s inside. 

Steeling yourself, you slip them into the pot of coffee and watch them dissolve as you wonder with a sinking feeling if the pursuit of success has turned you cold to the harsh realities of the world. Shaking your head, you refuse to allow yourself to dwell on this. Instead, you grab your favorite mug, pour yourself a cup, add the creamer, and sit down to breathe in the scent of nostalgia and words. And you write. Because this is what makes you feel alive. This is what helps you forget the things you regret and the people who want to kill you. 

(You have a passing thought that maybe you are getting a little too into this story. But you stow that thought away in your mind closet with all the other thoughts you do not have time for this November.) 

After an hour or so of concentrated writing, your fingers clicking to the beat of whatever song happens to be playing in your ears, you rise to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing. As you wander about the kitchen, studiously avoiding looking at the fairies, you notice the floor should be swept. The dishes have piled up. The cat waits at the door, her eyes big with the need for attention. All these things cluster at your consciousness, nibbling away at your prospective word count, threatening you with heaps of guilt should you choose to ignore them. So you break and ply the broom, load the washer, pet the tiny animal, and dispose of the disemboweled mouse it has gifted you, again. 

While you perform these mindless tasks, you tell yourself you could be thinking about your story. Instead you find yourself thinking about anything but. You find yourself thinking about movies you want to watch, the responsibilities you have let slide, the books you own but have not read. You get the sudden urge to walk the dog, to admire the foliage, to breathe the fresh air, and most of all, to avoid, avoid avoid the weight of putting worlds on paper. Because it hurts someplace deep to take the kitchen knife of your mind and slice open the skin of your consciousness so you can explain yourself in metaphors and melodrama. Already you can read the reviews—too trite, too sappy, too shallow, too vague, too not-what-I-wanted, too never-enough. And the quitter hiding in your heart is telling you it only wants to spare you future pain by calling it a day now, once and for all. 

Instead, you drag yourself back to your chair, pull your coffee cup close, breathe in the steam, and write. Word after word. Line after line. Building on each other, towering, toppling, tracing the outermost reaches of your imagination and finding there are no limits. Somehow you convince yourself to forget, for this moment, this day, this month, that the stories you are crafting are ugly, wasteful creatures, worth printing only to shred. Somehow you write another thousand words, and another thousand, and another, intertwined with stolen moments on Facebook, on Twitter, on the NaNo forums, on the places that handle your mind with novocaine fingers. 

At some point along the way, your eyelids begin to droop worse than ever. Lunch has passed. A long lapse in the day, a long lapse in judgement, an hour, sometimes two, of nothing but you and the screen, you and the show you are watching, you and the story you bury yourself in to escape the story you must bury yourself in. The coffee never works to make you feel awake, but now it feels like it’s having a negative effect, as though every drop of caffeine sucks the life out of you and gifts it to some other creature. And the muse fairies haven’t laid more eggs today. They are odd little creatures like that. Sometimes they don’t lay eggs for days. Sometimes they lay a new batch every hour. No matter how often you let them gorge themselves on those chocolate covered coffee beans, they decide the flow of inspiration. 

You slide out of your chair and pace around the apartment, knowing you could read on the porch swing and get some fresh air, a chance to bond with the cat while refocusing your mind. But you are so tired. All your body wants is to shamble around mindlessly until the guilt once more builds strong enough to drive you back to your chair and your life. You tell yourself tomorrow will be kinder, because tomorrow you will be going into town with your sister. You will work your job while she works hers in the safety of the church that has become an extension of your ingrown comfort zone. You find focus there, friendship, fewer distractions. 

Eventually your sister gets home from work, and you sit together, eat together, watch shows together. Write together. She doesn’t help you feed the muse fairies because she doesn’t like creatures with sharp teeth. She has her own menagerie of muse butterflies in her office, but you don’t ask about those. Every writer is different. Every writer has their own private source of inspiration. During November, it helps not to compare. You and your sister will not share the same discouragements, but you remind yourself that you also won’t share the same encouragements. That is okay. 

When you finally can find no more words to pull from your brain, no more thoughts to scribble out with your fingertips on keys, you go to bed, drained but content, eager for another day, another autumn moment to paste on the scrapbook of your hard drive. And you drift off to sleep, listening to the scritch of muse fairy teeth on metal. 

Well, that’s it for today, little coffee beans. What about you? How does a typical NaNo day look for you? What do you do for inspiration/procrastination?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

All the Words // Part #3

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you are likely to enter a writing slump at least once this month. Please allow me to offer you some questionable advice on how to get more words on the page. 

Cut corners if you have to. Skip difficult or boring scenes that are bogging you down. If writing in chronological order is messing with you, write stuff out of order. Embrace structure, or don’t. Skip dialogue tags if you find yourself struggling with them. Or use too many, if you can’t decide which one to use. If you write a sentence and then think of a better way to phrase yourself, don’t backspace. Just write the sentence again the way you want to. You’ve written both those sentences, so keep the words. 

Don’t hold yourself back. You are just throwing ideas at the page and hoping some stick. Don’t expect to keep even half of what you’re writing here. Go into full mad-scientist mode. (But only in terms of writing. Please don't start dissecting people.) 

Be smart about your rest. All-night sprints are fun, but consider the long term consequences. This writing gig is a month long. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and you need to pace yourself accordingly. Make sure you get the sleep you need. 

Vomit words. It’s amazing what your brain can do when you release all restrictions. I know there are going to be purists who cry foul at this, but if you need to spend five thousand words describing scenery or narrating your character's thoughts, do that. It might help you dig up an idea or a plot point or a theme you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. At least it will help you get to know your story world. 

This month, literally anything goes. Toss the rule book. Who even needs that? You are a mighty viking. You make your own rules. Stab people with your viking helmet if they say otherwise. (Please don’t actually stab people. I don’t want to go to jail.) 

If you are fiercely competitive, word sprints are your friend. Slay your competition. You are the alpha. Make it so. 

Embrace alternate locations. Write-ins are great because they are both social and focused. Coffee shops are helpful too. Going someplace specifically for the purpose of writing can work wonders for productivity. It’s like hacking into your mind and rewriting the code, but totally legal. Probably. 

If you are writing blog posts or essays this month, include those in your word count. They may not be part of your novel, but those are words you’ve written this month, and you deserve credit for them. That way the time you spend blogging and doing homework doesn’t have to be so discouraging. And you really want to encourage yourself as much as possible. I am giving you the green light on this. Remember, people sometimes get snippy and try to hold you to their rule book, but this is NaNoWriMo. Rules are for the weak. 

Positivity works wonders. So seek out ways to get yourself in a good mood. Or develop a healthy case of indignation over something and let it fuel more words. Use your emotions in a productive way. Learn what helps you write and then overuse it. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? What are some ways you combat writing slumps?

Monday, November 21, 2016

That Really Deep Writing Post // Part #5

And, here we are again with another That Really Deep Writing Post, because like I said, I have way too much time to think when I’m at work. And if I don’t think about things to write, I will go insane (or, to be accurate, more insane). 

Anywho, here we go. 

Please, Me Do Other Things? (Me writer. Me talk good English.) I’ve already mentioned this feeling a little, but it bears repeating. Even though I have a great boss and I like my job and my workplace, and even though I love earning money, (*eyes turn to dollar signs*) I spend a lot of time fighting the desire to go home. A large part of this is anxiety, but part of it just comes from forgetting that I am tired and in pain now, but if I go home, I will just be tired and in pain there. I have this annoying habit of always wanting to be doing something other than the task in front of me. Every time I start reading a book, I suddenly get the urge to read a different book. When I'm at work, I want to be writing. When I'm writing, I want to pet the dog. If I’m sitting in one chair, then by golly, I would like to sit in that other chair. *shakes head at self* I’m essentially a toddler. 

Likewise with writing. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this November, it’s probably because you want to write—because, despite the many conflicting emotions that come with the job, you do love it, if only in secret. But that doesn’t change the fact that you are likely to spend about 75% of your writing time wanting to do just about anything else. You make your coffee or your tea. You sit down at your computer. And bam! You have the sudden urge to wrestle gorillas or donate your eyes to science. Anything to avoid putting words on the page. And you know what? You just have to push through it. Teach your brain to ignore these feelings of discontentment, these little lines of complaint, and you will get stuff done. If your brain tries to sabotage you, put it in time out. Don't forget that you're in charge here. (Side note: Don't be like me with antsy horses. When I was working in a barn one summer, another barn girl told me to show the thousand pounds of anxiety who was boss, so I left the horse in charge. Don't do that with your book.) 

Can’t You Stay Clean For, Like, Five Minutes? As you hurdle toward the end of November, you’re likely to start thinking about revisions. So it only makes sense to include an editorial comparison. 

When I’m cleaning on Sundays, I have to work around the youth group. Basically, they follow me like the trail of slime following a snail. Me being the snail, since I feel like I’m working so slowly all the time. And them being the slime, because they make things messy. (Gosh, Liz, you can’t just go calling people slime. It’s not nice. It’s not civilized.) Whatever. I clean stuff just in time for them to use it and make it dirty again, which is totally fine. That’s what I’m there for and that’s what they’re there for. La di da. But it can be somewhat sad to realize that the set of rooms I have just spent two hours cleaning is going to be dirty again in a matter of moments. When I leave the building, it’s usually with a dramatically mournful sense that I have accomplished nothing more than damage control. *cue existential crisis* 

In the same way, when you edit, sometimes you can think you are doing a wonderful job. At least, you hope you are doing a wonderful job. Everything is so clean and shiny and perfect seeming. You are brilliant, you mad genius you. And then you send the draft off to beta readers, and they dirty it up with all their comments and their red pen marks, and you have to do even more cleaning. You don’t get to enjoy the satisfaction of a tidy draft for long. This is to be expected, though, so it works best for everyone if you refuse to let yourself get frustrated. 

It’s not a perfect analogy, I know. But it works in my mind, so maybe it will work in yours? 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Do you find it somewhat disheartening to think you have done a good job with editing, only to realize you have so. Much. More work to do? Do you struggle to be content in the moment? Do you think that’s purely an anxiety issue, or something else as well?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

All the Words // Part #2

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, it can be easy to get distracted by other writers’ word counts. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s difficult to keep from getting jealous of those who are doing better than me. I see people going for the million and succeeding, people who make my writing efforts look first-grade level. That jealousy can transform into full-on discouragement. But NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a positive experience. So here are some tips for combatting envy and word count depression. 

Have fun with the imperfections in your story. Find a plot hole? Have your characters talk it out. Don’t forget to include disparaging comments about your writing abilities, if you are the type of person who likes to laugh at yourself. These scenes might make you smile when you get around to edits, and that’s not a bad thing. 

Block out stuff when it gets to be too much. If you find you can’t mingle well with other authors this month, don’t. Build yourself a safe place and stay there for the entirety of November. If the forums make you feel discontented with your own progress, get off the forums and use that time to write more words. 

Remember that everyone has their own typing speed. We have people who type quickly, and then we have the Slug Club, a forum for people who can’t type as many words per minute. If you can only type 30wmp, don’t compare your progress to those who can do 100wpm or more. You will feel like you’re failing, when you’re not. 

Find your tribe. We have a forum for overachievers. We have a thread for those dealing with chronic illness (and other health issues), those choosing to write their novels by hand, those who plan ahead and those who don’t, those who are writing multiple books at once, those who are NaNo rebels, etc… If you can’t find a thread for your specific need, start your own. Connect with people who understand you. 

Remember that everyone’s head space is different. We have writers with dyslexia, depression, PTSD, OCD, scizophrenia, etc… Learning disabilities and mental illnesses make writing a thousand times more difficult, so it helps to recognize that your starting point may just be further back than others’. This isn’t necessarily a fair race. 

Focus on your work ethic. One thing that helps to keep discouragement at bay is to focus on what you’re doing right. Are you showing up to write every day and putting forth your best effort as much as you can? Then be proud of that, no matter how little you might be managing to drag out of your skull during your times at the computer. Don’t get so hung up on numbers and graphs that you forget to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. 

When all else fails, embrace your competitive side and let the successes of others egg you on. That’s totally what I do. What could possibly go wrong?

What about you, my little coffee beans? What are some ways you avoid discouragement and envy during NaNoWriMo? What are some forums you like to frequent? What are some of your struggles when it comes to drafting novels? 

Monday, November 14, 2016

That Really Deep Writing Post // Part #4

And here we are with another That Really Deep Writing Post (you can find the others here). You could either interpret this as me being good at gleaning post material from random places, or me being too lazy to think about other things at work besides more work. (That sentence made little sense. Please ignore it.) 

Onward and upward. 

Think Long-Distance Running. I realize I’ve used this comparison several times over the past couple years, but I know from my years running cross country that it is painfully accurate. When you begin the race, no matter how many miles you have ahead of you, it can be tempting to sprint right from the starting line. But you can’t afford to do that with long-distance running. You have to pace yourself, or you will burn out/injure yourself (and also possibly vomit). Only start sprinting when the finish line is almost in view. 

The same goes for writing and working custodial. Janitorial work is not especially difficult, but it is strenuous (if that distinction makes any sense), and it can be easy to set a pace I can’t maintain for nine hours. I don’t want to use up my limited energy in the first two hours, only to find myself lagging more and more as the day progresses and the sun goes down. That is a recipe for an anxiety attack. 

You can bet this applies to writing as well, specifically NaNoWriMo. It can be so temping to ignore sleep and meals and hygiene in favor of writing until you can’t feel your hands on the first day. But unless you know from experience this won’t burn you out, you’re going to be in trouble sooner rather than later. And you could cause permanent damage to your wrists and shoulders. If you’re in it for the long haul, you are allowed to do what you like, but you might want to consider maintaining a consistent (but challenging) pace until the final week. 

Deadlines. I have to get my custodial work done before I can go home, which means I have to stay focused and keep working even when I don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t get the luxury of taking a nap when I feel like taking a nap (which is always). Likewise with writing under any sort of deadline, like NaNoWriMo. You can’t afford to slack off when you’re not feeling it. If you are going to reach your goal this November, whether it’s the 50K, or some other number, you are going to have to write even when you would rather be doing something else. But the end result will be worth it. And if you’re like me, you need the deadline to keep that fire under your butt burning hot and bright, or you’ll turn into a sad potato. True story. 

Alone, But Not. I’m alone a lot when I’m doing my job, but there are also plenty of times when I'm not. There are days when the silence of the empty building gets lonely and scary. Likewise, sometimes sequestering yourself in your writing cave might not be the best option for your sanity, even though you still need to get your work done. Writing in coffee shops can help with this, as can hanging out on the NaNo forums. When all else fails, maybe buy cutouts of the hottest actors you can find and talk to them while you work. (That sounded like a better idea in my head.) 

There are also times when the sounds of other people in the building make my anxiety worse and I would rather be alone. One of the functions of my PTSD is that being in crowds, especially crowds of loud young people, can trigger flashbacks, even when I have my earbuds in. Similarly, sometimes the people around you will be too distracting when you’re trying to write. Maybe they won’t give you flashbacks, but they might give you anxiety or slow you down in other ways. Sometimes you can come up with solutions for this, but other times you’re just going to have to grin and bear it. But if I can clean through the flashbacks, you can write through the distractions and the anxiety. I believe in you. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Do you like writing under deadlines (self-imposed or otherwise), or do they kill your mojo? What are some ways you cope with unavoidable writing distractions?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Do You: A NaNo Pep Talk from a Mere Mortal

Note: Today's pep talk is brought to you by my sister, Abby Brooks. 

My plan this November is to write 50,000 words. Just 50,000. A measly 50,000. A Weasley 50,000. What am I doing with my life? I’ll tell you: I’m living. I’m doing my job; I’m hanging with my friends; I’m spending time outside in the fall air and getting my exercise. I’m cleaning my house and making hot meals and OH BY THE WAY I’m writing a novel. This is a pep talk for people like me who cheer loudly when we reach 2,000 words on a given day, because that is really stretching it. This is a pep talk for writers who have a hard time celebrating their own achievements this month when they remember that the overachievers forum exists. Overachievers, Smover achievers, that’s what I say. Sorry, Liz. Please don’t poison my coffee.

It is a constant human temptation to compare ourselves to others. I do it all the time. See, I’m a fairly standard human being, who happens to have a ton of truly extraordinary friends. There’s the children’s book illustrator, the private investigator, the screenwriter and the philosopher. There are spy boys, musicians, poets, and writers. So. Many. Writers. Some days I wonder why I presume to do anything, to pursue anything, when my closest friends, and even my little sister, can do it so much better. 

When I play this comparing game with my circle of extraordinary friends, I lose sight of the fact that I, too, am a little bit extraordinary. I may not play guitar and sing for hundreds of people each week like my office mate, Taylor. But I do play the ukulele. On my porch swing. For the cat. I might not write poetry in my sleep like I once caught Belle doing, but I do write three or four pieces a year that I’m sorta kinda proud of. Same with painting and languages and knitting and running and blowing bubbles in chocolate milk etc., etc.. BUT LISTEN. The point is not that I don’t do each of these things as well as the next person. The point is that I do them. That alone makes me a little bit extraordinary. Do stuff, coffee beans. Each of you are a little bit extraordinary too.

I heard this saying while bumming at my house, watching Netflix: “You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” Ai. Shucks. Ain’t nobody sacrificing no Grey’s Anatomy anytime soon. The way I see it, there are two types of overachievers in the world. The first kind is the most obvious. They drop everything except their coffee mugs and pound their keyboards for a month, and trade their sanity and the sound structure of their wrists for five shiny, new novels which they then edit for forever and then publish and get rich and drive their Lamborghini’s around. These people sacrifice everything else for their one, big dream, and they succeed through sheer, brute force. This is how I suspect my sister’s life will play out. Which is awesome. But I’m not like that. I’m the second type of overachiever. The type who could never pick just one dream. The type who could never sacrifice literature for music or music for fitness or fitness for writing or writing for beauty or…or.... I overachieve not in any particular area, but in the sheer number of areas I stubbornly continue to invest in. 

How is this a Nano pep talk? I can hear you yelling now. I’m saying Do You. Succeed on your own terms. Examine yourself. Set goals. Decided how much you can sacrifice without losing yourself and then by all means, sacrifice it. Don’t do less than your best. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that your best is the same as someone else’s best or that your best in any given area isn’t good enough just because someone did better. Just do you. Give yourself all the credit you deserve, and plenty of grace when you do honestly have to admit that you’re not living up to your potential. Ask yourself: What am I doing with my life? and by all means possible make sure that’s an answer you’re proud of. Maybe that means hitting 25,000 words today. Maybe not.

Here I go: 

It was a dark and stormy night…

Nailed it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

All the Words // Part #1

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, and you find yourself struggling to get words down on the page, it helps to remember that you are free to write what you want. You’re writing a contemporary and you start feeling the urge to include a scene with dragons in it? Knock yourself out. You want to write a chapter in the POV of that one neglected potato at the bottom of the fridge? Do it. I dare you. Whatever keeps the words flowing. A lot of the stuff you write like this may end up getting cut during edits. In fact, count on it—give yourself the leeway to write for the sake of writing, not for the sake of immediate perfection. You will be able to polish later, but right now you’re trying to work loose thoughts, and sometimes you have to do that in roundabout ways that also happen to get you more words, even if they feel beyond ridiculous. 

If a tangent interests you, explore it. I’ve gotten at least five new novel ideas this way. When in doubt, include it in your story. And if you hate something you’ve written? Don’t go back and delete it from your total. Just write around it. I add a lot of notes to myself along the lines of: Okay, let’s just pretend the last chapter didn’t happen. So we’re picking up at point XYZ and moving on from there. 

There is no rule that says you have to limit the description you use in this draft. There is no rule that says you have to limit the characters or the plot lines. That’s for when you edit. If you have a ton of elements, and you know there are just too many for a proper novel, include them anyway so you’ll get the chance to explore them in detail. And then let the threads drop along the way if you find you need to. No harm done. When trying to decide what to write, err on the side of more, not less. You're not Hemmingway this November. You're Dickens. 

You are not trying to be masterful. You’re trying to unleash the full power of your creativity. (Okay, that sounded ominous.) 

Sometimes I’ll write a scene three times, back to back, each a look from a different angle, like I’m using a three-point turn to get my car headed in the right direction. Because later, when I edit, I will have three options to choose from, and I will be more equipped to evaluate which version I want to run with. This can also help pinpoint what might be off enough to give me a touch of writer’s block, all without taking the time to slow down and read back through to figure out where I’ve gone off track. 

Get crazy with this. Write fanfiction of your novel. Gender swap a few scenes, or gender swap the whole thing. Change up the main characters for a couple thousand words. Try to imagine and reimagine your story as much as possible, so you know it front, back, and sideways. It'll help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Explore all the paths. Blaze new ones. Don’t restrict yourself. 

You are literally making this up as you go along, so embrace the flexibility this gives you to map out your story world in your head. There are no limits—don’t act like there are. Go where you will. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? What are some ways you maximize your word count for NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

That Really Deep Writing Post // Part #3

Ever since I got a custodial job in August, I’ve been amassing ideas for another Really Deep Writing Post. (If you want to read the first two, you can find them here and here.) This one will, of course, be somewhat NaNoWriMo-themed, as this is technically my first pep talk of the month. It's on the short side, but don't worry—there's more to come. 

Manuscript Mountain. If you’ve been reading the official NaNo pep talks for any amount of time (or anything about writing, for that matter), then you’re probably familiar with the concept of Manuscript Mountain. I think it goes without saying that comparing writing a book to climbing a mountain creates a painfully accurate picture (but I’m me, so I’m going to say it anyway). 

What you may not know, however, is that custodial work can seem like its own mountain. I have to clean my church Fridays through Sundays. And it’s a large church. To break it down, I have to clean the building twice every weekend—roughly one third on Friday, two thirds on Saturday, and then the whole thing all over again on Sunday. Sundays can be especially overwhelming, since I have tended to need about nine hours to get the work done. It’s not that I can’t handle the job, because I can, even when I feel like I’m two steps away from falling asleep on my feet. Literally. But my anxiety has a tendency to look at the amount of work ahead of me and freak out. It tells me that I’m going to be stuck there all night—that I’ll still be cleaning the same bathroom when my boss gets there in the morning. As can be expected, I have to work harder to overcome this anxiety. 

Likewise with writing (and editing) a book. When you think about the concept of writing 50K words (or more), it doesn’t necessarily seem all that difficult. That’s why so many people will cavalierly declare that they would write a book if they had the time. Anyone who has written a book will hear this and laugh while crying hysterically on the inside. 

However, anxiety or no anxiety, once you actually break ground on your novel, you’re likely to start feeling a little overwhelmed. And by “a little overwhelmed” I mean, you would probably sell your own kidneys to get out of finishing that draft. This is an understandable emotion. But please don’t start selling your organs just yet. 

The trick is to focus on the task at hand and, for the most part, ignore all the work ahead of you until it’s time to move on to the next task and the next. It’s fine to plan ahead, but you’re going to exhaust yourself if you spend too much energy thinking about all the stuff you have left to do before you can call it a day. Yes, anxiety does not listen to reason, so either way, you may still suffer. No matter how much I remind myself that everything will be okay, I struggle. Every day. But the more I fight to control my thoughts, the more I win small battles in this larger war against my mind. 

But the thing you have to remember is this: Just because your veins feel like live wires doesn’t mean you should quit. And it gets better, even when it feels like it’s getting worse. I have, in small measures, gotten from the point where I couldn’t even think about leaving the house by myself to the point where I am sitting here, typing this in a coffee shop full of strangers. I have gone from the point where I couldn’t fathom getting another job to the point where I work overtime every week because I like getting the job done and doing it well. It doesn’t get completely better, not right away, maybe not ever. But it improves. You can improve. 

Motivational speech over. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Do you struggle with anxiety, in life and/or in writing? What are some ways you fight your fears?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Life Update #5 // In Which I Can't Focus Because NaNoWriMo is Tomorrow

Well, my coffee beans, I’m going to keep this update short, because I am far too excited about NaNoWriMo to talk about my life. 

In case you hadn’t noticed, people, we have only one more sleep until NaNoWriMo! *flails* 

Life News

Aside from anxiety, work has been going well. I enjoy cleaning my church, and I enjoy earning money and buying books. This makes for a great arrangement. 

I’m sure other interesting things have happened in my life over the past few months, but why talk about the past when we could talk about how NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow? *flings confetti* If you missed my NaNo Prep posts, you can find them here, here, and here

Writing News

At long last, I finished a draft of DRACONIAN and managed to take a brief writing vacation, which turned out to be less restful than I had hoped. However, I believe I am on track to finish DRACONIAN by the end of January or I will run my Mac through the shredder. In the meantime, I am really looking forward to NaNoWriMo, because I can cheat on DRACONIAN with multiple other books and get a palate cleanse of sorts. 


I also started a spreadsheet with all my bookish projects on it, including unwritten book ideas, and set tentative deadlines for several novels. After NaNoWriMo, I will be sure to give you a more solid idea of what I plan to work on next writing year (because, for me, NaNoWriMo ushers in the writing new year). 

Blogging News

I wrote and edited all my blog posts through to the end of November, so I won’t have to worry about blogging eating into my word count. *high fives self* Also, I got a few more followers. Welcome! *hands out coffee beans* 

Here were my top five most popular blog posts from September and October: 

Reading News

September was a good reading month. But in October I didn’t feel like listening to audiobooks at work, and I spent extra time editing blog posts and organizing my hard drive in preparation for NaNoWriMo, which left me less time to read. 

Here are my reading stats: 

Number of books read so far this year


Number of books read over the past two months


Number of books read in September


Number of books read in October


Bookish Highlights

Bookish Ratings breakdown

Five stars


Four stars


Three stars


Two stars


Other stats

Rereads in the past two months


Rereads so far this year


Now that I’ve got this update out of the way, I can go back to bouncing off the walls in anticipation of NaNoWriMo. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? How have you been over the past two months? Have you read any good books? Are you planning to participate in NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly // My Scary Best Friend

Note: Today I break from NaNoWriMo madness to bring you one last book review before November hits me like a confused airplane.

Rating: Five Stars—ajklsdflk (when words fail to describe how wonderful a book is)

Ever since I first heard about this book, even before it came out, I’d been dying to read it. Scratch that, ever since I first saw the cover, even before I read the summary, I’d been dying to read THE SACRED LIES OF MINNNOW BLY. Let’s just pause for a moment to appreciate how well-designed this cover is. I didn’t need to read the cover copy before I knew the story featured some sort of cult. But more importantly, the way the design focuses predominantly on the hands is absolutely beautiful, considering the fact that Minnow doesn’t have any hands. It’s like this cover did all the work for me. It let me know hands were going to be a MAJOR theme (which they are), and the formatting for the title made me look at exactly what that title is saying about Minnow’s mental state. 

I could go on for an absurdly long amount of time discussing the cover, but I will spare you that, at least for the present. So let’s talk about the book itself, shall we?

The Story. The Kevinian cult took Minnow’s childhood and her hands. Now that the Community has burned to the ground, and now that the police have found the Prophet Kevin’s body in the rubble, it is clear that Minnow knows something about what happened. Thrown into juvie for nearly beating a boy to death, Minnow keeps her deepest, darkest secrets to herself. But when the FBI detective assigned to her case offers her early freedom in exchange for information, Minnow must decide whether to face her past or embrace it. 

The Writing. I see first person present point of view used a lot, and I can tend to get a little tired of it, because I feel like some writers use it without really knowing how to use it. (Wow, that sounds rather arrogant. For shame, Liz. For shame.) It’s one of those writing styles that really really really lends itself to choppiness if you’re not careful (a problem I’ve noticed especially in the DIVERGENT trilogy). So right away, I was shocked by how good this usage of FPPPOV (we’re going to call it that for short) is. Stephanie Oaks’ style is lyrical and beautiful—some of the most poetic prose I’ve ever read. As I was reading, I didn’t have a single moment where I stopped to think that maybe I would have worded something differently, which is saying a lot, since I can be a rather critical reader. (I don't think I've been as impressed by a writing style since IMAGINARY GIRLS.)

Minnow. As someone who has spent the past couple years working through lies I have taught myself (and been taught) and false guilt I have taken as my own, I really related to Minnow’s struggle to unlearn all the things her cult had forced her to believe about life. Minnow isn’t soft or sweet or especially naive. Rather, she is smart and strong and more capable than she realizes. I can’t even put into words how much I love her character (and Angel’s), or even why I love it so much, just that I absolutely adored being inside her head, experiencing the space she has created in her mind and the inner freedom she has always cherished despite the restraints of her cult. In the face of incredible loss and pain, Minnow proves herself resilient. 

The Cult. I love literature and songs about cults. Last NaNoWriMo, one of my rough drafts was actually about a woman’s efforts to unearth the remains of a decades-dead cult and figure out what happened to the single reported survivor after she went missing. I’m really excited for editing that novel next year, because it’ll give me an excuse to research cults. But it’s not like I’d ever want to join one. I think I was just exposed to the concept of mass hypnosis, so to speak, at such a young age that it left an impression on me. I’m interested in the insane, the broken, and the delusional. The people who get swept up in cults like the Kevinian Cult are just the sort of people whose minds I want to analyze and dissect (metaphorically speaking, of course *puts down scalpel*). I love that THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY gives us a chance to peek into the psychology behind the lies that keep so many people following a harmful man. I love that it shows us the damage and the desensitization that takes place when people learn to crave the perceived safety of a narrow, unforgiving world. 

The Setting. Last but not least, we have the two settings featured in this book. We have the Community, which we witness through Minnow’s memory in all its raw awfulness, and we have juvie, which seems like such a safe, enlightened place in contrast. Since I haven’t read many (or any?) books set in juvie, this was a really nice change of scenery for me. 

In Conclusion. THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY is so good—it’s beyond good. I can’t even properly express to you how good it is, because the more I talk, the more I think I’ll start to sound like I’m secretly trying to get you to join a cult. It happens. So let me just say, if you are okay with some adult elements/language and a fairly significant amount of gore, I will happily shove this book in your face. It is one of my new all-time favorites, and I think it has the potential to become one of yours.

(Also, if you are interested in more cult-related things, check out this NaNo forum. It's totally not a cult.) 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Have you read THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY, and if so, what did you think? What are some excellent examples of first present POV? Do you have any recommendations for novels about cults?

Monday, October 24, 2016

NaNoWriMo Prep #3 // A Cautionary Tale

This NaNoWriMo, as you strive to write however many thousands of words you hope to manage, it helps to remember: 

You can edit later. 

I have mentioned this in previous posts, I am sure, but it bears repeating, so I’m going to say it again. And again. And again. Until it sticks in your skull as well as mine. 

You can edit later. 

I know there are authors who find they need to edit their novels as they go (Gail Carson Levine, for instance), so I am not saying ABSOLUTELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY DO NOT EDIT AS YOU WRITE. But I am saying pause. I am saying consider. NaNoWriMo, at its core, is meant to help you break free from writing ruts. It’s meant to help you rip the bandaid off and get writing done, even if it feels unnatural. Because it will. You are by no means going to come away from this with a polished novel, so don't expect to. 

Story time.

You have seen me refer to to TIB, which I drafted in November 2013, as the first rough draft I managed to finish. I have chosen to consider it this way, even though I technically—very technically—finished two books before then. That’s what we’re talking about today. 

When I was twelve, almost thirteen, I was given a writing assignment in literature class. As these things go, I started writing the story and realized it was the beginning of a trilogy. What can I say? This is typical of me. I have a collection of short story ideas, and sometimes I pick away at them, but I am always a little scared I will get a seven book series from the next one I touch. This might be why I have trust issues. 

It took me almost a year to write the sort-of-rough-draft for DSS 1 (now DRACONIAN), because I wrote it chapter by chapter, editing as I went (and also because the computer broke halfway through, resulting in several months of unexpected, unwanted writing vacation). 

Even when I was that young, my mother recognized how much I wanted to become a published author, so she tailored my curriculum around that goal. On top of all my other schoolwork, she assigned me roughly an hour of writing a day. In order to be able to give me credit for my work, she read each chapter as I finished it, then made revision notes. Essentially, she guided me through writing my first novel, which is one of the reasons I don’t count it as my first official rough draft. But more on that later. 

When I tackled DSS 2 on my own, I resuming editing as I went even though I felt like it was blocking me. And I ended up cutting it off at 40K without tying up the plot lines. After that, I only made it 18K into DSS 3 before hitting a wall. 

In late 2012, I decided to attack DSS, to write a new rough draft of the entire trilogy using the original work like an outline, because I thought that would help me figure out what was blocking me. I made it about 50K in before I hit another wall. I would edit a portion, only to realize I needed to go back and reedit that section as the story evolved beneath my fingers. An editing session that felt successful one day would seem slapdash the next. It killed my writing mojo. 

Come November 2013, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo with a new novel, a palate cleanse of sorts. I was nervous, because I didn't know if I would even be able to make the 50K, or if I would manage to write anything worthwhile. To my surprise, I ended the month with an entire trilogy (which I later cut down and consolidated into one novel, TIB). It was the most freeing thing to realize that I could power through rough drafts without getting bogged down by edits, that I could finish a project without spending forever backtracking. 

By the time November 2014 rolled around, DSS was starting to nag at the back of my head again, big time. Because it wanted to be finished. By golly, it demanded to be finished. So I picked up where I had left off and wrote the rest of the entire trilogy, a whole new rough draft, red and raw and not at all polished. Just word vomit on the page. And man it was horrible. And man it was the best thing that could ever have happened to that story. No more ripping the carpet out from under my feet. Just forward motion, like a truck plowing through a hoard of zombies. 

All told, I have been working on this trilogy since December 2009. For those of you who aren’t so good at math, that is almost seven years. SEVEN YEARS. My goodness, no wonder I feel like I’m going insane. 

It has taught me so much. Patience. Confidence and tough love. Technique. How to hide a body. (What? How did that get in there?) But the biggest thing it has taught me is the importance of maintaining momentum, of finishing a thing before I start judging it. I don’t regret the help I received while writing DSS 1. I needed that. But the point I’m trying to make here is that I wasted several of those seven years trying to force myself to use a system I knew was no longer working for me, to the point where I risked editing DRACONIAN to death (and this is coming from someone who likes editing). That is why I consider TIB my first official rough draft, because it was the first draft I completed without backtracking and getting lost along the way. It was the turning point, the place where I realized I could actually do this writing thing. That is why I love NaNoWriMo more than is probably healthy. 

So this November, as you plunge into NaNoWriMo full speed ahead, please remember this. Remember to lock your inner editor up in a cage full of disgruntled chipmunks until you are ready to sign over control once more. You can do this without the red pen. I believe in you. Be free this month. Be messy. Be brave. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Have you struggled with the urge to edit as you write? What are some of your regrets in your writing journey? What are some things you feel you’ve done right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NaNoWriMo Prep #2 // Some Questionable Advice

Now that NaNoWriMo is literally just around the corner (no, I am not freaking out—you’re freaking out), it’s time to talk about last-minute prep. Various people have asked me to share my secrets for productivity in November, and I have shared a little before, but I figured I would cover it a bit more. If this doesn’t help you, well then, at least I’ve gathered my thoughts for myself. 

Before you jump into these tips, please keep in mind that they are more geared toward those willing to throw caution and good sense to the wind in the interest of going beyond the 50K. And because this advice comes from my personal experience, what works for me may not work for you. (Translation: If your hands fall off mid-month, please don’t sue me.) 

Dedication. Whatever your goal is, reaching it has to be the thing you want more than anything else. It has to be the thing that you choose over movies and books and other distractions nine times out of ten. You have to decide ahead of time what your level of commitment is going to be, and then you need to stick to that. It’s okay to decide that you need to bow out, but try not to decide that on day three. The first week can be especially daunting, and your mind is going to be thinking of all the reasons to quit. My recommendation is to quit only if you begin experiencing health issues (both mental or physical) and are worried that pushing yourself any harder will cause you long-term damage. Most importantly, learn to enjoy the struggle and the strain, because overachieving will not be a cakewalk. 

Rewards. If you’re reward-oriented, make sure that you set up a reward system ahead of time and, if at all possible, put someone else in charge of that system so you can have a level of accountability. In all honesty, I haven’t had huge success using any reward systems in the past, because I’m not a hugely reward-oriented person. Or rather, my reward is the writing itself. But I also know that if I let myself place a massive book order for every 100,000 words I write, well dang, I’d be at 3,000,000 before you could say, “I think Liz’s laptop just burst into flames.” 

Writing Music. If you listen to music while writing, it might be a good idea to compile your playlists ahead of time. I know that, at least from my experience, it’s far too easy to spend tons of valuable writing time looking for the perfect writing song. Don’t do that. It’s secret procrastination, and you will end up hating yourself. 

Writing Cues. In a similar vein, it’s really important to have some writing cues in place before November begins—things that will let your brain know it’s time to focus on writing. If you’re an intake learner like me, it helps to have a specific drink (in my case, coffee) or a snack that you only grab when you’re ready to write. The flavors and smells will help your brain get into writing mode. If you’re an auditory person (also like me), it helps to have specific music or white noise that you only listen to while writing. And if you have a specific location where you are consistently more productive (coffee shops and church for me), try to make sure you end up there as often as possible. 

But make sure—MAKE SURE—that you only use these cues when you are intending to sit down and focus on writing. As tempting as it might be, you can’t let yourself cave and use your writing cues while procrastinating or doing chores or whatever. They will lose their golden touch if you do. But if you keep them sacred, they are likely to help even when you’re in a writing slump. Simple behavioral conditioning, folks. 

Procrastination Game Plan. Yes, I did just say that. You are going to need to take breaks, especially if you are planning to go whole hog this November. But if you don’t plan your break activities ahead of time, your quick three-minute jaunt on Twitter could turn into a three-hour full-emersion social studies experience. And valuable learning aside, you are going to hate yourself. Make sure you have some protocols in place so that doesn’t happen, because you need to make sure your breaks don’t leave your discouraged. Your breaks are there to sharpen you and prepare you for another bout of writing, so approach them accordingly. 

For those of you who write on a computer, like me, consider taking a break from anything screen-related when you take your writing breaks. Eye strain is a real problem when you’re logging the hours to get all the words written. Don’t make this harder for yourself by scrolling through your Twitter feed between word sprints. Movies and TV shows are fine, because you’re not stressing your eye muscles quite so much, but try to keep your face a couple feet away from the screen. Also, be sure to get plenty of fresh air and exercise so your brain doesn’t turn into a bag of stale potato chips. If your phone takes dictation, maybe go on a walk and talk out some of your story. 

Have a system in place. Set timers for yourself and respect them when they go off, even if you have to drag yourself kicking and screaming back to your writing seat. 

If you’re having trouble thinking of non-social-media-related breaks, here is a handy dandy list of suggestions: 

Read. Mosey on over to the kitchen and make coffee. And because moderation is not a thing we embrace during NaNoWriMo, just give in and drink straight from the coffee pot. You know you want to. Pick flowers. Pet an animal. Talk to the animal. When I had rats, I would discuss major plot points with them and verbally untangle my story issues. (But maybe choose a kinder animal, like a puppy or a lizard. Rats can be harsh critics. They require perfection and thus are better to consult during the editing stages.) Clean up the disemboweled mouse the cat left on the patio….again. Climb a tree. Fall out of said tree. Enjoy your first ambulance ride and hospital stay. Make sure to take notes and incorporate this into your story. Go out to eat, or better yet, try a challenging, new recipe at home. Braid your cat’s hair. Treat the thousands of scratches on your arms. Clean things. Play with mud. Get into the spirit of autumn. Eat a leaf and put pumpkins on your hands. Terrorize the neighbors. Enjoy learning firsthand about police procedure and holding cells. Have fun. 

Most Importantly—Log the Hours. I know this seems obvious, but it’s the one that gets short-changed the most. When you’re writing large chunks of words, it’s so easy to get overexcited and take more breaks than you should. It’s also too easy to assume that you will always be writing at peak speed. Don’t. Set yourself a schedule, and when the schedule says write, you write. (You can find my schedule for last year in this post.) Those who wrote 3,000,000 last year logged about 19-23 hours a day. In other words, you have to put in the time. The words will not magically appear on your document overnight.

I don’t know—I feel like I give the wrong impression that this is easy, and I know that I type quickly, but like I said, this is not a cakewalk. I repeat, this is not a cakewalk. So please don’t come into this expecting a cakewalk, because if you do, you will end up quitting. (And by all means, if you hit a wall and you need someone to light a fire under your butt, shoot me a message, and I will yell at you—nicely—until you start writing again. You can find my contact form on the sidebar.) 

Some Final Words. Now that you’ve read all my extremely serious advice, please keep a couple caveats in mind. If you aim to overachieve as much as I do, and if you’re like me, you will experience guilt about making Wrimos who are writing less feel bad. You will want to share you successes with people, because you are excited, but keep in mind that people won’t always be nice about it. You will sometimes inadvertently discourage people or make them jealous.

With regards to my word count, please keep in mind that I have a high pain tolerance and a relatively low regard for my own health when it comes to competition. I will write until I can’t physically move my fingers well enough to type. I will be using wrist braces this year, but I haven’t in the past, and I am paying for that now. Don’t always do as I do unless you are willing to accept the health consequences that come with. 

In Summary. If you’re planning to overachieve this year, ready yourself for the worst and hope for the best. (And take all my advice with a grain of salt.) Remember that this is a marathon. If you lose sight of the finish line, the race will become grueling and unbearable. You will spend most of the time feeling like you’re about to vomit up your lungs. But if you don’t quit halfway through, you will thank yourself come December. So run. 

Because I’m coming for you.


Well, that’s it for today, my little coffee beans. What are some pieces of writing/NaNoWriMo advice that you’ve benefited from? Are you planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this month? What are your favorite ways to procrastinate? Do you also struggle with avoiding the fascinating productivity-black-hole that is Twitter?