[Guest Post] What to Expect When You’re Expecting (NaNoWriMo)

Kaitlin and husband Michael - co-author of The Athele Series - dressed for the Steampunk Ball.

Having done NaNoWriMo for seven-odd years, I’m going to offer you some (parsley) sage (rosemary and thyme) advice about what to expect in each week of your legendary Noveling adventure.

Week 1

Week 1 is like the first rush of romance in a new relationship.  You are just so darned excited to finally be going steady with your novel that all your worries over its little flaws don’t even register!  Ideas flow like the butter from movie theater dispensers; almost too fast and hot to handle – you’re racing to get everything down!  Midnight comes on November 1st, and you’re all “WOO!  THIS IS GONNA BE THE BEST THING EVER!  I’VE GOT MY COFFEE AND MY OUTLINE AND I A GOING TO ROCK THIS!”

Okay, so maybe not in all caps, but you get the idea.  And you know what?  That’s totally cool.  Go forth, young noveler and write as fast as your fingers and caffeine addled, sleep deprived brain will allow you.  This is pretty much my favorite part of the month.

Week 2

Week 2 has a reputation amongst NaNoers: it’s the most difficult week.  I’ve found that my week two is fine for the first half, and then kind of gets a little slow towards the second half, as if my arteries have been clogged by all the butter from week one (I’m going to let go of this comparison, now).  Symptoms of the week 2 doldrums include poking at your word count, wondering what the heck happened to y our outline, and bouts of author’s angst (also known as I SUCK, MY NOVEL SUCKS, EVERYTHING SUCKS! – and yes, that’s always in caps).

Remember, this is only a sprint insomuch as it’s a lot of words in a smaller amount of time than one is accustomed to.  You have all day to make your daily goal, so do it in little chunks.  Or be like me in week two and get yourself a large coffee rather than a medium, plus perhaps a donut or other sugary confection, and power through it.  (Get Powerthirst if necessary.  In lieu of running fast, you might write fast.)

Finally, make sure you’re signed up for NaNoWriMo emails because they have pep talks from famous published authors.  They’re often amazing.  I nerded out when Lemony Snicket was in my inbox, read the email about ten times, and then proceeded to have a bang-up writing day.  People like Lindsey are awesome too – and seeing as they run the show, they know how you feel!

Week 3

When you’ve had a tantrum, you eventually pick yourself up and look around and start to see the bright side.  Week 3 is this stage.  You’re still a little unsteady, but you’ve gone to the writer’s bathroom, looked in the mirror a la some Rocky film and given yourself a mini pep talk (or you’ve heeded my advice and let the Nanowrimo folks do it).  You have a plot that might just hang together.  That plot hole from week two is obviously closeable with just a sentence’s worth of explanation in this later chapter.  Everything is starting to come together!

If week two was really bad for you, keep yourself above water just for week three.  Trust in the novel – the heart of the words (I’m sorry, Yu Gi Oh! Fans).  Just remember ‘quantity, not quality,’ keep on truckin’.  Look back to the beginning of your document – don’t read it – just look.  You’ve passed the half way point and holy crap – there’s 40 pages or so worth of writing there!  You’re doing great!  Proceed on to…

Week 4

This is it!  This is arguably the most exciting week in NaNoWriMo!  It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, the final lap in this thirty day blitzkrieg of writing!  You may possibly feel as if your brain is dissolving and your fingers falling off from so much typing, but never fear!  You’ve got this!

Power on through the finish – cross the line and git’r done!  Last year, week 4 was actually the hardest week for me, but that was because I had a huge fight scene at the end of my novel and fight scenes aren’t exactly my strong suit.  But I sat down in my little Dunkin’ Donuts, grabbed myself a large Americano and crossed that finish line with confetti, streamers, and much rejoicing.  The store broke out into song and dance with me in the middle and…

Hm.  No.  Never mind.  Must have been my coffee-spiked dreams that night.

And that’s about what to expect.  As your motivation for the time being, I’m here to unabashedly tell you that you all can do this.  You’ve got a VP, you don’t really even need a story.  Just a whole lot of the caffeinated beverage of your choice, something to write with, and a lot of spirit (or is that more coffee?  I’m not sure.) Ready?  Set?  Go!

Kaitlin is a High Fantasy author.  With her husband, Michael, she is publishing The Athele Series, set to launch in winter of 2012.  Their blog, www.theatheleseries.wordpress.com, talks about writing, the fantasy genre, and publishing.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Launches

Dear Readers,

Welcome to National Novel Writing Month!  NaNoWriMo, as it’s commonly called, is a 30-day challenge in November to complete a 50,000-word novel.

This year, I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo!  Along the way, I’ll post excerpts from what I’m currently working on – no excerpt longer than 500 words long – as well as a few words of encouragement for my fellow writers as you work on your own one-month masterpieces.

Today, I’ll start the month off right by sharing my favorite NaNo tips for college students.

  1. Don’t think.  This may not be so easy for some, but a lot of writers I know can write on autopilot.  Don’t concentrate on how your sentences look in terms of grammar or spelling: that’s what Microsoft Word Spellcheck is for, naturally.  Focus on just spilling your guts on the story.
  2. Use extra bits of your day to write.  I haul a notebook around with me and work on my novel before class begins or while I’m waiting for a friend to eat lunch with.  If you have a tablet PC – or don’t mind getting out your laptop all the time – you can work on the computer anywhere.
  3. Speaking of computers: If you don’t have Microsoft Word, use Google Docs.  Google Docs can be accessed anywhere you have an internet connection and a computer – so if you’re using that tablet PC I mentioned, you don’t need a program.  Just a browser.
  4. Band together!  Just like with any writing group, a NaNo group (or partner) makes the challenge just that much more fun.  You can even place a bet.  My favorite bet with my writer boyfriend?  First one to reach the goal buys the other one a sushi dinner.

Remember: you need to write 1, 667 words per day to reach that 50,000-word goal.  You can also hit up some write-ins in your region to dig deeper into your goal.

And never forget the cute barista in your local coffee shop who you can see every day if you write for a couple hours there.  Peace, quiet, and cute baristas – what more could you want from NaNoWriMo?

Happy writing!


31 October: Current Progress

Happy Halloween!

As I gear up for NaNoWriMo with the rest of the UT Writer’s Guild, I’m wrapping up a few of my long-term projects before November.  Most of them will start over again in December.

  • I’ve decided to work on a new, as-of-now untitled screenplay project.  All I can really tell you is that it’s related to The TECH Project and my first attempt at Script Frenzy in 2009.  And that it’ll be much better than both of those things.
  • This month, I’ve been making some excellent progress on my novel The Final Experiment, which is a direct sequel to The TECH Project and takes place one year after TTP’s conclusion.  I’m more than three-fourths of the way finished transcribing the novel, but I also have to write two full scenes – including an intense battle scene – and there’s a lot of editing to do before I can do anything else with the manuscript.
  • I’m also working on Knitting, a prompt for my Screenwriting class that’s growing into a slightly larger story.  It may go on to do bigger and better things, but for now it’s a 10-minute short film.

And now on to NaNoWriMo!  Here’s what you can look forward to as I update with fair regularity about my progress:

Augustine is a little old-fashioned.  His whole apartment is decorated in neo-Victorian style – but he’s felt for some time now that something’s missing.  He finds that missing element in a back-alley antique store: an ornate brass-framed mirror, faintly scratched.  Thrilled with his find, Augustine hauls it home only to find himself sucked inside – into a strange, almost Victorian world filled with oil-driven and steam-powered machines.

That’s just a brief summary – I have much more outlined!

You can also see in my current sidebar a NaNoWriMo widget.  I’ll keep my word count updated there, too, so you can check my progress as I make it.  I plan to win NaNo for the first time this year!

Will you be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year?  If so, add me as a friend!  You can find me under the username xxfourthelement or in the Toledo regional forums.

NaNoWriMo: Support the Office of Letters and Light in 2011

National Novel Writing Month is a 30-day challenge to complete a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. This November, I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo as a writer and as a facilitator for my campus writing group’s NaNo activities.

This year, members of the UT Writer’s Guild will be participating in NaNoWriMo through contests, fundraisers, and events held on- and off-campus.  We hope to raise awareness of ourselves as a group as well as awareness for NaNo and the Office of Letters and Light, the non-profit organization that sponsors NaNo.

Each year, the Office of Letters and Light sponsors the Young Writers Program, a writing and educational program for kids and teens to encourage them not only to participate in NaNo but also to become better writers overall.  The Office helps educators participate by offering free educational kits to those who apply for classroom NaNo kits.

But we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

In order to keep the educational kits – and the NaNo website – completely free, the Office of Letters and Light runs almost exclusively on donations.  This year, I’m helping raise money to support the Young Writers Program as an individual and as a UT Writer’s Guild officer.

Please help support my campaign for the Office of Letters and Light – and, through them, their Young Writers Program campaign – by checkout out and donating to my fundraising page.  You can donate in any amount, from $1 up.

Thank you for considering sponsoring OLL on my behalf.  Know that if you participate, you’re helping writers across the world reach their dreams.

30 September: Current Progress

It’s the end of September, and you know what that means – time for the monthly update!

This month, there was a lot going on in terms of planning for the UT Writer’s Guild, so I didn’t make much progress on most of my larger projects.  However, I did make a lot of progress at my writing job, which I feel is pretty good – right?

In the most recent (September 26) print issue of UT News, five of my stories were printed:

There are several other things I’ve been part of, as well!  The Writer’s Guild recently co-sponsored a poetry reading event for Banned Books Week at UT.  UTWG will have its next meeting Friday, October 7 at 5 p.m. in Student Union Room 3016 on UT’s Main Campus.

I feel like I got so much accomplished this month, even if I really didn’t do much at all… I’m still working on the following projects:

  • The Final Experiment (editing)
  • The Rules (on hold)
  • …and a couple other things

From now until December, though, I’ll be concentrating on preparing for and writing my National Novel Writing Month project, tentatively titled “Victorious.”  Check back soon to learn more about this project!